Manchester’s newest arts centre HOME thrust open its doors for its official HOMEwarming celebration last week. Following the merger between the Manchester’s Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, the first theatre production at the new venue is perhaps a fitting fusion of old and new. The Funfair is Simon Stephens‘ new version of Ödön von Horváth‘s masterpiece, Kasimir and Karoline. There has been a huge build-up for this production and the stakes have been set quite high and sadly, The Funfair does not live up to its expectations.
Directed by Walter Meierjohann, The Funfair follows twenty four hours in the lives of two young lovers who are on the verge of splitting up. Cash (Ben Batt) has recently lost his job as a chauffeur and now fears that he will lose his girlfriend, Caroline (KatieMoore) too. In a strange and twisted parallel relationship, Frankie Marr (Michael Ryan) and Esther (Victoria Gee) already inhabit the lowest depths of despair, a world of unemployment, anger and dirt – surviving in the only way that they can.
Set in Manchester, to the backdrop of the recession and massive social unrest, the characters are unable to free themselves from the disorientating reality of the funfair. TiGreen‘s dark and distorted stage design suggests the hopeless and cyclical world which the characters fight to exist in – a revolving stage, haunting carousel and dark figures watching on from the hidden corners in the set, all manage to create an unsettling and uncomfortable atmosphere, complemented by Mike Gunning’s lighting design.
The Funfair is relentlessly bleak and despite the odd grasp at humour and the wonderful live band playing a soundtrack of popular songs – it is awkwardly politically defined and too repetitive. There is little hope for any of the characters, who are reduced to caricatures, particularly the women who are victims of abuse and are objectified in an uncomfortable sexist world. Victoria Gee’s portrayal of Esther is perhaps the only exception to this – her impressive performance is stripped back, we care about her and she gives us the only shard of hope for the future.
The Funfair is a bold first production by HOME which makes me feel thrilled to be part of the Manchester theatre scene. However, it left me feeling as if I had overindulged in candyfloss and then taken the wildest ride on the waltzers. A sensory overload but nevertheless an arresting showcase for HOME’s production capabilities which makes me very excited for the future.
The Funfair is on at HOME, Manchester (2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN) until 13 June 2015.
Now in its fifth year, it’s a week-long run of amazing solo and one-to-one live art, spoken word, comedy, dance and theatre performances. And this year Contact Theatre have a bold line-up of artists including Chris Brett Bailey, Jackie Hagan, Keisha Thompson, Cheryl Martin, Jamie Lewis Hadley and the vacuum cleaner, as well as premières from last year’s Contact Flying Solo commission winners Louise Orwin and Ester Natzijil.
For those fancying a bit of Shakespeare -Northern Broadsides production of King Lear is at The Lowry from 5th May until 9thMay 2015. Renowned for their down-to-earth performance style, Northern Broadsides have won over a whole new generation of Shakespeare fans. And if you want to treat yourself to a rock ‘n’ roll musical inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the Olivier Award winning rock spectacular Return to the Forbidden Planet blasts into The Palace Theatre, Manchester from 4th May until 9th May 2015.
The premiere of Jim Cartwright’s The Ancient Secret of Youth and the Five Tibetansstarring Denise Welch, Tom Mannion, Eric Potts, Lauren Drummond, and Matt Tait is running at Bolton Octagon until 23rd May 2015.
Box of Tricks Theatre Company present Plastic Figurines at The Lowry on the 6th May and 7th May 2015.
“Mum told me that there was something in his brain that was different, she said that he liked to put his toys in lines and that was a symptom or whatever. I used to go in his room and see all his stuffed animals in a line and I’d mess them up. I’d mess the line up.”
Inspired by events in the writer, Ella Carmen Greenhill’s own life, Plastic Figurines is a funny and moving new play that explores autism and the relationship between siblings with very different views of the world.
From 10th May- 17th May…
The story of the greatest middleweight never to be champion, Len Johnson ‘Fighter’is showing at Studio Salford in The Kings Arms in Salford from 11th May until 13th May.
RITES is on at Contact Theatre from 12th May until 14th May.It is a powerful and provocative new production exploring the deep-rooted cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation, a local and national issue in the UK. With a strong creative team behind this production, it is a verbatim piece based on interviews with girls, women and professionals who have been affected by the practice.
Told by an Idiot and The Royal Exchange present The Ghost Train from 14th May until 20th June 2015.
Told by an Idiot return to the Royal Exchange, bringing their trademark wit, flare and theatrical invention to this blisteringly funny take on the classic ghost story.
Newly opened HOME on First Street in Manchester kicks off with the world premiere of The Funfair on 14th May until 13th June. Featuring a live band playing a soundtrack of iconic tracks, The Funfair promises to be a theatrical experience that will immerse you in all the colour, chaos and fun of the fair.
Meanwhile, Boeing Boeing opens at Oldham Coliseum on the 15th May and runs until 6th June 2015.
The Three Minute Theatre, based in Afflecks Arcade present a FREE event, Three Friends and you, on 14th May 2015 – it’s an evening of spoken word with a focus on mental health, in support of Mental Health Awareness week.
Winner of the Best Studio Production Award at The Manchester Theatre Awards, He Had Hairy Hands returns to The Lowry on the 15th and 16th May 2015. It’s described as Hammer Horror meets the Wicker Man, Scooby Doo and The League of Gentlemen…
Other hot picks on at The Lowry this week are Different is Dangerous on the 14th May2015 and Edinburgh Fringe sell-out, So It Goes on the 15th May 2015.
From 18th May -25th May…
The Call of Nature by Mike Heath runs for 7 nights from 18th May 2015 until 24th May 2015 in The Cellar at The Kings Arms, Salford. You are strongly recommended to get your tickets early for this event, as due to the intimate performance space, there will only be 18 tickets available per night.
Harper Lee’s much loved story – To Kill a Mockingbird is running at The Lowry from 19th May until 23rd May 2015.
Cuddles, the story of Eve a 13 year old vampire, is guaranteed to give you shivers in The Studio at The Royal Exchange from the 19th May until 23rd May 2015.
Billed as one of the best musical theatre nights of the year and acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels arrives at The Opera House Manchester on the 20th May and runs until 30th May 2015.
And if you didn’t catch Len Johnson ‘Fighter’ at Studio Salford earlier in the month – it is showing again at Bolton Octagon on the 20th and 21st May 2015.
The 56 arrives at The Studio in The Lowry Theatre on the 23rd May 2015, retelling the stories of those involved in the Bradford City Fire in 1985.
The Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival comes to Oldham on 23rd May 2015.With events taking place in and around Oldham Coliseum.
I’ll be doing another post with theatre and entertainment ideas for the family during the May half term – but for now there is The Journey Home at Z-Arts on the 23rd May 2015. It’s suitable for ages 2+ and is based on the book by Frann Preston -Gannon. There is also One Little Word, a beautiful story about friendship suitable for ages 3+, at The Lowry on the 24th and 25th May 2015.
From 26th May onwards…
Judy – The Songbook of Judy Garland is on at The Palace Theatre, Manchester from the 28th May until 30th May 2015. Along with never before seen film highlights and interviews, Judy’s dazzling songbook is brought to life by the creme of London’s West End.
On the 29th and 30th May 2015 HOME and Rosie Kay Dance Company present5 Soldiers – The Body is the Frontline – it’s site specific with the Rusholme Army Reserve Centre providing the appropriate backdrop for a piece that weaves a story of physical transformation, helping us to understand what makes a soldier and how the experience of warfare affects those that choose to put their life on the line.