REVIEW: Be My Baby (The Lowry, Salford)

Be My Baby at the Lowry Theatre Salford till Saturday 8th October 2016
Be My Baby at the Lowry Theatre Salford until Saturday 8th October 2016
upstaged rating:

There is no bigger story than a mother being made to give up her baby for adoption and this is exactly the premise of Amanda Whittington’s play, Be My Baby. Set in the so-called swinging sixties, a defining decade when young people were just being given a voice and expression, mother and baby homes still existed. It is difficult to comprehend that just 50 years ago an unmarried pregnant woman would be shipped off to one of these homes to give birth to her child in secret, for fear that a baby born ‘out of wedlock’ would bring complete shame on her family. Propelled by society and their fear of the unknown, the girls would sign their baby over for adoption before even experiencing childbirth or seeing their babies face.

Despite dealing with a bleak subject matter, Be My Baby is packed full of laughter, light and a wonderfully evocative soundtrack. The music serves as a brilliant contrast to the harsh subject matter, serving to lighten the tone and transport us back to the 1960’s.

When Mary (Jess Cummings) is brought into the mother and baby convent by her mother, Mrs Adams (Susan Twist) she shares a dormitory with her beloved record player and Queenie. Jess Cummings shines as the respectable grammar school girl who finds herself pregnant and shipped off to the home, even before her father can find out.

At the centre of the performance is Coronation Street’s Brooke Vincent, in her stage debut as tough mum-to-be Queenie. Giving a very well rounded natural performance, showing heart and impeccable comic timing, Vincent impresses as the hardened young character. Ruth Madoc is quite formidable as the matron of the mother and baby convent. Detached and stern, she gives a wonderfully subtle performance – her maternal instinct just simmers, hinting that she knows more about the way the girls are feeling than she alludes to.

The ensemble cast all give excellent performances throughout, notably Josie Cerise and Eva McKenna, with some of the most poignant sections during their daily chores in the convent laundry. Shrouded by the sheets pegged up to dry, they sing along to their favourite songs and flick through teenage annuals – all trying to come to terms with their changing bodies and myths surrounding childbirth.

Some of the scene changes were very laboured (pardon the pun) at times, particularly in the second half, which did detract from some of the more emotional scenes. However, I’m sure Kirstie Davis is fine tuning this already – leaving the audience to enjoy the powerful performances and emotive subject matter.

-Kristy Stott

Be My Baby is on at the Lowry Theatre Salford until Saturday 8th October 2016 and you can click here to get your tickets.

REVIEW: Rambert: A Linha Curva plus other works (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

A scene from Frames by Rambert Dance Company ©Tristram Kenton
A scene from Frames by Rambert Dance Company
©Tristram Kenton
upstaged rating: 

Now in their 90th year, Rambert continue to lead the dance world with their exhilarating and  innovative dance works. Back in 1966, the company changed their artistic focus from classical to contemporary. Always forward thinking, they commission the most exciting choreographers, composers and designers and give them the freedom to lead wherever their vision and imagination takes them.

To celebrate their 90th year in true Rambert style, the world-class dancers are presenting three contrasting works at The Lowry, Salford. Opening with the world premiere of Malgorzata Dzierzon’s Flight, followed by Frames choreographed by Alexander Whitley and ending with the beautiful, vibrant and sexy A Linha Curva.

Malgorzata Dzierzon used stories and dialogue about travel, migration and shifting space as inspiration for Flight. It’s a captivating vision set to Kate Whitley’s evocative soundtrack, delivered by the company with fluidity and grace. A revolving set design accompanied by Luke Halls’ video projection creates an eerie atmosphere, drawing our attention to the pace at which we move through our everyday lives. Paul Koegan’s smart lighting design works perfectly alongside the dancers, creating sharp powerful silhouettes during the stunning duet between Miguel Altunaga and Liam Francis.

Frames provides a fascinating contrast, exploring themes of permanency and the dance space or theatre as a construction site. With set design by Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen, the performance space is transformed into a white box as the dancers construct their performance within it. The sound of metal bars clashing and Daniel Bjarnason’s industrial-esque soundtrack heighten the senses as the dancers hold the audience’s gaze, moving with agility and strength. Who knew that you could make dancing with metal structures look easy and stunningly beautiful? 

And just as you think the performance could not get any better… A Linha Curva, choreographed by Itzik Galili, explodes onto the stage, giving a powerful  injection of colour and carnival to the evening. The audience begin to join in, clapping and bobbing, whooping and cheering to the sound of the samba beat. The live percussion musicians are elevated above the dance space, upbeat and vibrant they use a range of instruments, their voices and their bodies to create the dynamic soundtrack. It’s sensual, witty and terribly good – the dancers are faultless as they move alongside each other in a truly intoxicating display.

There’s a true sense of celebration throughout the performance and during the standing ovation, which is very well deserved for Britain’s oldest dance company. Rambert may be 90 this year but they show no sign of standing still.

-Kristy Stott

Rambert: A Linha Curva plus other works is at The Lowry until Friday 30th September 2016 and you can get your tickets here.





REVIEW: My Big Fat Jobseeker’s Wedding (The Lowry, Salford)

My Big Fat Jobseekers Wedding at The Lowry, Salford
My Big Fat Jobseekers Wedding at The Lowry, Salford
Reviewer: demi west
upstaged rating: 

Adult themed pantomime My Big Fat Jobseeker’s Wedding is the latest production from Manchester based theatre group Ard Knox. It invites the audience into the life of a stereotypical council estate family, where money is tight, and drama lurks around every corner.

The play is centred in the family sitting room, which is reminiscent of The Royle Family, setting the scene perfectly for the cliché type of humour that’s on offer. The formula that is used does not bring anything new to the genre, and nor does it particularly do well what it intends in the first place. This is by no means down to the acting, which offered a clear visual rapport, showing how much the cast have spent time together, really helping to create the friendships on stage.

The failed gags, however, are down to the poor writing, and jokes were often relying on simple gags and toilet humour which was both predictable and forgettable and felt as though it was aiming for cheap laughs. The script also offered a very incohesive narrative which felt as though it was written with scenes in mind rather than the whole story,  rather a stitch together of random characters and scenes into a form of linear narrative. However this was hidden by some overarching jokes throughout, like the chat room on the laptop, which helped bring together the story in some way, but it did not deny the outlandish random plot points that made no sense.

Despite that the characters were stereotypes, they were very good stereotypes, resulting in people relating them to someone they knew, which made them funnier. However, some characters again were completely out of place and ruined the believability of the other characters. For example, the son was a ‘cowboy’, relying on Sergio Leone references as jokes were completely out of place for a northern working class sitcom style play, which overall tarnished the suspension of disbelief.

Overall My Big Fat Jobseeker’s Wedding was a big fat random collage of cheap jokes and crude humour, that I’m sure would suffice for a quick laugh while drinking with a couple of friends, but would leave no further than that, as it falls flat in offering nothing more than a cheap attempt at Mrs Brown’s Boys.

-Demi West
You can find out more about Ard Knox Theatre Company by clicking here.

Looking for an explosive half term treat?

The Hollywood Special Effects Show heads to the Lowry, Salford on the Friday 3 and Saturday 4 June.


Following its success at the 2016 Big Bang Fair, the largest science fair in the UK, The Hollywood Special Effects Show visits The Lowry, Salford.

The Hollywood Special Effects Show is an interactive science and special effects show for the whole family.

Recommended for ages 6 and over, audiences will be able to get closer to the action than ever before. Theatre-goers will be invited behind the scenes of many favourite films to discover the explosive science and trade secrets that are involved in creating movie magic.

With a team of movie professionals, audiences will marvel at gruesome sci-fi monsters, feel the blaze of an onstage inferno and experience apocalyptic weather and huge explosions.

Using more pyrotechnics than any other UK touring theatre show and with a cannon capable of firing a projectile over 500 metres…be prepared to be blown away.

The Hollywood Special Effects Show is at The Lowry, Salford on Friday 3rd June  and Saturday 4th June 2016. You can book your tickets through The Lowry here or you can give the friendly Box Office a call on 0843 208 6000.

Running Time: 1hr 40 mins including the interval

-Kristy Stott



REVIEW – In The Vice Like Grip Of It (The Lowry Studio, Salford)

in the vice
In The Vice Like Grip Of It


Upstaged Rating: 

With In the Vice Like Grip of It, IVO and Routes North have created a powerful piece of theatre that explores the strained relationship which both the state and the citizens share. Through the medium of ‘Him’ and ‘Her’, we realise that contemporary surveillance may not be as beneficial as it first seems, despite the dependence of it that has arisen from a post-9/11 world. After watching this play, we come to ask ourselves ‘Is constant observation an infringement of our privacy, and most importantly, our human rights?’

 Leigh Kelly and Jo Tyabji portray a couple who have just moved into their new house and are anticipating the arrival of a baby. Life is good, that is, until things are seen for how they really are: ‘Him’ is revealed to be an overzealous safety fanatic, choosing to install CCTV equipment to monitor his home. In this scenario, we see how ‘Him’ abuses this power to spy on ‘Her’, paralleling the methods that the state uses to maintain security, whilst also learning how this negatively affects the life of ‘Her’.

 The contrast between a normal day for the couple and the moments in which ‘Her’ shares her innermost thoughts and feelings is effectively achieved through use of careful lighting techniques, specifically designed by Hannah Blamire and aided by Ivan Mack. Bright lights during the main narrative of the play suppose everything is innocent, whilst the spotlight on the table during the monologues of ‘Her’ eradicate this – nothing is as it seems. The eerie atmosphere already established is complemented by the ubiquitous presence of a buzzing noise; moments of tension appear to be fuelled by it and the audience are immersed in the intensity too.

 Despite the edgy mood that prevails throughout, there are interspersed moments of humour that manage to break it and even induce the most stubborn of people to laugh. Physical theatre is also performed several times too: a testament to the proficiency of the actors who evidently display a natural chemistry during their performance.

 For a play that evokes a feeling of uncertainty in this age of ever-advancing technology and regular surveillance, it is still able to equip you with many intriguing thoughts and provide you with a good deal of entertainment, especially for something you may not usually consider watching.

 -Ciaran Ward

 Click here  to find out more about IVO theatre.

REVIEW – Aliens Love Underpants Live (The Lowry)

© sjsphoto
© sjsphoto
Date: 2 july 2015


This best-selling children’s book Aliens Love Underpants, written by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort, is pretty much staple bedtime reading in our house. Now the hilarious family favourite, presented by Big Wooden Horse and Nick Brooke Limited, has been adapted for the stage by Adam Bampton-Smith.

Apparently, aliens love underpants of every size, shape and colour but they can’t get their extraterrestrial fingers on any underpants in space so they have to obtain them by other means…

Most children find absolutely anything to do with underpants funny so the show is an immediate hit with Thing 2 (5 years old) and when he is asked by a member of the cast about his favourite pants – he promptly and proudly replies, “Dinosaur pants!”. This introduction acts as a frame story for the original tale and engages many of the children in the audience. The cast inform us that the original show has been cancelled (boo) but to avoid disappointment they will make up their own show (yay).

The talented cast of four, Mark Collier, Abigail Carter-Simpson, Eve Pearson-Wright and Alex James Ellison, take us through the well-loved tale which features original music, a highlight being the country and western line dancing pant shop owner. The audience is also treated to some real footage of Neil Armstrong on the moon, alien puppetry by Isla Shaw and lighting effects by Will Evans.

© sjsphoto
© sjsphoto

When our underpant hero Timmy (Alex James Ellison) comes around to solving the ancient riddle of the washing symbols, I did see that some children became quite restless – though, I have no doubt that many of the parents, including myself, saw it as an education. However, there was plenty of martian mischief and humorous interaction between the cast and the audience which kept most of the children gripped for the duration.

With a running time of 55 minutes and no interval, Aliens Love Underpants is a ‘laugh your pants off’ treat for those families with children aged from 3-8 years old.

-Kristy Stott

Aliens Love Underpants is at The Lowry, Salford until 5th July 2015. It continues its tour at Theatre Royal, Wakefield on the 7th and 8th July 2015. For more tour dates and venues click here.

REVIEW – Shadow Boxing (The Lowry, Salford)

shadow-boxingDate: 20 june 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Shadow Boxing is a vivid and intense hour long monologue by boxer Flynn (Jonny Collis-Scurll). Determined not to end up like his father, who was also a boxer only not as successful, Flynn puts himself through gruelling training regimes showing complete dedication to his sport. However, amidst Flynn’s theatrical show of strength we learn that this play is not wholly about his boxing career but runs a lot deeper and explores his experience of coming out as a gay man.

Jonny Collis-Scurll gives a brave, intensive and athletic performance as Flynn, with only a punch bag for company, he must do in the region of fifty press-ups, pummell about eight invisible opponents and perform numerous jabs and rapid boxing combinations during the one-man show. Written by James Gaddas, the language is striking and often poetic, Flynn describes his boxing gloves as ‘lances of scarlet on rods of steel’; at the same time I can feel the vibrations of the punch bag reverberate through my body as I’m sat in the audience. It makes arresting viewing and I feel unnerved by this volatile and vulnerable man with red rimmed eyes staring out towards the crowd.

Directed by Donald Pulford, the stage is set sparsely with matting, a punch bag and a bench to give the impression of a gritty boxing gym. Pulford’s clever lighting design aids Collis-Scurll’s expressive story telling by neatly suggesting other settings and supporting the dramatic build-up as Flynn turns to face his toughest opponents, his personal demons.

Shadow Boxing is a very intense hour long experience, with Jonny Collis-Scurll giving a high energy and charismatic performance, presenting the inner turmoil that Flynn faces while also demonstrating his physicality as a boxer. By the shattering conclusion we are left doubting whether Flynn will ever resolve the battle within himself and feel comfortable with his sexuality.

-Kristy Stott

Visit Cross Cut Theatre’s website by clicking here.

REVIEW – Constellations – Touring (The Lowry)

Date: 9 june 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Constellations, written by Nick Payne, follows the relationship between a man and a woman from the first time that they meet each other at a barbeque. The play is built on the quantum multiverse theory and goes on to visit Marianne and Roland at six different points in their relationship –  exploring how certain situations, conversations and decisions can change the course of their lives together.

Constellations first premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in January 2012 and it is hard to compare it to anything that I have ever seen. The trick of the play is that the two highly talented actors remain visible on stage for the whole 70 minutes duration and they constantly replay scenes in their relationship. Their conversations and experiences take place in the multi-verse, where the past, present and future exist at the same time. It is an intimate comedy about connecting and relationships, the funny and the tragic but there is an overwhelming sense of spontaneity – Marianne and Roland inhabit a place where anything could happen.

Louise Brealey, probably best known for her role as Molly Hooper in Sherlock, is especially captivating as Marianne alongside the easy going bee-keeper Roland, played wonderfully by Joe Armstrong. Set to the beautiful backdrop of a stage filled with balloons, this play is a real showcase for Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong’s outstanding acting skills.

Nick Payne’s script is truly magnetic as we watch Marianne and Roland’s relationship unfold before us – it’s like a powerful collision between science and nature, as we watch the quantum scientist and bee-keeper explore their relationship through a series of different moments in their lives. Each situation plays out slightly differently each time due to the decision that the characters make and as the audience we are fascinated to see which turn their story takes next.

The wonder of this production is that we do not know which way the story will play out until we do reach the final moments with Marianne and Roland. In the whole 70 minutes we have laughed and been moved by their relationship and the turns that it has taken. Ultimately, in my cosmic universe Constellations is a dazzling, thought-provoking and intelligent triumph.

-Kristy Stott

Constellations is at The Lowry, Salford from 9 June 2015 until 13 June 2015

REVIEW – Swanhunter (The Lowry)

Adrian Dwyer as Lemminkäinen with ‘The Devil’s Horse’ © Richard Davenport
Adrian Dwyer as Lemminkäinen with ‘The Devil’s Horse’
© Richard Davenport

Date: 25 APRIL 2015
Upstaged Rating: 


Opera North are passionate about making opera that appeals to the whole family, for children to understand and enjoy just as much as the adults. In this production, Opera North have collaborated with The Wrong Crowd Theatre Company to bring the story of Swanhunter to life. Under the direction of Hannah Mulder, the story is masterfully told by the cast of six, in a simple but highly effective way. The tale is full to the brim with mystical beasts, spooky landscapes and other-worldly characters which heightens its appeal to older children, over the age of 7.

Four backpackers sit around a warm fire as they begin tell the story of the Swanhunter, this campfire tale eagerly becomes a re-enactment of the story of Lemminkainen’s quest to the North to find a wife. This frame story can’t claim to be the most original or inventive but, it is charming and a familiar setting for most of the audience.

During Lemminkainen’s (Adrian Dwyer) quest to find a wife he uses his voice to sing his way out of any trouble – overcoming growling dogs, the Devil’s Elk and the Devil’s Horse – however, will the final task of shooting the Swan (Suzanne Shakespear) that lives on Death’s river prove too much for him?

Ann Taylor as Mother ©Richard Davenport
Ann Taylor as Mother
©Richard Davenport

Luckily, he has cast a spell on a knife and stabbed it into his mother’s door – this knife will let his mother know if he gets into trouble. As with all children’s opera, we need a happy ending and so it is Lemminkainen’s mother, sung emotively by Ann Taylor, who comes to his rescue. Adrian Dwyer is strong and animated in the role of Lemminkainen, although maybe a little too mature for the role of the young man in search of a bride.

Rachael Canning’s clever puppetry and design uses the camper’s circle of tents to bring the narrative into full realisation. All framed by a simple backdrop of mountains, a tent becomes a body for the Devil’s Elk and two rucksacks become the bodies of two fraught snarling dogs.

Jonathan Dove’s music is beautiful, conducted by Justin Doyle, it moves through from the frightening low tones of death to the high piercing notes of the swan’s aria sung beautifully by Suzanne Shakespeare.

Running at around 70 minutes, Swanhunter is a fantastic opportunity for the whole family to experience opera together.


“ I liked all of the puppets, especially the scary ones and the music was really creepy at the start which made me feel excited. I couldn’t believe how high the lady sang as she moved the swan around beautifully on the stage. I found the story really easy to follow because the cast always sang what was happening a few times so that I could understand.”

Thing 1 (age 9)

-Kristy Stott

Swanhunter continues its run at The Alnwick Playhouse on the 26th and 27th April before calling in at The Queen’s Hall, Hexham on the 29th and 30th April 2015. For more details on the tour please click here.