The 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards winners in full

New play
Gypsy Queen by Rob Ward, Hope Mill
How My Light Is Spent by Alan Harris, Royal Exchange
Narcissist in the Mirror by Rosie Fleeshman, Greater Manchester Fringe Festival – WINNER
Narvik by Lizzie Nunnery, Home

Opera
Cendrillon, Royal Northern College of Music, RNCM
La Cenerentola, Opera North, the Lowry
The Little Greats, Opera North, the Lowry
The Snow Maiden, Opera North, the Lowry – WINNER Continue reading “The 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards winners in full”

The 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

New play
Gypsy Queen by Rob Ward, Hope Mill
How My Light Is Spent by Alan Harris, Royal Exchange
Narcissist in the Mirror by Rosie Fleeshman, Greater Manchester Fringe Festival
Narvik by Lizzie Nunnery, Home

Opera
Cendrillon, Royal Northern College of Music, RNCM
La Cenerentola, Opera North, the Lowry
The Little Greats, Opera North, the Lowry
The Snow Maiden, Opera North, the Lowry

Actress
Karen Henthorn, Spring and Port Wine, Oldham Coliseum
Lisa Dwyer Hogg, People, Places and Things, Home
Nina Hoss, Returning to Reims, Manchester International Festival
Janet Suzman, Rose, Home Continue reading “The 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

TV Review: No Offence Series 2

“Now is not the time for your Bronte Sisters-saurus act”

In what’s been a blistering start to the televisual year (Unforgotten, The Moorside), the second series of Paul Abbott’s No Offence is definitely up there, offering at least a little comic relief along with its deadly serious dark side. My views on episode 1 set the tone for the rest to come – the glorious return of the Friday Street team, led by Joanna Scanlan’s inimitable DI Viv Deering, having met their match in the arch-villain Nora Attah, a glorious performance from Rakie Ayola.

And typical of Abbott’s oeuvre, along with his co-writers, there’s a fantastic complexity to his characters. Attah may rule her gangland with a rod of iron, issuing icy reprisals against rivals who dare cross her path, but as subplots about FGM and sexual violence are threaded through the season, there’s strong hints about the harshness of the world that has shaped her. And that makes her the ideal counterpart for Deering’s anarchic policing style, our sympathies caught in the complex conflict between their respective shades of grey. Continue reading “TV Review: No Offence Series 2”

Review: The Skriker, Royal Exchange

“No mistake no mister no missed her no mist no miss no”

As my dear Aunty Mary used to say, by the crin! Sarah Frankcom’s production of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker is a properly gobsmacking piece of work, the kind of theatre that leaves you reeling from its sheer audacity, its free-wheeling inventiveness and a general sense of what-the-fuckery. Maxine Peake’s acting career has been far too varied for a peak to ever be declared (though for me, Twinkle ftw) but it is hard to imagine her any more hauntingly, viscerally, intense than she is here, wrapping every sinew of her body around the often bafflingly complex wordplay and utterly owning it with an authoritative otherworldliness.

There’s a plot. Kind of. Though it is literally, and physically, hard to follow. Frankcom has lavished huge amounts of creativity onto the show and empowered her creatives to be daring, so that it becomes akin to an art installation in how densely visual it becomes. Imogen Knight’s choreography haunts every scene as an ensemble of 12 keep a strange and kinetic energy coursing through the theatre, Jack Knowles’ artistically inspired lighting playfully pulls the perspective one way then the other, and Lizzie Clachan’s reinvention of the physical space of the auditorium has to be seen to really be believed (book the stalls, seriously) as it rewrites the rules of engagement. Continue reading “Review: The Skriker, Royal Exchange”

Review: Blindsided, Royal Exchange

“He puts his hand in your knickers and promises the world”

Lord this was grim. Hard-going, unlikeable and sterile – much of Simon Stephens’ writing has felt like this for me (as opposed to his adaptations) and so it can be something of a slog until one breaks through the revelatory moment that he often provides. But Blindsided never really got there, despite some excellent work from Julie Hesmondhalgh – making a bold move now that Hayley Cropper is coming a cropper – as the adult Cathy who has comes to terms with something shocking.

We first meet Cathy as a much younger woman though and see the seeds of what will happen coming from a tough upbringing in an unforgiving part of Stockport and her meeting with a darkly enigmatic man. But there’s something very artificial about the whole thing – there’s nothing discernible connecting the two versions of Cathy we meet – her rebirth is too much of a copout without any hint of redemptive quality in her – and the world(s) around her are poorly populated, the supporting character mere wisps. Continue reading “Review: Blindsided, Royal Exchange”

Review: The Sound of Heavy Rain, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall

“You can’t always plan for the route ahead”

Technical problems meant that my original trip to see The Sound of Heavy Rain at Shoreditch Town Hall as part of a three show day, encompassing the whole Roundabout season of new writing engineered by Paines Plough, was scuppered. Fortunately the other two plays – Lungs and One Day When We Were Young – more than made up for the disappointment and I was able to squeeze in Penelope Skinner’s play later in the run to make up the full set.

In some ways, it seems a curious addition to the programme in that both stylistically and thematically, it felt quite distinct from the yearning, emotional intimacy of the other two plays. The Sound of Heavy Rain is a world apart with its film noir pastiche and cabaret leanings as grizzled private detective Dabrowski is approached by Maggie Brown to find her bar-room singer friend Foxy O’Hara who has gone missing. But instead of the boulevards of LA, we’re in the dark streets of Soho where it never stops raining.  Continue reading “Review: The Sound of Heavy Rain, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall”

Review: One Day When We Were Young / Lungs, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall

“The world is going to need good people in it”

Those champions of great theatre Paines Plough make a rare foray into the capital with the Roundabout season – three new plays from three upcoming playwrights which can be seen individually or in a triple bill over one day at the weekend. We opted for the triple bill but sadly, the first of the plays – Penelope Skinner’s The Sound of Heavy Rain – was cancelled due to adverse weather affecting the venue. We were still able to take in Nick Payne’s One Day When We Were Young and Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs though and what a fantastic pair of plays they turned out to be.

Paines Plough have constructed a mini in-the-round wooden theatre, akin to the one in which Mike Bartlett’s Cock was performed at the Royal Court, and they have placed it in the historic and underused surroundings of Shoreditch Town Hall. The intimacy of the space is something really rather special and director of One Day When We Were Young, Clare Lizzimore really explores the possibilities it offers with a beautiful production of Nick Payne’s play. Continue reading “Review: One Day When We Were Young / Lungs, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall”