Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

What's on

Cinders gets the ball rolling

Cinderella goes to the ball in Salford this week, towed by the equivalent of 4000 horses!

A fleet of articulated lorries, harnessing the equivalent power, rolls into the Lowry for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performances from Wednesday to Saturday.

The 10 articulated lorries carry scenery, props, lighting, costumes, wigs and all the materials necessary to stage this spectacular ballet.

At each venue of the current tour the production must adapt its sets to new and different sized stages and dancers must perform in up to a third less space.

The performance premiered in 2010 and its three acts closely follow the traditional story of the wicked stepmother, ugly sisters, a fairy godmother and, of course, the slipper.

The music is the original score by Prokofiev but the choreography, by company director David Bintley, was created for this version.


David Upton

Twin theatre festivals for Bolton

After receiving more than 800 submissions, the Octagon in Bolton has chosen the plays for 2017’s Top 5 Season.

Rehearsed readings of All in a Row by Alex Oates, Three Mothers by Matilda Velevitch, Roost by Rosie Kellett, The Rub by Gareth Jandrell, and Bleeding Hearts by James Leach will be performed in the Studio by professional actors, script-in-hand.

The event will run from next Wednesday to March 9 alongside the Octagon’s Reveal Festival which takes place from February 28 to March 18.

This will showcase the work of emerging theatre-makers and artists. Shows will be performed “inside, outside and online”.


David Upton

Monster production for Salford Arts

Skint Productions present Beautiful Monster, a daring new play by Karlton Parris at Salford Arts Theatre, Manchester on February 28 and March 2-4.

It’s set on the eve of Mary Shelley's death.

In the final hours of the life of the iconic author of Frankenstein she is in the grip of madness with visitations from the dead, husband Percy Shelley, their lover Lord Byron, poet John Keats and arch literary rival John William Polidori.

Expect tension galore in a darkly brooding, twisted, erotic and funny Penny Dreadful.

Skint welcome back three previous leading ladies Wendy Laurence James as Mary; Lisa Ademiec plays Bertha Bates, the Shelleys’ new housekeeper; and Amy Forrest plays young Mary Shelley.

Corin Silva takes on the dual roles of Lord Byron and the monster; Edward Darling is Shelley, whilst Ben Iveson is the troubled Polidori.

Manchester actor Jack McGarry plays Keats and Nici Preston completes the cast as Elizabeth Pilford Shelley.

Beautiful Monster contains nudity and scenes of a sexual nature


David Upton

Disabilities drama for Lowry

Multi-sensory theatre for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities heads to The Lowry in Salford as part of 59 date tour

Frozen Light theatre company bring Home, their latest production for four shows on March 3-4.

Exploring a new and unknown world, it immerses audiences in a story of discovery.

The three-strong cast accompanies the audience from the foyer into the performance space, ensuring a smooth transition into the theatre environment.


David Upton

Dreamboats back in city

Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical returns to the Palace Theatre, Manchester this week, celebrating a decade of the multi-million selling albums that inspired the Olivier Award-nominated hit show.

It features classic tracks from Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury, and more set around the story of young musicians Norman and Bobby who compete to win a national song writing competition - and, more importantly, the attention of the gorgeous Sue.

It runs from Monday to Saturday.


David Upton

Nell Gwynn in Salford

English Touring Theatre open their UK Tour of Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn, starring Laura Pitt-Pulford in the title role, at The Lowry in Salford this week.

It runs from Wednesday to Saturday and then goes on tour at several UK venues, including the Grand in Blackpool, before returning to Shakespeare’s Globe in May.

Swale’s warm-hearted, bawdy bio-drama (winner of 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy) tells the story of an unlikely heroine, who went from lowly orange seller to win the adoration of the public and the heart of a King.

Laura Pitt-Pulford’s  theatre credits include Oliver!, The Sound of Music, Piaf and Hello Dolly!


David Upton

Daniel transfers to Exchange

Footprint Theatre's debut production, Daniel, is transferring to Manchester Royal Exchange March 22 after runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Camden People's Theatre and the National Student Drama Festival.

It follows those left behind when an 18-year-old is sentenced and imprisoned for the possession of 50,000 indecent images of children. Footprint explores the unheard stories of family and friends forced to deal with the aftermath.

David Upton

Tom on home turf

Growing Pains is the debut one-man show by Salford-born actor, writer and musician Tom Gill, a UK National Poetry Slam Champion.

Winner of the Ideas Tap Innovators Award 2016, this raw piece puts the next generation of working class masculinity under the microscope.
It opens in The Studio, Royal Exchange Theatre on March 10-11, after a sell-out run at Edinburgh Festival.

David Upton

Commitments for Corrie's Kevin

Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy stars as Jimmy’s Da in the UK tour of The Commitments which comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, from March 27 to April 8.

The UK tour will also feature many of the cast from the record breaking show’s two year run at London’s Palace Theatre, including Brian Gilligan who will reprise his starring role of Deco and Andrew Linnie who will star as Jimmy Rabbitte.
it’s 30 years since The Commitments burst from the pages of Roddy Doyle’s best-selling novel.

David Upton

New Tenant for Bolton Octagon

Octagon Theatre Bolton and York Theatre Royal present a brand new adaptation of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Based on the novel by Anne Brontë, this new adaptation by award-winning playwright Deborah McAndrew will be directed by Octagon artistic director Elizabeth Newman.
In 19th century Yorkshire, a mysterious young widow, Helen Graham, and her son arrive at a desolate estate. Isolating herself from the village, she soon becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation.

At the Octagon from March 30 to April 22, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall welcomes newcomers Phoebe Pryce who will be bringing enigmatic Helen Graham to life, and Michael Peavoy as handsome farmer Gilbert Markham. Also making her Octagon debut is Nicole Lecky as Rose Markham and Lady Annabella Lowborough.

David Upton

Nadia at home with Jane Eyre

Manchester actress Nadia Clifford takes the central role of Jane Eyre and Tim Delap is Rochester when Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre coms to the Lowry from April 8-15.

This year marks a significant time to be touring Brontë’s classic, it’s the 170th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Eyre.
This new stage version was originally presented in two parts at Bristol Old Vic, and then transferred to the National Theatre, re-imagined as a single performance, playing to sold out houses.


David Upton

Bolton rakes over Ashes

The Octagon Theatre in Bolton and the town’s university present the rarely-performed play Ashes.

It’s a powerful and poetic work, filled with dark humour and stark realism, which follows the struggle of a couple as they try to have a child.

It’s directed by David Thacker and sees the return of Octagon favourites Colin Connor and Katy Cavanagh in the lead roles. Completing the cast are John Branwell and Kate Coogan.

Say Thacker: “Although the play is rooted in the early 1970s, I think it will move audiences as profoundly in 2017 as it moved me when I first saw it in 1976.”

Colin Connor won the Manchester Theatre Award for Actor in a Leading Role in 2016 for his performance in A View from a Bridge. Katy Cavanagh, who grew up in Bolton, has previously worked with Colin Connor on stage, in Jim Cartwright’s Two and Two 2.

Ashes runs from February 23 to March 11.


David Upton

Spooky bonus in Salford

Following the performance of Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black at The Lowry in Salford on  March 24 theatregoers will be invited to continue their evening with a spine-chilling late-night experience contacting the spirits that haunt nearby Ordsall Hall.

With its own ominous history, it is home to paranormal encounters experienced by visitors and staff alike. A medium will guide guests through the Tudor manor, famous for supernatural communication, sudden drops in temperature and sightings of the mysterious White Lady and the figure of a young girl on the stairs.

David Upton

Luke in at The Edge

UK poet Luke Wright brings his latest show performing work from his new book The Toll to Manchester's The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre on March 10.

As well as touring the world, curating spoken word/poetry for Latitude and Edinburgh book festivals and work as a broadcaster Luke can often be found as special guest of John Cooper Clarke.


David Upton

Evita returns to Lowry

Bill Kenwright’s production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, returns to The Lowry in Salford from March 14-18.

Telling the story of the wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron, Evita has more than 20 major awards to its credit, and an Oscar winning film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.

It features Don’tt Cry for Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

Taking on the title role is Emma Hatton who played Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked. Making his UK debut is leading Italian performer Gian Marco Schiaretti who takes on the role of Che.


David Upton

Suppliant Women for Exchange

Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre sees one of the world’s oldest dramas play out on its unique stage in March.

The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus, in a new version by David Greig, is a theatrical event featuring, at its heart, a chorus of 40 women and men from across Greater Manchester arguing for their lives.

Written 2,500 years ago it still reflects contemporary society. Suppliant means ‘asylum seeker’ and the play explores issues of migration and democracy, gender politics and political power.

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Actors Touring Company and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh present it from March 10 –April 1.

David Upton

Women make their point

Red Ladder Theatre Company and feminist dance company Gracefool Collective present a double bill at The Met in Bury on March 22 showcasing women and their dangerous ideas.

Red Ladder’s Wrong 'Un, A Suffragette Story is set in February 1918 where Parliament is poised to grant votes for all women.  It is the story of a Lancashire mill-girl on her journey from schoolroom to prison cell and beyond.
A century later, new dance theatre company Gracefool Collective This Is Really Too Much. This dance theatre delves into a world of stereotypes and power struggles.


David Upton

Bat Out Of Hell for Manchester

The world premiere of Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical, previews at Manchester Opera House from Friday.

The American composer, lyricist, and record producer is the man behind the classic Meatloaf album Bat Out of Hell.

Back in the 70s, Steinman wrote a theatrical musical that was presented in workshop and featured many of the songs that would ultimately appear on the album, which was released in 1977.

It became one of the best sellers in history, moving more than 50 million copies worldwide. 

For the stage musical he has incorporated iconic songs into a romantic adventure about rebellious youth, set against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city.

Steinman’s previous musicals include his collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Whistle Down the Wind.

The cast of Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical will be led by newcomer Andrew Polec as Strat and Christina Bennington as Raven, with Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as Sloane.

It runs in Manchester from February 17 to April 8.

Details: www.atgtickets.mcr

David Upton

Transgender theatre company for city

Trans Creative, a brand new theatre company led by award-winning transgender artist and activist Kate O’Donnell, has launched in Manchester.

The company is the first of its kind in England, made possible by three years of financial support from Arts Council England’s Elevate Fund as well as partnerships with several LGBT and NPO arts organisations.

The company is based in the city and counts Contact as one of its partners. It will launch across the opening weekend of Queer Contact festival, the annual LGBT arts festival, which takes place during LGBT History Month.

David Upton

Six by Sick for Salford

Premiering six productions on disability, religion, sexism, drugs, mental health and loneliness - Sick! Festival returns to The Lowry in Salford in March.

After a successful visit in 2015, the award-winning event returns with performances that confront the physical, mental and social challenges faced in individual and collective lives.

David Upton

Lowry's happy Christmas

The Lowry raised £39,500 from its 2016 Christmas Appeal – the largest amount since the annual appeal began in 2011.

The money will be used to support young people from Salford that are in, or have recently left, the care system – in particular, helping them develop confidence, self-esteem and life skills whilst also experiencing the arts for the first time.

David Upton

Oldham soccer glory recalled

Oldham Coliseum Theatre is presenting a brand new musical this March set against the backdrop of Oldham Athletic Football Club’s famous 1990/1991 season, when the team were promoted to the top flight for the first time in more than 60 years.

Meat Pie, Sausage Roll follows on from 2015’s Dreamers, which was set in an infamous former Oldham nightclub. The team behind both new musicals, writers Cathy Crabb and Lindsay Williams and composer Carol Donaldson set out to create new work that is inspired by the local community.
It’s 1990, and Oldham Athletic are flying high following the best cup-run in the club’s history. All eyes are on Latics as they fight for promotion in the league, but for bride-to-be, Amanda (Mandi), the football is causing even more drama off the pitch.
The cast includes Jenny Platt as Mandi, best known for her former role as Violet in Coronation Street; Des O’Malley as Kev, who played series regular Louis in Hollyoaks, Sakuntala Ramanee as Padma, who performed in the national tour of East is East in 2015, and Coliseum pantomime favourite Richard J Fletcher as Woody. 
It runs from March 3-25.


David Upton

Ghost re-appears at Lowry

Bill Kenwright’s production of Ghost - The Musical, will extend its current UK tour with a visit to The Lowry, Salford from April 24-29.

Carolyn Maitland will continue in the role of Molly alongside Andy Moss as Sam. Her musical theatre credits include Miss Saigon, Groundhog Day and From Here to Eternity.
Andy Moss, best known for the role of Rhys Ashworth in Hollyoaks, one he played for eight years, will continue as Sam. His credits also include Cutting It, Coronation Street and most recently as Paul Cuthbert in the BBC soap opera Doctors.

David Upton

Musical premiere for Bolton

Watford Palace Theatre are to stage the world premiere musical I Capture the Castle, based on the iconic novel by Dodie Smith, and co-produced with the Octagon Theatre Bolton and Kevin Wallace Limited, in association with Deborah Ward.

It will be staged at the Octagon in April.

Set in Bohemian England of the 1930s, Smith’s classic is a warm and funny coming-of-age story. The script by Teresa Howard (Grock at Chichester Festival Theatre) and Possessed (a new musical play with Steven Edis) tells the story through the eyes of 17-year-old narrator Cassandra.
Original music is by Steven Edis and has influences of swing, tango, beguine, English folksong and a hint of Cole Porter.
After opening in Watford on March 31 it will later be staged at the octagon from April 26 to May 6.


David Upton

Contact company's take on cancer

After tackling sex, climate change and homelessness the award-winning Contact Young Company in Manchester take on cancer.

There is a Light: BRIGHTLIGHT will premiere at Contact, before embarking on two national tours.
Made possible by support from the Wellcome Trust, the performance takes direct inspiration from Brightlight, a £2m study funded by the National Institute for Health Research that seeks specialist services for teenagers and young adults with cancer.

Brian Lobel (A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer with Bryony Kimmings and Tom Parkinson) has staged workshops with CYC alongside four young performers with direct experience of cancer care.


David Upton

Dancers offered a Turn

North West dancers and dance-makers (aged 18+) are invited to submit proposals of short pieces of work, works-in-progress or extracts of longer works for inclusion in an annual event.

Turn is an open submission dance platform on April 28 for short finished pieces; excerpts; works in progress; or sited works in and around the building are also welcomed.

David Upton

Sleepless musical cancelled

A world premiere of Sleepless The Musical due to be staged at the Lowry in Salford in April has been cancelled.

The producer hopes to have further news of the production next year.
It was to have starred Danny Mac, Carley Stenson, Jennie Dale and Cory English, and was due to run at  The Lowry, Salford from April 25-29.

David Upton

Bruntwood panel hunt more winners

The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting has launched its sixth search for original plays and announced a judging panel from stage, screen and journalism.

The biennial Prize is a partnership between the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester and property company Bruntwood, and highlights the importance of new writing for theatre and the value of nurturing playwrights and their craft. The prize is an opportunity for writers of any background and experience to enter unperformed plays into Europe's largest playwriting competition.

British broadcaster and journalist Kirsty Lang will chair the 2017 judging panel, she will be joined by the award-winning screenwriter Russell T. Davies, previous Bruntwood Prize winner Phil Porter, stage and screen writer Lucy Prebble, director Lyndsey Turner, award-winning actor Don Warrington, and Royal Exchange Theatre associate artistic director, Matthew Xia. Chairman of Bruntwood, Michael Oglesby CBE completes the panel. 

The competition is open to anyone over the age of 16, in the British Isles. All scripts are judged anonymously by a team of skilled readers and the final ten will be judged by this panel.

Each of the winners will enter into a development process with the Royal Exchange Theatre. Winning scripts will be announced at an awards ceremony in Manchester in November. The total prize fund is £40,000 and full details on how to enter can be found at

David Upton

Co-production launches at HOME

Vivienne Acheampong, Mark Edel-Hunt, Chris New and Jack Tarlton will star in the first stage adaptation of a Paul Auster novel in the UK, City of Glass, a brand new production by Tony Award-winning 59 Productions in a co-production with HOME, Manchester (March 4-18) and Lyric Hammersmith (April 20 –May 13).

As Auster turns 70 and The New York Trilogy, his first work of prose fiction marks three decades in publication, the first part of this celebrated trilogy will be staged in Manchester and London ahead of its international tour.

City of Glass will be brought to life in an original stage adaptation by 59 Productions (An American in Paris, War Horse, David Bowie Is) and Olivier Award-nominated playwright Duncan Macmillan (Every Brilliant Thing, 1984, People, Places and Things).
Mark Edel-Hunt and Chris New will play Daniel Quinn, the reclusive crime writer who unwittingly becomes the protagonist in a real-life thriller of his own after receiving a mysterious phone call in the middle of the night.


David Upton

Wheeling the Grease into city

An all-new tour of Grease opens at the Palace Theatre, Manchester in March.

The show stars Tom Parker (from The Wanted) who makes his musical theatre debut playing Danny Zuko, Danielle Hope (Over the Rainbow winner) who plays Sandy, Louisa Lytton (Strictly Come Dancing, EastEnders) who plays Rizzo and Darren Day (Celebrity Big Brother) who returns to Grease to play Teen Angel seventeen years after playing Danny in the West End.
Grease opened in the West End in 1993 where it enjoyed a run of six years at the Dominion and Cambridge theatres.


David Upton

More scares ahead for Salford

Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black has terrified more than 64,400 theatregoers in seven visits to The Lowry. With an eighth visit planned from March 20-25 the terror total is set to rise. 

Hill’s story, of a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family, begins innocently enough. But the borders between make believe and reality begin to blur.
The UK tour runs concurrently with the West End production.

David Upton

New play crucible for city

Manchester ADP is a community of professional creatives in the North West who host script-in-hand performances of new plays followed by audience feedback to help writers develop new scripts.

It was founded by Diana Atkins, who was inspired by Actors and Writers London who have been running since 1973.

ADP have been running for just over a year and have racked up 57 new plays with 99 actors. And have just as many waiting to be performed.

Russell T Davies (writer of Doctor Who and Cucumber) has become a regular audience member and financial donor. Both The Lowry and Oldham Coliseum are supporting and will be partnering with them for future events. And the actors casting database – Casting Networks International – offer all ADP actors complimentary pro membership.

Now they have have programmed Full Force February – a theatre event every Monday in February at the Kings Arms, each with a different twist.

They are open to free script submissions all year round and promise detailed written feedback whether it’s staged or not.


David Upton

Theodora first for RNCM

Royal Northern College of Music Opera will present Handel’s Theodora between March 24 and April 1 at the college.

Directed by John Ramster, it is the first time the RNCM has staged an oratorio.
Following its autumn offering of Offenbach’s colourful La Vie Parisienne (nominated for a Manchester Theatre Award), they turn to the darker side of life. Theodora is widely recognised as one of Handel’s great masterpieces and while it is rarely performed, the work contains some of the composer’s most beautiful arias, duets and choruses.
The story, in English, recounts the tender love and eventual martyrdom of Theodora, a young Christian woman, and her Roman lover, Didymus.


David Upton

New comedy from Sandi Toksvig

English Touring Theatre have confirmed casting for the world première of Sandi Toksvig’s new comedy Silver Lining, a co-production with Rose Theatre Kingston.

Sheila Reid plays Gloria, with Rachel Davies as Maureen, Keziah Joseph as Hope, Maggie McCarthy as May, Joanna Munro as June and Amanda Walker as St Michael.

The production will be at The Lowry from April 4-8.
 It tells the tale of five extraordinary yet forgotten women, who come together one treacherous night to recreate The Great Escape – senior citizen style.
Toksvig is a writer, actor, presenter and political activist who now hosts television quiz show QI.  She is also joint founder of the Women’s Equality Party established in March 2015.

David Upton

Wicked on its way back

Wicked, the West End and Broadway musical that tells the story of the Witches of Oz, will return to the Palace Theatre, Manchester next year.

One of the most successful productions in the venue’s history, Wicked was previously seen by almost 150,000 people during its engagement from September – November 2013.

David Upton

Audiences pay by results

The Lowry in Salford present four shows where audiences won’t have to purchase a ticket in advance.

Instead they will be asked to pay what they think the show was worth at the end of the performance.

And on Hush Hush Nights audiences won’t even know anything about the show they’re about to watch with the first events taking place on February 17 and April 21.

Meanwhile WTF Wednesdays are about celebrating cutting edge contemporary theatre. Prototype Theatre’s A Machine They’re Secretly Building (March 1) is presented in association with Word of Warning.


David Upton

Yank musical premieres at Hope Mill

A love story set in World War Two will start the 2017 season in the latest collaboration between a leading London-based theatre production company and one of Manchester’s newest arts venues.

Yank! is a new musical which has been performed Off Broadway. Its UK premiere will be a four-week run from March 9 to April 8 at Hope Mill Theatre, in Ancoats.
The show is the first in a hat-trick of productions for 2017 through a partnership between Aria Entertainment and the award-winning Hope Mill. They first joined forces in January 2016 to spearhead the arts venue as a platform to showcase, revive and bring new musical theatre to the North.

David Upton

Fairytale trio for Lowry

Opera North celebrates classic fairy tales with three brand new productions on stage at The Lowry in March: Rimsky-Korsakov’s rarely-performed The Snow Maiden, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Rossini’s Cinderella.

The three will share basic elements of a highly adaptable set, designed by Giles Cadle, with the inventive use of video bringing the themes of transformation and magic to the forefront. From live video captured on-stage in real time in Hansel and Gretel, folk-influenced dreamscapes in The Snow Maiden, or a riot of colour and invention in Cinderella, the use of video will enable each of the fairytales to blur lines between reality and fantasy.


David Upton

Caryl Churchill play for Lowry

Original cast members Linda Bassett, Deborah Findlay, Kika Markham, and June Watson are in Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone when it heads to The Lowry from March 7-11. 

It  was first staged at the Royal Court last January.
Churchill’s previous work for the Royal Court includes Ding Dong the Wicked, Love and Information, Seven Jewish Children, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?, A Number, Far Away, Blue Heart, Serious Money, Top Girls and Cloud Nine.

Her new play unleashes an intricate, elliptical, acutely female view of the apocalypse.

David Upton

Running Wild in Salford

The first UK Tour of Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo in an adaptation by Samuel Adamson, comes to Salford’s Lowry April 18-22. 

Morpurgo’s novel, based on a true story, is brought to life in an award-winning production.  Originally produced by Regent’s Park Theatre and Chichester Festival, this production, complete with life-size puppets, tells an emotional and moving story of love, loss and loyalty and of living for the moment. It’s aimed at audiences aged 6+.

David Upton

A silver Cyrano from Northern Broadsides

Northern Broadsides is to start its 25th anniversary year with a new adaptation of Cyrano De Bergerac by Deborah McAndrew.

The company are joining forces with New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, to stage  Edmond Rostand’s classic romantic comedy.
Deborah McAndrew aims to bring fresh vigour to this swashbuckling tale of unrequited love. Add Northern Broadsides’ musical panache and exuberant performance style!
It’s at the Lowry, Salford April 18-22.

David Upton

Mikron touring youth hostels

Mikron Theatre are to tour Maeve Larkin’s new play about youth hostelling which will be performed in the UK’s Youth Hostels

Following their touring productions of Pure and Canary Girls, the award winning Yorkshire theatre company premiere Best Foot Forward which will take audiences on a hike through the history of hostelling.
Something’s afoot at Pearling Manor and it isn’t just the walkers. The beautiful hostel, rich in YHA history, is lovely but falling apart. External forces are out to grab and turn it into a golf club. Cue Connie, first ever warden, with a heart as big as her rucksack. It’s at St Helens Central Library as well as Birch Community Centre, Brighton Grove, Manchester on April 1; Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre April 6; Marple Senior Citizen’s Hall, Stockport April 8; The Swan, The Square, Saddleworth April 11.

David Upton

Queer Contact Festival marks historic year

Manchester’s Queer Contact Festival returns in February for its ninth year, with a diverse and inclusive festival proudly celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender arts and culture in Greater Manchester as part of LGBT History Month.

2017 is an important year as it marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report that recommended homosexual activity should no longer be a criminal offence. It also marks the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation.
Manchester venues include Contact, Band on the Wall, Manchester Central Library, Manchester Town Hall, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Whitworth.
The festival explores gender, sexuality, health, religion, politics, citizenship, the law and more, with a stellar line-up of local, national and international artists including: lycra-clad operatic diva Le Gateau Chocolat accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra; legendary avant garde performer David Hoyle with Diamond, a new theatre show commissioned by Contact, examining LGBT history from 1957 to 2017; award-winning transgender performer Kate O’Donnell; contemporary dance theatre ensemble 201 Dance Company; Drag King champion Lucy Jane Parkinson; UK singing sensations David McAlmont and Baby Sol (celebrating the music of queer icon Prince); performers from the North West’s premier alt-queer performance night Mother’s Ruin; plus more.

David Upton

Snapshot of Manchester Festival 2017

Manchester International Festival’s new artistic director John McGrath has offered a snapshot of his first programme, running from June 29 to July 16 next year.

Artists – including Boris Charmatz, Yael Bartana, Vicky Featherstone, Scott Graham, Karl Hyde, Simon Stephens and Jeremy Deller – will engage with contemporary stories.

Following his appointment last year McGrath has brought together international artists from the worlds of visual art, dance, theatre and music.

The full line-up will be announced in March.
The first four Festival commissions run from the global – Yael Bartana’s upending of Dr Strangelove’s phallocentric worldview – to the local, with What Is the City but the People? a uniquely Mancunian self-portrait.

The Festival reaffirms its European connections with new work by Boris Charmatz, and looks deep in to the heart of the men of England with Fatherland. 


David Upton

Season of variety at Oldham Coliseum

Oldham Coliseum Theatre Spring-Summer 2017 season, features triumphant returns, new takes on old classics and comedies, topped off with a glittering Bollywood musical.

The season kicks off on March 3 with a brand new look into Oldham’s past from writers Cathy Crabb and Lindsay Williams and composer Carol Donaldson. Meat Pie, Sausage Roll is a musical about family and loyalty set against the backdrop of Oldham Athletic’s memorable 1990/1991 season.

From April 13-29 the Coliseum presents Bill Naughton’s Lancastrian comedy Spring and Port Wine followed by Charles Dickens as you’ve never seen him before from May 19 to June 3, with Stephen Jeffreys’ fast-moving adaptation of Hard Times. 

Actor, director and two-time former Coliseum artistic director, Kenneth Alan Taylor, returns to the Coliseum stage from June 16 to July 1 to star in The Father. Written by Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton, the play portrays the devastating impact of dementia on one man and the people in his life.

Elsewhere in the season London Classic Theatre return with their tour of Hysteria, the farce in which Sigmund Freud meets Salvador Dali; Phyzzical bring their eye-catching romantic comedy Bring on The Bollywood; and in May the Coliseum will also once again join forces with London’s Southbank Centre, Black Country Touring and Cast in Doncaster to present the second tour of Alchemy, a festival which celebrates South Asian arts, music and performance from international artists alongside local and regional talent.

David Upton

Jodie's Valentine date

A major revival tour, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine, and starring Jodie Prenger as the eponymous heroine, comes to the Lowry in Salford next June.

Russell’s comedy premiered in 1986. His plays, including Educating Rita, Blood Brothers, Our Day Out and Shirley Valentine, have been performed across the globe and have won countless awards. The latter was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti.
Jodie Prenger is best known for winning the role of Nancy in the West End production of Oliver! through the BBC television series I’d Do Anything. Most recently she toured the UK in Tell Me On A Sunday. She also played the title role in the national tour of the musical Calamity Jane and has starred in One Man, Two Guvnors both in the West End and on tour and as Lady of the Lake in Spamalot.


David Upton

Babe back on stage at Lowry

Adapted from Dick King-Smith’s much-loved children’s novel which inspired the Oscar-winning 1995 film, Babe, The Sheep-Pig will be brought to life on stage in a new production.

Babe and the residents of Hogget’s Farm will visit The Lowry in Salford from April 11-15 as part of a major UK tour.
Dick King-Smith’s The Sheep-Pig was first published in 1983, and has since been translated into 15 languages. In 1995 it was adapted for the big screen as the film Babe.
It is adapted for the stage by Olivier Award-winning playwright David Wood, best known for his adaptations of classic family titles including Goodnight Mister Tom, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. 

David Upton

War Horse re-mounted in 2018

War Horse, the National Theatre’s cash cow, will return to The Lowry in 2018.

Speaking at a special In Conversation event with The Lowry’s chief executive, Julia Fawcett OBE, NT artistic director Rufus Norris confirmed the acclaimed production will run at the Salford arts centre from June 13-30.
The dates will coincide with the national centenary commemorations of the end of the First World War.
These follow two previous runs at The Lowry – the first of which, in 2013, was the most popular run of any show in the venue’s history.

David Upton

Wendi's Wonderland homecoming

TV and West End star Wendi Peters (Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street) will headline the 2017 UK tour of Wonderland as Queen of Hearts alongside musical theatre favourite Dave Willetts.

Another West End leading lady Kerry Ellis, best known for playing Elphaba in Wicked, will guest star as Alice in the Manchester run of the show, which is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester in April.
Following sold out seasons in Tampa, Texas and Tokyo, Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland comes to Manchester as part of an extensive UK tour.

David Upton

Wedding Singer musical for Manchester

A new production of The Wedding Singer will play the Opera House, Manchester, from May 15-20.

Jon Robyns, Ray Quinn, Cassie Compton, Roxanne Pallett, Ruth Madoc and Samuel Holmes star in the musical based on the hit film.
It’s 1985. Hair is huge, greed is good and rock-star wannabe Robbie Hart is New Jersey's favourite wedding singer. When his own fiancée dumps him at the altar Robbie makes every wedding as disastrous as his own.
West End star Jon Robyns plays Robbie Hart. Most recently he starred in Legally Blonde as Emmett Forrest, other theatre credits include Enjolras in Les Misérables, Spamalot, Memphis and Avenue Q.
Ray Quinn shot to fame as the runner-up in ITV1’s The X Factor in 2006 and as champion of Dancing on Ice in 2009.
West End leading lady and X Factor finalist Cassie Compton plays Julia. Playing best friend Holly, Roxanne Pallett is perhaps best known for her long-standing role as Jo in ITV’s Emmerdale.


David Upton