Manchester Theatre Awards

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

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Housing issue at HOME

Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole’s show Letters to Windsor House which looks at the UK housing crisis is coming to  Home, Manchester as part of an extensive tour that follows a two week sold out London run at the Soho Theatre.

The show performs on April 19-21.

The pair created the show about their own housing issues in the London rental sector but it is relevant to anyone who has ever rented a property. In their flatshare they were suspicious about their landlord and curious about the mountain of mail they were receiving for past tenants, none of which they had forwarding addresses for. They discovered that under certain circumstances it is legal to open other people’s mail - and decided this is that certain circumstance!

David Upton

Boris drops in on Fringe

Greater Manchester Fringe is back July 1-31 with a wide range of drama, comedy, live music, dance, politics, poetry, local stories and variety.

Boris - The Musical, devised in nine weeks post-referendum, will be making its Greater Manchester Fringe debut at Z-Arts in Hulme, July 27-29, before it goes to Edinburgh.
Part biography, part farce, part songtastic satire, Boris is the 5 star musical for people who don't like musicals. It features punk, pop, gospel and even a tango called Me and My Johnson.
 The deadline for writers, theatre companies and performers to register their shows and get in the A4 colour brochure is March 31.

David Upton

Collective response at the Coliseum

Manchester collective Actors, Directors & Producers, are teaming up with The Oldham Coliseum main-stage in May to produce What The Dickens?

Manchester ADP was formed a year ago by Diana Atkins, who moved from London and began seeking a group to join, as an actor, that met regularly to read scripts.

Now with over 1000 creatives on their books, Manchester ADP produce script-reading performances twice a month at The Kings Arms in Salford. They have performed at The Lowry, staging a “Next Steps” event, gathered over £2500 in donations from the community, including Russell T Davis, and secured sponsorship from Casting Networks, who offer all Manchester ADP actors a six-month membership.


David Upton

Twelfth Night for Exchange

Shakespeare’s comedy of gender, identity and love storms into Manchester Royal Exchange next month.

Twelfth Night is directed by Jo Davies making her Exchange debut. Faith Omole, Kevin Harvey and Mina Anwar return as Viola, Orsino and Maria, Kate Kennedy takes on the role of Olivia and Anthony Calf is Malvolio.

Manchester-based transgender artist and activist Kate O’Donnell makes her Exchange debut in the role of Feste. Live music from folk musician Kate Young and lap-tap guitarist Joe Gravil adds to the intricate comedy.

The play runs from April 13 –May 20.

David Upton

Trapped at the Kings Arms!

Trapped debuts at The Kings Arms, Salford, on March 24, and April 9-10.

A comedy play with live music, it follows struggling playwright Constance, who finds herself trapped within a where she has just accidentally killed the main character.

David Upton

Opera in its infancy

The follow up to Scottish Opera’s BabyO performances, BambinO is a pioneering and unique piece of music theatre for infants aged 6 to 18 months.

A new co-production with Manchester International Festival and Improbable, the show premieres at MIF in July, before travelling to Edinburgh as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, then to Glasgow for performances in Scottish Opera’s Production Studios.
The show reinvents operatic language and traditions for children at an age when their minds are open to new sounds, images and experiences. Babies are free to explore during the performance, and to interact with the singers, musicians - and each other.

David Upton

Suppliant Women for Exchange

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre stages one of the world’s oldest dramas on its unique stage.

The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus, in a new version featuring, at its heart, a chorus of 40 women and men from across Greater Manchester arguing for their lives. It has been reworked for the in-the-round space following a critically-acclaimed production last year.

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

It runs from March 10 to April 1.

A group of women leave everything behind to flee across the Mediterranean. They are escaping forced marriage in their homeland, hoping for protection and assistance, and seeking asylum in Greece.

The 40-strong Chorus is a diverse mix of volunteers who have been working with the company alongside Oscar Batterham, Omar Ebrahim and Gemma May Rees.


David Upton

Yank! musical opens in city

A 12-stong cast stage the international premiere of wartime love story Yank! which opens in Manchester this week.

The moving gay love is the latest collaboration between London-based theatre production company Aria Entertainment and one of Manchester's newest arts venues, the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre.

It will run for four weeks from March 9 to April 8 and is based on the Off-Broadway production from 2010. This new version also starts Hope Mill Theatre’s 2017 season of musicals.

Yank! focuses on the life of Stu, a scared Mid-Western youngster called up to serve in the forces in 1943 and explores what it means to be a man, and what it is to fall in love and struggle.


David Upton

Shrek set for a giant return

Shrek The Musical will be returning to Manchester next January.

Nigel Harman will return as director, having made his directorial debut on the first UK and Ireland Tour. Harman originated the role of Lord Farquaad in the West End production, winning an Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.
Casting information will be announced in due course.

David Upton

Five get a break in Salford

The Lowry has announced the 2017 cohort of its artist development programme.

Five companies and artists have been awarded places on The Lowry’s Developed With programme.

This year’s recipients are Manchester-based Buddhist monk turned stand-up comedian Sam Brady; local poet-playwright Chanje Kunda; Italian contemporary dance company Igor and Moreno; London-based mask theatre company Theatre Temoin; and Berlin-based hand balancing artist Natalie Reckert.
Each will receive a cash investment and production support as they make a new show that will premiere at the venue. They also benefit from year-long professional development funding and support as they take a step forward in their practice.

David Upton

Etta James show for RNCM

At Last - The Etta James Story, stars Vika Bull.

It stops off in Manchester on April 10 at Royal Northern College of Music.
Telling the story of soul legend Etta James’ life it features some of her most beloved songs including Tell Mama, Something’s Got A Hold On Me, Sugar On The Floor, the heart rending I’d Rather Go Blind, and her iconic signature song.

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

Bat Out Of Hell for Manchester

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

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 to April 8.

Details: www.atgtickets.mcr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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