Manchester Theatre Awards

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

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Casanova for The Lowry

Northern Ballet is bringing history’s most notorious lover to Salford this week with its sensual new production Casanova

The internationally-acclaimed company transport audiences to 18th century Venice, telling the story of the infamous Italian adventurer in a masquerade of passion and politics. The fiercely-intellectual Giacomo Casanova leads a controversial life consumed by his desires. He dabbles in careers as a scam artist, violinist, alchemist and church cleric but with a penchant for gambling and women. A true story so sensational you won’t believe it’s real.

It’s at The Lowry from Wednesday to Saturday as part of its world première tour. There are Thursday and Saturday matinees.

Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Swanning along to apocalypse

Swansong is a post-apocalyptic comedy, performed in a swan pedalo, at The Lowry in Salford from Wednesday to Saturday.

It follows the story of four strangers in a swan pedalo after a flood that wiped out the world. As the last remaining survivors on earth they decide what to remember, and what to change.

With DugOut theatre company’s blend of live music, comedy and storytelling, it should be a captivating journey.

Recommended for ages 14+.

Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

MK ULTRA dance work for city

Documentary film-maker Adam Curtis collaborates on a production at HOME in Manchester next week to give a wider political and social context to MK ULTRA.

As ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ create headlines, this new dance work inspired by pop culture, mind control conspiracies and Illuminati imagery is particularly timely.

Lady Gaga designer Gary Card also creates his first costume designs for contemporary dance.

MK ULTRA calls in at HOME next Wednesday and Thursday.

Details: www.homemcr.org

David Upton

Talking to animals at HOME

Breach Theatre follow up The Beanfield with Tank, which runs for three nights at HOME in Manchester after four-star reviews at last year’s Edinburgh Festival.

In 1965, an American scientist lived with a dolphin for 10 weeks to try and teach him to speak English - part of the Dolphin House experiments, a NASA-funded research project into human-animal communication.

Condemned by the wider scientific community as an elaborate circus trick, researcher Margaret Lovatt’s lessons with Peter remain a controversial episode at the height of the Cold War.

Tank looks at the difficulties of bridging cultural divides, the politics behind the stories we tell . . . and what happens when you inject a dolphin with LSD.

Details: www.homemcr.org

David Upton

Ellen Kent triple for city

Opera & Ballet International present three Ellen Kent productions with international soloists, chorus and full orchestra at Manchester Palace Theatre.

Producer Ellen Kent returns to the city to bring Aida, with the grandeur of Egypt; La Boheme, the most romantic opera of all; and Nabucco – one of the most iconic.

The tour features celebrated sopranos Olga Perrier and Alyona Kistenyova and American mezzo-soprano Zara Vardanean, returning after acclaimed performances of Carmen in 2015 and 2016.

La Boheme is next Wednesday, Nabucco Thursday and Aida Friday and Saturday.

Details: www.atgtickets.com/Manchester

David Upton

Improv troupe at Lowry

The Noise Next Door are an improv comedy troupe bringing their fourth national tour to the Lowry in Salford on Sunday  with the Really Really Good Afternoon Show at 2pm and their evening show Uproar! at 8pm. Due to demand, an extra show has also been added at 8pm on Monday.

Using suggestions made by the audience Charlie Granville, Matt Grant, Tom Livingstone and Sam Pacelli, transform them into scenes and songs so every show is a unique performance filled with their brand of off-the-cuff comedy.

Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Access all audiences

Following the sell-out success of its premiere at the Royal Exchange in Manchester Hoax Our Right to Hope comes to Salford at The Lowry on Sunday and Monday.

It tells the true story of Rob a young man from Manchester and his life and death with schizophrenia. Audiences experience Rob’s story across three mediums - with unique access to a narrative Choose Your Own Journey app accessed following ticket purchase. Secondly, by attending the stage musical. Thirdly, when they take home their copy of graphic novel Hoax Psychosis Blues.

The stage show is characterised by Benji Reid’s distinctive highly energised style of physical theatre.

Suitable for ages 14+.

Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Mind you language at Contact

Billed as a ‘fast-paced crash course about bad language’ punk poet Thick Richard presents Swear School at Contact in Manchester from next Wednesday to Saturday.

The audience is asked to join a class of sinister puppets as the dyslexic Thick Richard looks at the history, definition and use of swearing in a darkly humorous show.

A support for Kate Tempest, Arthur Smith and The Fall, he was also presenter of BBC 6 Music's Beat of the Day.

Details: www.contactmcr.com

David Upton

Dance collaboration at Whitworth

Siobhan Davies Dance's most ambitious interdisciplinary collaboration to date – entitled material / rearranged / to / be – travels to the Whitworth gallery in Manchester May 6-14, following its premiere at the Barbican, London.

Based on ideas about bodily communication and updated by the latest research into neuroscience, the artists and choreographers investigate what revealed and concealed through physical behaviour.
It includes performance, film projection, and sculptural objects that are presented as an ever-changing arrangement. Visitors are immersed in a live environment that evolves around them. The constantly altering juxtapositions mean few visitors to the gallery will have the same experience.

David Upton

53two Manchester premiere

Married. But Lonely premieres at 53two in Manchester on June 16-17 before touring.

Jerry’s wife has recently died. Within 48 hours he’s unexpectedly contacted by two very different internet dating sites. 'Big Brother' clearly knows who and where he is. Intrigued by this intrusion, Jerry sets off investigating.
It is writer Chris Leicester’s seventh play since 1998, all of which have received acclaim. Previous work was The Last Train, (also renamed Mafioso for the Edinburgh Fringe), ‘Slasher’ Kincade, The Baby Box, The Fourth Wall, Charlie Bangers and Hurricane Hill.
Details: www.marriedbutlonely.co.uk

David Upton

Trainspotting stage show for Lowry

Fresh from success on a world tour, the immersive theatre production of Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle’s iconic, generation-defining Trainspotting comes to The Lowry June 6-10.

The production captures the passion and controversy of the famous novel, then globally successful film, and repackages it into a no-holds barred show where the audience are part of the action.
Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Murder mystery for Opera House

Bill Ward, who left ITV’s Emmerdale in a murderous exit, is taking to the stage an adaptation of Peter James’ Not Dead Enough at the Opera House, Manchester, from May 22- 27.

Ward will play Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, and be appearing alongside Laura Whitmore (Strictly Come Dancing) and Stephen Billington (Hollyoaks and Coronation Street).
On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was 60 miles away, asleep in bed. At least that’s what he claims. But as DS Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into the chilling murder case.
Details: www.atgtickets.com/Manchester

David Upton

Thoroughly Modern Millie for Manchester

Strictly Come Dancing’s Joanne Clifton  stars in the lead role in hit musical Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Palace Theatre Manchester, from May 23-27.

She took top honours when she danced off with the 2016 Strictly glitterball when she won the final with her dance partner, BBC Sport reporter Ore Oduba.
In this show she plays the title role of Millie Dillmount, a Kansas girl determined to make it big in New York City. Joanne’s credits include Face the Music, Burn the Floor, Strictly Live Tour and Marilyn Monroe in Norma Jean the Musical.
Details: www.atgtickets.com/Manchester

David Upton

Modern Persuasion for Exchange

Jeff James, one of the UK’s most original young theatre makers, adapts and directs a retelling of Jane Austen’s final masterpiece Persuasion at the Royal Exchange in Manchester from May 25 to June 24.

James creates a love story for grown-ups, revealing how startlingly relevant Austen’s story remains today. This contemporary production discards the bonnets and trappings of formal life for a modern vision of Austen.

Details: www.royalexchange.co.uk/persuasion

David Upton

Schrödinger show for Contact

Reckless Sleepers return to Contact in Manchester, following the success of Negative Space, with their work Schrödinger on May 24-25.

It was first performed by the UK/Belgian company almost 20 years ago and yet its themes remain relevant to the current social and political landscape.
Schrödinger takes place entirely in a black wooden room filled with trap doors and hidden entrances. A group of performers tries to get a grip on what is happening. But no-one quite knows who is in control or what the rules are, each performer conducting some kind of social experiment on the rest of the group.
Details: www.contactmcr.com

David Upton

YANK! transfers to London

YANK!, the musical production which received its UK première at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, is to transfer to London this summer.

The wartime gay love story will run at Charing Cross Theatre from July 3 to August 19.

Based on the true, hidden history of gay soldiers it focuses on the life of Stu, a scared Midwestern youngster called up to serve in the forces in 1943 who becomes a reporter for Yank Magazine, the journal ‘for and by the servicemen’.

Details: www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk

David Upton

Wonderland reaches Manchester

Wonderland, a  musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, reaches Manchester next week on its current UK tour.

The cast includes Wendi Peters (Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street) as Queen of Hearts, and musical theatre legend Dave Willetts, as the White Rabbit.

West End leading lady Kerry Ellis guest stars as Alice for evening performances and the Saturday matinée.Britain’s Got Talent’s Rachael Wooding will guest star as Alice for the Sunday matinée.

Wonderland runs from April 24-30 with Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees.

Details: www.atgtickets.com/Manchester

David Upton

Ghost makes its last appearance

Bill Kenwright’s current production of Ghost - The Musical closes its UK tour with a visit to The Lowry in Salford next week.

Taking inspiration from the classic movie, this reimagining features an expanded book, new music and original staging.

Carolyn Maitland stars as Molly alongside Andy Moss as Sam. Her musical theatre credits include Ellen in Miss Saigon, Joelle in Groundhog Day, Rose in From Here to Eternity and Kate in Kiss Me Kate.

Musician and actor Andy remains best known for the role of Rhys Ashworth in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks.

It runs from Monday to Saturday with Wednesday and Saturday matinees.

Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Musical world premiere

The Octagon Theatre  in Bolton stages a world premiere of  I Capture the Castle, based on the iconic novel by Dodie Smith, from next week.

Set in the Bohemian England of the 1930s, Smith’s bestseller is a funny coming-of-age story seen through the eyes of 17-year-old narrator Cassandra.

This new musical version will be brought to life by nine actors in a co-production with Watford Palace Theatre.

I Capture the Castle runs from next Wednesday to May 6.

Details: www.octagonbolton.co.uk

David Upton

Bruntwood winner at Exchange

Alan Harris’s How My Light Is Spent, winner of the Bruntwood playwriting competition Judges Award in 2015, is the latest work to have its premiere at the Royal Exchange in Manchester next week.

It’s a poignant exploration of identity, family, and the joy of finding someone who might just really ‘see’ you. The two-hander is performed by Welsh actors Rhodri Meilir and Alexandria Riley, and runs to May 13.

Details: www.royalexchange.co.uk

David Upton

Mexican revenge thriller

Theatre Ad Infinitum's show Bucket List centres on poverty in Mexico and will be at the Lowry in Salford next Wednesday and Thursday.

Director Nir Paldi has devised a revenge thriller, using the tale of an orphaned girl who takes bloody revenge, to explain how a trade agreement impacts the country’s underclass, and how one person's freedom fighter can be another person's terrorist.

Running time is 90 minutes and it’s deemed suitable for ages 14+.

Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Jason's Million Dollar date

Jason Donovan stars in Million Dollar Quartet – when the Tony-winning Broadway musical and West End hit embarks on its first UK tour visiting Manchester Palace Theatre from May 15-20.

Donovan is legendary record producer Sam Phillips - the man who brought four recording stars together to create music history. Ashley Carruthers play Jerry Lee Lewis, Robbie Durham performs as Johnny Cash, Ross William Wild joins the cast as Elvis Presley and Matt Wycliffe appears as Carl Perkins.

Million Dollar Quartet includes more than 20 legendary rock ‘n’ roll hits, including Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, I Walk The Line and Great Balls of Fire.
Details: www.atgtickets.com/venues/palace-theatre-manchester

David Upton

Hysteria breaks out in Oldham

London Classic Theatre come to Oldham Coliseum with their production of the Olivier Award winning comedy Hysteria.

World-famous psychologist Sigmund Freud has fled Nazi-occupied Austria and settled in leafy Swiss Cottage but when surrealist artist Salvador Dali pays a visit and discovers a naked woman in the closet, mayhem ensues.
Hysteria runs riot from May 2-6.
Details: www.coliseum.org.uk

David Upton

Starry nights on Winter Hill

Octagon Theatre Bolton have cast their forthcoming world premiere production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play Winter Hill.

The all-female cast will feature Cathy Tyson as Irene; Denise Black as Dolly; Louise Jameson as Beth; Fiona Hampton as Emma and Janet Henfrey as Felicity
Joining them will be Souad Faress as Vivian, Eva-Jane Willis as Alex and Susan Twist as The Fury.
The production will be directed by Octagon artistic director Elizabeth Newman.
Set in Bolton, in the near future, it centres on a group of eight local women, as they deal with the ramifications of land being sold to create a luxurious skyscraper. Wertenbaker’s play explores how a group of seemingly ordinary women endeavour to protect their local community, no matter the cost and questioning the lengths people go to for a cause they believe in and at what point does the fight for freedom become terrorism?
It runs from May 11 to June 3.

Details: www.octagonbolton.co.uk

David Upton

Fringe benefits for Manchester

Rosie Fleeshman explores internet dating, a quarter life crisis and her “sexy mind” at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe, at the King's Arms in Salford, July 15-16

 Narcissist in the Mirror is a one-woman show, written and performed by Rosie wearing just a dressing gown to examine her character’s flaws and faults.
It’s directed by Rosie’s mum Sue Jenkins, who played Jackie Corkhill in Brookside and Gloria Todd in Coronation Street.
And if you think the Fleeshman name sounds familiar, her brother is Richard Fleeshman, who played Rosie Webster’s boyfriend Craig Harris in Coronation Street. Her dad David Fleeshman is also an award-winning actor and director, who has appeared in Boys From The Black Stuff, Edge of Darkness, Silent Witness - and Coronation Street

Meanwhile Kim Kardashian’s love life has been set to music by classical composer Mozart to create a satirical musical called The Marriage of Kim K – at 53two, as part of the sixth Greater Manchester Fringe in July.
And drama comes to Stockport station with the debut of The Suitcase, The Beggar and The Wind, as part of Greater Manchester Fringe. Using an old disused room, Gare Du Nord Theatre will transport audiences back to the golden age of the railways.

Details: www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk

David Upton

Century of Shorts in city

JB Shorts 17, at Manchester’s 53two venue from May 22-27  will include the 100th-ever short play from this popular event

The writers, actors and directors of JB Shorts  have worked in TV, radio and stage productions, and again serve up six brand-new performances.
Details:  We Got Tickets

David Upton

Inventive work at Lowry

One of Europe’s most inventive artists James Thierrée visits The Lowry in Salford for the first time on May 10-11 with his latest production The Toad Knew.

The performances will be the only chance for audiences to see his work outside London.
Thierrée is renowned for conjuring worlds of  invention and fantasy. An acrobat, magician, actor, clown and musician Thierrée’s The Toad Knew, is a mix of the mechanical, music, humour and acrobatics.
Details: thelowry.com

David Upton

Dance spotlight in Salford

The Lowry in Salford will present work from five of the world’s acclaimed dance companies in May.

The line-up includes renowned Arthur Pita & HeadSpaceDance, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Ana Morales Flamenco Company, Cas Public, and  Jasmin Vardimon.
Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Matilda for Manchester

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Matilda The Musical will embark on a UK and Ireland tour next year which includes a 10-week run at Manchester Palace Theatre from September 18 to November 24.

Winner of 85 international awards, including 16 for Best Musical, the RSC’s touring production will open at Leicester Curve, and will also visit Dublin, Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Birmingham and Cardiff with further dates and locations to be announced.
The West End production continues at the Cambridge Theatre, currently booking until December 17 as well as its tours in Australia, New Zealand and North America.
Details: www.atgtickets.com/venues/palace-theatre-manchester

David Upton

Homeless hotspots for production

Until June 14, Theatre Témoin’s The Marked tours the UK’s regional homeless ‘hotspots’, using mask, puppetry and physical theatre to navigate a haunting, mystical world inspired by real-life stories of homelessness.

It will come to The Lowry in Salford on May 20 and The Hub, Salford on June 4.
It is a story about the link between trauma in childhood and homelessness in adulthood, exploring the landscapes we create and discover through pain and healing.
Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

On The Road to Salford

A masterpiece of modern cinema, Federico Fellini's 1957 Oscar-winning La Strada (The Road), will be brought to life on stage in a brand new adaptation at the Lowry in Salford from May 15-20.

A soul-searching story filled with sadness, humour and acute observation, La Strada tells the tragic and tender tale of wide-eyed Gelsomina who is sold by her impoverished mother to the brutish strongman Zampano, a travelling sideshow performer. Their journey through the Italian countryside leads them to a ragtag touring circus where they meet Il Matto the free-spirited tightrope walker, who tries to rekindle Gelsomina's broken spirit.
Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

Miss Saigon storms back

Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon will land at Manchester Palace Theatre from March 21 to May 12 next year.

It tells the story of the last days of the Vietnam War, when 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer. There she meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. Since its London premiere in 1989, Cameron Mackintosh’s production has become one of the most successful musicals in history.

Details: www.atgtickets.com/venues/palace-theatre-manchester/

David Upton

Holland for Hudd at Lowry

Jeffrey Holland will star as Tom Ballard in the premiere stage production of the BAFTA-nominated Waiting For God which will began a 12-week UK tour this week.  He replaces Roy Hudd, who has withdrawn from the production on medical advice. 

Holland and his co-star Olivier-Award winner Nichola McAuliffe head a cast of nine.

All the characters from the original TV series are reimagined for 2017, facing the challenges that come with growing old disgracefully in the era of the silver surfer.

It comes to The Lowry, Salford from July 3-8.

Details: www.thelowry.com

David Upton

City shows FLARE again

The deadline is up, and there have been hundreds of artist submissions and counting for FLARE17!

Artists originating from more than 30 countries including Iran, the US, Lebanon, Australia, Russia, Egypt, Brazil, Serbia, Iceland, Georgia and Mexico will be taking part in the Manchester festival hosted by Home, Contact, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Lowry and the Martin Harris Centre.

FLARE17 runs July 4-8, alongside the Manchester International Festival.

David Upton

Take That musical launches in city

Take That have announced the UK Tour of Tim Firth’s new musical, The Band, will begin at Manchester Opera House on September 8.

The Band will be played by AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Yazdan Qafouri Isfahani, Curtis T Johns and Sario Watanabe-Soloman, who, as Five to Five, won BBC’s recent Let It Shine. Playing the parts of Rachel and Young Rachel will be Rachel Lumberg and Faye Christall respectively.  Further casting is to be announced.
Detaills: www.thebandmusical.com

David Upton

Summer Wizard for Stockport

Regal Entertainments host The Wizard of Oz at Stockport Plaza this summer from August 7-12.

The show played at St Helens Theatre Royal last October and former Eastenders’ actress Cheryl Fergison will return to play The Wicked Witch of the West while Charlotte Gallagher returns to the role of Dorothy.
Cheryl is certainly no stranger to pantomime, having also appeared in Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk and Beauty and the Beast.
Details: www.stockportplaza.co.uk

David Upton

Future view of Oldham Coliseum

The latest vision for the new Oldham Coliseum Theatre has been released ahead of the submission of a planning application.

Oldham Council and the venue have been working on a redesign with Mecanoo, the project architects, following the addition of plans for a studio theatre and feedback on the initial proposals.
The new theatre is part of a phased project designed to place it amongst the borough’s other cultural offerings just yards from the Oldham Central Metrolink stop.

David Upton

New Crucible for Opera House

The Crucible, Arthur Miller's witch-hunt classic arrives at Manchester Opera House from May 8-13.

Charlie Condou, best known for playing Marcus Dent in Coronation Street takes on the role of witch-hunter Reverend Hale with Victoria Yeates, from BBC period drama Call The Midwife, as Elizabeth Proctor. They will be joined by Eoin Slattery as John Proctor and Lucy Keirl as Abigail Williams.
This new production of one of the 20th Century's finest plays is directed by the Queen's Theatre artistic director Douglas Rintoul. Rintoul’s Brechtian take on the production draws parallels with Trump’s America and post Brexit UK.
Details: www.atgtickets.com/Manchester

David Upton

Rachel for Z-Arts

Rachel, written and directed by Stevie Helps, and their biggest production to date, will be performing on May 13 at Z-Arts Theatre in Hulme, Manchester.

The contemporary production explores themes of mental health and abuse with three actresses playing the same title role and live acoustic music from singer-songwriter Lizzie Tupman.

David Upton

Phil Jupitus for city fringe

Greater Manchester Fringe is back for its sixth year with a selection of drama premieres, comedy, Edinburgh previews, poetry, music, clowning and children's shows.

Phill Jupitus returns with two shows - as Porky the Poet in his new Survivalve show (July 13, King's Arms) and in Achtung! Acting! (July 14, King's Arms), bringing back the stage legend Vernon Herschel Harley and German WW2 U-boat ace Korvettenkäpitan Kurt Schiffer for an hour of improvised comedy driven by questions taken from the audience.

Talk Radio presenters Iain Lee and Katherine Boyle participate in The Rabbit Hole (July 29, King’s Arms), a pre-recorded phone-in podcast taped in front of a live studio audience.

This year's GMFringe drama premieres include Thorn (July 24-25, King’s Arms), written by Rochdale-born Tim Keogh, following the story of Steven Patrick in 1970s Manchester as he wrestles with the problems of his own sexuality.
Details: www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk

David Upton

Janet Suzman at HOME

Janet Suzman makes a rare return to the stage at HOME in Manchester in May for the first UK revival of critically acclaimed play Rose by Martin Sherman following its premiere at London’s National Theatre in 1999.

From her home in Miami, 80-year-old Rose takes audiences on a journey through her long and tumultuous life, one marked by oppression, displacement, suffering and survival.

A life which begins in the shtetls of Eastern Europe and continues through Nazi-occupied Poland, British Mandate Palestine, America, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. An epic in miniature, Rose tells the extraordinary story of a century – with warmth and humour – directly through the eyes of one remarkable woman.
Details: www.homemcr.org

David Upton

Spring & Port Wine for Oldham

The current production at Oldham Coliseum Theatre is Spring and Port Wine by Bill Naughton – a comedy about a family at war in Bolton in the late 1960s – and directed by former artistic director of Manchester’s Library Theatre Company, Chris Honer.

Rafe Crompton is struggling to maintain authority over his four grown-up children. Watching the rest of the world change around them and growing frustrated with Rafe’s old-fashioned house rules, Harold, Hilda, Florence and Wilfred are intent on rebellion while their mother, Daisy, desperately tries to keep the peace.
Spring and Port Wine was adapted into a film in 1969 starring James Mason as Rafe. Bill Naughton is best known for Alfie and All in Good Time, which was adapted to film in 1966 under the title The Family Way.
Detais: www.coliseum.org.uk

David Upton

Sunshine & Showers in Manchester

A dark comedy about a fading variety double act is premiering at Bandit Mugger and Thief, July 20-22, as part of Greater Manchester Fringe 2017.

Bill Cronshaw, who grew up in Openshaw and Wythenshawe, opted for Manchester over Edinburgh to premiere Sunshine and Showers.
The play features three characters and ventriloquist dummies Charlie and Archie Andrews - star of the 1950s television show Educating Archie with Peter Brough.
Bill, who has his own theatre company called Dreamshed, specialises in staging shows at small venues.
Details: www.dreamshedtheatre.co.uk

David Upton

Digital feast for Lowry

The Lowry’s 1,700-seat Lyric theatre is set to be taken over by a feast of light, sound, colour and technology.

Before select theatre performances, audiences will experience IRIS – a unique digital art installation, created using the latest in robotic and laser technology. This technology is manipulated to form a mass of light that creates moving shapes out of the darkness. The performing light sculpture is by one of Europe’s pioneers of digital art, Marshmallow Laser Feast - a London-based creative studio. 
IRIS is a Week 53 commission by The Lowry, and there will be free public viewings over the weekend of May 27 - 28.

David Upton

City adds its own Twelfth

With Tamsin Greig’s appearance in Twelfth Night in London one of the capital’s hottest tickets, Manchester’s Royal Exchange stage their own take on Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

Faith Omole, Kevin Harvey and Mina Anwar return to the Exchange as Viola, Orsino and Maria, Kate Kennedy takes on the role of Olivia and Anthony Calf is Malvolio. Award-winning Manchester-based transgender artist and activist Kate O’Donnell makes her Exchange debut in the role of Feste, wise observer in a foolish, lovesick kingdom.

Live music from folk musician Kate Young and lap-tap guitarist Joe Gravil adds to the intricate comedy which probes gender-politics and ideas of belonging.

The play runs to May 20.

Washed up on the shores of Illyria after a shipwreck, Viola hides her true identity by disguising herself as a man. Finding a job – and love – at the court of Duke Orsino, she becomes mired in mistaken identities when her disguise causes more problems than it solves.

Details: www.royalexchange.co.uk/twelfthnight

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.
Details: www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk

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.

Details: www.manchesteradp.com

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.
Details: www.scottishopera.org.uk

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.
Details: www.atgtickets.com/manchester

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.
Details: www.atgtickets.com/manchester

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.

Details: www.thelowry.com

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.
Details: www.thelowry.com

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.

Details: www.atgtickets.com

David Upton