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REVIEW: Strangers on a Train @ The Opera House, Manchester

strangers-on-a-train-theatre-royal-glasgow-1It was always going to be a big ask to bring Patricia Highsmith’s tense psychological thriller to the stage and this production doesn’t quite pull it off in the way that Alfred Hitchcock famously did on the silver screen.

There is much of merit in the show, with some effective mood lighting and innovative use of sets, but the pace and direction lets it down and it is certainly a play of two halves.

The story is based around the consequences of a chance meeting on a train between  Guy Haines, an ambitious architect and alcoholic wreck, Charles Bruno. In a drink-fuelled stupour, Bruno comes up with  a hypothetical plan, where he would to murder the wife Haines is about to divorce in exchange for Haines killing Bruno’s father.  When Bruno unexpectedly keeps to his side of the bargain, pressure is applied for Haines to deliver, thus providing the main premise for the drama.

But prior to the interval, the dramatic action is laboured, slow and frankly quite boring.  When you don’t care that much about the fate of the characters, you know something is wrong. However, maybe some-one had a work in the break, because the pace picked up in the second half culminating in the dramatic conclusion at the end.

Chris Harper as Bruno and Jack Ashton as Haines deliver reasonable performances although there are one or two instances of the audience perhaps laughing when they shouldn’t as Bruno becomes increasingly psychotic.

Overall, not a terrible night at the theatre, but one that is distinctly underwhelming.

Runs till February 10

 

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Art and dance “Illuminates” Wythenshawe Library

Illuminate Dancers Between Bookshelves LoDance, and music  will combine to create a visually stunning piece art as the acclaimed Illuminate comes to Wythenshawe Library on Friday. 

Following much-praised performances by Company Chameleon at Manchester Central Library in November, there will be special performances at three libraries this week.

The performance, on Friday Feb 2 is free, but booking is essential, bringing cutting-edge, contemporary dance to the heart of local communities, providing an extraordinary experience between the bookshelves and showcasing just what exciting and creative​ ​spaces libraries can be. Read More…

REVIEW: Jane Eyre @ Bolton Octagon

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Pic: Richard Davenport

A stage adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is one of those productions that could go horribly wrong.

But Bolton Octagon continues its 50th year celebrations in fine style with a superb version based on the classic novel.

Jessica Baglow takes on the title role, providing a convincing and passionate portrayal of the strong willed woman, ahead of her time.

And Baglow’s impressive performance is matched admirably by Michael Peavoy who is perfect in the role of the smouldering, brooding tragic hero – Mr Rochester. For anyone who has read the novel, he is everything you expect. Read More…

Wythenshawe Cricket Club wins CAMRA accolade

Wythenshawe Cricket & Sports ClubWythenshawe Cricket & Sports Club, in Northenden, has been named Club of The Year 2018 by Stockport and South Manchester Campaign for Real Ale.

Welcoming the accolade, Club Chairman Mike Dean, has thanked staff and officials who w promoted and worked on their annual beer festival which featured many local and speciality breweries  held at the end of September last year

Mr Dean said on club website: “Well done to Anthony Sherratt for the initial organising of the festival before his retirement and to all our members who support the club throughout the year.

“A great accolade for a great local community club that serves outstanding Cask Ales the whole year round, why not come down and sample some of our great ales which include the very popular Manchester Pale Ale (MPA) we’d love to welcome you here to join in our success and our community.”

The club has a busy year planned including a Valentine’s Day Evening with live entertainment, a Mothers’ Day Launch. More details on their website.

REVIEW: Arsenic and Old Lace @ Northenden Methodist Church 

For those familiar with Arsenic and Old Lace, it is usually the classic film starring Cary Grant which springs to mind.

This makes bringing the story to the stage somewhat of a challenge for any theatre company. 

But it has to be said that the Northenden Players have pulled it off with aplomb, with a production which rivals some professional efforts I have seen. 

For the benefit of those not familiar with the story, originally penned by playwright Joseph Kesserling, it tells the tale of two sweet old ladies whose mission it is to help sad, lonely old souls escape the sorrows of the world by slipping arsenic in their elderberry wine and burying them in the cellar.

They are aided and abetted in their madness by their barmy bugle playing brother Teddy, who is convinced he is Theodore Roosevelt. Caught up in all this is Mortimer Brewster, who appears the only sane member of the family and attempts to protect his aunties with hilarious results. 

With twelve bodies buried in the cellars the plot thickens when Mortimer’s long lost criminally insane  brother Jonathan arrives with a thirteenth.

It all sounds completely bonkers. It is, and it’s brilliant. 

Rosemary Mark and Lesley Bowers are superb as the two nutty sisters with expert comic timing and Robin Bell also makes a wonderful Teddy.

John Wheatley also delivers the laughs and the menace as Jonathan and there is a lovely interplay between him and plastic surgeon sidekick Dr Einstein played beautifully by Tim Collier. 

At the centre of it all Ben Thomas is very good as Mortimer, delivering some of those classic lines, my favourite being “madness runs in our family, it practically gallops.”

This is a wonderful pre-Christmas treat and you just have to time to catch it . The last show is tonight Saturday December 16 at Northenden Methodist Church Hall on Victoria Road.

Dave Toomer 

REVIEW: Evita @ The Palace, Manchester

Evita-at-Palace

Madalena Alberto as Evita

It was stunning performances by a strong cast that made this production of Evita, a show worth watching.

But seeing for the first time the Rice and Lloyd-Webber take on the woman who battled to escape the obscurity and poverty of her life as a struggling actress to become the spiritual leader of the nation – it simply confirmed my prejudice that the musical theatre legends are really not all their cracked up to be. Read More…

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol @ The Bolton Octagon

Marc Small       Pic: The Other Richard

A Christmas Carol is a timeless classic tale of of redemption which is familiar to almost everyone. It has been done so many times that it is a brave person indeed who decides to attempt to bring it to the stage and make it fresh.

But it is mission accomplished for the Bolton Octagon team who have managed to pull off something quite remarkable for their Christmas production this year.

Bolton writer, Neil Duffield, who adapted the Charles Dickens masterpiece for the stage, is no stranger to children’s productions – and it shows. There is the perfect blend of Dickens’ dark message, playful humour and festive spectacle which makes this just right for children of all ages.

The structure of the story brings a freshness which delight the audience. Dickens’ words come spinning at us through the decades and are remarkably apt. If I’m not mistaken Duffield adds some themes of his own about Scrooge’s cruel observations about the homeless “choosing to sleep” in shop doorways.

The staging is wonderful with some marvellous effects which don’t go over the top and Ben Occhipinti’s direction brings a pace to the the story which has you glancing your watch when we reach the interval, thinking “is it that time already”

Marc Small is excellent as the dour despicable miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, haunted by four ghosts whose task it is to make him see the error of his ways.

We are so familiar with the story we know the outcome, but it is what we encounter on the journey which makes this show such a joy. Special mention has to go to Sue Davaney whose portrayals as the Spirit of Christmas Present, the Charity Lady and Mrs Fezziwig are forces of nature.

A real treat to get you in the festive mood.

Runs till January 13.

Dave Toomer

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