The return of Diane Samuel’s Kindertransport to the stage 25 year years after it was first penned could not be more more relevant today.
It is a story of family relationships and secrets set against a backdrop of themes which explore the treatment of refugees, nationalism, anti-semitism and cultural identity.
The story is centered around the true events of the Kindertransport rescue of Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany and its occupied territories before the outbreak of the Second World War.
There is a challenging uneasiness about this play in which the seemingly humane policy of providing safety for the children is set against their parents’ requirement to have work to go to to qualify for refuge. The policy split many families, leaving the parents to face their fate in the brutal Nazi regime.
Samuels also requires the audience to question the long-term consequences of conflict and its impact on the lives of subsequent generations.
There are two inextricably linked parallel stories in the play – that of progress of young Eva (Leila Schaus) leaving her mother to escape Nazi Germany for the safety of Britain in 1938, and that of her older self Evelyn (Suzan Sylvester) with a daughter of her own in 1980s Manchester.
The stories interchange as Evelyn’s daughter, Faith (Hannah Bristow), preparing to leave home, discovers a box of papers from her mother’s past resurrecting the ghosts of a past her mother would rather was left alone.
There are some fine performances which delve into the intense relationships between mother and daughter and the themes of clinging on to roots and heritage. Hannah Bristow is particularly good as the modern daughter displaying her insecurities and selfish arrogance of youth.
The play is a stark reminder of one of world’s darkest periods but there are lines which are remarkably prescient, particularly as Evelyn refers to keeping her immigration papers suggesting they would be needed in case anyone wanted to send her back.
It is not always an easy play to watch and there are no tidy endings and resolutions but it certainly worth the journey.
Runs till May 5
It 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
You can tell Christmas is coming when the city’s lights switch on, when John Lewis launches its festive advert, and when the Snowman arrives in Manchester.
And this production, brought to the stage by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company aimed to please. Most of the youngsters who saw this festive music and dance extravaganza seemed impressed. Read More…
This extraordinary tale of a group of soldiers who produce a satirical newspaper in the heat of battle in the middle of the First World War is the perfect tribute to the to the British Tommy.
The story sums up both the courage and humour which abounded amidst the conflict and the futility and tragedy of war. As writer Ian Hislop said afterwards in a Q and A with the audience it was the soldiers’ insistence on laughing in the face of death which made the story all the more incredible Read More…
This much anticipated stage show based on the classic Jim Steinman album has been hyped for months prior to it’s opening at the Manchester Opera House. So what can we say about Bat Out Of Hell?…
Wow… Just Wow.
Does it live up to the hype? The hype doesn’t do it justice. It doesn’t come close. Read More…
Panto season is well and truly upon us, and this year’s offering at Manchester Opera House – Aladdin – is a festive treat for all the family.
With fantastically lavish sets, fun-packed frolics, a smattering of stage magic and some songs to get the toes tapping and the hands clapping, this show is a hit with kids of all ages.
Right from the off, the show provides the near-perfect blend of lots of fun for the kids and a flurry of gags the adults can enjoy, although one or two were a little cringey – referring to male dancers as pansies. Maybe that should stay in the 1970s.
Bu there is plenty to enjoy from John Thomson’s nod to his Jazz Club character in the Fast Show to the sing song with some children from the audience near the end and a mention for groups across Manchester who were there on the night, including Newall Green Brownies.
Pop star Ben Adams from boy band A1 is excellent as the poor boy who makes it good after rubbing a magic lamp unleashing the all-powerful genie. And Cold Feet star John Thomson is the perfect villain, Abanazar, whose evil machinations get the kids booing.
Sherrie Hewson also shines as the Genie of the Ring and magician Neil Henry wows the audience with his skills making a birds and rabbits appear while providing a comedically sound rendition of the hapless Wishee Washy.
But the undoubted mainstay of the show is Eric Pott’s Widow Twankey. Every comic line is perfectly timed and the show is a triumph for Potts who directs as well starring in the production.
It’s great fun so bring the family to the Opera House to complete your Christmas
Runs till January 8 2017
The Royal Shakespeare Company is in town with two productions of its highly acclaimed interpretations of two of the bard’s funniest plays.
And if you’re new to Shakespeare and are worried the whole thing will go over your head, you shouldn’t. This is Shakespearean comedy as it was intended – brash, entertaining and hilarious.
It is now generally accepted that Much Ado is the “missing” work referred to as Love’s Labour’s Won a romance linked to Love’s Labour’s Lost. Read More…