Review of The Hired Man at Oldham Coliseum

There’s something unavoidably artificial about musicals. Picture this: First world war soldiers struggle across no man’s land, seeking the safety of the trenches. Gunfire flashes illuminate their wearied faces. It’s all very reminiscent of the poignant final scene in Blackadder Goes Forth. Suddenly, the soldiers pop up, rifles in hand, and burst into song. If…

To make sense of the present, sometimes we have to look to the past – Review of Handbagged at Oldham Coliseum

The events depicted in Handbagged took place 30 to 40 years ago, but it’s hardly surprising that Moira Buffini’s play has been revived in the current political climate. Co-produced by Oldham Coliseum, Wiltshire Creative and York Theatre Royal, Handbagged presents the imagined conversations between the Queen and “that bloody woman” Margaret Thatcher. It is evident…

Compelling storytelling – Review of West Side Story at Royal Exchange, Manchester

At their worst, musicals can seem horribly artificial. The sudden dance routines and bursting into song can feel false and forced. In the Royal Exchange’s production of West Side Story, however, all aspects of the production are successfully tailored to fit the narrative. The different theatrical elements – singing, acting, choreography, orchestration and design –…

Harrowing, yet rich in symbolism – Review of Mother Courage and her Children at The Royal Exchange, Manchester

It’s 2080 and the Reds and Blues are at war in Anna Jordan’s adaptation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children. Mother Courage (played by Royal Exchange favourite Julie Hesmondhalgh) and her brood are Reds, not that this matters much in a conflict where the sides seem arbitrary and the aim seems unclear. As the…

Glitterballs and Smiley Faces – A review of The Forest of Forgotten Discos (relaxed performance), Hope Mill Theatre

 With both the Strictly Come Dancing Grand Final and The Forest of Forgotten Discos, Saturday was very much a day of glitterball celebrations for my two young sons. Aged 7 and 5, the boys have an exhausting exuberance and a propensity for sibling quarrels. A few seconds before entering Hope Mill, I become concerned about…