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…

Review of The Maids at HOME, Manchester

Gandhi. Nigella Lawson. Rosemary West. Martin Luther King. Hitler. A confusing array of pictures and newspaper cuttings project onto the screen at the start of HOME’s production of The Maids. What’s the connection? Nestled amongst the cuttings lies a photograph of Christine and Léa Papin, the French maids who murdered their mistress and whose story…

‘Eskdale’ is a warm tribute to place, but ‘Manchester’ leaves me a little cold – Review of The Mysteries at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Debates about fracking have proliferated in the media this week and the huge differences in perspective of those in affected communities have come to the fore. Similar concerns about the changing nature of rural life makes The Mysteries seem particularly timely. A cycle of plays about six different places (Eskdale, Staindrop, Whitby, Boston, Stoke-on Trent…