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Review | Matilda The Musical | Manchester Palace Theatre

Review | Matilda The Musical | Manchester Palace Theatre


Over 30 years after Roald Dahl published this beloved children’s book, Matilda is still a big hit, with the hero being not afraid to stand up to bullies, be brave and nerdy all while being a little bit naughty.

Living with horrible parents who lie and cheat their way to the top, five-year-old Matilda escapes the real world in the world of books.

Bringing to her imagination to life, Nik Ashton’s direction of Dennis Kelly’s witty book uses different forms of storytelling and creates something extraordinary on stage. Tim Minchin’s comic and cleverly written songs, the show has every kind of classic musical theatre song in it, but that extra British comic twist!

The audience is taken to a circus, moved from school to home in seconds, all using bookcases that shift and move around the stage.

The show is led and held by the child actors, and stealing the show, and the audience’s heart is the incredibly talented Sophia Ally, who took on the lead role of Matilda in her stride. Her stage presence, unmoving nerve and superb performance of “Naughty.”

Towering over the children and adults alike, Craige Els embodies the large and scary Miss Trunchbull with incredible wit and authority. The moment when Trunch grabs Lavender by the pigtails and flings her across the stage is comical and also breathtaking, leaving some perplexed and amazed faces on in the audience.

The highly grotesque Mr and Mrs Wormwood steal the show at many moments, including the fast-paced salsa dance “Loud”. I have to applaud Rebecca Thornhill’s performance as Mrs Wormwood and how high she can lift her legs!

Being the complete opposite of every other adult, Carly Thomas’s portrayal of Miss Honey is sublime, and “My House” was a tear-jerker.

The production and whole show are one for the entire family to enjoy and fall in love with, and the cast and crew didn’t let the slight technical hitch at the beginning of the show stop them from delivering a stand-ovation worthy performance.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s hit show is running at the Manchester Palace theatre for 11 weeks, and the show is as magical on stage as we all picture it when reading the book!

Matilda the Musical is on at the Palace Theatre until November 24. Tickets are on sale from ATG Tickets.

Review | OthelloMacbeth | HOME, Manchester

Review | OthelloMacbeth | HOME, Manchester


Jude Christian’s mash-up of two classic Shakespeare tragedies is clever, beautiful and breathtaking.

Creating a fusion of drama, the two shows are individual in their own right, but Christian’s links in narratives is award worthy! Condensing the plays into 1-hour versions, Christian’s direction and choice of focus are not on the male characters, but on the females, all while not losing the plot of the plays.

The plays run at a faster pace, and the events seem to happen all in one day, which creates a sense of urgency on the stage.

The movement between one play and the next is faultless and honestly breathtaking, leaving you on the edge of your seat! I have to applaud Christian’s direction on this part.

The show did take a while to get off the ground, as Paul Courtenay Hyu’s performance as Brabantio and later in Macbeth as Duncan, was a bit too hammy for my liking – think classic Shakespearian acting but times ten.

Proving she is a triple threat, Kezrena James performed Bianca, and the witch was gusto and sass. A beautiful singing voice was the lead of the female song “Ain’t it always about a man”. Christian’s compelling choice of song is repeated throughout the show and links in well with the female focus of the show.

The stand out performers of this show has to be Samuel Collings as Iago and Macduff, and Melissa Johns as Emilia and one of the three witches. Their chemistry as a couple has power and the sense of a lot going on behind closed doors. They had their backstory worked out, and you could see this from the moment they entered the stage together. Johns’ comic timing and whit was the perfect reflection of Collings’ dark and manipulative mind.

Basia Binkowska’s steel set in Othello adds to the tension of the piece as the men use it to slam their fists and their wives into the wall. Sadly, the wall was too far forward, meaning the actors only had the front of the stage for action. It felt like they were almost on top of the audience, and too close to be able to enjoy the acting. In Macbeth, the open stage uses metal strings stretched over the stage that the witches use to create loud sounds and squeaks.

This production leaves the audience feel confused and like it’s not completed, with ideas being touched on but never get completed or discussed in depth. The base of a great show is there but needs a look at how it can be developed further.



Interview | The Feeling Talk About Their Comeback Tour

Interview | The Feeling Talk About Their Comeback Tour

Sitting in a quiet studio in London, I catch up with The Feeling about what’s been going on recently and the exciting tour they have ahead of them this year.

After selling out their first gig at London’s Apollo Theatre in under a minute, the Feeling is hitting the road again with a UK tour, celebrating the anniversary of their album.

“After ten years of touring, we decided to give ourselves a couple of years break. We had a couple of years off that ended up being quite busy for all of us.”

This will be the band’s first tour for over two years, and everyone sounds very excited to get back on stage with each other.

“We initially announced the one show, doing a 12-year anniversary concert. We thought it would be quite nice to play the songs on that record. It was also a nice way of easing our way into playing live again. And then that went so well, we thought, “Oh, we could do a tour!”

It’s a been an enjoyable and nostalgic experience.

“We are touring the whole album and playing the entire collection from top to bottom, how it was recorded and actually as we always meant it to be listened to.”

As we joke about getting used to being on the road with each other again, the band explain how even during their break they were all working with each other still on little projects and gigging together.

“Whatever we are doing outside of the band, we always support each other.”

“Even before the Feeling existed, we were musicians who were mates and doing other things. It’s always been part of our story.”

The tour is a celebration of their million-selling album ‘Twelve Stops And Home’ – a record that has vibes of The Beatles, Queen and Scouting for Girls. The album was played nearly 100,000 times on the UK radio and in 2006, was the most played act on UK radio.

Keeping with the 12 themes, the Feeling is visiting 12 UK venues on this tour, including Manchester O2 Ritz on 27th October.

Tickets are currently on sale here and www.thefeeling.com

Lead singer Dan Gillespie Sells has not only written the songs for the band but the music for the award-winning West End musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’.

Opening at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre and then transferring to the West End, Dan was surprised but “absolutely delighted” with the response to the show.

“It’s something I think you hope happens. It’s like when ‘Twelve Stops And Home’ came out. You put it out and hope for the best. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to become a hit.”

“The show is a really joyful and coming of age story about a 16-year-old boy. It’s hilarious – it makes people laugh and cry.”

Interview | Melissa Johns Talks Tackling Two Shakespeare Plays in One

Interview | Melissa Johns Talks Tackling Two Shakespeare Plays in One

Manchester is in for a real treat when the premiere of the striking, condensed staging of two of Shakespeare’s most brutal and poetic plays are brought to the stage at HOME later this month. OthelloMacbeth explore the similarities of narratives and storylines that are apparent in both plays, using a female heavy ensemble company.

I spoke to actress Melissa Johns (Emilia) who is isn’t letting the fact that she is the youngest member of the company silence her voice or her disability keep her from engaging with some of the intense themes of the show.

“It’s one of the best rehearsal processes I’ve gone through, so it’s been busy but very very rewarding,” she told me. “It’s Shakespeare, so the language is there, the story is there, so as far as script work goes, it’s there. However, because we’ve got two Shakespeare shows in one, there is this kind of element of devising the kind of through lines, and the freedom to kind of put your spin on it. It’s a real mix between the kind of the comfort of an actor going “I have this script” but also the freedom to shine a very different light on it.”

After appearing in Coronation Street as Imogen Pascoe, Melissa is delighted to be returning to a Shakespeare since training at drama school.

It’s amazing to be able to take on the role of Emilia, she’s one of my favourite Shakespeare characters.  She has a real hardness about her but she has the biggest heart.

Emilia and Iago’s extreme and toxic relationship has been played over the years and the situations that they go through as still apparent in the present day.

“I’ve seen friends who are in these toxic relationships, where they keep arguing with each other. They cover it up as banter, but then there’s the moment when it’s awkward for everyone else around them.”

“It’s a very violent and toxic relationship where they through these horrible things and insults at each other. But underlining that, there is that absolute love there between them, but they just don’t know how to manage it.”

“As the show is only 60 minutes long, we need to have our backstory already worked out. We’ve created a backstory for our characters, which makes it easier to get straight into the scene and action.”

The show condenses both plays into 60 minutes each, and Salford-based director Jude Christian wants the audience to think about the themes in the plays and how they might still be relevant in today’s society.

“These are characters who with the knowledge of what’s happened in the world of Othello, are witnessing and moving with the world of Macbeth and by combining the two stories it lets them think differently about how those plays end and what they might mean to us today.”

OthelloMacbeth is playing at HOME Manchester from Friday, 14th September – Saturday, 29th September, and you can book tickets here.

The production will then go onto play at London’s Lyric Hammersmith from 5th October ‐ 3rd November 2018.

Review | An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical | Manchester’s Opera House

Review | An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical | Manchester’s Opera House


If you think about the classic love tale where a bad boy meets girls next door, there’s a big argument, he realises he’s in love and then sweeps her off her feet as they walk into the sunset – that is the plot of “An Officer and a Gentleman” in a nutshell.

Based on the classic Douglas Day Stewart 80s hit film, this musical is everything you think a jukebox musical should be – cheesy, uplifting and slightly too predictable.

Opening the show let the audience catch a glimpse at all the characters in the show, as the recruits for the training program arrive.

Sadly, the opening song “In The Navy Now” didn’t have the pow and punch that got the show going. It wasn’t until we saw the women working in the factory and soulfully singing “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” which left me with chills.

Jonny Fines’ performance of leading bad boy Zack Mayo too a while to get used to, but it was in his firey duet with lover Paula, played wonderfully by Emma Williams, “I Was Made For Loving You” that he came into his own.

Williams stole the show, with her strong, powerful voice to the way she grew as a character. It was a pleasure to watch Emma Williams shine on that stage.

The ensemble never stops, between playing the cadets, locals and every part in between as well as moving set pieces in scene changes. I have to applaud the never-ending energy that they all radiated on stage, as it balanced some slightly weaker moments in the show.

Any opening night will see a few technical issues, but that didn’t phase the cast one bit – they powered on like true professionals. There was a constant struggle to hear what the cast was saying and singing because it felt like they were continually fighting with the levels on the orchestra, who were just a little bit too loud to enjoy the music.

For a chilled night at the theatre, you should go and see this show. It might not have a massive impact on you, but it’s a right giggle and a rom-com on stage.

Grab the girls, backcomb the hair, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy a night watching a very physically fit cast strut their best 80s dance moves.

“An Officer and a Gentleman” is on at the Opera House until Saturday 18th August tickets available here.