Review | Blood Brothers | Manchester’s Palace Theatre

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A musical and story that has been done time and time again and seen many tours all over the world, Blood Brothers never loses its charm and style.

Having seen the 2010 tour production with Lyn Paul in the lead role of Mrs Johnstone in my hometown of Bournemouth, seeing Paul reprise the role in her final production was terrific.

When a struggling single mother is faced with the decision of keeping both twins babies or give one away to a woman desperate for a child, the children are separated at birth, never to see each other again. Fast forward seven years and the boys connect and become blood brothers; the women have decisions to make as to whether they let the boys bond.

After debuting the role of Mrs J in 1997, Lyn Paul is a seasoned professional and natural on stage, noted as the ‘definite Mrs Johnstone’. She definitely lives up to this name, as her vocal performance and character brings tears to the audience’s eyes and them leaping to their feet for a standing ovation. A mastermind and a perfect actress for the role – Lyn Paul is a marvel.

Playing the two loveable, charming and comical Mickey and Eddy is Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson. Seeing both characters from young boys grow up into men is a beautiful transition and both Jones and Hutchinson excel as young boys and their naughty minds.

Acting as the ghost of the past and every character’s conscience, the Narrator is played by the dominating Mathew Craig. Craig’s vocals are splendid, and he captures the audience’s attention from the getgo and guides us through the story.

This production, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, is entirely faultless and has to be one of the best productions I’ve seen this year.

Blood Brothers ends its UK tour at Manchester’s Palace Theatre and runs until Saturday, May 26th. More information and tickets can be booked here.

Review | Manuel Linan – Sinergia | Pavilion Dance South West

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When one says Flamenco dancer, they usually think of a Spanish lady in a red dress, or sadly now, the emoji of the said dancer in the red dress. One might not even consider a male Flamenco dancer, but Manuel Liñan is breaking conventions of dance with live singers, guitar, and dancing to the spoken word.

The use of Flamenco steps as the percussion to accompany the guitarist and singers creates words and script, telling a story through his feet.

Victor Marquez’s exquisite guitar playing makes the instrument come to life. With delicate phrasing and dynamics, the instrument has its own breath.

I have never been so mesmerised by feet before, but Liñan´s quick and precise footwork is stunning and creates its rhythmic phrases.

Opening the show with a piece danced purely to speech, Liñan´s movements are a mixture of cheeky and severe, creating a mixture of emotions within the audience.

The movement and guitar flow and connect fluidly between the beautiful voices of  David Carpio and Ismael de la Rosa. Their influential voices bring drama and attitude to the piece – even though they only sang in Spanish, I understood the story through the storytelling in their voices alongside the dancing.

Using flamenco hand rhythms, the singers accompany every step Liñan takes, creating the perfect combination.

Using only a handful of white chairs around the stage that are moved or tipped over to create sounds, the emphasis and focus are on the performer’s talent themselves rather than a complex set.

Pure white and yellow lighting in used, like the set, with doses of primary colors to quickly change the mood. Similar to the simple set, the focus is on the performer’s talent and ability to change the mood quickly.

A very moving piece of dance that left the audience leaping to their feet and wanting more. Quick, quirky and entertaining.

Reviewed at The Pavilion Dance South West on 5 May.

Review | Titanic the Musical | The Lowry, Salford Quays

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Taking the story of a disaster that influenced and changed history, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s award-winning score and book tackles the story from the creation of the boat to the memorial of the fallen passengers. In two and a half hours, the show takes the audience on the journey and with impressive staging and direction by Thom Southerland makes the audience feel like they are onboard the ship and involved in the action too.

Opening with a lavish and exciting “How Did They Build Titanic?” as the different classes arrive in Southampton to depart on the “dream ship” and “floating city”. Throughout the whole production, the theme of dreams is evident with every character – whether it’s dreaming of being in a higher class, the dream marrying your one true love or getting a job and living a new life in America. Regardless of class, the characters all have their hopes and that powers through the show.

While the story could is a sad one, Yeston and Stone find the comedy and highs in the stories. Adding the comic element to the story is the larger than life and first-class wannabe Second Class passenger Alice Beane, played by Claire Machin. An impressive and quickly worded “First Class Roster” introduces the audience to the First Class passengers, informing their names and achievements.

The lower class steal the show, especially Victoria Serra as Kate McGowan, who is the leading force in the lower class. Leaving Ireland due to an unexpected pregnancy, Kate tries to create a better future for her unborn baby by migrating to America. Serra’s clear and loud voice is tremendous in “Lady’s Maid.”

A strong performance from Niall Sheehy as Frederick Barrett who powerfully sings “Barrett’s Song.” Using some clever choreography by Cressida Carre and supported by the male ensemble, the audience is quickly taken below decks to the boiler room where they work tirelessly to try and make the ship sail faster. I would like to applaud Howard Hudson with a creative and compelling lighting design throughout the show.

An excellent production that is slick and left me speechless. You must see this show this year.

Titanic the Musical is playing at Salford Quay’s Lowry Theatre until Saturday, May 12th, and information and tickets can be found here.

Review | The Jungle Book | The Lowry, Salford Quays

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Who’d have thought that a ceiling of ladders and a set that looks like a school gym climbing frame would transform the Lowry stage into a jungle filled with adventure and excitement!

This brand new musical version of Kipling’s classic tale is a breath of fresh air, with an emphasis on acceptance, diversity and the constant reminder that “we all live in the same jungle” reminds the audience that everyone should be accepted, even if they look a bit different.

When people say The Jungle Book, most people think about the Disney cartoon. With brand new songs and script, the story is more focused on the original book, but so much better.

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This show isn’t just a children’s show; there are plenty of jokes for the adults too (including a lot of references to avocado on toast!). The direction by Max Webster and the choreography by Lizzi Gee is smart with the use of puppets and how the actors play the different animals.

The fact that Mowgli (played by Keziah Joseph) is never referred to as a girl or a boy, and just as a man-cub is lovely. A highlight of the show and a recurring motif in the show is Mowgli’s song “No one,” she sings, “will tell me who I am” strengthens Mowgli’s character and place in the jungle.

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Mowgli has “The perfect modern family!” with a panther and bear as parents. Deborah Oyelade’s fierce performance as strong feminist “black panther” Bagheera, who stalks around the stage with sass, and Dyfrig Morris’ bumpkin-like Balloo.

Lloyd Gorman’s Shere Khan is a mixture of Rum Tum Tugger and Scar but really rocks the Elvis-style jumpsuit. A comical performance that left the audience booing along as Gorman entered for his bow.

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With choreography and directions nodding towards Lion King, the show is a marvel and sublime piece of theatre. A West End transfer must be considered!

The Jungle Book is showing at Salford Quay’s the Lowry until Sunday, May 6th, and information and tickets can be booked here.

Review | Kindertransport | The Opera House, Manchester

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Giving an insight into the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters pre and post WWII, the award-winning Kindertransport written by Liverpool playwright Diane Samuels comes to Manchester’s Opera House.

 

Kindersport was the name given to trains carrying nearly 10,000 mainly Jewish children out of Germany and Austria to safety in the nine months before the outbreak of WWII.

Many of these children traveled to Britain, an, in this case, moved to Manchester to be taken in by families and most likely never to see their parents again.

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Using the set of an open attic, the focus is on the storytelling and actors themselves. By using minimal set and more hand props, it adds to the theme of the children not being allowed to take much with them and leaving their lives behind them. The set enables the action to move from pre to post war quickly and seamlessly.

The first action is in Germany 1938, where a desperate mother is forcing her nine-year-old daughter Eva to sew on her buttons, and pushing her onto a train to England, sending her out of danger and into a world where she has to fend for herself.

Decades later, in England, a reluctant mother is preparing for the separation of her adult daughter, Faith, who is ready to leave the nest.

The play highlights the bittersweet experience that every parent faces as they try to teach their child to survive independently. Whatever decade they are in, they all have the same parental feelings that unites them.

It’s so beautiful to see a play with so many strong female roles, and there is only one male character in their show.

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Jenny Lee (Hollyoaks) steals the show as Lil, the caring grandmother who shelters the evacuee. Her comic timing brings light to a seemingly dark story.

Suzan Sylvester (Streets of Yesterday and EastEnders) is the unbending mother Evelyn, who is in complete denial of her history.

With the tough task of the nailing a German accent, while capturing the sweet innocence of a nine-year-old who’s gone through so much, Leila Schaus is terrific as the young Eva. The moment where she suddenly grows up into a woman is gorgeous to watch.

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The compelling show premiered in London in 1993, being seen worldwide and now suggested to be a school reading.

A creative piece of theatre that will educate and leave you feeling a bit choked up.

Kindertransport is at the Opera House until Saturday, May 5th, and tickets and information can be found here.