Review | The Play That Goes Wrong | Opera House, Manchester

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I remember the first time I caught a glimpse at The Play That Goes Wrong – they performed a 20 minute version on the Royal Variety Performance many years ago. That clip has been the most rewatched clip on my Youtube, as I instantly fell in love with the style, comedy and all-around entertainment that it gave me. Since then I’ve been dying to see this production, and the UK tour cast certainly lived up to my high expectations.

After meeting at LAMDA while training, Mischief Theatre company’s founders Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields’ love of comedy was the catalyst for this incredible award-winning show, which has toured internationally and is still owning it’s West End home for four years.

Mark Bell’s direction of the show is one that allows the audience to be silly and laugh at childish moments. Using slapstick comedy in every element of the show is tremendous, and there’s never a dull moment on stage.

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society presents the Murder at Haversham Manor, but sadly things don’t seem to be going to plan from the get-go. With a set that keeps falling apart, lots of faulty electricals and a not to confident cast, will director Chris Bean’s directing debut be ruined.

I have to mention first the creative and smart set that the talented Nigel Hook has created. The details were remarkable.

The small cast of talented performers all deserved the standing ovation, and the teamwork between them was outstanding.

Jake Curran’s performance as the perfectionist director and lead star Chris Bean left the audience crying with laughter. The interaction with the audience was terrific, and he commented on the fact that “This is not a pantomime” even though there was a moment of “It’s behind you.”

The real star of the show was Max, played by Bobby Hirston. After every line, Hirston would turn to the audience with a goofy smile, almost overwhelmed by the fact that he was on stage. His multiple characters and the quick costume changes left the audience in stitches.

Throughout the show, we were reminded that stage manager Trevor, played by Gabriel Paul, had lost his Duran Duran CD and that Winston the dog was still missing. The fact that we could hear the stage manager talking on the tannoy throughout just added to the comedy.

While everything around them is falling apart – literally – the classic line of “The show must go on” resonated between all characters.

If you want to see a show that will have you laughing before it’s even started, you need to watch The Play That Goes Wrong. It is a remarkable show that needs to be enjoyed by all.

The Play That Goes Wrong is at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 30th June, and information and tickets can be found here.

Review | Awful Auntie | Manchester Opera House

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Growing up in a world of Harry Potter, Roald Dahl and Malory Towers, I love the adventures that characters can get up to in a big haunted house, so was very excited to see how the award-winning author and comedian David Walliams’ Awful Auntie was transformed into a stage production by Birmingham Stage Company.

After recent success with the tour of Gangsta Granny, Neal Foster’s adaption of Awful Auntie brings fun, panto-esk elements of comedy and spookiness.

Set in 1933 after Lord and Lady Saxby are murdered, young Stella Saxby must solve the mystery of her parent’s death, all without getting caught by her awful auntie Alberta. With the help of a friendly chimney sweep ghost, Soot, Stella is on a mission to stop Alberta becoming the owner of Saxby Hall.

The excellent music orchestrated music by Jak Poore sets the scenes for the murder mystery tale.

Timothy Speyer’s performance of Aunt Alberta reminded me of the horrible Miss Trunchball from Matilda, but a true entertaining perofmrnace. Loud, garish and a haunting laugh will make you hate this character quicker than you can say, Saxby Hall.

Georgina Leonidas and Ashley Cousins make the perfect team of Stella and Soot, and both actors bounce off each other to create some hilarious moments on stage.

The highlight of the show has the be the brief moments that the mad butler Gibbon passes onto the stage. Richard James’ makes the audience roar with laughter with his short moments between scenes where he’s seen mowing the carpet, catching himself in a giant net and burning the slippers for breakfast.

Aunt Albert’s owl Wagner is a puppet, moved by the talented Roberta Bellekom. The use of puppets is intelligent and entertaining, as they create scenes that might not be possible to attempt on stage, such as Wagner flying over the stage while holding onto a little puppet of Stella.

The mixture of storytelling elements makes this show entertaining for all the family, and I suggest seeing this production before it closes.

Awful Auntie is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Sunday 24th June and tickets are available here.

Review | Summer Holiday | Octagon Theatre, Bolton

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My earliest birthday present I can remember is receiving a VCR tape of Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday, and ever since then, this musical has held a special place in my heart. Bolton Octagon Theatre’s production definitely lived up to my expectations of this show.

Based on the 1963 film, this show is jam-packed with catchy tunes to twist to, energetic dance routines (including an exceptional flamenco dance) and the ability to visit multiple European countries without even leaving cheery old Bolton.

This site-specific production, directed by Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti, takes the audience on tour around Bolton. Starting at the Bolton bus station where the cast prepares for their holiday, to jumping on a double-decker bus with the cast for a sing-along.

The cast aren’t just talented performers, but also talented musicians, as every cast member makes up the band and accompanies all the well-loved songs. Shoutout to Isobel Bates, who manages to make playing the trumpet and flute, with a second between the two, look effortless and sassy.

Living up to Cliff Richard’s stellar performance of Don is the very talented and easy on the eye Michael Peavoy, who did get a couple of wolf whistles during the shower scene. Peavoy’s vocal ability is beautiful, and you can’t help but fall in love with his carefree spirit as a bachelor boy turned hopeless romantic.

Eleanor Brown plays Barbra, the movie star who wants a normal life. After running away from Momager Stella and stowing away on the bus, Barbra falls in love with bachelor boy Don, but can she change his mind about relationships?

Each character has their own little storyline. I do have to applaud the director’s decision to swap genders of one of the girls and turn them into a male character. Al, played by Robert Jackson, ends up falling in love with Edwin, played by Luke Thornton, and it’s so lovely to see their relationship develop on stage.

The singing is so strong and powerful by all performers, but I especially loved the deep and soulful tones of Alexander Bean, playing the role of Cyril, whose low voice makes you smile.

The stand out performer for me though was Barbra Hockaday’s performance of Momager Stella, who manages to do it all in this production. The icing on the cake was a flamenco dance that made me cry with laughter. A true comic performer with a larger than life stage presence.

The whole production is heartwarming, feel good and very silly. This production gets you in the mood for the summer and up and dancing by the end of the show. You need to see this production before it closes.

Summer Holiday is playing at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre until Saturday, 23rd June. Tickets and information can be booked here.

Review | Things We Want | Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

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The UK premiere of this comedy takes its turn on the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre’s stage and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The themes of grief and how different people react to it is met with comedy as three brothers living together for the first time since childhood. Drugs, love and new age spirituality consume their search for purpose until a surprise visit from an upstairs neighbour turns everything upside down and challenges all the brothers thought they believed.

At first, the acting was a bit hammy and bit over the top on the comedy acting, like an American sitcom. But after a while, it toned down a bit as the actors relaxed into the show.

With such a small cast, the team worked well together to create a dramatic and tension-filled piece of theatre. Each actor holds there own, but there was a stand out performance from Alex Phelps playing the role of motivational mastermind turned drunk Teddy.

William J Holstead makes the perfect drunk turned positive sober businessman of Sty, who seems to be the level-headed brother of the three, and Holstead’s comedy is

Paddy Young who plays Charlie and Hannah Ellis Ryan who plays Stella are the love-stricken couple that who have to deal with a number of problems.

Director Daniel Bradford’s take on this script is clever and fast-paced. During the interval, I was eager to know what happens next and find out how the story would end up.

Sadly, the ending was a bit underwhelming. The tension and drama had built up all through the show, and the ending was just a bit disappointing. But maybe that’s a metaphor for life, that there’s all this big build up and it never turns out like you expect.

THINGS WE WANT IS PLAYING AT HOPE MILL THEATRE WEDNESDAY 30TH OF MAY – SATURDAY 9TH OF JUNE, AND YOU CAN BOOK TICKETS FOR THINGS WE WANT HERE.

Review | The Snail and the Whale | The Lowry, Salford Quays

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After recent success in the UK and international tours of “The Gruffalo” and inspired by the bestselling book ‘The Snail and the Whale’ by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Tall Stories have adapted the well-loved novel into a bold and beautiful musical stage production.

Join the story as a tiny brave snail hitches a lift on the tail of a humpback whale.

The story is seen through the eyes of a very adventurous young girl, as her seafaring father reads her favourite bedtime story. This production was influenced by the work of Storybook Soldiers, who help British military personnel serving abroad to record bedtime story CDs for their children back home.

Creating the soundscape and effects just by using a viola, Rachel Benson creatively creates seagull calls, snark-infested water and backing music to accompany the new sea shanties.

With comedy for both the children and parents alike, this production is perfect for all the family.

One of the highlights of the show was when the Dad ( played by Tim Hibberd) turned the daughter’s (played by Hannah Miller)’s bedroom furniture into the whale.

Toby Mitchell’s direction and Isla Shaw’s design work hand in hand to create a unique piece of theatre.

The Snail and the Whale is playing at The Lowry until Sunday 3rd June. Information and tickets can be found here.