The finalists of The Offies 2019

Some decisions that reflect my own nominations for the year, many others for plays I haven’t seen and as ever, some curious choices too.

Gabriella Slade for Six at the Arts Theatre
Jonathan Lipman for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Pam Tait for Rothschild & Sons at the Park Theatre

Bethany Wells for Distance at the Park Theatre
Francis O’Connor for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Simon Daw for Humble Boy at the Orange Tree Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2019”

The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards winners in full

Best actor: Harry McEntire, Billy Liar, Royal Exchange

Best actress: Clare Foster, Duet For One and Separation, Bolton Octagon

Best supporting actor: David Burrell, Journey’s End, Bolton Octagon

Best supporting actress: Gillian Bevan, Hamlet, Royal Exchange

Best actor in a visiting production : Sir Antony Sher, Henry IV, Royal Shakespeare Company at The Lowry

Best actress in a visiting production : Katherine Kingsley, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Manchester Opera House

Best productionAngel Meadow, Anu Productions for HOME (Manchester)

Best visiting production: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, National Theatre at The Lowry

The Brynteg Award for Best Musical: Jersey Boys, Palace Theatre

Best opera: Gotterdammerung, Opera North at The Lowry

The Robert Robson award for dance: Le Corsaire, English National Ballet at The Lowry

Best design: Romeo and Juliet, HOME (Manchester)

Best newcomer: Emily Barber, Billy Liar, Royal Exchange

Best new play: An August Bank Holiday Lark, Northern Broadsides at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre

Best studio production: He Had Hairy Hands, The Lowry Studio

Best fringe production: Thick as Thieves

Best studio performance: Sinead Matthews, Pink, Royal Exchange Studio

Best fringe performance: Kaitlin Howard, The Alphabet Girl

Best ensemble: Angel Meadow, Anu Productions for HOME (Manchester)

Best special entertainment: Barry Humphries, Manchester Opera House

Youth Panel Award: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lowry Young Actors Company

Special achievement award: David Slack

The Stage Door Foundation award for excellence: Monkeywood Theatre

The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

Best Actor
Rob Edwards, in Duet For One and Separation, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Michael Hugo, in Around The World In 80 Days, at the Royal Exchange
Harry McEntire, in Billy Liar, at the Royal Exchange
Dan Parr, in Britannia Waves The Rules, at the Royal Exchange
Michael Shelford, in Early One Morning, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Best Actress
Clare Foster, in Duet For One and Separation, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Natalie Grady, in Hobson’s Choice, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Suranne Jones, in Orlando, at the Royal Exchange
Maxine Peake, in Hamlet, at the Royal Exchange
Lauren Samuels, in Love Story, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton Continue reading “The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

Review: Billy Liar, Royal Exchange

“You’ll need a clean shirt, they don’t have dirty necks on the BBC”

Hmmm. Trekking my way through this list can prove a little hard-going when it throws up plays like these… Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall’s Billy Liar might have been acclaimed as a Great British classic but in Sam Yates’ production for the Royal Exchange, its charms weren’t immediately clear to me. Much of it lies in the play itself I feel, a slice of late-1950s northern life from which dreamer Billy frequently escapes through the flights of fancy in his mind.

Trapped by immutable social strictures and parental expectation, he fantasises and lies his way through the day, as he dreams of leaving the day job (at the undertakers) and moving to London to become a writer for comedians. But the excitement is in the dreaming rather than the doing, so a strange state of affairs exists where he spins and invents and even destroys his actual world without any real sense that he might actually get up and go. Continue reading “Review: Billy Liar, Royal Exchange”

Review: Debris, Southwark Playhouse

“He is now aware
That there are lives different from ours
Things won’t be the same”

One of Dennis Kelly’s earliest plays, Debris is being revived at the Southwark Playhouse for its tenth anniversary in a co-production between Openworks Theatre and Look Left Look Right and what a spiky little thing it is. A two-hander coming in at just a shade over an hour long, it depicts a brother-sister relationship unlike most others, the dysfunction in their childhood so warped that it could be taken from a Philip Ridley play, sibling rivalry taken to the next level.

Michael and Michelle have been brought up somewhat reluctantly by their alcoholic father after their mother died and it is clear that such trauma has resulted in emotional instability. Harry McEntire’s Michael starts off by telling us the story of his 16th birthday to find his father crucifying himself and then Leila Mimmack’s Michelle relates how her mother died at the time of her birth but it soon becomes evident that these are not necessarily the most reliable of narrators. Continue reading “Review: Debris, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Blink, Soho Theatre

“Being watched makes doing things more attractive somehow. Just simple things”

2012 saw Phil Porter’s Blink take Edinburgh and then London by storm with its quirky charms – its study of grief and love intersecting on two quietly damaged souls – and so it is hardly surprisingly that 2013 has seen the show travel as far as India, before returning to the intimacy of the Soho Theatre’s upstairs space. Director Joe Murphy has wisely kept original actors Rosie Wyatt and Harry McEntire onboard and the luxury of revisiting the production was one which I enjoyed immensely.

There’s much that connects Jonah and Sophie – each has lost a parent to cancer and both are struggling to adapt to life in London, barely keeping afloat in the great metropolis. So it seems right that they gravitate towards each other in their own inimitable way, finding their own sort of connection, masquerading as love. For though this may seem like an indie version of a rom-com, its heart lies somewhere deeper, more meaningful in uncovering the complexities of being with another.  Continue reading “Review: Blink, Soho Theatre”

Review: Blink, Soho Theatre

“Love is whatever you feel it to be”

Phil Porter’s Blink is about as close to a lo-fi indie flick as a play can get. Transplanted into the upstairs studio space at the Soho Theatre following a successful run in Edinburgh, it’s a poignantly observed pseudo-love story that balances its romantic intentions with a healthy dose of quirky realism. Jonah and Sophie have much in common, not least that they’re both social misfits, so their journey together, as we see here, is predictably highly unconventional but most winningly presented.

Their lives are marked by coincidences: Jonah’s escaped life from his Pennine religious sect and Sophie left the quiet of the Isle of Man, both have tragically lost a parent to cancer, both now possess more money than they really know what to do with. And as they end up living in the same building in Leytonstone, the scene seems set for romance to blossom. Continue reading “Review: Blink, Soho Theatre”

Review: Punk Rock, Lyric Hammersmith

Marking the beginning of Sean Holmes’ artistic directorship of the Lyric Hammersmith, Punk Rock is a new play written by Simon Stephens. It looks at the experiences of seven teenagers as they negotiate their final years of private school in Stockport, with the pressure of imminent mock exams looming on top of their regular adolescent trials and tribulations. The punk rock of the title is limited to short bursts which mark the scene changes, which i have to say was a blessing for me!

The company is made up of young people (thankfully there’s no 30 year olds dressing up embarassingly as schoolboys) with a combination of some experienced actors and some debutantes. This definitely adds to the freshness of the production, which is handsomely mounted, the library set looking very convincing. The action opens with new girl Lily meeting the somewhat kooky Will who is keen to impress the newcomer but finds his plans skewered by the arrival of other schoolmates into the library. Continue reading “Review: Punk Rock, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: Spring Awakening, Lyric Hammersmith

Spring Awakening comes to London from a successful run on Broadway, where it won 8 Tony awards and had great word-of-mouth buzz, several State-side friends had recommended it to me, saying if I loved Avenue Q, I would love this. Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be the case, after hacking through the snow to Hammersmith.

Crucially for a musical, the tunes just aren’t memorable, and there didn’t seem to be the magical connection between the music and the lyrics necessary for this score to engage once the curtain had come down. If anything, it almost tries too hard, as exemplified by the song Totally F*****: the play seems so pleased with itself at this “shocking” material and yet it seems almost quaint that the over-use of an expletive is considered to be cutting-edge. Continue reading “Review: Spring Awakening, Lyric Hammersmith”