Tonight, Sheridan Smith gave what can only be described as a masterclass in Musical Theatre with a stunning performance that quite rightly brought her Manchester audience to its feet in rapturous applause and adoration on the first leg of a UK wide tour of Funny Girl, The Musical.

Has Hope Mill Theatre ever put on a bad play? This is now the third production I’ve seen here and it’s possibly my favourite yet.

 

Nick Payne’s one-act two-hander, so vibrantly brought to life by David Gregan-Jones and Charlotte Tyree (both excellent), explores the idea of the multiverse: the possibility that there is an infinite number of universes which co-exist simultaneously, where every choice you ever make, or don’t, bears fruit a million times over.

For two nights only, Tandem Productions takes over the main stage at Manchester's newest small-scale theatre. They present three plays that although on the surface may not seem in any way linked, do have some interconnecting themes of family, love, and comments on today's society.

Arguably two of the hardest working men in showbiz; Cannon and Ball are most definitely experienced comedians with 55 years of experience in making people laugh so I was extremely excited to get the chance to see their latest production; Cannon & Ball - The Dressing Room, a play written by Bobby Ball about the behind the scenes/stage goings on that happen that the audience never normally sees.

A van breaks down in the middle of the dark, cold woods. The engine is busted, leaving two foul mouthed but foolish criminals in the worst case scenario, especially when you have a kidnapped woman tied in back. Performing within the large domain of the established Hope Mill Theatre space, William J. Holstead’s A Kidnapping, a dark but sharply written black comedy makes its presence known and introduces its audience into this chaotic situation with both laughter and surprise.

From the perspective of a critic I’m gradually going off press nights as a reflection of the actual show. You’ll never hear me complain about a free drink and in this case a slice of pizza, no sir, however I’m increasingly feeling that the effort and pressure involved in a press night performance generates an atmosphere very different to any other performance and can make it difficult to present a true reflection of the play which will be seen through the rest of the run. Last night, seeing The House of Bernarda Alba at the Royal Exchange this feeling in my bones was never more present.

Manchester-based Box Of Tricks, a company that champions new writing and loves things which challenge and don't necessarily follow the norm have once again found a winning formula.

 

In this play by Lizzie Nunnery, and directed by Hannah Tyrell-Pinder, we, the audience, are asked to suspend our disbelief rather more than usual. It is a play which requires your undivided concentration; for it is slow-moving, thoughtful and perhaps a little confusing, but stay with it, for it is also deeply emotive, horrific and genuine.

‘The Return’ is a 30-minute, brand new, fresh concept in development, performed within the intimate space of Theatre One. The initial idea in this early-staged production is a study of a remote community and a boat returning home, conveyed using minimal dialogue, mime, dance and Foley sound effects and is an excellent example of ensemble theatre.

A wide, black minimalistic stage, covered by a dark blue shade. Shining disco balls of different sizes laid across the stage with a metallic microphone pinned to the middle. The smooth and relaxing sound of jazz makes its presence known as the audience prepares themselves for tonight’s performance. Cheryl Martin’s takes us on a journey through the stars her life with her dynamic presentation. An observational cocktail of scientific fact and Martin’s philosophical thought on how the stars we see in the sky reflect us as human beings. One moment you could be a bright star, shining amongst the dark skies, then the next you thing you know just like a star going into supernova, you can disappear forever.

Don’t Cha Wish Your Scouser Was Boss Like Me? is a hilarious one woman show currently playing at 53Two. It follows the story of Katie, a loud mouth Liverpudlian as she deals with finding love, schoolyard bullies and her Bestie that lives in her room. The play uses brilliant parody songs to move the narrative along and has the audience in stitches from start to finish.

We entered one at a time, walking down a long dimly-lit corridor, we were alone. As I entered the theatre the floor was strewn with strip of torn paper. Discordant chimes filled the air, hypnotic, almost spiritual, other worldly. The stage was filled with boxes of light - some lit from within and some with mapped projections on them: “FRAGILE, Handle with care, Thank you”. On our chairs were small balls of screwed up paper. The audience sat in silence or spoke in very hushed tones.