As a large part of a 4-day festival celebrating and educating people about birth and the way it is treated and considered in different cultures around the world, seven short plays were commissioned and were performed at various times throughout the festival with all seven performed back-to-back in the main theatre throughout Saturday.

I’ve been seeing a lot of great shows recently and several of them at HOME in Manchester. I’ve just gone again to see Gecko’s physical theatre piece Institute. It’s a devised production which looks at the differing issues of male mental health. Undoubtedly it should resonate with some people in the audience and it’s a vitally important subject matter for discussion. Unfortunately for me I left the Theatre feeling empty.

“A Mod and Modettes Musical Paradise”

The Opera House in Manchester hosted the opening night of ‘All or Nothing: The Mod Musical’ with a star studded audience and fantastic Italian Vespas on show at the entrance of the theatre. It was a cold and rainy October night but it certainly didn’t dampen the atmosphere as the audience buzzed with excitement in the auditorium. The auditorium was packed with an array of Mods young and old awaiting this new musical of The Small Faces.

Walking into the HOME studio space to find a silent, beautiful woman struggling to play with a paddle ball, I was apprehensive about what I was about to see. Billed by one of its creators, Sleepwalk Collective’s Sammy Metcalfe, as an ‘attempt to renegotiate or just better understand our relationship with “high” or “classical” art’ – something which I personally find quite alienating – the show was a fragmented glimpse of art, performance, and theatre blasted with overwhelming light and sound.

 

Once the audience was settled, the performance began with a declaration of war, war between the performers and their audience.

Scherzo: For Piano and Stick is a piece for musing, opening your mind and just being carried away.

 

This production by Riotous Company is from a company with strong theatrical stock, Kathryn Hunter, who recently bagged rave reviews at HOME, is their patron and director Tage Larsen has worked on numerous Odin Teatret productions. Odin themselves are an institution who make work thats spoken with hushed breath around drama schools and cutting-edge theatre companies world-wide.

Manchester's newest theatre comes into being with a bang, as they present their first theatrical offerings. Situated at geographical coordinates 53 / 2, underneath the old railway arches by the side of the GMex Centre, this is a very adaptable and promising theatre space, and although it is still obviously being renovated and developed, the potential is evident and it is already coming to the attention of small and mid-scale local theatre companies looking for a decent-sized centrally located Fringe venue.

The first peculiar thing I realise when seeing a show entitled Two Man Show is that it’s not going to be performed by two men at all but by three women. If anyone read my last review you may start to think I’m developing a bee in my bonnet about shows with misleading titles. In this case I believe it, as with most things in this show, to be quite deliberate. What better way to make an early point about masculine domination of language up until this point in our history.

Previous versions of Dirty Dancing pale into insignificance compared to this brand new production currently touring the UK, and as I write this news is breaking that the show is to receive a limited run in the West End this Christmas. Sporting a brand new substantial and cleverly designed set by Roberto Comotti Dirty Dancing looks every inch a West End quality show.

A few weeks ago I found myself in an Art Gallery with a friend of mine, and we wandered into the room devoted to modern art installations. Such art I normally find banal and pointless and if I had not have been with a friend I would have walked straight through without so much as a second glance. My friend stopped however and stood staring at one installation. It was a very simple design, a brick wall; three bricks high and 20 bricks long built in the traditional wall fashion. The only difference between this and any other wall was that after 10 bricks the wall had a gap in it before it continued. Just a small gap, but a noticeable one. The work was called 'Rift' and I forget the artist. I turned to my friend and he was crying. He just stood there looking at these bricks and was crying. My friend is a Jew.

An important piece of theatre perfectly executed

 

The blurb of this new play by Alex Keelan staged at Hope Mill Theatre (an excellent venue, with a gorgeous renovated coffee shop/ bar, with excellent staff and service and a huge free car park!) does not do it justice: ‘three generations of women exploring the issues of freedom and identity through a series of monologues’. The play is much more satisfying, entertaining and engaging than this sounds. We meet three women in jail: one suffragette, one World War 2 prisoner of war (a spy captured by the Germans), and a care worker who has disturbed the peace. They talk to us in turn, and slowly we get to hear about their pasts and the circumstances that have led to their arrests.

The Classic Thriller Theatre Company are in Manchester this week as part of their national tour to present their version of ‘Rehearsal for Murder’. The play is set in a London theatre in the 1980s with playwright; Alex Dennison (Alex Ferns) desperate to find out who killed his fiancée Monica Welles (Susie Amy). Alex has a tough job on his hands as the coroner's report revealed Monica’s death to be suicide. A year to the day of her death, Alex gathers the cast of the play to find out which of them killed Monica.