Tales of Offenbach is not a familiar title to most opera- or theatre-lovers. Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann may have a secure place in the hearts of many, but the two pieces that make up this jolly romp of a show have remained deep in obscurity for over a century. Croquefer, from 1857, and L’Ile de Tulipatan from 1868 are here triumphantly revived in Jeff Clarke’s racy English translation by the inventive and resourceful members of Opera della Luna. First performed in this version last year, the show is now revived for a short tour.

This 40-minute mesmerizing show is realized and performed by Dasha Rush and Stanislav Glazov. It was first performed at the Mutek Festival in Canada as is the second time Dasha and Stanislav have worked together. Their previous work was Antarctic Takt, which was a single layer projection performance.

After his sell out performance at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, James Wilson-Taylor continues his campaign to bring ‘Justice for Gingers’ and debunk the myths that have been a plague on the red haired community. In the first five minutes of James’s performance in which the comedian swaggers in, dressed as Ed Sheeran and hilariously destroys the popstar by breaking into song about Sheeran’s recycled lyricism about drinking and ‘dating 18 year old girls with heavy class A drug addiction’.

Here is a story of the last Russian royal family, and their final months in the new Soviet Russia, before their execution in 1918. For most of the play, the story centers on the minutiae of everyday life of the Romanov family, from playing games in in the gardens, to being stuck indoors from common illnesses. The play itself is beautifully written by Saime (who also plays Grand Duchess Olga), and the world she imagines behind the closed doors of the Alexander Palace reveals that the Romanovs were very much just a normal family, who's lives would change forever.

The first question I asked myself after leaving the Lowry tonight was “why have I not seen The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” before now? I have been fortunate enough to witness some very special evenings in theatres across the country over the years, but tonight this show catapulted itself into my top 3 shows of all time. It was mesmerising, clinically executed and a technical triumph!

Graham Fellows was in his late twenties when he first presented “Sheffield’s versatile singer-songwriter” John Shuttleworth in 1986. Now, thirty years later, he is himself older than the character he portrays. Rather like Al Murray’s Pub landlord or Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge, John Shuttleworth has taken on a life of his own, and his crushingly banal existence has been the subject of radio and TV series, as well as numerous successful live shows, of which this is the latest.

Massive Owl present “a distortion of the film Stand by Me”, part of the new WTF Wednesdays at The Lowry. These regular nights offer a space for performances that don’t easily fit categorisation, a platform which Castle Rock definitely suit. It is very difficult to define what this hour performance entailed, but having said that, there were parts that were to be enjoyed.

Toes were a-tapping and laughs a-plenty at the Lowry Chorale as Montana-based Comedian Rich Hall delighted crowds with music, undeniable wit, and his very special audience interaction.

 

The Quays Theatre at Salford Lowry was well attended and the show consisted of a stand-up first half and Hall’s Hoedown Band in the second. Hall is a regular on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI and but these shows do not really allow his deadpan and absurdist irony to shine through; tonight certainly did.

Vertigo Productions are known for producing mainly comical shows such as Porno Chic and Murder She Writes, therefore I was intrigued to see their latest production; Black Ice which is largely a dramatic plot.

 

Black Ice tells the story of the Harrison brothers; Bill (Stuart Reeve) and Jonathan (Andy Pilkington) and their upbringing. From the very beginning we see that there is tension between the siblings and clearly there is some unfinished business between them.

There will be few unfamiliar with the 1968 musical adventure film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which features a dilapidated old racing car, left to rot in an old garage and a much loved plaything for Jemima and Jeremy Potts, children of widowed Caractacus Potts. (Jason Manford). Tonight the stage version at the Lyric Theatre at the Lowry, Salford is delighting an almost capacity audience of all ages, although possibly being a school night the majority are adults, or maybe it's just the big kid in us all reliving a childhood favourite!

I now somehow feel that another piece of my cultural knowledge jigsaw has been completed. The Red Shoes is a ballet, based on a 1948 British film, which itself was based on a Hans Christian Andersen story all bearing the same name; but having never read the story nor seen the film, I have now, at least, seen this - the World Premiere of Sir Matthew Bourne's newest creation; his ballet adaptation of that film.