Friday, April 30, 2010

'UNKNOWN PLEASURES' at The Factory Club (FAC251) 18th May

I love Joy Division. 18th May 2010 sees the 30th anniversary of the death of lead singer IAN CURTIS, and Manchester's Factory Club (FAC251) on Charles Street has a very special event lined up, which I shall be attending. Here's the information courtesy of Factory:



Tuesday 18th May 2010 – Date Sold Out

Wednesday 19th May 2010 – New Date added on sale nowhttp:/



Sat 15th May - Tue 18th MayDaily. Noon - 6pm. Free EntryFAC251: THE FACTORY MCR

Peter Hook’s The LightPerform Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures”Sequentially & In Its EntiretyTo Commemorate The Life Of Ian Kevin Curtis Tuesday May 18th & Wednesday May 19th / The Factory Manchester / 8pmIn Association With Mind & Keith Bennett AppealTickets : £19.99 (Includes Charity Donation)The Factory, 112 – 118 Princess Street Manchester, M1 7EN Three decades after it was first released and on the 30th anniversary of the untimely passing of Ian Kevin Curtis, Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook has decided to commemorate Ian’s life and contribution to modern music with a special concert where Hooky and The Light will perform Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures in entirety for the first time. Joined by a few guests for certain album tracks during the performance, The Light will run through the entire album in track order, beginning with “Disorder”, following through with “Insight”, “New Dawn Fades”, “She’s Lost Control” and finishing on “I Remember Nothing. It is also anticipated that other Joy Division classics may be aired at the concert following the performance of the album. Hooky decided personally on the concert as an apposite way to celebrate Ian’s life and sensitive to the history and drama surrounding the anniversary concert, has chosen two charities to support from the event, Mind, the leading mental health charity for England and Wales, and the Keith Bennett Appeal, a charity set up by Norie Miles to help her close friend Winnie Johnson, mother of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett, to recover his remains, as the police called off the search in July 2009. Both charities are to receive sizeable donations from the concert The Factory is also planning an exhibition to coincide with the concert which will showcase images, artefacts and other memorabilia from the Joy Division days in the boardroom of the club. This will run concurrently with the concert and will also be open to the public for certain days surrounding May 18th. In what is bound to be an emotive and very special Manchester occasion, the Unknown Pleasures concert on May 18th will allow a fitting tribute to an iconic and much missed, tragic lead singer, and one whose influence on the city and its music scene has never abated.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


STRANGEWAYS: An Inside Account

By Stafford, Coghill and Clarke

Contact Theatre, Manchester till 8th May 2010

Review by Brian Gorman

Fink On Theatre first performed this hard-as-nails production of ‘Crying In The Chapel’ ten years ago, and made a triumphant return this week to the Contact Theatre to remind us of just how momentous this moment of Mancunian history was, and continues to be. Highlighting the often appalling treatment of the 1660 men packed three to a cell into a Victorian hellhole built to hold just 972, this is a vital, immensely relevant piece of theatre with much of the dialogue based on the testimony of the inmates who spent 25 days protesting on the rooftop. ‘Crying In The Chapel’, written by Pauline Stafford, Chris Coghill, and Nick Clarke (who also directs) is a sobering piece of social commentary; distressing and uplifting in equal measure. Built in 1868, Her Majesty’s Prison, Manchester (better known as the ominous-sounding Strangeways) gradually deteriorated over the decades, until reaching rock bottom in the 1980s. A lethal concoction of fear, hate, misery and depravity that was like a huge poisonous boil, the lancing of which helped to heal the entire UK penal system. Prisons like Strangeways were not concerned with reforming or rehabilitating people; they were simply meant to punish and contain. Repeated claims of casual brutality and humiliation were routinely ignored, all of which led to a group of desperate prisoners first seizing control of the prison chapel, and eventually causing damage of up to £55 million, leaving one man dead and nearly 200 injured.
This was a noisy, angry, testosterone-fueled, and gut-wrenching drama. Before the action on stage began, there were grim-faced warders trudging noisily in hob-nailed boots across the iron walkways above the audience’s heads. Jagged-angled shadows stretched across Sarah Oxley’s expansive, dour, and sparsely decorated set, the centerpiece of which being the prison rooftop with the infamous Strangeways tower projected on to the back wall. Looming phallically above the rioting men, a mocking symbol of immense fertility, and sadistically commenting on the violent orgasmic eruption of the body beneath. Kevin Carroll and Billy Morley’s sound design was integral to the atmosphere, with the sounds of heavy iron doors slamming, prisoners quietly sobbing to themselves in their echoing cells, and jolts of nerve-shattering electric buzzers assaulting our eardrums at irregular intervals. The surreal everyday sounds of Strangeways were nicely balanced against the strains of late 80s/early 90s ‘Madchester’ with the hypnotic and infectious dance beats of the Happy Mondays.
Mancunian everyman Eric (played with convincing street-wise charm by well-known local actor Neil Bell) led us effectively through the story. Popping up at regular intervals contributing relevant facts and figures, and some oft-times shocking real-life anecdotes. A main bone of contention at the time was the irresponsible and wholly inaccurate press coverage. Idle pub gossip and gruesome speculation led to headlines screaming of over a dozen dead and hundreds tortured and mutilated. The impressive Derek Barr (as Paul Taylor) held everything together as the acknowledged and principled leader of the rooftop protesters, and was the lynchpin in a fine ensemble. Vince Atta (as the twinkly-eyed muscleman Alan Lord) shone as the gentle man attempting to negotiate reasonably with the prison governor (a suitably mealy-mouthed Tony Hirst), and getting seven shades kicked out of him for his troubles. Some welcome light relief came from the bystanders observing the action from street level; the formidable Lily Taylor (a delightfully energetic Ruth Evans) and fire-breathing hard case Mrs Murray (Julie Glover).
If there was one weak point, it had to be the script. There was some nice, but brief, build-up to the actual start of the riot, but once we were on the roof it was one long waiting game with little in the way of subplot. The fine acting and sheer physical presence of the performers carried things along smoothly, but I would have liked to have seen a few scenes of the individual characters in their cells before the riot. Perhaps a few snapshots of them in their previous lives, contrasting their life as free men to the embittered and desperate rebels they became.
Nick Clarke’s direction was clear, sharp and admirably unfussy. With most of the action involving several men perched on a rapidly disintegrating rooftop, choreography was everything, and Clarke mobilised his troops like a machine that had been oiled rather well.
Crying In The Chapel is hard-hitting, brutal, and shocking, but ultimately inspiring theatre. The desperate actions of these wretched men resulted in reformation of the entire UK prison system, and taught the authorities a vital lesson; treat people like animals, and they will bite you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'JUMBLE' by Sally Lawton

Opening tonight at the fabulous Studio Salford. Here's the official info from the venue:

By Sally Lawton. Presented by TSL Productions.

Nigel has been head teacher at Baker Dale Primary School for seven years. His PA’s obsessed with him, his wife (a head teacher at a better Primary School) hates him and he’s feeling the pressure – so he does what any other self-respecting head teacher would do, he forges this year’s SATs results.All he wants to do is forget he ever did it and bury his head under a rock, but the PTA are trying to plan their annual jumble sale and the arrival of Maggie – the blonde bombshell from the city stirs up feelings he never thought he had.But who is Maggie? And what does she want at Baker Dale?Further info:

DIRECTOR: Mike Heath. PERFORMED BY: Christopher Taylor, Daniel Holden, Jennifer Edwards, Katherine Godfrey & Sally Lawton

Dates: Wed 28th Apr - Sat 1st May Starts: 8.00pm Ends: 9.40pm* Tickets: £7 / £5

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'THE BENCH' postponed

Unfortunately, 'The Bench' has had to be postponed this week. Writer Joe O'Byrne has just posted this message. Here's wishing all the very best to everyone concerned, and we look forward to seeing the show in June at The Salford Arts Theatre.

"In the last 24 hours a member of our cast has received some distressing family news so unfortunately this run of The Bench is postponed, the play will now take place at the same venue on 9th to 12th June 2010. We are a close company and all our love and best wishes are with our friend. We of course apologise to everyone for any inconvenience caused, any tickets purchased will receive a full refund or you can rebook using these tickets for the run in June. Once again our sincere apologies but I am sure you will all appreciate that these are circumstances beyond anybody’s control."

Joe and The Cast & Crew of THE BENCH.


Has our favourite geezer found a soulution to the Bond producers' woes? He's actually talking a bit of sense here. I'd love to see a down-and-dirty Bond film, so who knows? Full marks for cheek, Danny...

Danny Dyer: I'd be cheap James Bond

Danny Dyer is offering to save the James Bond film franchise.
The Football Factory star is offering to play 007 himself, for a cheap fee, after news the Bond films are on hold because the studios are so deeply in debt.
Danny wrote in his Zoo magazine column: "It's a shame, because I really love the Bond films - but getting me in would help them right out - I'd do it for £200 a week."
He added: "There's a Facebook campaign for me to be the next 007 and I'm f***ing thrilled about it. That's a mad idea, but I think I could pull it out of the bag.
"You don't need £60m to make a film; most of mine are made for under one million. As long as you've got your star man and the right people around him, that's all that matters. F*** the CGI b******s - go back to the old school. Keep campaigning, lads - I won't let the side down."

Copyright © 2010 The Press Association. All rights reserved.


There's a great all-day Dr Who event this bank holiday weekend at Manchester's Fab Cafe. 'Fans Like Us' are the Wirral-based Dr Who Local Group (part of the nationwide Dr Who Appreciation Society network), and are producing their third event in the city under the leadership of DWAS Social Secretary Erica Egerton. Here's all the information:




COLIN BAKER (The Sixth Doctor)


COLIN SPAULL (Mr Crane/Lilt)
ALAN RUSCOE (Andy Stone/Slitheen/Auton)
GRAEME HARPER (Director extraordinaire!)

Tickets still on sale at £29 adults or £15 (under 16s). This all-day event also features: Dr Who themed food & cocktail menu, live comedians, vintage toy stall & free admission to the after-event party. There will also be a lunchtime raffle with some great prizes (everybody buying lunch at the venue will be eligible).
Tel. 0161 2122997or


Inspired by the US tv show 'Inside The Actors Studio', I have a new on-going project. I am looking for actors/actresses willing to take part in the following. Please contact me at


I would like to draw/paint a small portrait to accompany a short biography and questionaire. Please answer the following questions as briefly, or in as much detail, as you like.

1. Who is your favourite actor/actress?

2. What is your favourite role that you have played?

3. What is the role that you’d like to play?

4. What is your favourite play?

5. What is your favourite film?

6. What is your favourite line of dialogue (play or film)?

7. What turns you on?

8. What turns you off?

9. What would you be if you weren’t an actor?

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?

Thank you

'THE BENCH' by Joe O'Byrne

A little more information, and some reviews for previous productions of 'The Bench', courtesy of Salford Arts Theatre's press office:



Kemsing Walk, off Liverpool St., Salford M5 4BS

28th, 29th 30th April & 1st May, 2010 @ 7.30pm
Tickets £7/£6 cons
Bookings: 0161 925 0111

After successful runs at Studio Salford,
The Lowry, and The Library Theatre,
Joe O’Byrne’s hit play The Bench comes to SALFORD ARTS THEATRE.

The Bench A comedy of love, life and loss.
Over a period of 12 months, the lives of an eclectic group of Paradise Heights residents intersect around a bench in the local park. Many of the characters find themselves at transitional points in their lives, and whilst some are desperately holding on to the past, others are even more desperate to escape it and the unbearable pain that has made them who they are. It’s just a bench in the park, the one by the war memorial…A thief, a fake medium, a homeless man, an artist, a widow, a dealer, a loan shark, an angel and a ghost. They’ve all sat on this bench at least once this year.

Before the end of the year, someone will die on it…

Paradise Heights is a fictional North West council estate created by writer/director/actor Joe O’Byrne’s and is the backdrop for most of his writing/directing, The Bench is one of the tales to come from the community. Other stories in the series include the plays I’m Frank Morgan and Rank, and the feature film Lookin’ For Lucky. All the plays have received rave reviews and Lookin’ For Lucky has recently signed its first international film distribution deal.

‘Although The Bench is billed as a comedy, we do tackle some serious topical issues’ says Joe. ‘Homelessness, abuse, addiction and enormous personal grief are some of the problems the characters are wrestling with. However the play is shot through with a rich vein of humour played out by a very talented cast.’ A cast that features Stella Grundy (who featured heavily in Madchester’s music scene with her band Intastella, a talented writer and director, her latest play Nico Icon returned to The Lowry last year), Clyve Bonelle (Lookin’ For Lucky, Rank, Bubbysaurus, Shameless), Phoebe Marie Jones (Rank, Twelfth Night, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Duchess of Malfii), Ian Curley (Rank, Lookin’ For Lucky, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, A Game Of Two Halves) Ste Myott (Lookin’ For Lucky, Rank, Life On Mars, The Laramie Project) and Aaron Rochford, (Rank, Moody Money, Broken Britain, Perfect To Begin). Between them the cast play 18 characters in the play. Strong adult content.

Highly recommended and a play, and writer, which will surely go on to great things.
Kevin Bourke, Manchester Evening News

The Bench is not for the squeamish. It has strong language, and touches on addiction, grief, homelessness and abuse; but it is absolutely an authentic play of today, and has a distinctive voice that speaks with great humanity.
Chris Honer, Artistic Director, The Library Theatre, Manchester.

Loved it! Wonderful gags out of left field, intrigue, suspense, heart-rending scenes and heart-warming moments. A great night of theatre! Do more!
David Slack, Director, 24/7 Theatre Arts Network

Surely you couldn't have missed it? Well, if you did, you missed out big time. Joe O'Byrne's The Bench was a brilliant piece that will hopefully go on to bigger things. Mike Heath, Director, Studio Salford

The Bench is yet another excellent example of high quality fringe theatre and it thoroughly deserves its excellent reputation. Dave Cunningham,

Monday, April 26, 2010

'THE BENCH' by Joe O'Byrne

(Original art by Jo Carlon)
The imaginary Salford housing estate known as ‘Paradise Heights’ has a war memorial in the park, and there’s a bench by it. All human (and not so human) life is here: scallies, homeless people, a street sweeper, angels and ghosts even. It’s just an ordinary bench, but before the year is out, someone will die on it.

Joe O’Byrne’s critically-acclaimed play, ‘The Bench’ is back for a run at Salford Arts Theatre from Wednesday 28th April to Sat 1st May. Tickets are just £7 or £6 (Concessions) from 0161 9250111. Or check out

I’m going to see it……..

Sunday, April 25, 2010


David Tennant is surely the busiest man in television. Here he is again!

From the BBC Press Office (pity they can't spell Quatermass correctly though):

Suranne Jones joins David Tennant in BBC One drama Single Father
Category: TV Drama; BBC One; Scotland
Suranne Jones (Five Days, Unforgiven) will star alongside David Tennant (Doctor Who) in Single Father, a new four-part drama for BBC One made by Red Production Company through BBC Scotland, which started filming in Glasgow this week.
Written by Mick Ford (Ashes To Ashes, William And Mary), Single Father is a touching yet humorous drama which tells the story of Dave (David Tennant), a photographer facing the seemingly impossible job of bringing up four kids alone after the sudden death of his wife, Rita.
Things get even more complicated when he begins to fall in love with his wife's best friend, Sarah (played by Suranne Jones). Single Father asks how soon is too soon to fall in love again?
Is Dave betraying Rita by falling in love again so quickly, or will he be walking away from happiness if he ignores his feelings? With his children at the centre of his world, Dave worries what will happen when they find out.
Suranne Jones says: "I just think David's great. I've always admired him so I'm really looking forward to working alongside him on Single Father, as he's such a diverse and talented actor. With Single Father, Mick Ford created a beautiful drama about unexpectedly finding love again and I'm thrilled to be working with Red again.
"This will be my first time filming in Glasgow. I've heard lots of great things about it and I'm looking forward to getting settled in and exploring the city."
Other Single Father cast include Laura Fraser (Lip Service, Florence Nightingale), Rupert Graves (Garrow's Law, God On Trial), Warren Brown (Occupation, Luther), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who, Inspector George Gently), Mark Heap (Lark Rise To Candleford, Skins), Jenni Keenan Green (River City, Doctors), Sophie Kennedy Clark (Fight, I Want To Be Adored) and Natasha Watson (New Town, Fiona's Story), among others.
Made by Red Production Company (The Mark Of Cain, Casanova, Queer As Folk), filming on Single Father continues on location in Glasgow until the end of May.
Produced by Peter Gallagher (Stone Of Destiny, The Flying Scotsman, My Name Is Joe) and directed by Sam Miller (This Life, The Quartermass Experiment, Spooks), Single Father is executive produced by Nicola Shindler for Red Production Company and Anne Mensah for BBC Scotland.
Single Father was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One.
Single Father continues in the footsteps of distinctive drama recently made through BBC Scotland, including The Deep (BBC One), Lip Service (BBC Three), One Night In Emergency (BBC One Scotland), River City (BBC One Scotland), Waterloo Road (BBC One) and Wallander (BBC One).

Alan Sillitoe has died

From the beeb's website:

Author Alan Sillitoe dies in London aged 82

Alan Sillitoe was still working up until his death
The author Alan Sillitoe has died aged 82 at Charing Cross Hospital in London, his family has said.
The Nottingham-born novelist emerged in the 1950s as one of the "Angry Young Men" of British fiction.
His son David said he hoped his father would be remembered for his contribution to literature.
His novels included Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, both of which were made into films.
The two books are regarded as classic examples of kitchen sink dramas reflecting life in the mid 20th century Britain.
He was born on 4 March 1928 - the second son of an illiterate tannery labourer who was often out of work.
Rejected celebrity
Later, he described life growing up in a poor household.
"We lived in a room in Talbot Street whose four walls smelled of leaking gas, stale fat and layers of mouldering wallpaper," he said.
He said his mother burned his first semi-fictional work when he was a 12-year-old. It was about the behaviour of his cousins but she felt it to be too "revealing".
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner
Key to the Door
The City Adventures of Marmalade Jim
Without Beer or Bread
Men, Women and Children
Alan Sillitoe's Nottinghamshire
The Open Door
Alligator Playground
He then left school at 14 to work in the Raleigh bicycle factory in his hometown before joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) four years later.
He worked as a wireless operator in Malaya but, while in the RAF, he contracted tuberculosis and spent 16 months in hospital where he began to write novels.
After travelling to France, Spain and Majorca - where he met the poet Robert Graves - he wrote the pioneering novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Published in 1958, the tale about the life of hard-working factory employee Arthur Seaton won the Authors' Club First Novel Award and received instant critical acclaim.
It was adapted as a film in 1960, starring Albert Finney.
His story The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, focusing on a rebellious boy with a talent for running, won the Hawthornden Prize in 1959. It was also turned into a film, starring Tom Courtenay, in 1962.
One of the most underrated authors of the last century
Kevin McClymont
Alan Sillitoe: Your memories
The award-winning writer was married to the American poet Ruth Fainlight, with whom he had David, and adopted daughter Susan.
Although he tended to spend most of his time in London, they also lived in France, Spain, Tangier and Israel.
Poet Ian McMillan paid tribute to the author, describing him as a "marvellous prose stylist" whose work had a "kind of Midlands sonority to it".
"He was a man who attempted to capture the majesty and drama of ordinary life," he said.
"He wrote this great line which said 'the art of writing is to explain the complications of the human soul with the simplicity that can be universally understood' and I think that's what he achieved."
Sillitoe rejected the celebrity life and all he wanted to do "was sit in his house in London and write and write and write", he added.

Alan Sillitoe shunned the celebrity lifestyle
As well as numerous novels he published several volumes of poetry, children's books and was the author of several stage and screen plays.
In 1995, his autobiography Life Without Armour was well received. In 2007, he published Gadfly - an account of his travels in Russia.
In 2008, he was recognised for his Nottingham roots and given freedom of the city.
Earlier this month, along with others with the same honour he was due to herd sheep across Trent Bridge, as was his right. However he had to pull out because of illness.
Last year, he appeared on the BBC's Desert Island Discs, where he said if he were cast away his ideal companions would be a record of Le Ca Ira sung by Edith Piaf, a copy of the RAF navigation manual, The Air Publication 1234, and a communications receiver - but for receiving only.
Although he once said he preferred to be thought of as a poet rather than a novelist, it was his prose that attracted the more critical success.


Incredible! Excellent Dr Who episode last night had it's fantastic cliffhanger of an ending utterly ruined by someone at the BBC thinking it would be a great idea to slap a cartoon of Graham Norton on screen before the episode had actually ended. Insane. here's the news from the beeb's own news site:

Doctor Who fans angered by trailer for Over the Rainbow

The BBC has apologised for the trail
Thousands of Doctor Who fans have contacted the BBC to complain that the ending of Saturday night's episode was ruined by a trailer for the next show.
The on-screen caption featured an animated cartoon of presenter Graham Norton, host of Over the Rainbow.
It appeared as The Doctor, played by Matt Smith, was making an emotional speech during the story's cliffhanger ending for The Time of Angels.
The trailer was seen by millions of viewers watching on BBC One in England.
Fans have also been complaining on social networking site Twitter. One wrote: "Why is the BBC treating its audience like idiots?"
Another said: "Don't blink or Graham Norton will catch you."
The BBC often promotes programmes in this way but the corporation has acknowledged that in this case the scheduling was inappropriate.
A BBC spokesman said: "We apologise for the timing of Saturday night's trail."
It is not the first time an unexpected appearance by Norton has angered Doctor Who fans.
When the series returned in 2005 after a 16-year break, a technical error caused Norton's voice to be briefly heard over the episodes opening scenes.

'THE COMEDY OF ERRORS' by William Shakespeare (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester till 8th May)

(Michael Jibson as Dromio of Syracuse, and Owain Arthur as Dromio of Ephesus) Photo by Jonathan Keenan.

Shakespeare’s madcap tale of two sets of separated identical twins, and the various misunderstandings and bewildering situations they find themselves in, is given a tremendously energetic and colourful outing at The Royal Exchange by director Roxana Silbert.
Anthony MacIlwaine’s set comprises a large white revolving dais that is subtly used to gently propel the actors around in carousel fashion, adding a giddy, dreamlike quality to the action. The play opens with the grand entrance of Solinus, the Duke of Ephesus (Munir Khairdin successfully channeling the spirit of Yul Brynner’s King), who is lowered from the ceiling in David Blaine fashion, sitting on a chair in an ornate glass case. There is then a rather ponderous scene where the Duke hears the imprisoned Egeon (Fred Ridgeway) plead (at great length) for his life after accidentally trespassing where he ought not to be, and in so doing give us all the detailed back story of an ill-fated sea voyage and the apparent loss of his newly-born twin sons, both named Antipholus, and their personal servants, baby twins again and both named Dromio. You can see where the confusion comes in.
As ever in Shakespeare’s early comedies, the emphasis is on action and dialogue rather than a coherent story and a reasonably plausible plot, and so it is up to the actors to carry us through the play at breakneck speed and so negate the need to ponder on any inconsistencies of character or story. And here they certainly do that. The dashing Samuel Collings as Antipholus (of Syracuse) kicks off the action when he arrives in Ephesus with loyal but long suffering servant Dromio (equally of Syracuse, and played with impish relish by Michael Jibson). Unbeknownst to them, their siblings have lived here all their lives, and confusingly have adopted a similar dress sense (see where we’re going here?). Encountering a variety of family members and friends of their opposite numbers, a series of crazy misunderstandings based on mistaken identity take place. Forget trying to follow the story, and just sit back and enjoy the actors going through every emotion known to man. I can just imagine Shakespeare chuckling away to himself as he wrote this, and adding ever more hoops for the characters to leap through. This is a young play by a young man, and demands an equally youthful and energetic cast to make it work. Director Silbert has chosen well, and her ensemble worked hard to ensure a grand concoction of delightful and supremely entertaining froth.
Jack Farthing is a star in the making; his Antipholus of Ephesus being an absolute triumph with wonderful body language and an ability to convey confusion, delight, embarrassment, lust and bewilderment with just a slight twitch of the eyebrows or a subtle tilt of the head. A young Gryff Rhys Jones comes to mind here. Farthing’s gay fop contrasts beautifully with Collings’ more gung-ho approach. The stand out though was Owain Arthur as Dromio of Ephesus; this barrel-chested young Welsh actor giving a glorious, barnstorming performance of perpetual exasperation; he and Farthing made a fantastic team.
Orla Fitzgerald as Adriana oozed sexual energy and delighted as the lustful wife of Antipholus of Ephesus; her husky Irish tones being the icing on a rather delicious looking cake.
All’s well that ends well though, when Jan Chappell as The Abbess (who, conveniently turns out to be Egeon’s long-lost wife, and mother of the Antipholus twins) comes floating down from the heavens like a fairy godmother in an all-white habit decorated with what looked like xmas tree lights. The world is put to rights, and the audience cheer an exhausted cast.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

'INDEPENDENT MEANS' by Stanley Houghton (Birkenhead Little Theatre til Saturday 24th May)

Back row: Steve Williams, Martin Ward, and Linda O'Brien.
Front: Alan Lear, Louise Wright, and Vivian Sebastian

From the author of the classic ‘Hindle Wakes’, this is a play heavily influenced by the Godfather of modern drama, Henrik Ibsen (and, in particular, Ibsen’s timeless classic ‘A Doll’s House’) with its tale of a strong young woman struggling to exercise her individual rights regarding power over her own life. Like Ibsen, Stanley Houghton (who wrote the play at age 28; just 4 years before he died) examined Victorian family values and the contrasting realities that lay behind the often elaborate facades of everyday life. Written in 1909, much of the characters’ behaviour and views on life seem pretty ridiculous and small-minded to a more enlightened and liberated modern audience, and there is much humour to be derived from their conduct. But to a contemporary audience it would have been shocking and scandalous to promote the ideas of votes for women and equal pay for all, and here is the challenge for a director. Should they go for the easy laughs and send the characters up, or play it straight down the line and allow the story to stand on its own feet? Happily, The Carlton Players’ production, directed by Brian Dickson, takes the latter route. Treating the play with respect, Mr Dickson does not seek to patronize the audience, and quite rightly lets his actors play their roles with honesty.
The affluent Forsyth family has their world turned upside down when their fortune is all but wiped out overnight following Mr Forsyth’s irresponsible speculating on the stock market (some things never change!). Feckless and immature Edgar Forsyth has married the feisty and iron-willed Sidney, a young woman whose education and politically-aware sensibilities enable her to exert her natural business skills and thus save her and Edgar from certain ruin. Business rival Mr Richie offers to help the family out, but his kindness is rejected by the proud and arrogant Forsyth. Unknown to her husband or in-laws, the practical Sidney takes a job as Richie’s secretary, and is later joined by a reluctant Edgar in the same office.
When tragedy hits the family, it is up to Sidney and a gradually maturing Edgar to lead everyone towards a brighter future.
Louise Wright as Sidney lights up the stage with an energetic, finely-tuned performance, and is complimented superbly by the charismatic Alan Lear who succeeds in making the exasperating Edgar both contemptible and loveable in equal measure. The two young actors make a fine team, and a most believable married couple. Steve Williams makes a superbly uptight and most unsympathetic Mr Forsyth, while Vivian Sebastian as his long-suffering wife simply bristles with repressed emotion. The brash and highly likeable Mr Richie is played by Martin Ward, who gives us a gem of a performance full of joy and life-enhancing vitality. Linda O’Brien as Jane, the faithful maid who continues to prop up the family even after coming into sudden wealth herself, completes a fine ensemble with the kind of part every actress would kill for, but few could play with as much humanity and natural warmth.
Performed with relish on a superbly, and solidly, realistic set, ‘Independent Means’ is good old-fashioned entertainment, and a great example of just how good theatre can be. The Carlton Players are an amateur company, but you could have fooled me.

'BEAUTIFUL HOUSE' by Cathy Crabb (Library Theatre, Manchester til 8th May)

James Foster (Otis), Janice Connolly (Bridgette), John Henshaw (Ronnie), and Sally Carman (Paula). Photo by Gerry Murray


Laughter and tears; how often does a piece of writing provoke both at the same time? In Cathy Crabb's tale of two working class Salford couples (neighbours in a run-down block of flats) and their contrasting fortunes, we have something guaranteed to please almost everybody. John Henshaw (from tv's 'Early Doors', 'The Cops', and most recently the Post Office ads) and Janice Connolly (better known on the Manchester comedy scene as her alter-ego ' Mrs Barbara Nice') are Ronnie and Bridgette, who have given their house over to their dying daughter and are now forced to live out her remaining days in somewhere far less salubrious than they're used to. While laid back Ronnie seemingly accepts whatever fate throws at him, Bridgette seethes and rages with unbridled passion. Janice Connolly is the heart of this production, and is perfectly complimented by Henshaw's downtrodden everyman, with both managing to create characters you can love, pity, hate, and completely empathise with. Add to the mix the highly-strung Paula (a wide-eyed, Jane Horrocks style whirlwind of a performance from Sally Carman) and puppy dog-like Otis (James Foster a beguiling mix of wide-eyed innocence and mind-boggling naivety) as the 'chavs' from downstairs, and it's a perfect ensemble. All human emotion is here, and it's a hell of a rollercoaster ride for the audience. Crabb has written some cracking parts, and each actor gets several stand out scenes, with Sally Carman delivering what must be one of the longest pieces of dialogue I've heard in a very long time. An entire scene has her rabbiting on breathlessly about decorating her gaudy, glittery, Santa's Grotto of a flat (complete with cheap-looking 'Egyptian' artifacts she has collected from her job at the Manchester Museum) while Janice Connolly can only sit in silent anguish. There are some fabulous one-liners, and the four characters interact seamlessly. Dawn Allsopp's revolving set almost becomes an extra character, as several scene changes are enhanced by the addition of the famous musical theme from the classic tv series 'Sunday Night At The London Palladium'. Director Noreen Kershaw performs a fine balancing act handling the abundance of laughter and tears, and has created what I can only describe as an instant classic.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


(Daniel Craig as Bond. Acrylic on canvas by yours truly)

Bad news for Bond fans (I'm a massive one!). The new movie, which is already a year behind when a new Bond is usually brought out, has been suspended. This is tremendously disappointing, as Peter Morgan ('The Queen', 'Frost/Nixon') had been working on the screenplay, and Sam Mendes had signed to direct. Here's the news as reported on Yahoo earlier today:

"The follow-up to the James Bond adventure ‘Quantum of Solace’ has been put on hold because of the uncertainty surrounding MGM studios.
Work on the 23rd Bond movie, which would have seen Daniel Craig once again playing the suave superspy, has been postponed, with the franchise’s producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, releasing the following statement:

"Due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio, we have suspended development on Bond 23 indefinitely. We do not know when development will resume and do not have a date for the release of Bond 23.”

Craig added, “I have every confidence in Barbara and Michael's decision and look forward to production resuming as quickly as possible."
The movie, which has Sam Mendes listed as a director, was set to be released next year."

'COMEDIANS' (Bolton Octagon) Production photos

(Mark Letheren as Phil Murray)

(Mark Letheren as Phil Murray, and Huw Higginson as Ged Murray)

(Keiran Hill as Gethin Price)

Just received a few production photos (by Ian Tilton) from The Octagon.

'COMEDIANS' (Bolton Octagon til 8th May)

(Jonathan Pryce in the first production in 1975)

(Richard Moore rehearsing the new Bolton Octagon production)

This fab, Manchester set play by Trevor Griffiths stars Burnley born Richard Moore (whom I saw in a wonderful production of 'Twelfth Night' several years ago at Clwyd Theatr Cymru). I shall be off to see it next week, but in the meantime here's some info from The Octagon's Press Office:

Thursday 15 April – Saturday 8 May 2010
ComediansBy Trevor Griffiths
Director: David Thacker
The Octagon Theatre welcomes Trevor Griffiths’ landmark play Comedians to Bolton. Set in Manchester in the mid-1970s, the play broke exciting new ground and is considered by many to have signalled a revolution in stand-up. It asks the question: is comedy just about the laughs?
A group of ordinary men gather in a school for a night course in stand-up comedy. It’s run by ‘The Lancashire Lad’ Eddie Waters: once known as the hardest-hitting comedian on the circuit. He is determined to promote comedy as an art form and believes that comedians deliver more than just gags. On the night of his apprentices’ big performance, an agent arrives from London to open the door to fame and fortune for the lucky few. But at what price?

The role of Eddie Waters will be played by Burnley born and bred Richard Moore, who is celebrating his fiftieth year in the entertainment industry. He is best known for playing the popular Jarvis Skelton in Emmerdale and Curly in the hit drama Band of Gold. He said:

“The North West, and Bolton in particular, is rightly viewed as a spiritual home of comedy. It’s not a coincidence that while Comedians is on at the Octagon, Peter Kay is playing some o the biggest comedy gigs in stand-up history just up the road in Manchester. He’s very much a comedian in the mould of my character, Eddie Waters – a man of the people, in love with the craft of making people laugh.

“But the play is not just a comedy; it looks at what is an acceptable source for jokes. Has the time of the mother-in-law joke or the Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman joke passed? What is it okay to laugh at? In light of the national debate around Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, this is clearly an issue that will run and run!”

He is joined by Huw Higginson and Mark Letheren who are also appearing in the Octagon’s production of And Did Those Feet, and Kieran Hill and Russell Richardson who recently appeared at the Theatre in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The cast also includes Colin Connor, Howard Crossley, Brendan Foster, Simon Nagra, John Bramwell and Sevan Stephan.

Comedians is at the Octagon from Thursday 15 April – Saturday 8 May 2010. Tickets are from £9 on 01204 520661, or at

Sunday, April 18, 2010


At last we have the remake of The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan's classic 1960s tv series is given the make-over by ITV1 and America's AMC. And it's not half bad. Forget the original, and treat this on its own merit, and you have an intriguing, unsettling, disturbing, and rather good looking drama. National Treasure Sir Ian McKellen makes a creepy, slightly sadistic, yet utterly charming Number Two (the man who seemingly runs The Village), while Jim Caviezel (who played the title role in 'The Passion Of The Christ') steps into McGoohan's shoes as the rebellious Number Six. The plot is simple; an un-named man (Caviezel) wakes up to find he has been taken to a surreal place called The Village where everyone has a number, and the inhabitants are clearly there against their will. Rather like Jim Carrey's 'The Truman Show', this is the story of one man who decides there is much more to life than the surroundings in which he finds himself. It's a classic fable which asks the questions "Why are we here?" and "Who is in control?" In the original, McGoohan's character was a British intelligence agent who resigns his job (for reasons unknown) and is subsequently incarcerated in a fairy tale style village (filmed on location at the Italianesque resort of Portmeirion in North Wales) where he is subjected to every conceiveable kind of interrogation in order to discover the reasons for his quitting the job. Each of its 17 episodes depicted Number Six in a battle of wills against a new Number Two (each previous Number Two being replaced for failing to break their man). In this new version things are a little bit more ambiguous. In a nice little reference to the original's opening credits, we see Caviezel march into a smart office block and spray paint 'RESIGN' onto a window. What he does for a living isn't explained, but we can guess he doesn't work in an HBOS call centre. Waking up in desertland surrounding the new village (this time shot on location in Namibia, and swapping the Italian atmosphere for a more bleached-out, African holiday resort look) he finds a dying old man (bearing a passing resemblance to an aged McGoohan) being chased by men with dogs. The man dies, Caviezel buries him in the sand, and makes his way to The Village. By way of almost subliminal flashbacks we learn Caviezel is a New Yorker, and that he has met a mysterious woman one evening while out drinking alone. It's all much more subtle than McGoohan's version, and suitably 21st century. I liked it. Fanatical fans of the original will moan and groan endlessly. Great! Let 'em!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Prisoner

Not bad at all!! More later.....


Tonight on BBC1
Blimey, Mark Gatiss, you ARE a naughty chap!!! 'Victory Of The Daleks' was, as usual for new Who, way too turbo-charged and with music threatening to deafen everyone far more seriously than any air raid sirens, BUT... it just makes me look forward to watching it all again. Matt Smith continues to be an inspired choice for The Doctor, and his performance is very reminiscent of the under-rated (in the public eye, methinks) Peter Davison. Much more nuanced and low key than David Tennant, and therefore much more intriguing (and very Troughtonesque). Tennant's hearts were on his sleeve(s), whereas Mr Smith holds much more back.

Ian McNeice made a splendid, twinkly Churchill, and Karen Gillan had the best line with "Oy! Churchill!" The new super-duper, oooh look at ME! Daleks were just the shot in the arm the old squidy ones needed, and the kids will love 'em. And Spitfires in space!!

"Broadsword to Danny Boy!" (Nice one, Mark. Like it, like it!)


(Artwork of Sir Ian as Number Two, and myself as 'a prisoner' by yours truly)

It's here at long last! ITV1 and AMC's remake of the 60s classic tv series, 'The Prisoner', starts tonight. One of the most imaginative and fearless series ever made, the original series was the brainchild of Patrick McGoohan made possible by the courageous backing of Sir Lew Grade and ITC. Probably one of the most difficult series to remake (with a massive cult following), this has been a long time coming, and I'm so pleased to see they haven't slavishly tried to copy the original. The fact that we have the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen starring says volumes for the show's potential. Mixed reviews from the US have only whetted my appetite further. Stay tuned!! Be seeing you!

Beautiful House (Library Theatre from next Thursday)

Just a mention about the new production at Manchester's Library Theatre next week. 'Beautiful House' by Cathy Crabb starts on Thursday 22nd April til 8th May, and stars the local legend that is John Henshaw (from the Post Office ads, BBC's The Cops, etc.). Directed by equally legendary director Noreeen Kershaw (Phylis, the desk sergeant from Life On Mars, Albion Market, etc.).

Some blurb from The Library:

"So that their seriously ill daughter can spend what might be her last months in her childhood home, Ronnie and Bridgette have vacated their dream house in Delph for a Salford tower block. And at first they think Otis and Paula, in the flat below, are the neighbours from hell.First seen at Studio Salford, and subsequently in the 2009 Re:Play Festival, and now being given a new production by Noreen Kershaw, this wry tale of love and belongings, relics and regrets, and trinkets and tombs, is both heartbreaking and achingly funny.

“Cathy Crabb is clearly a major writing talent” - Manchester Evening News

“Entertaining… And at times very funny” - British Theatre Guide"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

'UP ON THE ROOF' (Oldham Coliseum) review:

Well, I finally got there! I wasn't sure whether I'd like this production, as I'm not a big musical fan. There's something about the 'big' performances, and the often schmaltzy song deliveries that just grates on my nerves. Saying that, I cast my mind back to the fabulous production I saw 10 years ago at The Chester Gateway Theatre, 'Three Steps To Heaven', and I remember that it did take a good half hour for the actors to weave their magic and make me care about them (and care about why, and what, they are singing). So it was with 'Up On The Roof', written by Simon Moore and Jane Prowse. I sat grimacing to myself as the ensemble cast played a group of self-obsessed (are there any other kind?) students revelling in their exclusive little clique atop a Hull rooftop in 1975. Here was the handsome lead guy, the fat joker, the amiable slacker, the ugly duckling, and the dumb clotheshorse. Tick off all the boxes. Yes, the a capella music was fantastic but it was all a bit twee and predictable. I trotted off to the first of two intervals for my pint of Carlsberg Export (I needed it!) and wondered about why people do this stuff (produce musicals, not drink strong lager!). Then part two. The pace slowed, the musical bits were fewer, and the characters grew. All of a sudden I began to like it. The handsome lead was a bitter failure, the clotheshorse was a neurotic mess, the slacker was a hard-working nice guy, the ugly duckling was a fox, and the fat joker was. Er....
Anyway, everything perked up, and thanks to some fine thesping I was hooked. Particular kudos to Christopher Pizzey as Tim (the slacker) who reminded me of a looser-limbed Daniel Craig (imagine Bond crossed with Shaggy from Scooby Doo trying to chase that bad guy across the crumbling Sienna rooftops in Quantum Of Solace!). And so this tale of five friends growing up, parting, coming back together, with only their love of music to bind them really got to me. So well done Stephen Fletcher (Scott, the handsome lead) for evoking the spirit of a young Paul McCartney, Gavin Spokes (Keith, the joker) for being scary AND funny, Gemma Wardle (Angela, the ugly duckling come sex kitten) for eliciting our pity then raising our temperatures in that figure-hugging, bottom-enhancing cat suit - Miaow!!! and Georgina White (Bryony the neurotic clotheshorse) for hating you at the start, pitying you in your glorious wedding dress, and loving you at the end. Hurrah to Peter Rowe for spot-on direction and for avoiding the sentimental mush that was always threatening to rear it's curly-haired head. And for including the naughty words (f**k, s**t, etc) that made the young kids sat in front of me giggle with delight! Oh, and for adding 'Love Will Keep Us Together' by Captain and Tenille at the end of Act One, then Joy Division's glorious 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' at the end of Act Two.
Running til 1st May, and thoroughly recommended!!!
By the way, The Stage website review refers to this production as 'UPON THE ROOF'. Sheesh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After the show I congratulated the actors in the bar, whilst downing my third Carlsberg Export, then proceeded to seek another drinking establishment. I found the Buck Union - a rather atmospheric old place full of 'characters'. Then I wandered into the 24 hour ASDA for a few items, and ate a whole pack of chicken slices on my way home. I waited til I got in before I devoured half the pack of Brie I'd bought. Ooooh, I'm SO decadent, folks!! I am. really.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

See this show!!

Well, Fictionmaker fans, I have just got in after walking from Oldham, via the 24 hour Asda, and munching the whole of a packet of chicken slices en route. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed Up On The Roof, even though I feared I wouldn't. I am much too tired and emotional to write a full review now, but will attempt one in the morning. Suffice to say - GO AND SEE IT.................NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Up On The Roof tonight!

(Photo shows: Georgina White, Gavin Spokes, Stephen Fletcher, Christopher Pizzey, and Gemma Wardle)

From Oldham Coliseum:

"Up On The Roof is a poignant and affectionate musical comedy which celebrates the enduring power of friendship.It is 1975 and five students at Hull University are up on the roof of their student digs for the last meeting of The Roof Club’ – their a capella singing group who perform doo-wop covers of Motown and soul classics.In between the songs they reveal their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the lives they are about to embark upon. The next ten years sees how their individual journeys, successes and failures, are reflected in the changing relationships within this tight knit group of friends.Whatever the tensions within the group, they disappear whenever they sing – and they always sing, any time, any place, anywhere, from Band of Gold to What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and Never Can Say Goodbye to Lean On Me and of course their signature tune Up On the Roof."

I am off to review this later - right after I have me tea!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bath and Oxford

I had a surprise last minute invitation to a weekend in Bath and Oxford this weekend. I met this little fella in the cage outside of an Oxford University.

Well, I managed to miss both The Royal Exchange's The Comedy Of Errors last week, AND Oldham Coliseum's 'Up On The Roof'!! Both rescheduled now, so reviews up soon.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I'm back! AGAIN!!!

Yes folks, I relocated from The Wirral recently and am now back in Manchester. Doing a bit of acting work, continuing the graphic novel stuff, and reviewing a few things. Tonight it's The Royal Exchange's press night for 'The Comedy Of Errors' (featuring Blake's 7's Jan Chappell, no less!), and this Friday it's Oldham Coliseum's 'Up On The Roof'. Oh, and next week I play 'death' on Crosby Beach at 7.30am!!!!! Salford University Fiction Film Unit production. I'll take me thermals!!

The Comedy Of Errors

Off to see this later - review tomorrow!