Monday, December 03, 2012

Dreaming Under A Different Moon

 The Edge, Manchester

Written & directed by Janine Waters

Music & lyrics by Simon Waters


Review by Brian Gorman

 The Edge is a brand new arts centre housed in a Victorian Sunday school building, and ‘Dreaming Under A Different Moon’ is its first in-house production. And what a fantastic start! Janine Waters’ epic musical fantasy has something for everyone, telling the colourful tale of Edwardian teen-ager Cassie (a perky Paislie Reid) who falls into a coma which magically transports her to the far flung future where all artistic pursuits are banned. Here she finds herself aboard a ship occupied by a motley crew of actor-musicians seemingly doomed to certain death by starvation at sea, whilst regularly fending off attacks from airborne alien ‘spiders’. Onboard to ensure they do not escape is the bullying Stefano (Everal Walsh) who bears a striking resemblance to Cassie’s real-life father (deliberate shades of Peter Pan here). The unexpected arrival of the irrepressible and eternally optimistic Cassie brings hope to the outlaws, and from here on in the audience gets everything but the kitchen sink in a no-holds- barred, barnstorming, high-octane show that works hard to deliver on every conceivable level. If you can imagine a Doctor Who Christmas Special combined with Alice In Wonderland, then you’ll have a good idea of what was on offer here.

 Located behind Chorlton Methodist Church, The Edge has a 70 seater auditorium on the top floor of the building in a superbly atmospheric room with a high curved roof. The space is used intelligently by designer Kevin Freeman, whose marvellous set seems to be a natural extension of the room itself. Comprising inventive use of bare scaffolding and planks, augmented by multi-coloured sheets, the set doubles up perfectly as Cassie’s home and the outlaws’ ship.

The outlaw actors are a marvellous creation, and every theatrical cliché is    milked for all it’s worth in Janine Waters’ devilishly clever script. Threatening to steal every scene is the bitchy, camp ‘leading man’ Fausto (a fabulously over-the-top, yet often affecting, performance by Jos Vantyler). Jenny Platt is simply wonderful as Eliana, Fausto’s ill-tempered ex lover; forever ready, willing, and more than able to scratch his eyes out at a moment’s notice (Platt’s comic timing was pitch perfect). These two squabbling Prima Donnas are perfectly complimented by Craig Whittaker’s more restrained Claudio, who provides much of the pathos amid the hectic silliness onboard ship. Composer Simon Waters supplied some cracking compositions ranging from full-blown ensemble camp to downbeat heart-breaking solos. Live music from multi-instrumentalist Samuel Rowe (doubling up as sound operator) added enormously to the outrageously energetic musical performances. There are some lovely, witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics which the entire cast deliver with obvious relish; the finale is especially delightful. The production is possibly a touch overlong  (a scene involving Claudio revealing his true feelings to Eliana threatens to outstay its welcome somewhat) , but this is a minor quibble when presented with such an embarrassment of riches.

Dreaming Under A Different Moon is a spell-binding celebration of live theatre, and has set the bar incredibly high for future productions at The Edge. The audience cheered and whooped during the curtain call, and the tremendously hard-working cast deserved every second of it.


Runs until Saturday 22nd December.

Tags: Dreaming Under A Different Moon, The Edge, Janine Waters, Simon Waters, Chorlton, Manchester, Jenny Platt, Paislie Reid, Jos Vantyler, Everal Walsh, Craig Whittaker, Kevin Freeman, Samuel Rowe

The Good Life

(Photo: Jane Leadbetter and Mike Woodhead as Tom & Barbara Good)

The Lass O'Gowrie, Manchester

By John Esmonde and Bob Larbey


Adapted from the much-loved BBC sit-com of the 1970s, ‘The Good Life’ is a cracking, feel-good, heart-warming and often hilarious piece of theatre. Lass O’Gowrie Productions continues to build on its reputation for bringing popular television shows to the stage, and proving that there’s nothing like the immediate thrill of a live action performance. Director Brainne Edge has a superb ensemble to work with, and delivers another triumph following on from successful adaptations of ‘The Likely lads’ and ‘Midnight’ (based on the Russell T Davies Dr Who story, and one of the best stage shows I’ve ever seen). Recreating iconic characters is never easy, and following in the footsteps of star-making tv performances from Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith must have been particularly daunting. Mike Woodhead and Jane Leadbetter as Tom and Barbara Good – a suburban couple seeking ‘the good life’ by turning their backs on the consumer society – make a superb double act, successfully making the characters their own, yet channelling the theatrical spirits of Briers and Kendal. Likewise, Matt Seber and Rachel Newton as neighbours Jerry and Margo make a beautiful team (with Ms Newton almost managing to steal every scene she’s in as the ridiculously posh Margo, forever battling to uphold traditional conservative standards). Three classic episodes were presented in the intimate space of the 35 seater upstairs theatre which works fantastically well for shows like this. First up was ‘Whose Fleas Are These?’ wherein an infestation of insects causes havoc, particularly with Margo’s social standing. Sean Mason’s energetic performance as the overzealous pest control man was inspired. Best of the lot was ‘Posh Frock’ which saw Jane Leadbetter take centre stage to steal our hearts as Barbara struggles to accept her new role as ‘one of the boys’.  This was a classic example of a canny script (matched with expert comic timing) eliciting tears and laughter in equal measure.  Finally we had ‘Silly, But It’s Fun’ (the 1977 Christmas special), a perfect mix of good-natured, homely comedy guaranteed to warm the cockles and beautifully illustrate what Christmas really means. Marcus McMillan as a cocky, surreally philosophical delivery man provided the second of the evening’s hilarious cameo roles. John Esmonde and Bob Larbey’s original scripts have certainly stood the test of time, and combined here with a first rate cast, and a sharp director, deliver a perfect reminder of the golden age of television comedy.

Runs until Sat 8th December
This review was first published at

Tags: John Esmonde, Bob Larbey, Lass O’Gowrie, The Good Life, Mike Woodhead, Jane Leadbetter, Rachel Newton, Matt Seber, Sean Mason, Marcus McMillan, Brainne Edge, Manchester