Oscar and I say "Thank you!"
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Written by Norris and Parker
Directed by Lucia Cox
The King’s Arms, Salford
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Brian Gorman
“Why aren’t you famous, yet?” I asked them in the bar after the show. Katie Norris and Sinead Parker are a truly formidable double act, with shades of French & Saunders, Reeves & Mortimer, and (dare I suggest?) the mighty Cannon & Ball. On a bare stage containing just a couple of chairs, our two lycra-clad heroines performed a series of surreal, dark, deliciously twisted comedy sketches featuring a gallery of perfectly-realised, often grotesque characters. Opening with the glorious ‘Twat’ song, the stage was set for a marvellous evening of superbly delirious character comedy, delivered by the best double act who aren’t yet famous. Expertly-aimed pot shots eviscerated the evil Tories, overly saccharine West End musicals (the song ‘Meat’ is delivered with lung-busting, tonsil-straining ferocity by Parker – the ‘blonde one’), and hipper-than-thou Mancunian punk poets (yes, there’s more than one). Norris (the ‘brunette one’) plays the slightly tougher, more commanding of the pair, with Parker the more submissive (revealing her Sapphic passion for her on-stage partner at hilariously inappropriate moments). As two rather attractive female performers, clad primarily in figure-hugging leotards, the more side-splitting moments came when the pair went all out to be as unattractive as possible; one prime example being the sight of David Cameron having his nether regions scratched by a fawning Nick Clegg. There was much mickey-taking at the whole ‘female comic’ aspect of the show, with both women often undermining their onstage personas, and making cringe-worthy attempts at chatting up various men in the audience (including one chap on the front row being more than happy to play ball).
Running for just an hour, All Our Friends Are Dead certainly left one wishing for more. There wasn’t a weak moment to be had, with each sketch packed with innumerable fantastic one-liners, and beautifully observed characters. These are two very talented performers, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. See them now, live on stage, before they’re snapped up for the telly, playing arenas, and retiring far too early.
Tags: Sinead Parker, Katie Norris, Lucia Cox, King’s Arms, Salford, All Our Friends Are Dead
Originally published (with bizarre edits) at www.thepublicreviews.com
Friday, July 17, 2015
Written by Philip Martin
Directed by Michael Whittaker
3MT Theatre, Manchester (until 19th June)
Salford Arts Theatre (24/25th June)
Review by Brian Gorman
A full house is always a very welcome sight for a relatively unknown play. ‘East Of Heysham’ is written by Philip Martin, legendary creator of the 1970s BBC tv series ‘Gangsters’, plus a couple of 80s Doctor Who. Producer Gareth Kavanagh (of Manchester’s renowned Lass Productions, purveyors of many a ‘lost classic’, cult tv/film adaptation, etc.) discovered this little-known script, and has mounted it at the intimate, rather eccentrically decorated 3MT Theatre (think the TARDIS with Salvador Dali as interior designer). This is a gently humorous story of 3 sad, aging, and deeply flawed individuals bonded by their love of 50s icon James Dean (hence the title reference to the 1955 epic ‘East Of Eden’), whose character deficiencies and inner demons are teased out, and simultaneously exorcised by a newcomer to their dwindling ranks. David Slack plays the seventy-something Vince, leader of the pack, and somewhat decrepit lothario, resplendent in his snuggly-fitting, bright red windcheater (echoing Dean’s character in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’), and desperate to keep his idol’s memory alive. Slack carries the part well, and his towering bulk suits Vince’s weathered swagger, whilst hinting at the clay feet and Ozymandian fate. The downtrodden, deluded Walter (a superb performance by Pete Gibson) cowers in Vince’s shadow in a distressing, symbiotic, Clarkson/Hammond Top Gear style, whilst looking as though he will fall apart at any moment due to the stress of trying to coax into life an equally gutless and past-its-sell-by-date 16mm film projector. This pitifully undynamic duo are kept in check by the icy Bel (Wendy McCormack), a hard-nosed businesswoman making a small fortune flogging cheap anti-aging remedies to her unsuspecting customers. McCormack cuts a formidable figure, and deftly portrays a character literally held together by vanity and guilt. The themes of keeping the past alive, defying the ravages of time, and allowing past mistakes to haunt the present are communicated well by Martin’s tight, unfussy script, and Michael Whittaker’s no-nonsense direction. Energetic Roisin McCusker plays the young, enigmatic stranger in town, Sarah, and soon has the hapless Vince going all Jack Duckworth on her. You can guess how that plays out.
‘East Of Heysham’ has a clever mix of light and shade, with the gentle, morphine drip of ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ mixed with the spice of a J B Priestly morality play. No-one is wholly innocent, everybody has secrets, and all are prisoners of their own making. Beckettian? Perhaps. Pinteresque? A little. At around 90 minutes (plus interval), it certainly never drags or outstays its welcome. For a first night, this was old-fashioned, entertaining stuff, but there’s a lot to work with, and a solid cast that will grow in confidence. There’s certainly life in this Martian Chronicle.
Tags: East Of Heysham, Philip Martin, Lass Productions, David Slack, Pete Gibson, Wendy McCormack, Roisin McCusker, Michael Whittaker, Three Minute Theatre, Manchester, Salford Arts Theatre
Originally published by www.thepublicreviews.com
Written & directed by Daniel Thackeray
Albert’s Chop House, Manchester
Review by Brian Gorman
As the title suggests, we are in the 1980s, and disco king Giorgio Moroder’s song (with vocals by The Human League’s Phil Oakey) perfectly evokes the spirit of the era. Personal computers have become a reality, and two of the industry’s entrepreneurial giants are meeting to discuss the future. Based on real-life events, Daniel Thackeray’s play (based on an idea by Lass Productions’ Gareth Kavanagh) brings us the eccentric Sir Clive Sinclair (inventor of the first pocket calculator, the first mass-market home computer, and the revolutionary-yet-ultimately-doomed C5 motor vehicle) reeling from a series of body blows to his business. Under financial pressure, Sir Clive arranges to meet his arch rival, Alan Sugar, with a view to selling the sharp-suited ex London barrow boy the Sinclair trademark and computer business. It’s a great premise for a play; two completely contrasting personalities meeting for dinner in a Chinese restaurant, with the future of the home computer market at stake. Thackeray is ideally cast as the gangly, awkward, prim and proper Sinclair, and the sparks really fly when Matthew O’Neill’s bullish, lowbrow, no-nonsense Sugar arrives to pick over the bones of the great man’s empire. With his slick-backed hair, crumpled pinstriped suit, and unshaven appearance, O’Neill plays the oafish, yet sharp-minded future business guru (and knight of the realm) perfectly.
The action is contained at the restaurant table, with a few snippets of hilarious 1980s tv ads on a projection screen. Thackeray’s direction concentrates almost entirely on the two businessmen’s conversation, eschewing any temptation for histrionics or broad theatrics. This works well, as the men engage in a mental battle for supremacy, with Sugar’s clear-sightedness and bulldozer approach gradually wearing down the rather old-fashioned and hopelessly out-of-touch Sinclair. There is a sprinkling of nice comic moments, mainly at the expense of Sugar’s table manners and lack of sophistication in contrast to Sinclair’s gentlemanly demeanour. A delightful Jess Lee’s tiny, bustling waitress serves to further highlight the men’s distinctive characters; Sugar’s laddish, cheeky chappie and Sinclair’s old school charm. There’s much here for computer geeks, with plenty of in jokes about the home computer industry (much of which, I confess, went over my head, but had many of the audience giggling), and the two lead actors make for a great double act.
Reviewed on 14.07.15
At Buxton Fringe Festival until 22nd July
Tags: Together In Electric Dreams, Daniel Thackeray, Matthew O’Neill, Jess Lee, Gareth Kavanagh, Lass Productions, Sytheplays, Clive Sinclair, Alan Sugar, Albert’s Chop House, Manchester