Northern Soul

Author: Kevin Bourke

God's Own Country, photo by Agatha A. Nitecka

God’s Own Country: Film Director Francis Lee talks Yorkshire, Farming and Sundance

September 9, 2017 No Comments

God’s Own Country, written and directed by English filmmaker Francis Lee, is a remarkable film in many ways, and I’m not alone in believing it’s quite probably the best debut of the year.

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Review: The Addams Family, The Lowry, Salford

September 1, 2017 Comments Off on Review: The Addams Family, The Lowry, Salford

The Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma and Lurch we see in this musical comedy adaptation of Charles Addams’ celebrated New Yorker cartoons, via the 60s TV series and the 90s films, are not so much creepy, mysterious or spooky as ‘differently decent’ upholders of Addams Family values.

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PIPPIN The Musical

Review: PIPPIN The Musical, Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

August 30, 2017 Comments Off on Review: PIPPIN The Musical, Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

On the face of it, it’s difficult to see why PIPPIN The Musical is not better known on this side of the Pond given it boasts music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, whose stage hits include Godspell and Wicked as well as a latter-day stint as a composer on such Disney animations as Pocahontas.

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We Were Told There Was Dancing, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Review: We Were Told There Was Dancing, Royal Exchange Young Company, Royal Exchange, Manchester

August 21, 2017 Comments Off on Review: We Were Told There Was Dancing, Royal Exchange Young Company, Royal Exchange, Manchester

The starting point for this Royal Exchange Young Company production, directed by Matt Hassall and created by the Manchester Theatre Award-winning company to note fifty years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, was the question “what is it to live in a world that denies you your most simple human right – to feel love, to share love and to be in love?”

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Review: A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, Heaton Park and Hall

July 22, 2017 Comments Off on Review: A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, Heaton Park and Hall
 
The passion, heart and indomitable spirit of adventure in all of Feelgood‘s work has made them a vital part of Manchester’s independent theatre scene since their very first show more than 20 years ago. Since then, their promenade shows in Heaton Park have proved to be one of the most loved aspects of their work.
 
So it was exciting news that they were returning to the park this Summer with their first outdoor show there since Macbeth in 2009 (as last year’s Whispers Of Heaton was actually performed within Heaton Park Hall). What’s more, they are now official ‘theatre partners’ with Manchester City Council for the park and the hall, a status that allows them – and us – to dream of a new permanent theatre and rep company in the park, much as London enjoys with Regent’s Park.
 
A Midsummer Night's DreamTheirs is a ‘site-sympathetic’ (as opposed to site-specific) version of The Bard’s mischievous A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which Feelgood founder Caroline Clegg had earlier promised would “bring all the history and the culture and the great stories of Heaton Park into the play as well. We’re aiming to juxtapose the history of the hall with this sense that Heaton is a real people’s park.”
 
The rather ingenious way this was worked into the already dream-like structure of the play was by means of a prologue in front of the hall, wherein the audience were alerted that several members of the cast hadn’t yet returned from a day out. Promptly from out of the hall emerged several ghosts of the Egerton family with some of their famous musical and theatrical friends, offering to take part in the evening’s entertainment in a less chaotic echo of the way the mechanicals were shortly to talk about their contribution.
 
Then audience and players wandered through the remarkable park, with actors emerging from the woods at different junctures to continue the action. Passers-by – mainly late evening joggers and dog-walkers – may have been a little taken aback by coming across the magical confusion but it was all rather delightful, albeit exhausting to watch the players running all over the place in between their scenes, before finishing back in the hall itself for the climactic wedding scene and the Mechanicals’ show-stopping performance.
 
The music played throughout made witty but not intrusive references to the hall and park’s history, including dashes of Gilbert & Sullivan, Britten, Mendelssohn and even Oasis, while the players, many of them Feelgood regulars, threw themselves into the action (rather literally for Toby Hadoke’s Bottom at one point) with gusto, notably Ebony Feare as Puck, a part far removed from her Mende in Slave – A Question Of Freedom
 
Even the weather played along for once. So something of a triumphant return for Feelgood and a tantalising promise of great things to come in the park.
 
 
golden-star golden-star golden-star golden-star
 
 
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs in Heaton Park and Hall until August 6, 2017 (no performances on July 23, 24 or 31). It’s suitable for ages eight and above, although all children must be accompanied by an adult. Venue is wheelchair accessible, although some of the grassy locations will need a strong push. The wheelchair pusher goes free. This is a walkabout show and rain will not stop play, so no refunds and please wear sensible clothing and footwear. Feel free to bring a cushion, blanket or light fold-up chair.  
 
To read Kevin’s interview with Feelgood founder Caroline Clegg, click here.
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Caroline Clegg from Feelgood Theatre talks about A Midsummer Night’s Dream

July 19, 2017 Comments Off on Caroline Clegg from Feelgood Theatre talks about A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Caroline Clegg, the founder and driving force behind the award-winning Feelgood Theatre, would be the last to deny that the company has had its ups and down over the years since the first show in 1994.

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Ceremony (photo credit: Manchester International Festival)

Review: Ceremony, Manchester International Festival

July 19, 2017 Comments Off on Review: Ceremony, Manchester International Festival

“In harrowing times for so many, it’s more important than ever to remember Engels’ legacy – and the spirit of solidarity and dignity which beats at its core,” observed Turner Prize-nominated artist Phil Collins.

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Stax records

Stax Records: the legend lives on in a new generation

July 7, 2017 Comments Off on Stax Records: the legend lives on in a new generation

The description ‘legendary’ tends to get bandied around a lot in the mostly preposterous world of popular music.

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Northern Soul chats to the brains behind Storyhouse, Chester’s new arts centre

June 28, 2017 Comments Off on Northern Soul chats to the brains behind Storyhouse, Chester’s new arts centre

By chance I found myself sitting next to Sam Dixon, the leader of Chester Council, at The Beggar’s Opera, the official opening performance for the city’s spanking new arts centre Storyhouse.

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The Dukes new Artistic Director, Sarah Punshon

Sarah Punshon, the new artistic director of The Dukes in Lancaster, talks diversity and a disregard for boundaries

June 19, 2017 Comments Off on Sarah Punshon, the new artistic director of The Dukes in Lancaster, talks diversity and a disregard for boundaries

“It’s hard to put me in a box because my career has been so varied, which makes me a great match for The Dukes,” says Sarah Punshon, the new artistic director of the Lancaster venue

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