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Monthly Archives: September 2019

Red Dust Road National Theatre of Scotland / HomeEdinburgh International Festival

Theatre Review: Red Dust Road, HOME, Manchester

September 14, 2019 No Comments

Ever since it was published nearly ten years ago, Jackie Kay’s memoir Red Dust Road has been in on-off development as a stage play. As a project, it’s a big ask. The book follows Kay’s journey of discovery as an adopted child from Scotland to Nigeria, taking in a whole host of different times, places and people along the way. Now the stage version, adapted by Tanika Gupta and directed by Dawn Walton, arrives at HOME in Manchester after several Scottish dates. In the event it’s very easy to like, but harder to adore.

It’s extremely ambitious, using a minimum of devices and trickery to conjure up Kay’s tale. The achievements of the cast vary, but as Kay’s adoptive parents, Lewis Howden and the mighty Elaine C. Smith loom large, proving to be the life and soul of the piece, appropriately enough. As Kay herself, Sasha Frost is an appealing presence, all the more impressive because she doesn’t have a great deal to go on. It’s an oddly slight, underwritten part. As events unfold, Jackie remains simply, unremittingly nice, with no edge and hence no depth to her, emerging almost as a bystander to proceedings rather than the protagonist.

The shape of the narrative has a similar problem in terms of drawing in the audience. Kay’s story is by no means a conventional quest, but one key destination point – meeting her birth father Jonathan (Stefan Adegbola) – is thrown in almost at the start, pulling away any sense of anticipation or dramatic tension. Frustratingly, the scene even begins after the first moment of meeting, so we never get to see it.

Red Dust Road ©The Other RichardTo be fair, Red Dust Road is aiming to create a subtle, lyrical tapestry, leaping back and forth in terms of time and place. In that respect though it’s an uphill struggle, not helped by the curious lack of enveloping intimacy in the HOME theatre space. It’s hard to feel engaged by Jackie’s tusslings with her roots and identity when they meander so, never settling in one setting for long enough to  resolve in a satisfying way. That said, individual scenes often feel long and woolly and overall the piece, which runs at two and a half hours, lacks a concerted sense of pace and snap. 

The second half coalesces a little better than the first, and it’s never less than enjoyable, with some great lines and decent laughs. Along the way there are some elegant, beguiling moments but for all the boldness and ambition on show here, it remains pleasant but underwhelming. There might be a much better play in there somewhere, or possibly Kay’s wide-ranging, highly personal memoir just poses insurmountable hurdles where staging is concerned.

By Andy Murray

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Red Dust Road is at HOME, Manchester until September 21, 2019. For more information, click here.

To read Andy’s interview with Jackie Kay, click here.

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Theatre Review: Malory Towers, York Theatre Royal

September 14, 2019 No Comments

Dear Mummy and Daddy,

I’m not quite sure what to make of my first term here at Malory Towers. It is very big and some of us whose desks are at the side can’t see everything that happens in the classroom. And it does seem odd that they didn’t finish painting the wood round the swimming pool before term started. The girls in the dorm are all SUPER, apart from one who is very snooty and a bully and none of us like her, at least we didn’t at the beginning. We spent a lot of the first half of term singing and jumping on our beds, but it got a bit boring as nothing much really happened for AGES.

There’s a really super person called Wilhelmina who likes to be called Bill and has a horse called Thunder. Bill saved the day, actually, when Gwendoline, the bully, behaved really badly to Mary Lou, and something terrible nearly occurred. I’m not sure what it was that happened – it was high up and I couldn’t see.

Then we put on the school play. We chose A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. It was OK. It had music especially written by Mirabelle, who is AMAZING. She sings and plays instruments and is “vraiment Francaise”. Alicia is the oldest and tells terrible jokes. The bossiest girl is Sally. She’s probably the cleverest and she makes everyone laugh all the time without telling any jokes at all. Darrell is the bravest and tries to protect Mary Lou, who is the wettest, and I like them all very much.

But then another thing happened. Our headmistress, Miss Grayling, whom I have never met but sounds exactly like a famous actress you like called Sheila Hancock, summoned Gwendoline to her study, and when Gwen came out she was crying, because she’d had BAD NEWS and then we all understood why she had been so nasty.

So Mummy and Daddy, just to say that I’ve been a bit bored some of the time, but the other girls, who are all A LOT younger than me, absolutely love it. And the school songs are REALLY GOOD.

Lots of love

Chrissy

PS Please send me some chocolate and an apple for Thunder.

(By Chris Wallis, Theatre Editor)

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For more info, click here.

Photo by Steve Tanner

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bees drinking nectar, Manchester Cathedral

Fleetneedles Forage: Heavenly Hives at Manchester Cathedral

September 10, 2019 No Comments

Since cultivating my bee garden, I’ve grown increasingly interested in the life cycle of bees. I’ve fancied doing a beekeeping course for ages so I was over the moon to be able to visit the hives at Manchester Cathedral.

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Great North Run

Photo Gallery: Great North Run 2019

September 9, 2019 No Comments

Northern Soul’s North East Photographer Phil Pounder headed to the Great North Run, an annual UK half marathon which is now officially the biggest in the world welcoming 57,000 runners from over 130 different countries.

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Jackie Kay (photo by Denise Else)

“A reader has their own way of interpreting your whole story.” Poet Jackie Kay talks to Northern Soul

September 9, 2019 No Comments

Jackie Kay’s 2010 acclaimed memoir Red Dust Road is the story of a journey as Kay comes to terms with the fact that she’s adopted and gradually wends her way from Scotland to Nigeria in search of her birth parents. But the book has since gone on a journey of its own.

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A Superior Spectre: Angela Meyer in conversation with Jane Bradley, Blackwell’s, Manchester

September 6, 2019 Comments Off on A Superior Spectre: Angela Meyer in conversation with Jane Bradley, Blackwell’s, Manchester

Historical fiction isn’t my cup of tea.

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McMillan photo credit Urszula Soltys

The Picture of the Artist: poet Andrew McMillan talks to Northern Soul

September 6, 2019 Comments Off on The Picture of the Artist: poet Andrew McMillan talks to Northern Soul

“It’s the culmination of the trilogy, each of which I think looks at the idea of ‘monster’ and what that means in contemporary society.”

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VP PROSE POETRY

The Irresistible Rise of Prose Poetry: The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry

September 6, 2019 Comments Off on The Irresistible Rise of Prose Poetry: The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry

In part one of our series on prose poems, The Irresistible Rise of Prose Poetry, our new Poetry Correspondent Mark Connors begins with The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry.

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What’s on in September: Comedy in Manchester

September 6, 2019 Comments Off on What’s on in September: Comedy in Manchester

It’s September and time to head back to the Manchester comedy circuit. Have you noticed that all comedy clubs smell exactly like fresh new pencil cases?

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Plastic

The real climate change bullies – and why we should support Greta Thunberg

September 6, 2019 Comments Off on The real climate change bullies – and why we should support Greta Thunberg

Hypocrite is the latest buzzword.

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