Northern Soul

Articles relating to: Chris Wallis

Theatre Review: The Secret of Christmas Eve, Oldham Library Theatre

December 21, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: The Secret of Christmas Eve, Oldham Library Theatre

This is another Christmas gem from the people who made the best Peter Pan I have ever seen.

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Theatre Review: Treasure Island, Bolton Octagon at the University of Bolton Stadium

December 12, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: Treasure Island, Bolton Octagon at the University of Bolton Stadium

Arrh Jim lad, this is Treasure Island, but not as we know it. No timbers will be shivered, no one will be sent to Davy Jones’s Locker, but a good time will be had by all.

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Theatre Review: Cinderella, The Dukes, Lancaster

December 3, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: Cinderella, The Dukes, Lancaster

Once upon a time there was a very good theatre director called Sarah Punshon who got a job as artistic director at the Dukes Playhouse in Lancaster where she did some excellent work including a wonderful summer show in Williamson Park loosely based on The Three Musketeers and a Peter Pan for Christmas that was the best thing I saw last year.

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Theatre Review: The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse

November 27, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse

“That’s great entertainment,” said the father of arguably the Best Baddie in Britain as we chatted after the show.

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Food Review: The Bull and Bear, Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester

November 23, 2019 Comments Off on Food Review: The Bull and Bear, Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester

Tom Kerridge’s new restaurant at the Stock Exchange Hotel, The Bull and Bear (geddit??) is a step change in Manchester food.

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Theatre Review: Jack and the Beanstalk, Oldham Coliseum

November 18, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: Jack and the Beanstalk, Oldham Coliseum

Director Chris Lawson’s first panto at Oldham Coliseum is a belter. And it has the best pantomime cow I have ever seen, in any pantomime, anywhere.

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Theatre Review: Light Falls, Royal Exchange, Manchester

October 30, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: Light Falls, Royal Exchange, Manchester

The auspices were good.

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How to Beat Up Your Dad, The Talleyrand, Levenshulme, Manchester

Theatre Review: How to Beat Up Your Dad, The Talleyrand, Levenshulme

October 22, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: How to Beat Up Your Dad, The Talleyrand, Levenshulme

Jonny Genet, Sam Beckett and Ant Artaud walk into a bar.

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Julie Hesmondhalgh (June) in There Are No Beginnings at Leeds Playhouse. Photography by Zoe Martin

Theatre Review: There are No Beginnings, Leeds Playhouse

October 22, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: There are No Beginnings, Leeds Playhouse

For those who lived through the time of the Yorkshire Ripper, much of his reign of terror was characterised by an intermittent series of horrific news items and, as the number of victims increased, lots of analysis about the case.

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Theatre Review: Hedda Tesman, The Lowry, Salford

October 11, 2019 Comments Off on Theatre Review: Hedda Tesman, The Lowry, Salford

In her introduction to the text for her play Hedda Tesman, Cordelia Lynn says that “The idea was to create a piece of new writing held within Ibsen’s original play….As a way of addressing developments in socio-political conditions for women since 1891, the ages and relationships of some of the characters have been changed.”  The original play is Hedda Gabler, and she has certainly succeeded with the former, but I’m not convinced about the latter.

Let’s get the formalities out of the way. It’s beautifully acted as well as being nicely directed by Holly Race Roughan, and the design by Anna Fleischle (a big old house on The Lowry’s Quays stage which has been lowered and turned into a rather intimidating thrust) works well. It reminded me of the set for another reworking of Ibsen – Ghosts at Manchester’s HOME last year.

The cast, led by Haydn Gwynne as Hedda, is uniformly excellent, and it would be invidious to single anyone out, but I’m going to anyway. Irfan Shamji as Elijah gave the most convincing performance of an unrecovered alcoholic the morning-after that I have ever seen. And Gwynne led me to thinking that most unprofessional of thoughts, how does she remember all those lines? Perhaps it was being so close or perhaps I’m just old.

If you don’t know Hedda Gabler, it doesn’t matter. This play works entirely on its own. But if you do, the resonances are startling and revealing. However you come at it, the central problem with this version, for me at least, is that Hedda is a monster. It’s difficult to write about this without spoilers, but it’s clear from fairly early on that she doesn’t love her husband of some 20 years, and probably never has done. Her daughter talks about how her mother abused her, and then the actions Hedda takes in the play – for which she always has a good excuse – are precisely the behaviour of a sociopath. She clearly likes hurting people, and sets them up to see what they will do, like putting butterflies in a killing jar.

Lynn has done a good job of keeping Ibsen’s plot, but changing the roles of some characters so the original Thea, Hedda’s friend, has become Thea her daughter; and Ejlert Lovborg, Geroge Tesman’s academic rival, has become Elijah, his pupil. But otherwise all the relationships and major actions remain the same, albeit now and not in 1891. But, whereas the idea that the denouement – no spoilers here – in the original was a consequence of the newly-married, 20-something Hedda’s social oppression as a woman, in this version the two decades-married Hedda is an entirely different persona. The main question I asked was, how have the others, particularly her husband, put up with her for so long?

For example, much play is made in the original of the fact that Hedda refuses to use the familiar form ‘du’ to address her new husband’s Aunt Julie, and when she does accidentally use it, it is a matter of celebration. But if she’d been treating Aunt Julie like that for 20 years – and Aunt Julie, by the way, is a little ray of sunshine which is probably why Hedda can’t stand her, there’s nothing for her to get her claws into –  then I doubt that Aunt Julie would treat her the way she does in this play, or be delighted when Hedda finally calls her “Auntie”, Lynn’s way of translating the familiar, which works very well.

Nevertheless this is an extremely good production, and a great chance to see some excellent acting close up. But, and I return to a well worn theme here, ultimately I have to ask, why is this being done at all? We are living through the most disruptive, significant, troubling period in our history since the Second World War. Where are the plays?

By Chris Wallis, Theatre Editor

Images by Johan Persson

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Hedda Tesman is at The Lowry until October 19, 2019. For more information, click here

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