Friday, June 18

Yorkshire & Humber

The Damned United – Leeds Playhouse
Yorkshire & Humber

The Damned United – Leeds Playhouse

The last time I saw this Leeds United were in the midst of one of their regular comedic play offs collapse, but now they are riding high in the Premier League this punchy tale of hubris at Elland Road has extra resonance. It’s nominally the tale of Brian Howard Clough’s disastrous 44 day reign at Yorkshire’s biggest club after taking unfancied Derby County to the First Division title, but it is a story about obsession and  madness that will reach non football fans too. The Damned United is based on David Peace’s semi-fictional novel tracing Clough’s descent into a personal hell. Anders Lustgarten’s tight adaptation captures all the psychological demons swirling round Ol’ Big Head’s fractured psyche as he takes on a team of seasoned pros loyal who he hates as ‘cheats’, but they ...
Atalanta Forever – Halifax Piece Hall
Yorkshire & Humber

Atalanta Forever – Halifax Piece Hall

On the day after the first ever female chair of the Football Association was announced this witty and powerful piece about the pioneers of the women’s game being banned by a bunch of misogynists in a committee room couldn’t be more pertinent. These footballing underdogs are classic Mikron Theatre territory as a fictional Huddersfield factory girl and a posh teacher come together under the watchful eye of even posher Miss Waller to form Atalanta Ladies raising money for starving wondered soldiers in the years after the war to end all wars. My only criticism is that Mikron often play posh characters off against the working class, and that idea has run its course. Bit of context here for non-footie fans as in 1921 Preston’s Dick Kerr’s Ladies played in front of 51000 at a Boxing Day ga...
The Greatest Play In The History Of The World … – Hull Truck Theatre
Yorkshire & Humber

The Greatest Play In The History Of The World … – Hull Truck Theatre

Hallelujah! Theatres are open again and I had a front row seat at Hull Truck Theatre. Best of all, because of social distancing, I was the only occupant on that row. However, the “front row” in question was my sofa; yes, I was watching online. Julie Hesmondhalgh, she of Coronation Street fame, was the only human on the stage - a stage she shared with numerous pairs of shoes held in cardboard boxes on two large metal frames. This very plain setting, though at times a bit too unlit for my liking, was welcome as it didn’t detract from Hesmondhalgh’s amazing performance, in this first of a trilogy of monologues at the theatre in the near future. Dressed casually, Hesmondhalgh (who happens to be writer Ian Kershaw’s wife) recounts, in a loud, clear and, for want of a better word, m...
The Not So Ugly Sisters – Leeds Playhouse
Yorkshire & Humber

The Not So Ugly Sisters – Leeds Playhouse

The producers of Wicked have made a fortune retelling a classic story and now Wrongsemble are subverting a much loved children’s tale for younger theatre goers. They have great fun through song, dance, some corny gags and lots of physical comedy challenging what we think we know about Cinderella’s so called ugly sisters. Dolly and Barb are rattling round their hairdressing salon watching their baby sister getting married to Prince Smarming, and they’ve not been invited due to endless tabloid battering portraying them as the panto villains of this royal love story. Sound familiar? The demonising has left them with a phone that only rings for blow dry cancellations, so they take the time to tell their version of the classic story. The energy and inventiveness of this pacey two hand...
Decades: 1970s/1980s/2000s – Leeds Playhouse
Yorkshire & Humber

Decades: 1970s/1980s/2000s – Leeds Playhouse

To kick off their delayed 50th birthday celebrations the Playhouse team commissioned both experienced and newer creatives to create short monologues boldly trying to meld the history of Leeds and events across the north over six decades since they opened their doors.. They are offering all six as the King Lear of monologues, or two lots of three like tonight’s offering spanning three decades.  There may be some obscure artistic reasoning behind this but it seems odd to run them out of sequence as doing so might have added to their power. As a veteran of the eighties Leeds anarchist and squat scene it must have tempting for Alice Nutter to offer a sugar-coated version of that scene, but typically in Nicer Than Orange Squash she offers an often funny indictment of the hypocrisy a...
Decades: Stories From The City 1990s/2010s/2020s – Leeds Playhouse
Yorkshire & Humber

Decades: Stories From The City 1990s/2010s/2020s – Leeds Playhouse

There is always a hum in any theatre before the lights go down, but tonight as creatives and an audience make that unique communion after months apart it feels like the air of expectation is off the scale as we uncomfortably sit in our masks. Typically, the Playhouse have not made it easy for themselves by offering returning theatre lovers six monologues that attempt to meld events from the seventies right through to lockdown with a potted social history of Leeds For me monologues are biggest of all challenge for the writers, performers and this audience who are just relived to be sat in a dark space at last.  It is like stand up with a script as there is no place to go if goes wrong, no-one to bounce off and if the writing is even marginally off it can be torture for all conce...
The Band Plays On – Sheffield Theatres
Yorkshire & Humber

The Band Plays On – Sheffield Theatres

Theatre may have been forced into an identity crisis with the core of its function being ripped away, but Chris Bush’s gig theatre homage to the city she heralds from is extraordinarily certain of itself in a way that’s neither brash nor obtuse, but fiercely considered in the best way – a way that makes its self-awareness invisible. Yes, the pandemic is touched upon, but it’s just that – a faint brush across a canvas we are all painstakingly navigating to this day, a reality we are so keen to escape. There are no broad strokes incessantly reminding here, and it allows for a sensitive, intuitive, ferocious piece of theatre that is both pertinent and liberating. The format, whilst perhaps drawn out in its committed structure, is solid. Often the simplest ideas prove the best and most ...
Jane Eyre – Hull Truck Theatre
Yorkshire & Humber

Jane Eyre – Hull Truck Theatre

Written by Charlotte Brontë, the classic that is Jane Eyre never fails to impress audiences - whether on film, TV or in the theatre. I viewed this particular performance (a world premiere) online - a necessity in these Covid lockdown times - and it wasn’t until the final words were uttered in the final scene, and I lifted my head from my computer, that I realised I had become totally and utterly engrossed in what I had witnessed on my 13ins screen. Filmed in Bracknell last November, it was originally scheduled to grace Hull Truck Theatre’s stage in March 2020, but the coronavirus put paid to that. So, settling down on my sofa at home, coffee and snacks at the ready and my husband promising not to utter a sound, I entered the fascinating world of the well-known orphan, Jane Eyre. ...
Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker – Hull Truck Theatre
Yorkshire & Humber

Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker – Hull Truck Theatre

On Tuesday evening, when I hit the YouTube button at 7pm to watch the premiere of Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker, coming from Hull Truck’s stage, I settled back, coffee in one hand, mince pie in the other, to watch live theatre - something I’d experienced little of since the dreaded coronavirus resulted in the closure of theatres nationwide. The fun began after 10 minutes of festive faves played by DJ Ratty (cast member Joanna Holden), against a video backdrop of Christmas lights in and around the city of Hull.. Ratty introduced the Prince Charming of the title, with the words “he’s handsome, he’s rich and he’s a bachelor” - as the Prince (Laurie Jamieson) took to the stage, which was bedecked by a huge Christmas tree, presents and a “Groove Machine”. A bag of nerves - this ...
A Christmas Carol – Leeds Playhouse At Home
Yorkshire & Humber

A Christmas Carol – Leeds Playhouse At Home

The Playhouse’s annual festive spectacular was just one of hundreds of productions forced to switch online just before curtain was about to go up and as good as this recorded version is it will always lack the yuletide magic of gathering in a shared space. This is a reworking of a production that began at Hull Truck Theatre, going on to be a big hit last year when the theatre’s ensemble brought it to life in the pop-up theatre used when the Playhouse was refurbed. The Playhouse’s associate director Amy Leach cleverly invokes the legend that every theatre has a ghost, but she deploys a team of them as they emerge from their offstage pods. They have gathered round the traditional ghost light that burns when a theatre is dark, and once they discover a puppet of Tiny Tim they decide to ...