Category Archives: Theatre

Rita, Sue and Bob – Theatre Review

Rita, Sue and Bob, Too, Bolton Octagon 

Saturday 23 September 2017

Andrea Dunbar was discovered by Max Stafford-Clark when he was running the Royal Court and was only 19 when she wrote this semi-autobiographical play. The play (and the title) revolves around two fifteen-year-old girls (Taj Atwal as Rita, Gemma Dobson making her professional stage debut as Sue) and their affair with a 27-year-old married man (James Atherton as Bob) for whom they regularly babysit.

Set on a council estate, similar to the Buttershaw estate in Bradford where Andrea lived until her early death (aged just 29), Rita, Sue And Bob Too, offers a candid dose of social realism combined with sparky, humorous dialogue, some industrial grade swearing and naked (male) buttocks.

The buttocks in question belong to Bob, and are on display in the opening scene of the play, which dramatises their first sexual encounter, an awkward, cramped threesome in his car parked on the moors as he is running Rita and Sue home from babysitting. The humour in the scene largely comes from the running commentary and some great reactions from whichever girl is not currently participating.

For Rita and Sue, the affair is a brief, thrilling adult adventure and a temporary escape from a bleak, uncertain future of YTS jobs in 1980s Britain. Of course, when the cat is out of the bag, it is the two girls who are branded as sluts and home wreckers. Bob’s wife (Samantha Robinson) is also blamed, whilst Bob gets off virtually scot-free.

The play depicts situations that many theatregoers may find shocking, particularly when we are all now much more aware of recent grooming cases. But underage sexual encounters were part and parcel of everyday estate life for Andrea Dunbar. Despite her obvious writing talent, she never escaped from the estate. Similarly, despite their spark and attitude, the future looks bleak for Rita and Sue, best friends who end up estranged. Rita’s aspiration of becoming a policewoman appears doomed when she becomes pregnant at 16, while Sue ends up in a soul-destroying dead-end job.

Played straight through without an interval, with accomplished performances by all the cast, this is a short sharp shock of a play with plenty to amuse, entertain and make you think.

Photo credits: Richard Davenport

Christine Hoey

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For Love or Money – Theatre Review

For Love or Money, Liverpool Playhouse

Wednesday 22 November 2017

The theatre group enjoyed another successful trip, this time to Liverpool Playhouse, to see For Love or Money.

This production is a final tour for Barrie Rutter, the artistic director of Northern Broadsides, who founded the company 25 years ago. It may not have been as musical and charming as some previous Northern Broadsides productions, but was witty, slick and stylish.

Blake Morrison’s adaptation of the French play Turcaret moves the action from Paris to a small Yorkshire village where an attractive widow, Rose, is pursued by two men. Rose is impoverished and selling off her inheritance to fund her languid lifestyle. Jessica Worrell’s cleverly designed set has little furniture and pale patches in the wallpaper where the family pictures used to hang.

One of Rose’s suitors is the ageing banker, Fuller, who showers her with gifts and clearly has marriage in mind. The other is Arthur, a wastrel, who uses her money to pay his gambling debts. So far, so straightforward, but then there is a twist. Arthur has a servant, Jack Sprout, whom he treats poorly and sends on errands. Jack is not content to remain a servant and he and his love, a lady of ill repute, plot to acquire as much money as they can to fund a new life for themselves. Add a naïve farmer looking for a wife and Fuller’s estranged wife seeking her allowance and complications ensue. However, all is resolved just in time for a celebratory Charleston.

Rutter is excellent as the bumptious Fuller, deflating beautifully when he is confronted by his wife, a stunning performance by Sarah Parks, whose ‘French’ accent steals the show. Jos Vantyler as Arthur preens in every scene and Jordan Metcalfe manages to turn Jack from the pale servant to the scheming plotter with ease. Sarah-Jane Potts as Rose, is by turn cunning and seductive and is unaware of the furore she is causing.

Overall this was an excellent telling of the moral tale of the consequences of lies, greed and corruption. The clever script and stylish production ensured that this was another success for the company and a fitting finale to Rutter’s long association with them.

Photo credits: Nobby Clarke

Many thanks to minibus driver, Hilary Morris.

For a reminder of the show, watch the trailer: >>HERE

N.T.

Under the Market Roof – Theatre Review

Under the Market Roof, Chorley Market 

Wednesday 18 October 2017

On Wednesday 18 October, eight of us went to Chorley Market to see the first theatre production for ‘Junction 8 Theatre’ performing ‘Under the Market Roof by Becky Prestwich at a cost of £10 per ticket.

Venue 

All the seating was under gazebos surrounded by fairy lights, giving a lovely warm atmosphere. Even though it was an October night, we all went dressed appropriately with scarves, gloves and thick coats but needn’t have worried as a warm cosy blanket was supplied on every seat.

Drinks were available on the market before and after the show at The Bob Inn – Lancashire’s smallest pub. You could also get food from Bee’s Country Kitchen.

About the Play 

Set in Chorley market, the play revolves around Len and his granddaughter Lisa who is facing a decision over whether she should take over the running of her grandfather’s stall. Ever since she was a child, Lisa has spent her Saturdays working on her Granddad Len’s hardware stall. Everyone knows old Len, the man who turned up on Chorley Market as a lad with nothing but a couple of suitcases of stock and made a life out of it. But Len hasn’t seemed himself lately, and Lisa starts to wonder if the ‘L. Shaw’ sign above the cabin could be ‘L’ for Lisa. She loves the market and the people at the heart of it, but is her Mum right when she says there’s no future in the market?

Photo credits: Junction 8 Theatre

Our Verdict 

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the play. Inventive props with Len’s hardware stall full of goods, disappearing into the actual market behind when not required and magically reappearing for relevant scenes. At various times, people would appear round or through the gazebos (just like they would on a normal market day). Such as the lady on a mobility scooter, a crowd of football fans and people who just generally drift through a market. All of us agreed it was a great play and a good night out. We would certainly go to other performances by Junction 8 Theatre’

If you are a Coronation Street fan, there was the added bonus of having Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley in Corrie) in the audience. One of our group managed to obtain an autograph for her daughter who is a huge fan.

Hilary Morris

What people said about under the market roof… >> HERE

Theatre Review by Christine Hoey

theatre

Backstage tour – Bolton Octagon

Friday 7 July 2017,

The theatre group enjoyed a fascinating behind the scenes tour of Bolton Octagon. Our guide, Alex, the Octagon’s artistic assistant, was very charming and knowledgeable. Our tour started in the Studio where Alex gave us a brief overview of the Octagon’s 50 year history, including details of the Octagon’s resident ghost, a former wardrobe mistress who died in the theatre, and who is reputed to attend every dress rehearsal. We also had a glimpse into the future with major reconstruction due to begin in June 2018.

From there we visited the green room where we sampled some stage beer, wine and coffee. Further stops were the main stage, box office, bar, actors’ dressing rooms and the top floor rehearsal space. Along the way we were able to ask lots of questions which elicited an array of interesting details about all the behind the scenes thought and practicalities which go into the final production. For example, negotiating with authors and for musical rights is often a long and fraught process which means that the Octagon is already planning for productions they want to put on in 2019. It certainly made us all the more appreciative of the hard work and attention to detail that goes into the process of getting a play from page to stage.

The only pity is that so few members were able to attend what proved to be a very stimulating event. I really hope that if the Octagon offers backstage tours again in the 2017-2018 season that we will have more participants.

Many thanks to Alex for a thoroughly engaging tour.

Christine Hoey

Theatre Review by Ann France

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Photo credit: Ian Tilton

Talking Heads – Bolton Octagon
Saturday, 24 June 2017

The theatre group visited Bolton Octagon to see three monologues from Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, fondly remembered by many who first saw them on television in the late 1980s.

The first, A Chip in the Sugar, featured middle-aged Graham, whose life becomes complicated when his mother, with whom he still lives, reunites with an old flame. This monologue was my favourite of the three. Graham’s mannerisms, his hurt and jealousy, his relationship with his mother and an undercurrent of mental health issues, were all superbly portrayed by actor David Birrell.

The second monologue was A Lady of Letters. Irene is a one woman neighbourhood watch, until her habit of writing letters gets out of hand and eventually lands her in prison. Ironically, Irene is happier in prison and the before and after Irene were both captured excellently by actress Cathy Tyson.

The final monologue was A Cream Cracker under the Settee. Widow Doris, obsessive about tidiness and maintaining her independence, has a fall and discovers the offending cream cracker – in actress Sue Wallace’s case a gluten-free cracker, a snippet of information we gathered on the excellent Octagon backstage tour we went on a couple of weeks later. This monologue, made famous by Thora Hird, was in equally capable hands with actress Sue Wallace, whose quiet performance was very powerful.

This was Bennett at his best. Poignant, observant, witty. Bittersweet tales of ordinary lives.

Ann France

Theatre Review by Christine Hoey

Little Shop of Horrors – Runshaw College Foxholes Restaurant and Amanda Roocroft Theatre

Meal and theatre show.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

lsoh

The theatre group had a hugely enjoyable evening, courtesy of catering and hospitality and performing arts students at Runshaw College.

The evening started with a choice of beautifully presented and delicious starters, main courses and desserts in Foxholes, before we adjourned to the packed theatre for the evening’s entertainment.

Based on a Roger Corman B movie from 1960, Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of how a strange and unusual plant, discovered by lowly shop assistant Seymour Krelborn, suddenly turns a struggling flower shop on Skid Row into a huge success, but at a price. Known only to Seymour, the plant (whom he names Audrey II) feeds only on human blood, and as it gets larger, it gets hungrier.

Against this spoof sci-fi/horror backdrop, we witness a blossoming (no pun intended) but ultimately doomed romance as Seymour falls for his colleague Audrey whose sadistic dentist boyfriend is always beating her up. There is also some great ’60s girl group-style commentary from a very talented ensemble of Skid Row street urchins, particularly in one of the opening numbers, Skid Row (Downtown).

Christian Broad is a suitably weedy Seymour who grows in confidence as the plant grows in power. Charlie Millar as Audrey I very effectively captures both her sheer niceness and the poignancy of her circumstances, particularly in the song Somewhere That’s Green and Suddenly, Seymour.

Ben Foster doubles up as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello  and the impressive voice of Audrey II.

On what must have been a very limited budget, the set and costumes were admirable. The plant too, manipulated by unseen puppeteers, was an impressive creation in all its ever growing incarnations.

Performed to very high standards by a talented cast and complemented by a top notch three course meal and coffee, this was a fabulous evening’s entertainment – and all for the princely sum of £15. We are already looking forward to our next visit!

Christine Hoey

Theatre Review by Christine Hoey

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Anita and Me – Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Sitting in a chilly auditorium in Blackpool, we were treated to a warm-hearted and humorous performance of this play based on Meera Syal’s semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in the 1970s as part of the only Punjabi family in a close-knit all white mining community in the West Midlands. The set design realistically evokes the red brick terraced housing and is spot-on with 1970s interiors.

Aasiya Shah plays Meena, the gawky, bright Punjabi girl who forges an unlikely friendship with the seemingly cool and rebellious Anita (Laura Aramayo). Behind the facade though, Anita is the neglected daughter of an impoverished, troubled family and abandoned by her mother.

The first half of the play shows Meena’s family well integrated in the community. If anything, it is Anita’s family who are ostracised by their neighbours. This makes the violent racist attack on a visiting Punjabi council worker in the second half of the play all the more shocking. However, the play does not delve into the racial politics of the time, but instead focuses on the coming of age story and Meena’s eventual break with Anita.

Meena is surrounded by a loving extended family: her parents (Robert Mountford and ex-Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati), her aunt (Sejal Keshwala) and her formidable grandma, Nanimi, played with great humour and charisma by Rina Fatania.

Education is taken seriously in the play and the academically bright Meena has a glowing future in prospect, whereas Anita is isolated and destined, we are led to believe, for a bleaker future of early pregnancies and troubled relationships, repeating the pattern established by her parents.

Christine Hoey