Good old gallows humour allows us to revel in the frivolity of the most darkest of subject matters. At first glance, Oldham Coliseum’s current fare, A Skull in Connemara, reads like one of those productions that seems designed to be naturally disturbing. The story of a gravedigger whose wife had died under mysterious circumstances several years ago. When the time comes to exhume bodies from the Connemara graveyard he finds her bones are missing. [Cue dramatic pause of silence]. Yet, for all of its dark undertones it is the overriding hilarity that leaves a lasting impression on the audience.
Relationships have often been a rich source for writers because they can provide such wonderful dramatic productions in whatever medium, be it the decaying marriage of Martha and George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or the fractious relationship of Beverley and Tony Moss in Abigail’s Party. Such couplings hold fascination for us the watcher, viewing their tribulations through the metaphorical fingers as we try to not to see the fallout but are unable to avert our gaze. Jack Thorne’s Mydidae, currently at Hope Mill Theatre is such a production, a story of David and Marian and their relationship, which has us utterly engrossed.
It’s been a while since I watched something that has been so brutal as Mother Courage and her Children at the Royal Exchange Theatre. These are words that I do not use lightly. The Exchange’s latest offering is a stark adaptation of German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht famous play of the same name. It is a bold reimagining by Anna Jordan, set in a dystopian future, one which allows its star turn, Julie Hesmondhalgh, to cement her reputation even further, but by the end you are left bereft and disconsolate.
Spark Plug sums up everything that is good about theatre in this part of the world. You have a Manchester based theatre company, Box of Tricks, that is a launchpad for the next generation of playwrights showcasing the region’s most exciting voices. In David Judge, you have a writer from Fallowfield whose autobiographical work has more than a nod to the places we have grown accustomed in this old town as well as to the faces we would no doubt recognise in our everyday lives. All of this being brought to you by HOME, which continues to provide a sanctuary for the region’s up and coming talent. What more could you ask for in a production?
Once in a while something comes along to just blow your minds. Something that is so seamlessly in tune with every facet of the production, harmoniously joyful, that it stops becoming theatrical and turns into something quite magical. The Animals and Children took to the Streets is such a production. A conjuring cornucopia of captivating concoctions that leaves the viewer completely spellbound.