The Royal Exchange Christmas offerings have become a must see fixture over the past few years. They become renowned for dispensing with the more traditional Christmas razzle dazzle that you’d be accustomed to seeing theatres put on at this time of year. Their past hits have included such classics as Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls, Neil Simon’s Sweet Charity and Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. It is this well travelled musical road that Royal Exchange once again venture upon with another Broadway inspired show as its showpiece Christmas production – their version of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.
When the director of the production that you have just watched stands up in the ensuing Q&A session and states quite calmly that the novel that he’s adapted is quite controversial, polemic and provocative, then it should come as no surprise that HOME’s scratch production of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission is controversial, polemic and pretty much provocative.
For the first time in HOME history they’ve gone and ripped out seats in their main theatre space and built a brand-new, in-the-round auditorium. That’s the kind of brass neck, I don’t give a monkey’s, I’m gonna just tear up the textbook and raise a rebellious fist in the air behaviour that suggests that The Maids should be something extra special.
There’s a reason why so many theatre productions are obsessed with the classics. It’s because the source material has proven itself to be a crowd pleasing surefire hit, which has probably won an award or two in the process. Therefore, they become rich pickings for theatre producers as they give fresh perspective to an aged old text. In Death of a Salesman you have such a magical classic, and in Royal Exchange – with Sarah Frankcom at the helm – you have producers looking to cast the same spell over Manchester’s theatregoers.
I mistakenly thought that at some point I’d be subjected to newts when I went to see the much appreciated War With The Newts from the mercurial minds of Knaïve Theatre. After all there’s newts in the title and most marketing paraphernalia had these weird humanoid newts on them. There were no newts – but that didn’t matter for Knaïve Theatre’s gem of a production had me totally and utterly transfixed.