Challenging the conventionality has become something of a habit for renowned theatre company Contact. Pushing the boundaries has often been their forte and in their latest offering, in conjunction with Young Identity, they have joined forces with Manchester Art Gallery in a provocative piece that forces us the audience to ask vital questions about our collections, our buildings and culture and ultimately how we see them.
It is somewhat apt that Handbagged is currently playing at the Oldham Coliseum, a story that centres on the supposedly fractious relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II during the time of the former Tory leader’s tenure as Prime Minister. Apt because it is 40 years since the Iron Lady was swept into power and with it began one of the most influential and significant periods of British history.
I was reminded of something that my mam told me whilst I watched The Funeral Director play out at Home Manchester: “Death comes to us all. Whether we are Muslim, Hindu, Jew, or Christian. Whether we are white, brown or black. Whether we are straight or not. Whether we support City or we support the other lot. Yeah even them. Death does not discriminate”. The Funeral Director deals with death and discrimination, it’s challenging, provocative and a must see production this spring.
As an honorary member of the Fat Blokes club I was particularly looking forward to Scottee: Fat Blokes at HOME Manchester and giving it the rebellious middle finger to the world for all fat blokes everywhere. However, what I thought would be light hearted was anything but. Indeed this turned into a show that championed those men who are fat, through the personal testimony and killer dance moves of four ordinary blokes who ‘appen to be on the chubby side.
Sometimes something comes along that is so wonderfully staged and totally blows you away that somehow the critic in you wants to focus on not what’s so great about it but what it lacks in perfection. The Barber Shop Chronicles, currently playing to rapturous audiences at the Royal Exchange Theatre, is such a production. A wonderfully captivating show that is utterly beguiling and has everyone completely transfixed from the moment that they set foot in the auditorium. There are very few that can command such dedication and as such should be celebrated whilst it continues its run in Manchester.