Christmas always sees theatre houses up their game a little bit. Their productions become a little bit grander. There’s a lot more lavishness, a lot more pizazz and a lot more bang for your buck. This is no surprise given how pantomimes become star studded attractions to pull in more than the usual theatregoer. With such demand for family orientated shows at this time of year, theatres have become adept at putting on productions that have a broad appeal. In Dr Dolittle, currently playing to packed auditoriums at The Lowry, we have one such hit show.
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.