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.
The arts have always been preoccupied with the fate of humanity. Artists have always pondered on the future, be it a bleak dystopian vision or an idealised vision. From Margaret Atwood musing on dominance of a patriarchal society to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner musing whether androids dream at night. Theatre is no less a stranger to this conversation and in Future Bodies, a collaboration between cool kids Home Manchester, Unlimited Theatre and RashDash Theatre, we have a play that asks whether one day if immortality is actually possible.
It is fair to say that to so many folk that grew up in the 1970s and 1980s that watched Indian Cinema, one film stood out from that era – Sholay. It is now considered to be one of India’s greatest ever films. Ramesh Sippy’s curry western kickstarted the era of the Bollywood superhero and in particular the crazy superstardom that Amitabh Bachchan now enjoys. Of course the Big B was not the only star from that hit film, with a stellar cast that included Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri, Sanjeev Kumar and the scene stealing Amjad Khan. So when Dishoom! – a coming of age drama that charts the tumultuous events of one summer in 1978 – set to the banging RD Burman soundtrack of Sholay, it was something that just had to be seen!
Shakespeare is not everyone’s cup of tea. The Bard dominates the stage, but equally divides theatre audiences, who are either happy to see lengthy RSC styled productions that deal with murder and betrayal or those that think the great playwright is no longer relevant in 2018. And yet theatre houses and production companies cannot get enough of Shakespeare, with it dominating the landscape in not only the West End but also here in Manchester. So you could be forgiven in thinking that Queen Margaret, a reworking if you like of some of the Bard’s historical plays, that it would be another of his productions where it delights his devotees and dismays his detractors. However, The Royal Exchange might just have managed to wow both sets of fans!