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.
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.