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Abigail Holden
(11 Reviews)

Alleyne Dance - Far From Home

Alleyne Dance's Far From Home - The Lowry, Salford - Wednesday 26th March 2024


Before this show, I must confess, I knew very little about Alleyne Dance or any of their previous work. I knew that it would be movement based, which was exciting as I love physical theatre - especially dance. Apart from that, however, I knew nothing else. After researching more into Alleyne Dance, I was delighted to find that it was founded by twin sisters, Kristina and Sadé Alleyne, hence the company name, whose choreography showcases their exceptional talent to its fullest. They did not disappoint.

This one-act wonder told the tales, through movement, of the struggles faced by individuals of migrant families and how hard it is to move from your home country, often not by choice but by need, and the reception they get when they arrive at their new home. It began with a simple silhouette of a girl, tied down to people trying to drag her back, by long braids, walking towards another, holding out her arms for help. I was mesmerised from that moment. The motif of the hair, which was then used by different members of the main six performers of the company, (Kristina Alleyne, Sadé Alleyne, Bryan Doisy, Giorgia Gasparetto, Juan Jesus and Iro Konti) to show their pain and how they are clinging on to that hope that things will get better, was ingenious.

It created a visual entity for the way they were feeling and the way they were being downtrodden. From being surrounded by water, to fighting to survive, this piece brought to life a tale that often gets overlooked and forgotten. The tale of Far From Home is open to interpretation from the audience. There is no story being told, by words. It is all movement that the audience gets to piece together the meaning of for themselves. I love the kind of theatre that creates different emotions and experiences for each and every audience member and this did just that. Everyone came away from the experience with something unique to them which was wonderful to see from fellow audience members.

The journey that the audience is taken on is all-encompassing of the pain, struggles, separation and long arduous travels, all whilst highlighting the good things too; the joy of reconciliation, the relief of being somewhere safe and the making of friends along the way. One particular favourite moment of mine was between Kristina and Sadé. They sat together, at the front of the stage, whilst the company and ensemble moved behind them on a journey, in a beautiful little world of their own. A particularly nice touch, for me, was the inclusion of some sign language. It really helped to enhance the performance in a way that I can’t describe. As someone who understands sign language, it really helped to give an insight into how their characters were feeling. The way that the pair move together is seamless. They seemed to blend into each other - no beginning or end between them both. There was only togetherness and fluidity. It was pure magic in movement and I wish I could relive that again for the first time. However, I am sure a second, and even third time, would feel just the same.

The set for the piece was simple, with a sandy, soily stage, and big sheets of material hanging from the back and at an angle on each side. Some of the most beautiful, and haunting, movements happened when they backlit the cloth and danced behind it, showing scenes of people suffering in fire. The projections on the cloth, of browns and oranges, helped to bring those images to life, also. It made me catch my breath. And it made me really think how lucky I am. The thought-provoking way they draw you in is something I have never seen before and don’t think I will see ever again. It gave me chills.

I can’t speak about the beauty of this piece without mentioning the music (composed by Guiliano Modarelli, who was also the musical director, and Nicki Wells). At every moment, it fit perfectly and pulled something new into the movement. It gave it meaning and explanation with no words. Even in the moments where there was no music, the company was so in-sync that they didn’t miss a single beat. The skill and talent on display is reason enough to go and watch this, let alone the rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts it takes you on, as an audience member. The music the company made themselves, through stomping and clapping really helped to portray the frustration and anger, at times. I really loved the juxtaposition of those quiet moments, compared to the moments when the music soared. It personified the feelings being portrayed at each moment.

The cast wasn’t just made up of the six performers, however, even though they did dominate the tales being told. A beautiful addition to the group was the local community cast, made up of members from The Lowry Centre for Advance Training, as well the Alleyne Dance interns, Rosa Lieckens, Katherine White, Guilia Carastro, Leila Patricia Akers and Anna Maria Ilieva Bilioni. The inclusion of these people, in particular the local community cast, made the performance even more special, with members of the audience being proud parents, siblings, guardians and friends of the people on the stage. It really made the piece into a local collaboration and celebration of local migrant families, by telling those tales and having people from the community representing those around us that have lived through the experiences that were being portrayed.

In conclusion, I have come out of this experience with a new view on the struggles that migrant families face. I must admit, I have never been provoked to feel and think about it in such depth, before I saw this, and I am so glad I did. The way they highlight the overlooked and often ignored members of our community spoke to me and made me realise just how lucky I am to be surrounded by such strong and courageous people everyday. The hardwork and talent of the cast really did bring these tales to life, in the most beautiful way. I was in awe of their synchronicity and strength and think that anyone who loves physical theatre and dance should definitely go and see this stunning display of humanity and tragedy.



Ockham's Razor - Tess

Ockham's Razor - Tess at The Lowry. Salford - Thursday 15th February 2024


Tess, based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, Tess of the D’Ubervilles has been reimagined in the most beautiful way possible. Coming into this show, I didn’t really know what to expect. Tess of the D’Ubervilles has been on my list of books to read for years and I’ve never got round to it. I did, however, have a basic idea of the plot. I knew that this new take on the tale, by company Ockman’s Razor, would be filled with movement and incredible acrobatic skill, based on what I’d seen online, and couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the tale.

The story of Tess is simply heart-breaking and beautiful, all at the same time. In this production, the role of Tess is split into two parts. There is Tess the narrator, played by Macadie Amoroso (Bella in Dead Air; Blue Beneath My Skin) and Tess the physical storyteller, played by Lila Naruse. It begins by showing Tess as a young woman, dancing with her friends and the mysterious Angel Clare (played by Nat Whittingham) who is travelling around the farms on a walking holiday. Her father John Durbeyfield, a drunken, low-life man (played by Victoria Skillen) is then told by a local vicar that his family is descended from a great Norman line, the D’Urbervilles. However, due to his drinking, he is unable to perform the task of delivering bee hives and the task falls onto the shoulders of Tess.

Whilst she is riding, the horse has an accident and dies, leaving the family with no source of income, as they relied greatly on their horse. Because of this, Tess is sent to a family of the name D’Uberville, in order to try and claim kinship and help. When she arrives, she is expecting to meet Mrs D’Uberville, but is, instead, greeted by her son, Alec D’Uberville (played by Joshua Frazer), instead. She is lured into a false sense of security, as he begins calling her cousin and is tasked to work for him, on the land. One Saturday, as they go drinking and dancing in the village, Tess runs into some trouble and it is Alec that seemingly saves the day, by taking Tess home. However, due to the weather, Tess doesn’t realise they have gone past their turning until it is too late. Alec gets out of the carriage to ‘go and see where they are’, only to return in the cover of darkness and have his wicked way with Tess. As a result of that night, Tess retreats to her family home and later finds out that she is pregnant. She gives birth to a baby boy, named Sorrow, who dies in infancy. Heartbroken,

Tess decides to go and work for a nearby dairy farm, in the hopes of moving on with her life and finds friendship in Marian (played by Lauren Jamieson), Retty (played by Victoria Skillen) and Izz (played by Leah Wallings). At the dairy farm, learning the trade, is none other than the handsome Angel Clare. Whilst he is there, he saves the ladies from getting their petticoats and shoes wet in a flood, and he and Tess fall in love. He asks Tess to marry him, multiple times, but her past makes her reluctant to say yes. On the night before their wedding, Tess writes Angel a letter, explaining her hidden past, and asks him to make the decision whether he still wants to marry her not. The next morning, it is clear to her that he hasn’t read the letter but still marries him, deciding to tell him once they are married. Once they get to their new home on their wedding night, Angel tells Tess about an affair he had with an older woman, in London, and asks for her forgiveness, which she willingly gives to him. With this, she finds the confidence to give Angel the letter that she wrote to him, hoping that, because she forgave him, that he will return the courtesy of forgiving her. Unfortunately, Angel struggles to deal with the news of her previous affair and leaves, saying that he wants nothing to do with her and that they could only really be man and wife once Alec was dead.

A short while later, Tess runs into Alec, who has now become a clergyman, and is hounded by him, as he begs for her forgiveness and offers her help, knowing that her husband has left her to fend for herself. In the middle of all of this, Tess’ father dies and she goes home. Alec follows her with gifts for the family and convinces her to go and live with him. Angel then turns up, in front of Tess’ mother (played by Lauren Jamieson), who points him in the direction of the D’Uberville residence, where he finds Tess heartbroken and gaslit into believing that Alec is all she is going to have and that Angel is never coming back. Angel leaves, believing that all hope of being with his wife is gone and Tess retaliates in the worst way possible. Taking a knife, she stabs Alec to death and then runs after Angel. They spend one final night together, before the police catch up with Tess, who is taken away and hanged for the murder of Alec D’Uberville.

This performance was phenomenal. Amoroso’s constant presence on the outskirts of the stage, as she told the story, was amazing. A particular highlight from Amoroso was the moment when Naruse’s Tess and Frazer’s Alec were in darkness (both literally and metaphorically) and she stood in the light, frightened and ashamed, as she re-lived the moment that changed her life forever. Her pain pulsated out through the audience and I felt like I was living that moment with her.

My absolute favourite characters of the whole story were Tess’ friends, Marian (Lauren Jamieson), Retty (Victoria Skillen) and Izz (Leah Wallings). Their collective swooning over Nat Whittingham’s Angel was both hilarious and a marvel to watch. The highlights were when they stood in a tower, each on another’s shoulders, with the insane strength and skill that was used to achieve that, taking my breath away, and the way they acted when Angel was saving them from the flooding. The way they took the opportunity to be physically close to Angel and ran with it had the whole audience in stitches.

Joshua Frazer as the bad guy, Alec, embodied the cockiness of the character perfectly, with his amazing hoop skills really setting his snootiness and entitlement, when we first meet Alec, that stuck throughout the rest of the story, until his death. His skill and strength, when he was part of the ensemble, was also incredible. His stage presence was amazing, no matter what he was doing. Nat Whittingham as Angel was both adorable and sweet, showing the love story between him and Tess in the most stunning way. When he learned of Tess’ past life, the solo movement that he did was phenomenal. The way he jumped, in a circle, showed the way his character’s mind was spiralling, and you could feel the pain he felt towards his new wife, who had withheld important information about herself from him. His stamina, as he fell to the ground repeatedly, in between multiple jumps and turns, was something to be admired.

Lila Naruse as Tess was a marvel. In particular, the final scene, which was the death of Tess by hanging, was beautiful. The aerial rope routine, which depicted Tess trying to cling onto life, in her last moments, was one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful things I have seen for a long time. Her elegance and artistry really helped to portray the end of Tess’ tragic tale.

The backdrop consisted of a screen that depicted patterns and scenery throughout, aided by long ropes hanging at different angles that were adorned with different white fabrics. At some points, costumes were even taken from them, making transitions smooth and seamless. The scene changes were all done by the cast, throughout the performance, including the building and dismantling of a house structure, which housed Angel and the girls on the dairy farm. The silhouette of that scene, at the end of act one, was extremely striking. Whenever Tess, and then, later, Angel travelled, they used wooden planks to create the journey, as they climbed and were carried around the space. The mirroring of these journeys, from Tess’ more hopeful journey towards the D’Uberville residence, compared to the same movements, but more melancholy feeling of her journey home was very clever and helped to show the deterioration of Tess’ mental state.

This story, even though it was written and is set in the Victorian era, still resonates with audiences today. It highlights the struggle that women face, especially when they are trying to find their way through a man’s world whilst battling with double standards, because they are women. The artistry and wonder that this production creates makes me want to see more by Ockman’s Razor. It gave so much more than I was expecting. I love a reimagined classic and this definitely did not disappoint. I will not be able to stop thinking about this stunning performance for days to come. So, if you love experiencing a new kind of theatre, this is the show for you. It brings laughter, heartbreak and some seriously impressive acrobatic skills, all wrapped up in a timeless tale. It is an absolute must-see!


The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap - Opera House, Manchester - Monday 28th November 2022


Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap
has come to Manchester for its 70th anniversary tour! Being a lover of stories with twists and turns, especially whodunnit-style stories where it is the person you least expect, of course I knew of The Mousetrap. I have always heard the tale of how it has run so long because no one ever tells who the murderer is. And now I know who it is, I am not telling a soul. It is beautiful, clever, scary, funny and utterly delightful. I loved every second of it. The whodunnit, classic Agatha Christie story certainly did not disappoint.

As soon as the lights went down in the theatre, a sudden silence fell over the audience, like I have never seen before, and I knew I was in for a ride. The story was played out in one room of the house - which was the setting for the whole play - and it worked perfectly. If someone left the confinements of that room, you immediately thought they were up to something nefarious. It adds to the mystery and the ambience of the people who are left on the stage. It gets you thinking that everyone is a murderer. I loved it.

It begins with the wireless playing, telling of a murder and instinctively you know that he newly opened Monkswood Manor guest house has something to do with it. Mr Giles Ralston, an honest man, played by Laurence Pears (The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong) and Mrs Mollie Ralston, who inherited the house, played by Joelle Dyson (Murder on the Orient Express, 2:22 A Ghost Story) are the owners of the house, with their guests due to arrive. Both Laurence Pears and Joelle Dyson led the beginning of the show well, perfectly drawing you into the story, whilst their array of guests struggle to get to the house, due to a raging snow storm.

The first guest to arrive, Christopher Wren, played by Elliot Clay (The Mousetrap, and writer and composer of brand-new musical Millennials) comes in from the storm with a smile and a clear obsession with the beauty of the house. He is very enthusiastic and a breath of fresh air. Next to arrive are Mrs Boyle, a widow who is very set in her ways, played to perfection by Gwyneth Strong (Only Fools and Horses, The Mousetrap), and Major Metcalf, an elder gent who served in the war, played by Nicholas Maude (Around the World in 80 Days, The Sound of Music). They arrive cold and covered in snow after their taxi cannot make it up the driveway to the house, much to Mrs Boyle’s horror. Nicholas Maude’s Major was witty, all whilst being everything you’d expect a Major to be - particular and helpful.

Another arrival brings the young Miss Caswell, played by Essie Barrow (The Mousetrap, Twelfth Night), who dresses in a rather masculine way and seems particularly sarcastic - something which Essie Barrow pulled off seamlessly. The final lodger of the house is the unexpected Mr Paravicini, played by John Altman (Eastenders, Chicago), a mysterious guest, with a funny accent, who has been caught up in the snow and needs a place to stay. The character of Detective Sgt. Trotter, played by understudy Jack Elliot (Julius Caesar, The Kingsman), whose performance really drew the story together, turns up in a flurry of snow, after skiing to the house because of the bad weather. He arrives in order to investigate the murder that was heard to be spoken about on the wireless, at the start. Once everyone is in the house, chaos ensues…

You can really tell why the play has been running for 70 years. Like Christie’s other works, it has lived on due to the genius writing. However, there is no story without the actors to make said story come to life, when it comes to the stage. My personal favourite character was Christopher Wren (Elliot Clay) who, with his seemingly endless energy, his lounging across the sofa and non-stop talking reminded me very much of my younger brother. He was funny, charming and simply fantastic.

If you want to find out who did it, well… I am sworn to secrecy. I guess you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself.




The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo - The Lowry, Salford - Saturday 30th July 2022

The Gruffalo, based on the popular children’s book of the same name, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, was not something that would necessarily be on my radar for a theatre trip, mainly with me not having children, but I was pleasantly surprised by this production and loved every second of it. I knew of the book, having read it myself as a kid, and didn’t understand how a book that long would be stretched into a 55 minute show, but it was perfect. With it being in the more intimate Quays Theatre, I was also looking forward to getting immersed entirely in the story.


The story is of a mouse, who to avoid getting eaten by different predators in the woods, including a fox, an owl and a snake, invents a scary monster called the Gruffalo, which the mouse thinks doesn’t exist. That is until the mouse meets the Gruffalo, who also wants to eat the mouse for lunch. The mouse then goes about proving to the Gruffalo that it is the most feared animal in the wood (by introducing the Gruffalo to the creatures it has already scared off with the idea of the Gruffalo), tricking the Gruffalo into thinking that the predators are scared of the mouse, and not him. The story ends, with the mouse finding the acorn it has been searching for, whilst fending off predators, and not being eaten by the fox, the owl, the snake or the Gruffalo.



This one-act show is a perfect way of introducing children to the world of theatre, especially with it lasting less than an hour and it being based on a book that is loved by millions of children. The set was simple, and looked like the illustrations in the books, which was lovely, as it meant the kids were able to see the book they love so much come to life in front of them.



The cast, made up of just three people, are phenomenal, from making their own sound effects, to singing and dancing, as well as bringing the characters to life in the way that they did. Aimee Louise Bevan, who played the mouse, embodied the small, cheeky woodland creature very well, keeping the story going and the children interested, especially in the audience participation moment (which the kids loved) where the audience roared like the Gruffalo to scare the fox. Each of the predators were played by the same person, Alastair Chisholm, who created three different creatures, who were all equally as good and funny (my personal favourite being the rattlesnake with maracas). He made the children laugh with his slap-stick nature and goofy gestures. I absolutely loved him as a performer and I praise him for the amount of energy he had and used, especially for all of those quick changes! And, last but certainly not least, Aaron Dart, who played the titular character of the Gruffalo, embodied the kids’ favourite book character, with his Northern accent (which was a great touch) and his big bouncing steps. My absolute favourite part of the show is when the Gruffalo was afraid of the mouse and not wanting to be made into a Gruffalo crumble. He came out into the audience, in an attempt to hide, and took a seat right behind me. He then attempted to get the circle to send down a rope ladder, and get into a little girl’s backpack, who was sitting on the front row, whilst trying to hide. The children absolutely loved that they could see the Gruffalo up close, in real life, and I am not going to lie, I loved it too.



With performances happening throughout the summer holidays, this is a great show for all of the family. It is a perfect way of introducing children to the world of live performance, whilst finding an activity to do during the school holidays that is good for kids and adults alike. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I applaud the cast for their phenomenal work. The Gruffalo is a must-see this summer!



Michael Flatley's Lord Of The Dance

25 Years of Lord of the Dance - Palace Theatre, Manchester - Thursday 14th July 2022

Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance is back, for its 25th anniversary and it’s better than ever. Personally, I knew that the show was Irish dancing and that the dancers would have footwork quicker than the speed of light, but I didn’t know much more than that. However, I was still extremely excited to see this show, as it has always fascinated me, with how quickly and precisely the dancers can move, having seen snippets of the show on various TV shows. I was not disappointed and have fallen in love with this worldwide, record-breaking phenomenon.


The show itself is made up of the storyline of the Little Spirit and her dreams. She dreams of the Lord of the Dance and his arch-nemesis, The Dark Lord. The Dark Lord wants to become the Lord of the Dance, and nearly succeeds by tempting the Lord of the Dance away from his true love, Saoirse, with the dark and mysterious Morrighan, who turns out to be working for The Dark Lord. The story continues, without giving away too many spoilers, the fight of good (the Lord of the Dance) and evil (The Dark Lord) continues, with interludes of a love story, a cheeky and playful Little Spirit, a lot of footwork and some very talented fiddlers, Erin the Goddess, putting into words what the dances mean, in the form of song.


Matt Smith, as the Lord of the Dance, blew me away with his first entrance onto the stage being something to remember, with his charismatic smile and unbelievable talent. However, before we meet the Lord of the Dance, the Little Spirit must dream him up first. The Little Spirit came in the form of the lovely Cassidy Ludwig, who dazzled the audience with sprinkles of glitter and her cheekiness towards The Dark Lord and his Warriors (especially when she kicked one of them up the bum as he exited the stage, to show her hatred for them). As rivals for the love of the Lord of the Dance, Lauren Clarke’s Saoirse and Cyra Taylor’s Morringhan were light on their feet, gaining so much air-time they looked as though they were flying. The Dark Lord himself was played by the highly experienced and truly incredible, Zoltan Papp. Having performed opposite Michael Flattley, he brought all of the energy required to make The Dark Lord scary and surprisingly funny, at the same time.

The roles of Saoirse, Morringhan, the Lord of the Dance and The Dark Lord are played by different people on different nights, meaning each show is a different experience, as you witness the small changes that occur due to the way each person works with each other. You could watch the show 100 times and get something different out of it each time, which is why people keep coming back for more.


The back of the stage had a higher platform, which had steps that led to the main stage, with the whole of the back of the stage being a massive LED screen, that showed Celtic knot patterns and different landscapes that went with the dance and the character, such as The Dark Lord’s dark forest, that was engulfed in flames.


One of my favourite parts of the entire show is the iconic end to act one, which is simply named, Lord of the Dance. That music, with those costumes and that choreography has awed people all over the world, me included. The canon, down the horizontal line of dancers, where they don’t miss a single beat by even a nanosecond? INCREDIBLE.


In conclusion, from the hardcore fans that have followed Lord of the Dance since its birth 25 years ago, to the novices of viewing the show, such as myself, every single person in the auditorium enjoyed the show. If you like Irish dancing, or if you like topless men moving their feet so fast that you cannot see it with the naked eye, or even if you are just looking for something new to see at the theatre, this is the show for you.


Michael Flattely’s dream became a reality in the shape of the biggest dance show of all time. It is so inspiring to see it and encourages me, as I am sure it does others, to follow my dreams. No dream is too big, as Lord of the Dance shows time and time again.



Diversity - Opera House, Manchester - Thursday 5th May 2022

Having seen the talent of Diversity 13 years ago, when they first appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, I knew that they were going to be phenomenal. I was extremely excited to see these amazing dancers that had inspired me, in the flesh, and I was not disappointed for one second.

The show, created by Diversity leader himself, Ashley Banjo, focused on technology and its power to connect us (hence the tour name - Connected). It showed the highs and lows of the use of technology, highlighting how much we have needed it, in these past few years, to how our focus on technology can sometimes hinder us when it comes to keeping the world around us safe. With the appearance of a special artificial intelligence ANI (which stood for Another Name Instead - very clever on Banjo’s part, due to not being able to use the names of big companies), we were taken on a journey, through dance, that made us laugh, cry and squeal in delight. The dancers included, Ashley Banjo, Jordan Banjo, Warren Russell, Perri Kelly, Nathan Ramsey, Sam Craske, Mitchell Craske, Adam McKop, Georgia Lewis, Starr Kiely, Jordan Samuel, Shante Samuel, Theo McKenzie-Hayton, Curtis Butler and Morgan Plom, with the addition of guitarist and music producer, Mafro.



In the first half, fan-favourite Perri Kelly, was dressed up to look like a Georgian, and was brought forwards in time, from two-hundred years ago, and introduced to the use of the internet through a mobile phone. It was hilarious. The grey wig sat on top of his head precariously, but you could see that every single member of the team was enjoying themselves the whole time. Another highlight of the first half was the end of the first act, in which the male members of the cast danced under pouring water, which led to them taking off their soaking tops and dancing shirtless! There was a lot of excitement bubbling through the audience, as I am sure you can imagine.

The set was minimal but most certainly effective, with a platform that lit up, towards the back of the stage. Parts of the set pulled out, letting dancers enter the stage from the back freely, and the tube lights that were on the platform were detachable and used as props in many of the dances! One of the best dances for props, was the opening of the second half, inspired by what kids had told Diversity to do, where they had blow up microphones, huge teddy bears, hula hoops, and even a hoverboard (which Perri did a handstand on, across the front of the stage!)



In the second half of the show, we were treated to the famous BGT dance that won the team a BAFTA… It was incredible to see live and a lot of the audience were on their feet by the end of the dance. The meaning behind it shone through and it was beautiful to see the love and support in the room. A special treat, that also occurs in the second half of the show, is the creation of a song, with audience participation and Jordan Banjo dressed up as Banjo Bear, as he goes around the audience to pick someone. It was extremely fun to see the way that Ashley creates the music for the show (which he does himself) and to be a part of a track that we were then invited to download after the show! Also, the dancers were then invited to dance to the new track, and my personal favourite dancer for the evening, Nathan Ramsey, has the best twerk I have ever seen!

This show is phenomenal and can be anything from a family’s first trip to the theatre, to a fan night out, to a date night. There is something for everyone within this show and it really makes you think about technology, as well as being entertaining. It is a must-see!




Strictly Come Dancing - The Professionals - The Lowry, Salford - Wednesday 28th April 2022

The Strictly Come Dancing professionals are back live, after two years, and it was well worth the wait! From the glittering disco balls as you walk in, to the final bows, the dancers of the hit BBC show take you on a rollercoaster of a journey.

The show brought all of your favourite Strictly Come Dancing professionals to one place for a night of dance, music and fun. The dancers included, Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova, Graziano Di Prima, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk, Kai Widdrington, Arduino Bertoncello and Jake Leigh (who stood in for Cameron Lombard). They performed the choreography of long-time Strictly Come Dancing choreographer, Jason Gilkison.

The costumes were stunning and fitted each dance perfectly, such as the gorgeous flapper 20s dresses and pin-striped suits for the Charleston. Having loved the TV show for so long, seeing the dancers in the flesh is incredible. They move perfectly together, and you can tell, from their stories and banter on stage, that they are one big happy family.

The dances themselves consisted of some favourites of the professionals themselves, with a nod to movie and musicals weeks in the second half, but also beautiful dances that told a story, and had audience members in tears, because of the sheer beauty.

Due to the dancers being from all over the world, the pros take you on a journey from country to country, whilst you learn about the history of dance, and then see it in action. You can see that the performers love every second of it, and it means that the audience does too.

All of the music and singing is live, just like on the TV, with Jeff Leach leading the extremely talented band, and the singers, Tara McDonald and Patrick Smyth, singing everything from Disney, to Rock, to Pop, and every single one of the songs being phenomenal. The live music and singing really adds to the experience as a whole, as it fills the space and draws you in.

This show is definitely a must-see! (Especially if you love Strictly Come Dancing as much as I do!)


The Play What I Wrote

The Play What I Wrote - The Lowry, Salford - Monday 31st January 2022

Wow. Just wow. ‘The Play What I Wrote’, at the Lowry, is certainly a treat! With a minimal cast and a surprise special guest for each performance, the show is phenomenal. It brings back to life a time long-forgotten by many - the joy of a variety, comedy double act.

The story is of Dennis (played by Dennis Herdman) and Thom (played by Thom Tuck) - a variety double-act - who have drifted, with Thom writing play after play and Dennis wanting to perform together as a Morecambe and Wise tribute. They embark on a journey to get back on their feet and on the stage, whilst overcoming obstacles in their way and their own dreams and wants. Thom’s play is picked up and he is delighted that he will be able to perform the play - wanting Ian McKellan and Scarlett Johannsen to be the stars, alongside himself. However, all of this is a ruse on Dennis’ part, who has orchestrated the whole thing under the guise that they will, instead perform the Morecambe and Wise tribute. Dennis enlists the help of Arthur (played by Mitesh Soni), who then moonlights as different people, from the prestigious west-end producer David Pugh to Scarlett Johannsen, in order to make the tribute performance happen. Dennis’ high-energy and impeccable comic timing adds to Thom’s amazing characterisation and finesse, with the addition of Dennis making the duo a phenomenal trio.

The first half takes the audience through a number of comedy routines, including that of a ventriloquist doctor and that of a dustpan - each one having the audience in stitches. Tuck’s Thom, the ‘straight guy’ of the comedy duo goes through a crisis, with the support of the duo’s ‘funny man’ Dennis, whilst being duped by Soni’s Arthur, who, despite his array of characters, just wants to play his harmonica, in memory of his mother. The whole first half embodies the spirit of Morecambe and Wise, with clear influence being shown, whilst showing new material, and creating side-splitting laughs and endless joy for the audience. It is feel-good, funny and perfectly entertaining. There is nothing like simple comedy (a lot of it consisting of clever wordplay, with a hint of euphemism sprinkled through) to bring people together.

The second half is the production of the play that inspired the title ‘The Play What I Wrote’ and the need for a special guest. We were delighted with the presence of Charles Dance - the actor most known for his stint in Game of Thrones and The Crown (in more recent years) - who jumped head-first into the pandemonium of ‘A Tight Squeeze of the Scarlet Pimple’ - a ‘serious’ drama set to the backdrop of the French Revolution. The spontaneity that comes with a new special guest for each performance aided the show - with jokes being made at the expense of Dance, whilst adding to the tale of the Scarlet Pimple, and helping Thom’s dream of staging one of the many plays he has written come true. Dennis, Thom and Arthur aided Dance through dance routines, sketches and an array of props with a well-practised air and execution. The use of having a different special guest for each show adds to the audience’s experience, with each audience getting an entirely unique performance.

Of course, the second half is not without its Morecambe and Wise references, from the classic paper bag trick, to the slaps to face and mannerisms of Eric Morecambe shining through, using just a pair of glasses. They have the classic golden curtains, a special guest to humiliate and work with, and some fun song and dance routines thrown into the mix - a classic recipe for Morecambe and Wise. The simple storyline of ‘The Play What I Wrote’ leaves the audience with the feeling of ease and joy, with them being able to enjoy the comedy, without having to think too hard about it, for a few hours.

‘The Play What I Wrote’ is a joy for people who know Morecambe and Wise and for people who don’t. And, if you want to know if Arthur finally gets to play his harmonica… Well, you’ll have to see for yourself, won’t you?

The Not So Ugly Sisters - Waterside, Sale - Thursday 25th November 2021

The lay out is perfect, with the sets showing different seasons, as well as scenarios. I really enjoyed walking through the exhibit, reminiscing about when I had watched the show, religiously. It was such a lovely experience to share with both my mum and niece… They both enjoyed it.

Second of all, we were treated to the performance of The Not So Ugly Sisters, brought to Waterside by a co-production between Leeds Playhouse, Red Ladder and Wrongsemble. We were not disappointed. This re-telling of the classic story of Cinderella, from the point of view of her sisters, is amazing, and is done with only two actors! Lucy Rafton plays Barb, the down-to-earth and realistic sister of the two we see, whilst Daisy Ann Fletcher plays the eldest sister, Dolly, who is a little bit ditsy but has a deep love for her two sisters. The action is set in the sisters’ hair salon and covers what has happened to get them to the point we meet them at, before carrying on with the story.

The story is captivating and the two girls don’t need anyone else to make the audience laugh, smile and feel sympathy towards their characters, with the addition of other character imitations along the way. Fletcher’s imitation of Prince Charming, for example, is hilarious, with the use of a comb as a moustache and a smoulder that anyone would be jealous of. Everyone in the audience, children and adults alike were beside themselves with laughter. We see heartbreak (in the form of Barb’s story of the night they met the Prince at the ball - without giving too much away!) and joy. And happiness. It shows a love between two sisters that shows that they have each other, and that, no matter what the tabloids are pinning them as, they know the truth and they have each other, like from the song in the show - “U-G-L-Y, Call me ugly all you like. U-G-L-Y, We were born to stand and fight.”  Not only does it show the power of the sisters, it also inspires the audience to take on their message and use it for their own empowerment. They had the whole audience joining in. It was magical.

The use of song and dance, with both actors showing their beautiful vocals, also makes the show just that extra bit special. So, if you have the time, and fancy a christmas treat, then get yourselves down to Waterside! It won’t disappoint you, I promise. It is fantastic.

That's not everything the Waterside has to offer this Christmas... They have the Postman Pat exhibition, showing sets, characters, and even behind the scenes sketches from the original Postman Pat. This is a must see. The sets include old characters and new and even my Mum loved it (after having to watch it with me, when I was younger).

Opera North - Trouble in Tahiti / Symphonic Dances

Opera North - Double Bill - Thursday 11th November 2021

Berstein has always been a favourite, especially West Side Story, and this did not disappoint. At all.

The night began with the opera, composed by Bernstein, ‘Trouble in Tahiti’. Following the story of a married man and woman, it shows the troubles of married life and the possibilities of growing apart, falling out of love and affairs. The man, Sam, played by the amazing Quirijn de Lang, was debonair and hardworking, whilst ignoring his wife and her needs. The wife, Dinah, played by the phenomenal Sandra Piques Eddy, is a suffering, stay-at-home wife and mother, who wants the joy of the beginning of love back. She wants it to be like how it is in the movies. Simple, easy and ever-lasting. The story shows how real life and love is none of those things.

Despite having a love of Bernstein, I had never seen, or heard any music from, ‘Trouble in Tahiti’, but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The trio, played by Laura Kelly-McInroy, Joseph Shovelton, and Nicholas Butterfield, respectively, provided the performance with that extra spark of something special, by underscoring the couples’ life with their joyful singing, which beautifully juxtaposed the tension of the married couple. The couples’ son, Junior, who is forgotten in the chaos of trying to sort themselves out (which is shown through Sam and Dinah missing his school play) was played by the ever-present (and adorable) Issac Sarsfield. He was always there, but never said anything, highlighting the strain that his parents' crumbling relationship had on him. It was beautiful, raw and real and, despite being set in the 50’s, still resonates with audiences today.

After the interval, we were treated to ‘Halfway and Beyond’, a spoken word piece, spoken by Khadijah Ibrahiim. The dancers of the Phoenix Dance Theatre danced to spoken word, never missing a beat and expressing the words through their movements. It made the words come alive. It was absolutely mesmerising.

Then came the ‘West Side Story Symphonic Dances’. One word: wow. With being familiar with the style of Jerome Robbins, and both the film and stage versions of West Side Story, it was nice to see a different element of the West Side Story score and story. The symphonic dances, being composed of different sections of music from the hit musical, provides a sense of familiar and brand new, at the same time. I was blown away. The clever use of set and different pairings of dancers throughout the piece made me entranced. I seriously could not look away. I was honestly close to tears by the end, it was that beautiful. Each and every dancer was phenomenal and brought their own flair to the movement and story being told, with the lifts and synchronised sections looking effortless for them. Choreographer, Dane Hurst, is a genius, using his dancer’s strengths to create a stunning effect on the audience.

The pairing of ‘Trouble in Tahiti’ and the ‘West Side Story Symphonic Dances’ show conflict and the pains it brings effortlessly and beautifully. I would highly recommend this, even for those who don’t think it is ‘their thing’. I think, like me, you would love it.


Black Love - Roundabout - Victoria Park, Swinton - Thursday 9th September 2021

One of our trusted reviewers, Abigail Holden, went to Roundabout in Swinton to review Black Love. Here is what Abi had to say...

In the words of the band, Mather Robinson, “You should have been there!” Roundabout is back for another year, in Salford, this time taking residence in Victoria Park, Swinton. The event, which began in 2015, is back with a bang, with some very exciting performances for the community to enjoy. As a first-time visitor to the event, which is supported by Salford Mad Pride, I was extremely excited to see what was going to happen. I was not disappointed.

Getting back into a theatre was, if I’m honest, a little overwhelming. I had longed to be there for so long and there I was, sitting in a pop-up theatre, watching live performances. And it was immense. The beginning of the evening provided us with The Swinton Community showcase including poetry (from the Thirsty poet himself, Matt Conz), singing (from Domonique, Mollie and Daniel) and a live band (which is where we were introduced to Mather Robinson). The feeling inside the theatre was magical. People spoke of their lockdown troubles and the excitement at finally being able to be back, performing, was infectious. You couldn’t help but smile and the talent was incredible!

Partnering with the Lowry, the theatre company Paines Plough brought it’s very first musical to the Roundabout theatre and did so to a captive audience. The story of Black Love, the tale of a brother and sister, Orion and Aurora, shows a relationship and love between two siblings, who cling onto their heritage and history through the memories of their parents. Written by Chinonyerem Odimba, with the amazing music of the Ringham Brothers, the story follows the pair as someone new poses a threat to their relationship and life. The story itself is powerful and thought-provoking, with a strong message of black feminism and the wrongness of black stereotypes throughout. It made me think, as a white woman, about how I have never thought about it, because I haven’t had to. The highlighted injustice of the world, through this beautiful tale, is pure magic. It makes you realise how little you actually know, in the bubble of your own day-to-day life. We don’t know, because we don’t ask, as is said in the play.

The intimate setting of a small theatre, with minimal set and lighting that fit the mood of the action, made the performance of 80 minutes fly by. I was enraptured. I couldn’t look away. It’s simplicity gives you the opportunity to focus on the words and the action, with the use of projected images and interludes giving you time to take everything in.

Leah St Luce, who played Aurora (or Roo as she is known to her friends) drew the audience in with her beautiful vocals and fluid movements, making the audience fall in love with her, instantly. The raw emotion she showed, in the tougher moments of the play, gave me chills. The character of Roo made me want to be a better person and follow my own path. A strong, independent young woman who was trying to find her way in the world… I found myself being able to relate to that. There really is something for everyone throughout the action but Roo, as a character, resonated with me in a way I have never felt before.

The struggle shown in Orion’s story, who was played by Nathan Queeley-Dennis, was heart-breaking and gorgeous, all at the same time. The stereotypes and struggles placed on Orion, all whilst trying to find his path through life and start his dream career as an actor were intense and powerful, raising the issues he faced, with a hearty splash of comedy. The asides to the audience, in particular, made me chuckle.

The addition to the siblings, in the face of Lois, played by Eleanor Sutton, brought the story to a whole new level. The blatant misunderstanding, from the character, was played subtly and real. It was perfect in showing the issues that Roo and Orion faced, without being gimmicky. The realness was raw and stunning.

This new musical is like none I have ever seen before and, as an avid musical fan, I have seen a lot of them! Black Love shows the love between siblings, between boyfriend and girlfriend, and a love and admiration for the siblings’ heritage, history and understanding of one another. It is truly breath-taking and I will remember it for years to come.

We score Black Love 8/10.

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