Category: Theatre Reviews


Happy New Year! I know I’m a bit late but have been having some time off everything over the festive season. But am back now.

A few days ago a neighbour knocked at our door brandishing two tickets to see the Tchaikovsky ballet, The Nutcracker, at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. They’d booked the tickets a while ago but our neighbours’ boss wanted him, unexpectedly, up in Edinburgh on the day of the ballet. They were able to book new tickets for another day but the terms and conditions of buying the tickets meant that they couldn’t just swap them and the original ones would just be wasted. Hence him being at our door hoping we had time to go. Some rearrangement of my diary and we could.

The ballet was being performed by the Russian State Ballet of Siberia. They operate out of the city of Krasnoyarsk deep in the centre of Siberia. I’d never heard of the city either. The company is a relatively new one only being created in 1978 by dancers from the illustrious ballet companies in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I have been to only a few ballets so can’t really compare but I must say that it was a very enjoyable afternoon.

The weather is cold and clear in Manchester and we are enjoying ice blue skies. These pictures I took from the bar on the top floor of the Bridgewater Hall, it’s surrounded by some of the best architecture in the city with the Midland Hotel across the street and all the strong geometry of the Central Convention Centre and the modern buildings that surround it.

It’s fun to watch the trams pass by below on the busy stretch of track between St Peter’s Square and Deansgate/Castlefield station.

There was a surprisingly large audience for a Wednesday afternoon. It’s amazing how many people have time to spare on a weekday to go the the ballet. A lot of them were older people. And there were a lot of well to do ‘yummy mummies’ from places like Chorlton and Didsbury and Hale Barns with their well dressed children enjoying one of the last treats of the Christmas season. The ballet is set on Christmas Eve and is a treat to look at.

Some pictures of the inside of the Bridgewater Hall. None of the actual performance as the company doesn’t like its work being unofficially recorded which is fair enough. I was amused by the number of older people surfing the net on their state of the art smart phones. It’s not just the province of the young it seems.

The Nutcracker has a very simple story. It’s Christmas Eve. There’s a party. The daughter of the house is given a Nutcracker doll. She creeps down after the party to see the doll and falls asleep. The doll is transformed into a real soldier and there’s a lot of dancing. And music, a lot of which you will know even if it’s from advertisements on TV. Here’s a little video about the ballet company that will give you some idea of what we saw.

Last night we were out at the Royal Exchange Theatre enjoying the first of the Christmas treats; a trip to see the theatre’s Christmas offering, ‘Sweet Charity.’ While many theatres go for Christmas themed productions or ‘he’s behind you!’ pantomimes, the Royal Exchange bucks the trend with something light but definitely not Christmassy.

This year they chose to do ‘Sweet Charity’, Neil Simon’s bitter sweet story of a dancer in a New York Tango bar’s search for love. It originally was put on in New York, on Broadway in the 60s and transferred to the West End of London soon afterwards. It was turned into a film starring Shirley Maclaine. I’ll not spoil it for anyone who is going to see it by revealing what happens but I left charmed by Charity Hope Valentine’s sweetness but saddened at the same time.

The Royal Exchange have a Christmas hit on their hands. It was sold out on a Tuesday night with people waiting for return tickets. If you’ve not seen it yet, try and book. We had a lovely evening, wandering around the Christmas Markets, had a frosty alfresco dinner at some of the food concessions and a cup of mulled wine before the show. When you look around certain parts of the world and see what’s going on I’m grateful to live here. But why can’t they do the Manchester thing where they are? Anyway….

I’d forgotten how many good tunes there were in this show. The one that had been going through my mind all day was ‘The Rhythm of Life.’ Here’s the number from the film…

I’d completely forgotten that it featured ‘Hey Big Spender.’ In the UK this song is associated with veteran singer, Dame Shirley Bassey who’s wonderful, definitive rendition is a firm karaoke favourite with members of both sexes channelling their inner Shirley regardless of whether they should do so or not. I think when they sing it they can hear Dame Shirley in their heads. News…the rest of us can’t! Here’s the version done by the dancers of the Fandango Tango Ballroom in the movie where some of the dancers, we are led to believe, supplement their earnings by providing extra services. Charity doesn’t we think. The scene was choreographed by Bob Fosse who was always called on when a scene needed a bit of raunch. He did a lot of ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago’ as well.

On Tuesday evening we went to see the Royal Exchange Theatre’s latest production ‘Breaking The Code’ by Hugh Whitmore. It is about the life of Alan Turing, the scientist and mathematician. Although not born in the city, Alan Turing lived here while he did important work on the world’s first programmable computer. And, of course, he died here under bad circumstances. I mentioned him in my last post so I won’t go through that part again. 

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I think the Royal Exchange chose this play as it has a local connection and Manchester is European City of Science this year. I thought it was a relatively new play but it was first performed in 1986.

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The play bounces backwards and forwards through Turing’s life picking out incidents that led to his work on the first computer. It interwove these incidents with a more in depth look at the events that led to his death. It was interesting to find that Turing was thinking about how to build a computer as far back as 1930. He also predicted the effect that computers would have on our lives which might have been a bit far fetched to an audience in 1986 but was seen as prescient to an audience in 2016 all of whom were probably carrying a small but incredibly powerful computer around in their pockets. 

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They play talked about his war work, breaking the Enigma Code and his work on computers. It also mentioned his work on the Fibonacci Sequence that he was working on when he died. For those not familiar with Fibonacci it’s a pattern of numbers. It starts with 1. Then 1+1= 2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8, 5+8=13 and so on to infinity. It’s a famous sequence of numbers. But it seems to be the sequence that the very universe is based on. You see the sequence in a pine cone, the petals of a flower, the curve of a snail’s shell and everywhere in nature. Turing was working on this connection. If he’d lived what might he have discovered?

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The play was excellent, well written, well acted, interesting and enjoyable. It was a good evening. Alan Turing’s death was in the news again recently. He committed suicide back in 1954 when it was discovered that he had had a sexual relationship with another man. Although it was in the privacy of his own home in Wilmslow, it went to trial. He was charged with committing an ‘act of gross indecency.’ He didn’t go to prison as it his first offence (well the first they knew about). He did suffer some indignity but what pushed him over the edge was the loss of his security clearance that meant he couldn’t work on certain projects any more. A couple of years ago he was given a posthumous pardon from the Queen which meant that his ‘crime’ was cleared from the record. Because of that, all men in the UK charged with the same ‘crime’ have been pardoned as well. Too late in many cases of course. But at least it has been done.

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Some pictures of the beautiful Royal Exchange Theatre. Always a pleasure to see something in this magnificent, iconic Manchester building.

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We were off out last night to see Tennessee Williams’ tour de force play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, at the beautiful Royal Exchange Theatre. Starring Maxine Peake as Blanche DuBois, it was a sold out performance. Tickets are very difficult to come by. People are queuing for returns in the hope of seeing it. 

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The play was first shown on Broadway (that’s New York, not Chadderton) in 1947 and was a critical and audience success. It won prizes and has been shown around the world ever since and was turned into a movie. The latest production is here at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

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The play centres around Blanche DuBois, a member of one of those grand, southern families who had plantations in Mississippi. Over time bad management and bad choices have reduced the land the family owned to the grand plantation house and about 20 acres of land. Just before the play begins that last vestige of the family’s former wealth has finally gone to the creditors. Blanche survived on an English teacher’s salary. At 16 she had married a beautiful young man who ‘wrote poetry’. ‘Wrote poetry’ being a euphanism for his sexual preferences it turns out. Blanche either doesn’t know this or chooses to ignore it until she finds her husband in bed with another man. He commits suicide. Blanche goes into decline making bad financial decisions and even more disasterous choices in men. She moves into a notorious hotel, the Flamingo, in her home town of Laurel, where we are led to believe she supplements her finances by entertaining men. The local army base declare her ‘off limits’ to the young soldiers who are trained there. But things come to a head when she has an affair with one of her students, a young man of 17. She is fond of a drink or six.

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All that happens before the play begins and is revealed through the evening. She arrives at her sister’s house in New Orleans with 65 cents and a trunk of expensive clothes from her former life. She plays the grand, southern lady and this annoys her sister’s Polish husband who sees right through her. While she continues her former lifestyle at their expense, the husband is digging into her past. They are trapped in two rooms together in a sticky New Orleans summer and tensions run high. It would be bad to say how it finishes. But if you can, get a ticket and go and see this production. The critics loved it and the audience were on their feet at the end last night. It began at 7 30 last night and I blanched myself when I saw it wouldn’t finish until 10 40. But it was so wonderfully acted and so tense that the time flew by.

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Maxine Peake was a triumph. I saw her play Hamlet here back in 2014. That was brilliant but this went up several notches. Ms Peake is one of our most accomplished actors doing work on TV, in films and in the theatre. She could work in London and raise her profile internationally. But she prefers to work in the north and we are grateful she does. It does the London critics no harm to take the train up to Manchester now and again.

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I couldn’t decide if I felt sorry for Blanche or was she a monster? Bit of both I suppose. At one point a very young man comes to the house to collect money for newspapers. He’s 16 or 17. Blanche is home alone and comes on to the boy and kisses him. It’s the point where we realise why she was sacked from her job. It was one of the uncomfortable scenes I have ever seen in the theatre. It was so creepy. A few of the audience laughed. I wonder would they have done so if the roles had been reversed with an older man coming onto a teenaged girl? I suspect not.

There was an unusual piece of casting. The actor playing Stella DuBois, Blanche’s sister was black while Maxine Peake is white. Their acting was superb, bringing out the difficulties in the relationship between the two sisters. But, set in the southern states of America in the 1940s, wouldn’t someone had said something about a family containing black and white siblings? Especially one of the grand, plantation families even if it had fallen on hard times? Nothing was said so I just moved in and enjoyed the acting and the play. Maybe the Royal Exchange being PC with their casting?

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I’m about to go into my really busy time of year work wise. I have to keep normal work going, take on a job that will fill a lot of my spare time and leaving me on call seven days a week from early morning until late in the evening and try to keep normal life going as much as possible. The upside will be a big boost to my bank account in August but it will mean a lot of hard work in June and July. I’ve spent part of the day downloading stuff onto my laptop for it. That went surprisingly well. I didn’t spend any time on the mobile to the tech/nerd guys back in the office. They must be disappointed as they look forward to my stupid questions.

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I do get to work at home which can be good but I do have to be strict with myself, set daily targets and achieve them before I do anything else. It poses problems for this blog as I’m restricted in my wanderings between the house and the local store. It’s a strain to take pictures of any interest.

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I noticed a lot of roses seem to be coming into bloom all over the city at the moment. Here’s some yellow ones in our garden. And the extra one is a pink one that has also come out. Both are at that just opened perfect stage. Enjoy.

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Most people around the world will know of the BBC. Many will have watched programmes made by it. It’s one of our great national treasures. It produces some terrific TV; but also some excellent radio with several national stations and with most big cities and large towns having their own dedicated radio station. The jewel in the crown of the radio output is probably Radio 4, the national talk station. It provides us with a rich mixture of news, comment, comedy, stories, plays, intellectual games shows. And the cherry on the top of this output has to be The Archers. A national treasure imbedded in a national treasure.

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For those abroad who don’t know it, it is the world’s oldest running soap opera. It began 65 years ago as a drama that got across government information to farmers about farming in those years after WWII when we were trying to get back on our feet. It concerns the doings of a fictional farming family, the eponymous Archers, and their friends and neighbours. It is set in the fictional village in of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borcestshire. It’s somewhere is the rolling green countryside between Birnmingham and Cheltenham close to the beautiful Cotswolds Hill. Actors who join the cast find themselves in it for the long haul, often dying in the part. When they do we mourn the actor and the fictional person.

It plays for 15 minutes every evening at 7pm and gets repeated the following day at 2pm. On Sunday at 10am there is the omnibus edition. It’s a comfortable, well off soap opera set among well appointed farmhouses and picture perfect cottages. The action take place in expensive kitchens with Aga stoves in abundance. It has a loyal and fanatic fan base. I’m one of them having been introduced to it by older members of the family. We follow the stories and, of late, TWITTER, has allowed us to interact with the programme and other fans. Usually it’s a gentle poking of fun at some aspect of its cosy middle classness.

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But it’s taken a decidedly dark turn of late. About two years ago a new character arrived, Rob Titchener. He’d been brought in from Canada to run a big, new, industrial farm that had been set up on the edge of the village. He was married but we learned that the marriage was on the rocks. His eyes fell on Helen Archer. She has never been one of my favourite characters. She is her very own Greek Tragedy. Nowhere more so than in her relationships with men. Boyfriends came but mostly went. She did have a long term relationship with the local gamekeeper, an older guy, previously married, called Greg. That seemed to be going well and then he decided to commit suicide. Helen grieved but got back into the dating pool. She was having a bit of a thing with a hot, Australian barman but that came to a crashing end when she discovered Greg’s daughter, who she had given shelter to after she left her mother in France, in bed with her boy friend. Helen decided to give up on men but wanted a child so she went for the turkey baster option and Henry was born.

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It all seemed to be going well in Helen world and then Rob appeared and swept her off her feet. It then turned out that Rob’s wife, Jess, didn’t know that the marriage was over and turned up in Ambridge to play happy families. So Rob was living with Jess at the same time as having a torrid affair with Helen. Alarm bells were ringing in middle class sittings rooms across the UK but not, it seems, in Ambridge who thought that Rob was a throughly nice guy and were relieved that he managed to get rid of his unstable wife, Jess. We knew otherwise of course.

With Jess off the scene, Rob was able to pursue and woo Helen openly. Ambridge was uncertain at first but, eventually even her ‘on the button’ mother, Pat, was won over, delighted that Helen had at last found such a caring and attentive husband. But we knew different. The abuse began. In public he was kind and attentive, in private he was controlling and manipulative. I haven’t the time and the space to record all of the things he has done to Helen. He’s gradually separated her from her friends and family. He’s taken her car keys and controls he phone. She can’t go anywhere without his permission. All these things he’s done because he’s persuaded her she is mentally ill. He’s found things about her past and the people who used to support her and used them to isolate her. Her gay cousin’s, Adam, fling with a Polish strawberry picker, behind the back of his husband Ian, has been used to split her from Ian. He loathes her best friend, Kirsty, because she’s the only one who sees him for what he is. He is a Jekyll and Hyde creature, his moods swinging from attentive to abusive in seconds. She doesn’t know where she is and is doubting herself all the time. She thinks it’s her problems that are causing him to act so. We have now had physical violence and marital rape, one of which has caused her to fall pregnant. When we thought things couldn’t get worse, his mother came to visit. What a bitch!

Last night it reached a crescendo. Last week’s the scales were falling from Helen’s eyes. Kirsty got her to talk to a helpline and got her a secret phone. And Helen got Jess’s number and met up with her and Jess told her about her experiences. Helen decided to leave Rob but, instead of just grabbing Henry and running to the family home, she decided to cook dinner and tell him over that. It was never going to end well. And when Rob got nasty with Henry, Helen was pushed over the edge and, at the end of the programme, Rob was on the kitchen floor with a knife in his back.

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We listened shouting at the radio. By the end I was hugging a cushion and shaking. It was one of the most harrowing pieces of radio drama ever. TWITTER lit up as people rushed to share thoughts and fears. It was still going this morning when I looked on as people caught up with it. It’s been in all the papers this morning and the TV stations are following up on it as well as if it’s real news.

It has brought into the national consciousness this kind of abuse and has done good work to encourage people in this situation to come forward. To late for a local man here though who was in the same situation with an abusive wife. She has just been jailed because her husband ran onto a kitchen knife, several times. One TWITTER user has set up a giving page in Helen’s name with the money going to a charity that deals with abuse. As I post it has reached £90,000.

We had our first snow of the winter over the weekend. So far winter has been mild and very wet. December saw guys dressed in shorts and T shirts in the city and then floods along the river. It was nice to have a bit of proper winter weather for a change, until you have to drive in it of course. I seem to remember there was about 15 minutes of snow in Winter 2014/2015. I was driving back from Liverpool and got caught in it. By the time I was home it was over. So this year’s snow has already outdone last year’s. We have to go back to 2010 before we had some real snow in the city. It was so bad we couldn’t get off the drive and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to catch our flight to Egypt. We managed it though. We spent 10 days in the warmth of the Nike Valley and when we returned the snow was still there with temperatures sub zero all the time we were away. The snow has gone but the papers are getting excited about a really long, cold spell with masses of snow. Papers love a bit of drama.

The weekend’s snow was nowhere near as bad as 2010. But it was enough to transform the city for a while and to get a friends 3 year old son to declare that it was Christmas again! He was disappointed. 

The guys in the police helicopters, @NPAS_Barton, have been up checking on how things are. Thanks to them for these pictures. I’m not sure how many bad guys they have up in the Lakes that need to be kept an eye on but the helicopter was up there on a job. They took this beautiful picture while they were up there. The water is part of Windermere, England’s largest lake. Beyond are the high mountains of central Cumbria, thick with snow. If Cheshire is Manchester’s well manicured front lawn, the Lake District is the spectacular rockery at the end of our back garden. Leaving central Manchester, traffic allowing, you can be by the lake shore at Bowness on Windermere in a couple of hours. 

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Closer to home they took these pictures of the city looking very monochromatic. I can’t tell exactly where these were took. Snow does tend to do that.

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On the ground, my car had an icing of snow. You can’t tell really because the roof is white already. 

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Apologies to anyone who checks out this blog regularly. The last couple of weeks have been difficult and I’ve not had the time to update things. The January Blues have hit me hard I think. But I’m back now with lots of pictures to post and things to talk about. I really need to catch up on some pictures from before Christmas before they become completely irrelevant. These are of our trip to the Royal Exchange Theatre for their Christmas treat, ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ It’s the 28th now and if you fancy going to see it you have until Saturday night. That’s if there are any tickets left. It’s proved very popular and they have already extended the run by a week or so. But the next play is waiting to start so it has to close this weekend.

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The Royal Exchange likes to do something different from the usual Christmas offerings than the other theatres put on and ‘Little Shop’ is in the vein. if you haven’t seen it, the action takes place in a struggling flower shop on Skid Row. Never a good place to have a flower shop. The owner is thinking of closing it down. His two staff, a nerdy guy and a girl in an abusive relationship will be out of jobs. Nerdy guy, Seymour, is in love with his co-worker, Audrey, but thinks she would never be interested in a guy like him. Audrey loves Seymour but thinks a nice guy like him would never be interested in a girl like her with a past. Seymour is interested in plants and finds a weird looking plant in a back street Chinese shop. He takes it back to the shop and names it Audrey 2. Audrey 2  doesn’t thrive until he accidentally cuts his finger and some blood falls into the pot. At first Seymour doesn’t understand what is going on but, being a bright lad, eventually twigs on to how to get the plant to thrive. He uses his own blood, the plant grows and proves to be intelligent. It actually talks. News of the plant spreads and the flower shop is saved as business booms. But the plant gets to a size where a fix of Seymour’s blood isn’t enough…..

I wont spoil how it ends. Go see it. Either here at the Royal Exchange for the next couple of days or when to comes to a theatre near you. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Some pictures. Apologies for the late posting of the Royal Exchange Christmas tree… 

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We had the first of a series of theatre treats last night that have been lined up for the autumn. We went to see Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre. I finished work late so decided to drive to Chorlton and have a drink and some early dinner in ODDEST. I could then catch the tram into the city centre and meet the people who I was going to the theatre with and then make our way to the Royal Exchange.

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When we got there it felt like Saturday night. I’m told that in the past you could hear a pin drop in Manchester city centre on a Tuesday night but it felt like we were in one of the big, buzzy European cities like Milan, Amsterdam or Barcelona. Which I suppose we have become, its just that, living in the city, it’s happened so gradually that we haven’t noticed. So many people live in the city centre these days it’s had a huge effect on the atmosphere. It was warm and dry on the last night of September. There were 1000s of well dressed Italians in the city having an early dinner before making their way out to the Etihad Stadium for the Manchester City/Roma game. And it was the MCR Student Takeover but more of that later. The shops were open late and people were in town for the theatres and concerts. I like Manchester when its all vibrant and cosmopolitan.

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On Cross Street I spotted these two beauties dressed as Marie Antoinette. Why? Why not? I love that two guys can dress like this and walk down one of the main streets in the city and not get beaten up. Quite the opposite. People were delighted to see them. We are a very tolerant city.

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In St. Ann’s Square there was a pavilion as part of the MCR Student Takeover. The MST is an event that happens once a year just after the students come back to study. The universities reopened last week bringing life back to the Oxford Road corridor after its summer slumber. The MST is designed to get the students to know their new home. The stores stay open late, discounts are offered and there is entertainment in the streets. It’s a lot of fun.

The pavilion was full of fashion stalls and there was an event to which Manchester fashion bloggers had been invited talk about what they do. I noticed a guy, Jordan J McDowell, who I know whose blog I follow (Fashion Rambler). We met once at a fashion based party in Kendal’s and I’ve spotted his bright orange satchel in the distance a couple of times but we mostly keep in touch through the blogs and TWITTER. There he was dispensing fashion advice to the freshers whose clothes bought in Barry, Scunthorpe, Gateshead (fill in name of town as appropriate) aren’t going to cut the mustard in Manchester. I surprised him with this pic on TWITTER this morning.

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I liked the mobile DJs in the streets and squares pumping out club music.

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And then it was to the Royal Exchange Theatre for Hamlet. It’s one of Shakespeare’s plays I’ve not seen before. Basically Hamlet’s father, also called Hamlet, King of Denmark, has been murdered by his brother, Claudius. Within weeks of the murder, Claudius has married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Hamlet isn’t pleased with this situation and realises what’s gone on. The rest of the play is about how Hamlet’s desire for revenge on his uncle impacts on all the other characters. I wont spoil the ending for anyone who doesn’t know it, but this is a Shakespeare tragedy and it doesn’t end well. I lost count of the bodies. It was ‘The Godfather’ or ‘The Sopranos’ transposed to Cheshire (with added scally, scouser gravediggers) via the medieval Court of Denmark at Elsinore. Kind of weird but it worked.

It’s an unusual production in that Hamlet is played by a woman, the wonderful Maxine Peake. She’s a local actor who lives in the Salford area of the city and, in spite of her fame, hasn’t decamped to London. She’s very careful with her projects on the TV, in films and the theatre and if you see she’s going to be in something it’s always going to be worth watching. In this she was brilliant. With her blond hair cropped short and carefully cut clothes you forgot she was a woman and she became the young Prince Hamlet. When she was on you were fixed on her. At the end she was allowed a well deserved bow to herself, something which the ensemble based Royal Exchange doesn’t do often. I’ve seen the great and the good of the theatre world take their bows with the actors with one line here. It was deserved though. She carried the play. And I’ve discovered that there is a long tradition of women playing Hamlet.

Not that the rest of the cast were shabby. It was an accomplished cast who made the 3 hour long play spellbinding as we worked through the beautiful language to the play’s grim conclusion. There aren’t many women’s parts in this play, just Gertrude and Hamlet’s doomed love interest, Ophelia. So some of the roles traditionally given to men were given to women. And a major character, Polonius, became female and was renamed Polonia. This bit worked but I was less than convinced about Polonia having a white daughter (Ophelia) and a black son (Laertes). Genetically, with a white mother, the son was an impossibility. That’s not to detract from the acting ability of any of the actors who played the parts.

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Because of the inclusion of Maxine Peake in the cast, it has been a sell out and deservedly so. As I said it wasn’t a play I’ve not seen and, like all Shakespeare plays, it was fun to see how many phrases from Hamlet are used by people on a daily basis without realising where the come from….

‘NEITHER A BORROWER NOR A LENDER BE’

‘THAT IT SHOULD COME TO THIS’

‘GET THEE TO A NUNNERY’

THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS’

‘IN MY MIND’S EYE’

And slightly amended…

‘WHEN SORROWS COME,THEY COME NOT SINGLE SPIES, BUT IN BATTALIONS’

THOUGH THIS BE MADNESS, YET THERE IS METHOD IN ‘T’

If you ever wanted to see three drag queens transform themselves into the Sydney Opera House this is the show for you. It’s as camp as Christmas on Canal Street…

I nearly missed this show. We’d got tickets before Christmas, the evening we saw ‘WICKED’ and saw it being advertised. My kidney stone had hospitalised me and it looked as if I’d miss going. But after a night in the hospital I’d recovered to such a degree that the doctors decided that I would be better off being a day patient and could go home to rest. I was having none of that and ASAP we were off into Manchester city centre to catch the afternoon matinee of this show at the Palace Theatre.

Based on the movie, ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,’ it tells the story of three drag queens on a road trip to do a show in Alice Springs in the heart of the Australian desert. All three are looking for something. Tick (Jason Donovan) is looking to meet his young son for the first time. Bernadette (Richard Grieve) is looking for love. And Adam (Graham Weaver) harbours an ambition to sing Kylie Minogue classics in drag on top of Uluru in the heart of the desert: ‘A cock in a frock on a rock!’ as he puts it. I wont spoil the show for people who haven’t seen it but (spoiler alert), Adam does get his way.

The set is very simple, clever lights and Priscilla the bus. What they saved on the set they spent on the costumes! There were literally hundreds of them, spectacular drag queen extravaganzas. There is no original music in the show. Instead they raid every gay disco classic from ‘It’s Raining Men’ to ‘I Will Survive.’ You wait for ‘YMCA’, and at one point three of the village people appeared, you get the opening chords but they never get there.

The cast were excellent. The dancers and chorus must have been exhausted by the end. And the three principals are on virtually all the time. Richard Grieve was classy as Bernadette and Graham Weaver was brilliant as a bitchy queen with sadness at his heart. But Jason Donovan was the big draw. He started out as a child actor in Australia and came to the UK’s notice when he played Scott in Aussie soap ‘Neighbours’ opposite Kylie Minogue as Charlene. Big laugh from the audience when they are discussing Neighbours and he tells us he always fancied Scott. After Neighbours he had a musical career singing with Kylie. Then he had a few dodgy years which a lot of child actors seem to have. There was a problem where he denied he was gay and some people took offence at this (even though he isn’t). He took the lead in ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and he re-emerged as a West End theatre star. Since then he’s not put a foot wrong and has become something of a junior national treasure. In spite of the problem with the anti gay accusations, it led to this role as a drag queen in this show. Silly really as he was coming out as straight.

The audience enjoyed the music and the costumes, getting them on their feet, singing and clapping along. But the theatre show, like the film, has its dark side and we learn that not all of Australia is as welcoming to drag queens as Sydney and the other big cities. And in spite of the outward confidence and bravado, all three of the main cast have deep sadness to deal with in their personal relationships and in how the world treats them.

It was a good couple of hours and just what I needed after my traumatic couple of days in hospital. If it comes your way try and go and see it. Here’s a couple of appetisers.

The transformation into the Sydney Opera House happens at the very end. It was worth the ticket price just for that…