Archive for the ‘Theatre Reviews’ Category

Play puts Charles on throne but will he rule a united kingdom? – The Times

In Arts, Newspaper Contributions, Royal, Theatre Reviews on November 16, 2015 at 7:02 pm

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Celebrities set the stage for a new generation of Scots actors to shine – The Times

In Arts, Newspaper Contributions, Theatre Reviews on October 6, 2015 at 8:50 am


Curse of Macbeth strikes again as leading lady misses film premiere – The Times

In Arts, Newspaper Contributions, The arts, Theatre Reviews on September 28, 2015 at 9:17 am

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Fans protest as Rowling says Potter play to be split in two – The Times

In Arts, Newspaper Contributions, The arts, Theatre Reviews on September 28, 2015 at 9:02 am

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Activists celebrate after closing show they hadn’t seen – The Times

In Art Reviews, The arts, Theatre Reviews on September 26, 2014 at 11:29 am

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Review: War Horse @ The Lowry – Mancunian Matters

In Leeds and Manchester Local News Contributions, Theatre Reviews on December 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm

As we prepare to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War – ‘the war to end all wars’ – War Horse proves a fitting reminder of the tragedies that continue to rage today.

image_5Michael Morpurgo’s classic novel, retold by Steven Spielberg in the Hollywood box office sensation in 2011, tells the simple tale of a boy and his horse who become entwined in the history and politics of their time.

But Nick Stafford’s stage adaptation in association with Handspring Puppet Company, rejuvenates this story in a visual feast for the audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Will Finlason talks The Beatles, counterculture and embodying the soul of 1960’s Liverpool on stage – Mancunian Matters

In Interviews, Theatre Reviews on November 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Manchester’s rising star of the stage, Will Finlason, talks to Mancunian Matters about his starring role in Liverpool’s tribute to music legend and entrepreneur Brian Epstein in Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles.

Will Finlason who plays ‘This Boy’ in Epstein The Man Who Made The Beatles

The play stars Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street, The Bill, Queer as Folk) as the lead role of Brian Epstein – the music mogul and manager of The Beatles, and newcomer Will Finlason takes on the fictional role of ‘This Boy’ – a fictional character, embodying the spirit and soul of Liverpool during its musical revolution.

The play is set during Epstein’s last days, before his untimely death at the age of just thirty-two. It reveals the unexplored story of the man behind the most successful band in the history of pop music; the man responsible for The Beatles’ rise to superstardom; the man who made The Beatles.

The multi-media play features live music and forms a central part of Liverpool’s 50th anniversary of the city’s most treasured musical export. It is the first major production at the newly refurbished Epstien Theatre, named after Brian and is written by Andrew Sherlock and created and directed by Jen Heyes

Will Finlason trained at the Manchester School of Theatre at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and graduated into the role of ‘This Boy’. Will manages to take some time off performing to chat about immersing himself in Beatlemania and his respect for whom he calls ‘the fifth Beatle’. This boy is certainly going places.

Your role as the fictional ‘This Boy’ embodies the soul of 1960s Liverpool – can you describe how you play this part?

‘This Boy’ is a normal young lad from Liverpool, hugely inspired by the Beatles, Brian, his acts and the growing ‘Beat scene’ during a time in Liverpool where you either boxed or played music.  He missed out on going down to the Cavern and seeing and The Beatles by a few years.

He feels like he’s missed out; the Beatles have moved on and he feels a bit hard done by; a feeling shared by a lot of people at that time. This boy is in a way is ‘you’ and ‘me’. He gets to ask questions that many people like us today would want to ask.

He’s talented in many ways, and he’s cheeky with attitude and charm in a way that the audience connect with, and he’s the vehicle that takes us through this journey.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the role? What kind of preparation did you have to go through?

Andrew and I have very different jobs.

Playing a fictional character, I have a lot more freedom. Research into the period and music helped a lot of course, the 60’s interests me madly and I’m a big Beatles fan so its been one big field day getting to live it for four weeks, indulging in my love of Liverpool and the Beatles.

Did you come across any music or films on your journey that particularly inspired you?

Music was an obvious and a must! Researching Brian’s acts and listening to their songs, and other bands from the time. There isn’t anything specific really though I am making a dressing room playlist before we go on stage to help me get in the zone.

The film The Hours And Times was an interesting watch – to see the way they particularly portrayed Brain and his relationship with someone like John Lennon was useful because I could see the difference between the two, but it didn’t inform my character choices directly.

What’s your take on 60’s culture/counter-culture? How do you implement this in your performance?

Well, it certainly informed my process and was present in almost all of my research. Trying to take myself back to 60’s Liverpool was tough but it’s a time that’s easy to relate to and I understand the general feelings of the time.

After the mass unemployment and worst housing crisis for years during the 50’s, coming out of the darkness and into this boom of expression and relief – you can just imagine the way people felt! Liverpool was pop capital, with merchant navy workers bringing all these new records, sounds and shared feelings from the States, it was an incredible and liberating time to be young and even an adult. The youth culture took off.

Growing up in our culture and society today its hugely different, all you need to do is look at footage of those times and listen to the music and lyrics and the freedom of expression all inspired by this and you’re right there – but research was essential.

What is the relationship between ‘This Boy’ and Brian Epstein?

Not wanting to give anything away, ‘This boy’ is the talk and the man in the street and ‘Brain’ is the manager of the best selling musical group of all time with a completely different way of life.

What can they learn from each other and what is it that would put them in the same room? You’ll have to come and find out.

How were rehearsals compared with performing to an audience?

Rehearsals are done but after our week of preview performances things have still been changing. Coming into the theatre just last week and marrying sound, lighting and a set with ourselves after three weeks of being in a rehearsal room, just the four of us (myself, Andrew Lancel, our Director and creator Jen Heyes and SM Andrew Park) was interesting and really took the play to another level. Everyday things keep getting better.

The main thing I’ve noticed is how different it is being in a two-hander, there’s no time to sit around and watch the other cast members do their scenes and have a break, there’s only two places all that focus is directed.

It is a lot more tiring and demanding, so keeping my sleep and energy levels high was a big must.  Working so closely you can’t afford to have an off-day and we rely on each other’s energy and focus to bounce off.

What about the accent? Is your Mancunian twang coping with a real Scouse accent?

It’s holding up well, I have a good ear for accents anyway and have a terrible habit for copying accents I hear subconsciously (one of the more embarrassing perks of being an actor) and being half-scouse helps.

Before getting the part I was quite good at the accent and I’ve had positive reactions from our audiences who are generally surprised that I’m Mancunian – either that or they are all just being very polite!

I’m also trying a period accent of the time, but the importance of being confident and with it and it standing up to scrutiny is vital. If it were distracting, it would detract from the piece and ruin the experience!

What productions have you previously been in? What is your earliest memory on stage or performing?

I won’t name all the high school shows because we’d be here forever and they don’t count really, but whilst training I’ve been in the incredible ‘Punk Rock’ by Simon Stephens, ‘Twelfth Night’, I’ve played ‘Swenney Todd’ and the part of “Prior Walter’ in Tony Kushner’s much acclaimed ‘Angels in America’.

Before graduating I appeared in a world premier of a Carl Davis CBE piece of work called ‘The Last Train to Tomorrow’ at the Bridgewater hall Manchester and now I’m appearing in the world premier of Epstein the man who made the Beatles… But as far as first memories go, I played King Louis in the Jungle Book in year five at Stamford Park Primary School.

What is your favourite Beatles song?

In My Life.  Favourite album? Rubber Soul.

What football team do you support? Are they making you feel welcome in Liverpool?

I’m a very proud Liverpool fan and always have been since my dad offered the choice of Liverpool or the cold hard streets; but I wouldn’t have it any other way and will keep the tradition going for sure!

Liverpool is very welcoming, as a city it’s very similar to Manchester, but in other ways it is so opposite. I have family here so I’ve grown up through trips over here. I’m also a season ticket holder at Anfield so it’s not been much of a jump.  They definitely support their own here so I didn’t know what to expect being a Mancunian playing a Liverpool lad in such a big role, but the reception has been incredible so far!

I’m relieved and feel very privileged to be up on that stage every night in a play about one of Liverpool’s most-loved sons and hope I can win them over with my contribution.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Everything says it’s the right time for this play. It’s a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles premiering in the newly refurbished and renamed ‘The Epstein’ theatre in their manager’s honour – and because it’s all in Liverpool, it feels very right!

He was an incredible, beautiful person – who let’s not forget conquered the world through a telephone! There was no internet back then and he knew nothing about managing acts at first and carved his own way.

He led the way in artist management with his own unique style and pure talent. Without him, I don’t think we’d have Simon Cowell, and the business would be very different. He rewrote the book and in my eyes is definitely the fifth Beatle.

Regardless of if you know a lot or very little about Brian I think everyone will come away having watched the show feeling closer to him, his genius and his contribution to the world of style, music and popular culture and I think everybody should be aware of this!

‘Epstein The Man Who Made The Beatles’ will be playing at the Epstein theatre until Saturday December 1 2012.

For more information please visit:

Street Voices 3 Review – The Cadaverine Magazine

In Theatre Reviews on November 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Freedom Studios is on a mission to provide ‘fresh, risky and modern’ approaches to theatre – and with its third instalment of Street Voices, it certainly doesn’t fail. The concept behind Street Voices is what makes it so special; four directors, eight writers and twelve actors staging eight plays over the course of two nights. And it is up to you, the audience, to decide which one is the best.


Upon arrival you are handed a score card and pen. The lights dim over a mostly bare stage, the small crates of assorted colours metamorphosing into suitcases, chairs, a toilet or a cradle, and the play begins. Then, after each twenty minute play, the lights go up and you must quantify, qualify and rate the performance, answering questions such as: sum up the play in four words,what image/moment has affected you most and why? And rate the play on a scale of bad to west-end hitStreet Voices elevates its interactive audience to unfamiliar prestige as the fate of one of the eight writers lies in the evaluation of your scorecards. The winning writer will be commissioned to write a full-length seventy-minute touring play.


Madani Younis, Artistic Director of Freedom Studios, is well aware of the risks involved, the company effectively ‘gambling’ £50,000 on several unproven playwrights. Nevertheless, he reiterates the commitment to providing a platform for fresh, unpublished writers to expose their talent, essentially giving them their first big break. With Street Voices 3, the initial open call for writers’ work was followed by an interview for every applicant, and a new generation of writers was plucked from Yorkshian obscurity.


Each play was intriguing and provided a panoramic snapshot of the lives of random individuals. One of the successful applicants, Wendy Reed, explored the underlying chaos beneath the sheen of urban domesticity through the setting of contemporary Leeds. Zodwa Nyoni’s play followed a hopeful youth as he tries to combat Mugabe’s tyrannical regime with terrifying twists and consequences. The ending leaves you breathless with the lines, ‘You said I’d save Zimbabwe.’ ‘You are. Just not the way you thought you would.’


The other plays are just as radical. Shaida Chaudhury’s Licence to Conceive is set in a dystopian 2015, where a couple undergo rigorous Big Brother style tests to earn a baby, with manic smiles plastered on their desperate faces under the watchful eye of the cameras. Finally, Dominic Douglas’s play sensitively explores the emasculation and heartache of a couple who must learn to live with a difficult boy who has come into their care.


With just twenty minutes, the writers have the tough challenge of communicating their message and making the audience care. Street Voices 3 excelled in all its aims and ambitions. The revolutionary approach of inviting the audience to literally play the part of critic in its X-Factormethod writing competition is truly engaging. Freedom Studios take an inspirational, alternative direction with a community spirit that binds the team together. At the end of the night, the actors collect in your scorecards and head off on the train together with the writers who have yet to discover whether or not this is something they will be getting used to in the not too distant future.

Street Voices 3 

The Mill City of Dreams Review – The Cadaverine Magazine

In Theatre Reviews on November 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm

What happens in those patches of time when you are left to waltz with your memories? This is the question posed by Freedom Studios’ stunning piece of promenade theatre, The Mill City of Dreams. Based on months of intense research, historical documents and the collection of oral histories from ex-workers, this play records individual experiences of Bradford’s textile industry from boom to bust. You journey through time and space within the abandoned Drummonds Mill, and witness its reincarnation through the memories of its own Bradfordian workers.

In 2002, Drummonds gates closed forever but were reopened by Freedom Studios to re-awaken its resonant ghosts and memories in order to tell its history. Getting to Drummonds is an adventure in itself. (You are warned beforehand to dress warmly and bring sensible footwear.) As you enter the Mill, you get a sense of its epic stature before being ushered into its stylishly lit presentation area in the foyer. You are hurled into the company of eccentric Swedish businessman Anton Dahlin, who buzzes around, schmoozing with various audience members before he beckons you to encircle a large model of his plans for renovating Drummonds. He proceeds to interact with the audience, convincing you that his lavish plans for tennis courts, apartments and restaurants would be a necessary injection of modernity into the old, decaying Mill. There is a sudden power-cut; an embarrassed Anton storms off to fix the lights, leaving you shrouded in darkness. A clicking sound, and a torch light appears from behind the audience. You turn around to be greeted by the tuneful whistling of Frank, the mill’s caretaker and your tour guide for the next hour and a half. Weaving you through the various rooms within the old mill, Frank draws you into a patchwork of memories from his long sixty-five years at Drummonds.

The thundering sound of busy machinery grows louder, Frank raises his voice, he slides open a heavy, red metal door and the temperature drops as you are invited into a vast, dark space. Copious amounts of wool are draped and tangled about the roof beams to form a pathway, like eerie cobwebs reminiscent of the weaving looms. Frank introduces you to Maria, Petro and Yakub, characters based on real life immigrants who came to Bradford for work. They all have their own stories of escape and ambition, stories made all the more powerful by their being real. Through comic interjections, Frank reveals the great sense of fun and camaraderie that once reverberated through that same building. True to the Freedom Studios style – epitomised in their tagline ‘where people and artists come to play’ – there is a large cast of supporting actors from the local community, in order to reinforce its strong Bradfordian identity.

Madani Younis, the Artistic Director of Freedom Studios and co-writer of The Mill City of Dreams, explained that his ambitious project aimed to harness Bradford’s history in a meaningful and tangible way. He explained to me how, although the Yorkshire skyline is majestically crowned with silhouettes of the mills, ‘they all have a history which we don’t know.’ Bradford’s diverse community and its role in the textile industry are crucial to this history. Although Drummonds is no longer functioning as it once was, you can almost feel the spectral presence of those who used to work there. The conversion of the mill into a performance space keeps its history alive, as well as the dreams of those who flocked to this city in its industrial prime.

Janek Schaefer, the play’s sound artist, ‘likes playing with sound and noises.’ He is responsible for inventing a spectacular soundscape so convincing that you might as well have worked at Drummonds yourself. From roaring machinery to clicking snooker balls, each room has its own distinct atmosphere. The impressive use of lighting provided by Lumen emphasises the malleability of such open spaces as the audience is manipulated to feel both intimidated and nostalgic. The top floor of the mill appears like a shell, carved out, as if from the skeletal wooden beams that uphold the ceiling. (Of course, more wool is draped throughout). The bright stage lighting presents a much more formal and appropriately theatrical environment as you watch the workers prepare themselves for Drummonds’ closure. When the characters leave this space, you can hear the echo of their footsteps into the distance, back into history. The silence that reverberates around the slowly emptying attic is in stark contrast to the previous workers’ instructions booming out of the speakers, the music, laughter, and whirring machinery. Freedom Studios has done its very best to convey the reality of the past by retaining as much authentic detail of Drummonds’ history as possible. The script, characters, set, props and sound all drip with the residue of past reality.

The audience is immersed in fragmented vignettes of Frank’s memories. The Mill City of Dreams is a celebration of the ordinary – rescued from the black hole of history. It is difficult not to disassociate your footprints from Drummonds’ workers who would have stood in the exact same place as you, only decades earlier. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the performance is its setting. You feel privileged to be in the eponymous mill. Past and present collide in a moving and unique portrayal of a place so steeped in the cultural and industrial history of England.

The Mill City of Dreams

You don’t have to go to Sylvia Young to make it on stage – The Daily Touch

In Theatre Reviews on November 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Fresher’s Week 2012 will provide the perfect antidote to the post-Edinburgh Festival come-down and re-quench many students’ non-alcoholic thirsts for performance.

Every fresher’s week, every year lays the same cunning trap to take advantage of new year ambitions to make friends and get famous. All the societies execute perfect sales pitches to ensure budding Meryl Streeps spend their entire student loan on joining various musical theatre and stage crew ‘socs’. As well as a few of the more obscure societies like ‘cirque soc’ or maybe even ‘chess soc’.

However, drama societies are not just for the pretentious stage-hogger to audition for the lead roles of Danny Zuko, Sweeney Todd, Lady Macbeth and (somehow) Godot – but they provide an opportunity to flex amateur dramatic skills for, well, amateurs.

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are the much-loved alumni of the Cambridge Footlights. Rachel Weisz also began her acting career at Cambridge with her theatrical group Talking Tongues which was awarded the Student Drama Award at the Fringe Festival. Leeds Tealights were crowned the Best Student Sketch Group in 2010 whose alumni include the likes of Patrick Turpin and Jack Barry.

Yes, university is where it all kicks off, where creative minds meet and explore and tap dance. Although, famous Manchester University drop-out Jack Whitehall didn’t do too badly.

And who knows? It could be you with five star reviews at next year’s Fringe Festival. Who needs Sylvia Young!?

Drama Geeks

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