REVIEW: Bette and Joan, Hope Mill theatre, Manchester.

If you have no idea who Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were, then look away…

Arguably, two of cinemas greatest female stars only ever appeared together once, and that was long after their hayday.

This play, written by Anton Burge and directed by Sue Jenkins, brings the two faded stars of the silver screen together before and after the infamous “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?” lifting scene.

For a two handed play, this certainly made the most use of the limited, but wonderful space at Hope Mill Theatre. The rear of the stage used as a corridor between the two dressing rooms, and the front as a space for flashback pieces.

Our two protagonists are played (magnificently) Julie Edwards as Bette Davis and Kerry Willison-Parry as Joan Crawford. Both actresses more than inhabit their roles, they truly became them. The audience at Hope Mill was full of fans of both the original stars, and I did overhear at least one audience member at the interval say just how impressed he was with BOTH actresses as they were so accurate in their portrayal.

This play was produced by the Wise Fools theatre company, which has as its aim to produce work that celebrates the positivity and possibilities of later life. This is their first production, exploring how women can fight for later life opportunities. They have also been part funded for this by the Arts Council England, National lottery.

All I can say is that this work was simply outstanding. The two images you see on the photo below are not, s both my companion and myself thought projections, but actual photos that spin out of sight! This was done so deftly that we were both astounded to learn that this was not the case.

The juxtaposition of having the younger versions of Bette and Joan looming over the two older versions is inspired.

Bette & Joan

Bette & Joan, Hope Mill Theatre.

The whole show is simply, yet effectively directed by Sue Jenkins (Brookside, Coronation St.) and flows thanks to both actresses being absolutely perfect for the roles. I only recall one slip up delivering lines across each other, and that was because I made a note of it.

This is a superb show, with a very limited run and number of tickets remaining.

Get one!

5*/5*

 

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: Rachel Creeger Hinayni! @ The Garrick, Whitefield

It’s always a joy to see a comic in the process of honing a new show before a tour…

And this was no exception. Rachel Creeger will be a familiar name to some in the Jewish community, but, sadly, not to those outside of it.

When she brought her last show, “It’s no job for a nice Jewish girl” to the Greater Manchester fringe two years ago and won “Best Comedy”, I for one was not surprised to see the show go on to sell out it’s entire Edinburgh run.

This show is a little different. Still a work in progress, Rachel takes the audience on a tour of Hinayni! from primary school all the way to her medical problems and syndromes to the present day.

Approaching the show from a fan’s point of view, it was a real pleasure to welcome Rachel back to the Garrick, and it’s intimate space. From a critical view, Rachel was bang on form, letting the audience meander with her as she scribbled notes and made adjustments to the set as she went along.

Working without a microphone to an attentive audience who were happy to be entertained by a performer who appears very at home on the stage. Remember, this is the same artist who happily entertained over 4000 in Trafalgar square at Chanukah in 2018!

I wont spoil the show, but there are gags a plenty, and a special mention goes to her husband, who gets his own gag as a personal present…After all, its those sort of handmade gifts that make a marriage.

If you get chance to catch the show when it hits the Edinburgh fringe, do so. Tickets will undoubtedly be hard to come by, but I assure you, seeing Rachel Creeger live is worth the effort.

5*

REVIEW: Strangeways, Here We Come

Here we have a movie that has been roundly panned by the (mainly) London bubble of reviewers. Indeed, the Guardian gave it just one *.

Lets have a proper look…

OK, I’ll freely admit, this movie isn’t going to bother any award ceremonies, but if it had been set in Hoxton, Brixton or any of the London “sink” estates, then the plaudits would be gushing, but outside of the London media darling bubble, the film is being enjoyed by pretty much everyone who goes to see it.

It’s a good laugh. What more do you want from 90 minutes of movie?

Its written to please an audience, not reviewers. I’ve lived in Salford, as well as on council estates across the North, and can testify that there isn’t a single character in this film that couldn’t be found on any estate, anywhere in the North of England.

Writer Chris Green knows his audience, and knows the area that the film is set. So complaining that they are caricatures in “implausible situations”  tells me that the writer has never set foot, never mind lived, on such an estate.

I enjoyed this, and so did the rest of the audience at Salford Arts theatre, where this film ended its run tonight with two showings.

As I say, it wont be winning any Oscars, but it is what it is, a bit of fun, set on an estate where people deal drugs, loan sharks are bas***ds who deserve a good kicking and people take drugs at weekend parties to escape the mundane boring life that Austerity Britain has become.

If you cant go into see this (or any piece of art) with an open mind, don’t bother, but I assure you that if you do, you will have a laugh.

It wont be a belly laugh for the full 90 minutes, but you will smirk, laugh out loud at times and leave with a smile plastered across your face.

If you want gritty, indy art house, look elsewhere. This film is aimed at the working class it portrays, maybe larger than life, but then, how else are they supposed to be played?

Ignore the mainstream media critics. What do they actually know about life on a council estate?

More than likely nothing, or if they did, they’ve long ago moved into middle class mediocrity and are denying their past…

Me?

3*/5

Andrew Riley interviews…Episode one

The first in a series of informal interviews with local artists sees Andrew at Salford Arts Theatre to chat to Scott T. Berry.

 

 

REVIEW: Porno Chic, Footlights theatre, Media City.

The #MeToo bandwagon rolls (rightly) on across the globe, but this revival of Vertigo Theatre’s “Porno Chic” is more than deserving of its place on any stage.

There are some who would deride this play, unseen, set in the 70’s and looking at the “other” star of the famed skin flick “Deep Throat”, Harry Reems, for glamorising the porn industry, and going against everything Me Too has stood for, but they are missing the point of the entire play. Porn is not, never has been, nor can it ever be glamorous.

Yes, it can seem it, looking back at how Reems and his co star Linda Lovelace were feted by both Hollywood and it’s stars AFTER the film began to gross more than many mainstream movies released the same year, but lets be honest, and this play is brutally honest, porn is not where any actor sees his or her career in the long term.

I’d not seen the previous incarnations of this show, so was able to watch it without making comparisons to those actors who had previously played these parts, and I was so glad. A fresh eye on what was, to me at least, a fresh and relevant work of fringe theatre.

Richard Allen as Harry Reems gives a performance that should get other directors sitting up and taking notice of this talent.

He is believable in every way as the man behind the cock, whose life was turned upside down, prosecuted, pilloried  and generally spent the rest of the next decade and a half trying to get his life as a serious actor back after just one day of filming.

This play does not shy away from just how bad his life descended into a drink fuelled orgy, before he found (As Harry puts it, “Yes, it is one of those story’s) god , met his wife and settled down until his death in 2013.

Nobody here is claiming that Harry was an angel, far from it, but what we do see in the skilful direction from Craig Hepworth is a man who is at war with himself.

We also get to see the far seedier side of the early 70’s porn industry.

Hepworth does not hold back where Lovelace (Celine Constantinides) and her abusive relationship with her first husband, Chuck Traynor, (Alex Thompson) is concerned. From forcing his wife to take part in alleged gang rapes and beating her when she refused to whore herself out to fuel his drug addiction, Constantinides is utterly believable as she moves from not so innocent waitress to sex object to anti-porn activist.

Watching the mental and physical abuse Traynor doled out to Lovelace is uncomfortable to say the least.

This is more than just a two handed play though. The entire cast slip into different characters with ease, and the scenes in the courtroom with a female Judge Harry W. Wellford are hilarious!

They do say you can find humour in almost everything, and lets face it, most comedy comes down to sex at the end of the day, so finding humour in the porn industry of the 70’s should not really faze anyone in todays times where you can watch pretty much any sexual act you desire at the click of a mouse, but you have to remember just how many barriers this film broke down at the time.

The staging and lighting were fantastic, as was the soundtrack. Just enough to keep the plot moving, and not enough to detract from what you were seeing unfold on stage.

From beginning to end, this show had an audience held in the palm of its hand. Its subject matter and principals dealt with in a sensitive, yet unvarnished way that allowed the performers to really get under the skin of those they were portraying.

Porno Chic is a parable for the 21st Century. It touches on the political pressures brought to bear by a Republican president, desperate to hold on to power, it shows us the reality of porn before the internet and just how bad it was for both sexes to be involved in the often violent and abusive industry.

If anything, Porno Chic was ahead of the #MeToo curve…