REVIEW: MNIB The Glitch

Sometimes, great music appears on your radar from unexpected places.

That’s what happened with “The Glitch” by Manchester act MNIB.

I found myself chatting with a new work colleague when he happened to mention he was an artist, so, naturally, being a journalist, I asked him what he made and lo and behold, MNIB (My Name Is Billal) was on my radar and my playlists.

I have to say, as someone whose musical tastes have a broad range, I didn’t expect to be as blown away as I was.

Northern grime never sounded so good. Dropping onto my Spotify list via MNIB himself, each track is short, sweet and stings like a short jab from Golovkin.

The Glitch may well be explicit and not easy listening in front of your maiden aunt, but its as Mancunian as Oasis, and as hardcore as any other act you’ll hear.

Stand out tracks include “Save some belly”, “Dog Fight” and “The Glitch”, but for me the longer track of “No Stopping You” really hit the spot.

An album that looks both out and is introspective at the same time, MNIB delights in his ability to use expletives not to shock, but to actually put his point across in a manner that makes the album really jump out. Lyrically, it can sound a bit passe at times, but the quality of the production and the maturity of the writing makes it an easy flaw to overlook.

This could have so easily veered into self parody, but it straddles a line, and although not a colossus, it’s certainly an album you’ll enjoy listening to again, unlike some other acts you’ll discover.

 

MNIB Wants YOU

MNIB Wants YOU

I’ll certainly be keeping an ear out for other tracks, and, even if I can’t play it in front of some of the more easily upset members of the household, its worth keeping on Spotify for those hours when I’m alone in the car…

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Lionman (Footlights theatre, GM Fringe 2018)

Fringe theatre is, by its very nature, meant to challenge its audience. Lionman, from Dapertutto, at the Footlights theatre, Media City is certainly that.

Challenging.

Starring Tom Hardman as Leonard and Cameron Jones as pretty much everyone else, this is a piece of physical theatre the likes of which you probably don’t see often enough outside of fringe.

From the surreal outset, we follow Leonard as he attempts to complete his screen play, fall in love with the woman upstairs, fight the man in the flat below and all the while there is so little dialogue, you are drawn ever closer to the edge of your seat to see just how Hardman manages these feats of physical theatre.

The use of multimedia is brilliant. From the opening mashup to the awards ceremony, the technical aspects of the show could easily detract from whats going on elsewhere on stage, but its a credit to technician Leon Hardman and sound designer Kris W Laudrum that they add to the actors presence, and don’t overpower the piece.

The lighting is subtly muted, and the staging for such a physical piece works wonders. Sometimes less truly is more. I have no idea how long the performers have rehearsed this, but they hit every mark and made it seem so easy.

 

Footlights, Lionman, GM Fringe

Lionman

It may be a cliche, but this really was a work that made you stop and wonder at times.

The scene where Leonard and the neighbour rewind after a lengthy fight is so well done, that both actors deserved an ovation just for that.

Hardman must come off stage every night both physically and mentally drained! How he’s managed an entire week of shows is a testament to his skills as an actor.

There are dream sequences, which Leonard thinks are real, an awards ceremony that actually IS real and an off stage love interest who has no idea our hero even exists.

Even Casablanca gets a look in.

I went into this only having the preview on the GM Fringe website, so had very little as to what to expect.

I came away from the show filled with admiration for the lead, and the whole crew that they could so easily draw an audience into the world of Leonard so fully and with such aplomb as to leave me feeling as breathless as the performers must have been as they took their bows.

In the end, our hero appears to overcome everything that stands in his way, but at what cost?

 

Lionman runs for the next two nights at Footlights theatre, Kansas Avenue, Media City, Salford.

4*/5 Easily a must see piece of work from a promising new company.

From Heaven to Hell (Footlights Theatre, GM Fringe 2018)

It’s not very often a writer is asked to take a second look at a play he has already reviewed, but on hearing that Danny Clifford had expanded his World War One piece, “From Heaven to Hell” from 2017’s single act into two acts, I have to say, I was sceptical, but interested, after all, I’d really enjoyed its debut run.

The original show, at Salford Arts Theatre, was rightly nominated for “Best Drama” at the Fringe awards, and it was hard to see how it could be improved, but improved it certainly was.

Once again, the production is directed by the fantastic Sue Jenkins (Brookside, Coronation Street) who, given the slightly larger space of the Footlights theatre, could have easily gone overboard and cluttered the stage, but its a credit to her abilities as a director that the staging is kept as minimal as before, but still allowing the actors to inhabit the larger space Footlights offers.

Sue Jenkins set for "From Heaven to Hell

Sue Jenkins set for “From Heaven to Hell

Writer, as well as producer and lead, Danny Clifford, (Noir, Reflections) has excelled himself with the rewriting of this emotionally tense piece, giving new characters both life and breadth, without taking away from the central love story that is already there, its difficult to believe that this is his first play as a writer.

The tale of John Harper (Clifford) and William Jones (Peter Ash, Hollyoaks, Coronation Street) and how their mates from the ship canal joined the Salford pals and head off to the Somme is based on true stories, and dedicated to the 24 Officers and 650 men from the battalion who didn’t make it back.

Against this backdrop, we see John fall in love with the partially sighted Mary (Emily Jones, Reflections) and William who is parted from his wife, Betty, (Caroline Wagstaffe, As You Like It, Octopus).

The rest of the cast is fleshed out by a supporting cast who really leap out of the stage and into your consciousness. We have the genial Irishman, Fergus Finney (Alex Slater, Shameless), the gentle giant, Charlie Edwards, (Luke Richards, Fresh Meat, Noir) The light fingered but harmless Ben Shifton (Matt Hall, Heartbeat, The Last Leg), and Sgt. Hunt (Sean Chriscole, The Crucible, Fine Comb Conversations) give the show a more “rounded” feel to last year.

Aside from a broader brush the larger cast brings to the table, the interplay between the pals and their sergeant is so well described as to be uncanny, as is Williams PTSD after a shell narrowly misses the boys.

The brutality of war is not shied away from on the home front either, as Betty goes to work in a gas mask factory, much to Billy’s disgust, and Mary falls pregnant when the boys come home for leave before their posting to the front.

The cast take their bows

The cast take their bows

The entire play is mesmerising, and there were certainly a few eyes a little less dryer as the final line of “We WILL remember them” rang out across the theatre.

This was one of the more powerful theatre pieces that Greater Manchester Fringe threw up over the last few years, and this revival was made all the more powerful given its expansion and rewriting. If Clifford can continue to write like this, then it won’t be too long before he garners not just nominations, but actual awards for his craft.

The direction is subtle, with three different sets again at times sharing the stage, and the lighting just right.

5*/5

“From Heaven To Hell” has just one more night at Footlights Theatre, Media City on the 14th July. 

ALBUM REVIEW: Kacey Musgraves, Golden

Kacey Musgraves at The Greek Theatre

Kacey Musgraves at The Greek Theatre

This third album from the new princess of country shows a real maturity in both her writing and her vocals. Her previous outing, Pageant Material, was a little lighter in the lyric department, but this is a whole leap forward.
From the first single, Butterflies, and through the whole album, Musgraves has really developed as an artist, and is fast becoming one of the modern eras outstanding acts.
To find a weak link in this collection of tracks is difficult, but it’s probably Mother. I don’t know, I just don’t think it belongs on the album, but if that’s my only gripe, then so be it.
Tracks you will return to, again and again, include Space Cowboy, Velvet Elvis and Love is a wild thing.
Given the niche market of Country in the UK, it’s not surprising that her loyal following will make certain this album sells well, but if you are not a fan of the genre, this album will leave you very pleasantly surprised.
This new wave of country music is more than just The Shires and Faith Hill, give Casey Musgraves a listen.
It truly is a Golden period for this lady.

Salford stutter in the rain as Castleford shine in 4-23 win

 

Nice for the ducks

For the opening 40 minutes, Castleford were playing up to their “Classy Cas” tag, albeit aided by some odd refereeing decisions from the man in the middle, Chris Kendall.

He managed to send two tries upstairs to the video referee, both of which his on field decision was overturned, he gave a knock on against the home side when there hadn’t been one, and generally looked out of his depth on a wet night on the banks of the ship canal.

Honestly, I don’t like to have a go at the man with the toughest job in the sport, but Chris Kendall was so far out of his depth tonight in the first half, it was a wonder he wasn’t replaced during the break.

As it was, two first half tries from Zak Hardaker, both converted by Luke Gale were the difference by half time, but a half where Salford had a one try wiped out for a forward pass (it wasn’t) and one for obstruction (it was) it was to be one of those evenings at the AJ Bell where the referee took centre stage, certainly in the first half, rather than the players the fans actually pay to see.

Hardaker, if not already a shoe in for the England full back spot, certainly put head coach Wayne Bennett on alert with his performance in the rain tonight.

Salford home debutant Manu Vatuvei scored a try that was sent up to the video referee as a try, and was rewarded for his effort when it was given. That was early in the second half and about the only bright spot for the home side, who saw Tyrone McCarthy pull up during the warm up to be replaced by Craig Kopczak.

Then, on the hour mark, McShane went over, another Gale conversion and Cas were home, and if not dry, at least hosed.

They weren’t finished though.

With just over 15 left, they went over again, This time Hardaker turned provider with a looping pass out wide for Jy Hitchcox to score, when he could have easily gone over for what would have been a deserved hatrick of scores.

As it was, Cas were too good for anyone tonight, and a late drop goal by Luke Gale to extend the lead just put into perspective just how good this Yorkshire club have been this season.

Can they win the Grand Final?

Possibly, but it will depend on their opponents.

They deserve the league leaders shield, Salford however, need to take a look at themselves in the mirror before next week.

They just ween’t at the races tonight.

Perhaps Michael Dobson and Lama Tasi are bigger players for the team on the pitch than I previously thought, but there was a lack of leadership on the field that would worry me if I were a Salford fan.

Ian Watson did say post match that Junior Sa’u and Michael Dobson could have started tonight, but with some tough games coming up, starting with a trip to Wigan next week, He’ll want to make certain any players coming back are fully fit.

Perhaps the target of making the top 8 being achieved, a few players took their eye off the ball, and were mentally ready for the off season. Knowing Ian Watson, I cant imagine him letting up on the players one bit, but whatever the problem, at this rate, Salford will be well out of the race to Old Trafford by the time they next appear at home in early September.

 

 

TEAMS

Salford: Niall Evalds, Greg Johnson, Jake Bibby, Josh Jones, Manu Vatuvei, Rob Lui, Todd Carney, Adam Walne, Logan Tomkins, Weller Hauraki, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Ryan Lannon, Craig Kopczak, George Griffin, Kriss Brining, Olsi Krasniqi, Daniel Murray.

Castleford: Zak Hardaker, Joel Monaghan, Jake Webster, Greg Minikin, Jy Hitchcox, Ben Roberts, Luke Gale, Grant Millington, Paul McShane, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Oliver Holmes, Michael McMeeking, Nathan Massey, Adam Milner, Gadwin Springer, Matt Cook, Alex Foster.

 

REVIEW: Solita, Prestwich. ***/*****

Has the service improved since last I visited this burger joint?

No.

The stars are for the food, which was as superb as ever, but the service!
I thought they had gone to kill the cow for the burgers & catch the salmon it took so long.
Staff look like they don’t really care about you, but when the food (finally) arrives, its stunning.
To be honest, this is my third trip to the Prestwich branch, all at different times and days, and the service has been slow and terrible EVERY time.
Thats it for me, I’ll not be bothering with this branch again.

Walk in’s on a Friday lunchtime, only 3 diners in the place we could see, and over 40 minutes to cook 4 meals is a bit much, especially as we didnt see any food deliveries to other tables whilst waiting.

I had the Manc-Hatten, and opted to swap fries for the wonderful 60/40 mash, and I have to say, the burger and all its assorted additions was superb. Cooked just the wrong side of medium (I wasnt asked how I’d like it) but only just. The mash was creamy, smooth and again, just as expected.

SoLiTa Manc-Hatten

SoLiTa Manc-Hatten

Guest 1 had the Bacon Double burger and was again not asked how he’d like it. He cleared his plate though!

SoLiTa Bacon Double cheese

SoLiTa Bacon Double cheese

I have never been able to fault the food at SoLiTa, but the service at Prestwich and the wait for food gets worse every time. I’m not the only one to notice this.

A colleague went in a couple of months ago and said much the same thing, the wait for the food almost left them wanting to stand up and leave.

I’ll not bother going back to Prestwich, as there are other restaurants in the area that do food just as well, but who know how to look after paying customers.

I dont want fawning over, just the food to arrive a little faster and when I order a burger at over £10 a shot, ask how I’d like it cooked, dont just let the chef guess please…

REVIEW: Watching goldfish suffocate, Kings Arms, GM Fringe 2017

Andrew Riley went along to the Kings Arms in Salford to watch Vertigo Theatre Productions new staging of “Watching Goldfish Suffocate” Was it worth the trip? Read on…

Every so often, there comes along a piece of work that changes how you feel or think about certain things.

Watching Goldfish Suffocate is such a piece of theatre.

Many a real life tale has been told on stage across the years, but very rarely has a play captured the current mood of change as this does.

Mental health affects one in four people in the UK, and to suffer the way co-writer David Degiorgio has, and to then put it out there for everyone to see takes not only skill, but real guts.

The stigma around Mens mental health is one of the current cause célèbre that has been taken up at all levels with artists, politicians and sports personalities getting involved.

Directed by Craig Hepworth with minimal staging, this play shows Davids descent into paranoia, anxiety, psychosis and his return to health.

It’s a show that not only deserves the rave reviews it achieved last time out, but should be seen by as wide an audience as possible.

It must be difficult to direct someone who is playing you, but in Joe Slack, Craig Hepworth has a very capable an accomplished actor who is able to switch between multiple roles with such ease, its possible to believe that there may be more than one Joe in the show.

Joe Slack

Joe Slack

Playing himself, David Digiorgio is a towering presence on the stage. Because this IS his story, it makes his performance even better, because there is no doubting his every nuanced move and infliction is torn from the very depths of his own experiences.

As we watch his descent into his own personal hell, we meet his inner demon, played by the extremely able Benjamin Corry, who is so evilly lit, you can feel him creeping over your own shoulder when not creeping over David’s.

Benjamin Corry and David Degiorgio

Benjamin Corry and David Degiorgio

The cast is finished off with Celine Constantinides, who wonderfully leaps between characters with the same ease as the rest of the players.

Celine Constantinides and David in Watching Goldfish Suffocate

Celine Constantinides and David in Watching Goldfish Suffocate

This play has sold out its run at the Greater Manchester Fringe, and rightly so. By the time we arrived at the interval, both I and my guest were left regretting not bringing along tissues more than once.

The play is effectively divided into Davids decent into illness, and then his resurrection from hospital into deciding to write the play with Craig.

The fine line between humour and drama can be difficult to tread, and this could be a macabre experience if handled wrongly, however in Hepworth we have a young, yet very talented director who is not only certain of his own strengths, but also seems to know how to get the best out of his cast without falling either side of that fine line.

When you hear the audience discussing their own mental health with strangers during the interval, you know that the work you are watching has found its mark and is doing what its authors intended, helping end the stigma around an illness that was for many years, hidden away and, if not ignored, then certainly not readily discussed openly.

This show deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, and when you leave a theatre in happy tears, you know that you have watched something truly special.

There has to be someone, somewhere, willing to take a punt on a fringe show and put it on the bigger stage. I for one would love to see this show given such a chance, be it in Manchester, London, or elsewhere.

This is not a show that will be for everyone, but its certainly a show that everyone should have the chance to see.