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*

 

 

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REVIEW: Two, Footlights theatre, Salford (GM Fringe)

Its GM Fringe time again, and this year, its bigger and better than ever. Andrew Riley went to a new venue for 2018, Footlights theatre in Media City to watch a revival of the Jim Cartwright play “Two”

On nights like tonight, I truly do love the job of reviewer.

This was my first visit to Footlights theatre, tucked away on a little Avenue, just off Salford Broadway, but it won’t be my last.

A bijou place, and entirely self-funded, I can’t wait to see what else this theatre has in store over the coming years. It may be small, but it has a very welcoming atmosphere.

Watching a pair of actors take an audience from simply watching, to becoming an active part of the work they are watching always leaves me speechless.

Tonight, I saw two actors who simply astounded me.

I digress…

I was here to review Yard Brush Theatre Company take on the Jim Cartwright play “Two”

This is probably one of the hardest things an actor can do, outside of a one handed play, is a two hander, relying on someone else to hit every mark and every line, without any backup.

Dave Jordan and Jacqui Padden take on 14 different characters over the course of the piece, which is set in a fictional northern pub.

Yes, you read that right. 14 characters, one pub, one night.

Needless to say, like every pub, they have their regulars, and each one as recognisable as the next. The beauty of Cartwright is his ability to pick apart the minutiae of the human condition and lay it bare.

Dave Jordan and Jacqui Padden in TWO

Dave Jordan and Jacqui Padden in TWO

From the errant wannabe Romeo to the Housewife whose only escape from her disabled husband is her trips to the butcher, followed by a Guinness, Cartwright, and in turn the actors, lay open a host of stories that the audience can find both believable and have sympathy with.

We begin with a busy night in the pub and your hosts are hard at it behind the bar, but there is a simmering tension underlying the careful banter between the pair, which culminates after the pub closes.

Before then, we see the local Lothario, his girlfriend and assorted other locals who anyone who has sat in a British pub long enough (or run one) will recognise.

Dave and Jacqui have mastered the art of the quick change, after all, you can’t cover 14 different people without a few tricks, and they must have worked so hard to make these changes look so flawless.

The play runs seamlessly from beginning to end, with a beautifully subtle soundtrack that helps weave the tales into each other. It’s a simple set of a bar, two tables and four chairs and the fourth wall is broken just enough to really bring the audience into the pub and its atmosphere.

Yard Brush have really made this play come alive in a way I didn’t expect.

My only criticism would be that its run of three nights is too short, but if you get the chance, make certain you do get to see it, because Dave and Jacqui deserve as wide an audience as possible, and Footlights deserves a thriving local audience to help keep it afloat.

 

5*/5 for both the play and the venue