A surefire dark hit of theatre

In recent years, Vertigo theatre productions has become a byword for excellence in Manchester fringe theatre. It regularly puts on locally written pieces, and is also a regular when the awards season comes about, thanks to the work of not only Craig Hepworth, but the art direction and technical know-how of Karl Burge.

With their new production, Noir, the ever upward trajectory of Hepworth and his merry band of actors looks set to continue.

A real multimedia extravaganza, Noir is a tale oft told of forbidden love between a young 16-year-old schoolboy, Jimmy Flynn, played by Richard Allen, and Veronica Smart, played to almost smouldering perfection by Emma Morgan (Hollyoaks, /Happy Valley) and her husband Cliff (Danny Clifford).

Emma Morgan and Stuart Reeve

Any fan of the film noir genre will immediately recognise the scenarios…

A twisted saga of love, betrayal, sex, manipulation and eventually murder. There are plot twists that would please Hitchcock, settings you will adore, and acting that will astound, Noir is a rare thing on the fringe scene, a wholly realised and well drilled production that leaves the audience gasping and on the edge of their seats.

A lonely housewife, aspiring to be a movie star, but whose talent can’t live up to her ambition, a class full of young kids, easily led astray by a beautiful older teacher who wants to be loved, but who is bored by her humdrum home life.

A streetlight illuminating our narrator, Detective Sal Pelattiere (Stuart Reeve) who guides you through the early stages of the story, before taking a more vital role as the plot twists come thick and fast.

Noir harks back to some of the great movies of the 40’s and 50’s, screen gems like The Maltese Falcon and Touch of Evil to name but two.

The subtlety of some of these performances is astounding. Every single player seems so nuanced and able to convey their thoughts as well as actions with ease, it’s easy to think this is a cast that have been performing this show in a much larger auditorium for weeks, if not months.

The outstanding performance for me was Anna Hickling as Vivian Pierce, the young lady who, infatuated by Veronica Smart, tries to style her whole life and outlook on her arts teacher. The transformation from mousey schoolgirl to full on vamp is great to see.

Veronica and Vivian face off in Noir

I’d love to say that there was a weak link in the cast, but I can’t. From scene shifting, to hitting their marks, I was hard pressed to find a fault with the production.

One of the more chilling characters, that of young Jimmy’s deadbeat dad, is played to masterful levels by Luke Richards. He really shows an edge to his part that is so believable, at one point, I ducked his blows from the back row!

Bekka-Jane Milner and Luke Richards

My only gripe would be the use of the smoke machine, which although necessary to add atmosphere, could have been toned down, or sited elsewhere to allow the audience to see at times…

But if that is the only gripe, then I’m happy for that to be it.

The show is a long old beast, but its directed in a very competent manor and lit to perfection.

At some point, Hepworth will fail to write or direct a winning show.

I just hope it’s a long while before that happens.

With an off Broadway run of their award winning “Porno Chic” in 2018, the future for the company as a whole looks as bright as Noir is dark.

Noir runs until the 2nd December at The Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford, with limited ticket availability



Safety First!

ANOTHER weekend of action across the sporting globe has passed, here I take a look at a fascinating sporting Easter weekend.

Over in Bahrain, the F1 circus rolled into the desert, and didn’t disappoint as Max Verstappen was the first casualty of a couple of laps of mayhem, as his brakes failed, under the double yellow flags that followed, Carlos Sainz Jr. pitted, and then Canadian driver Lance Stroll turned in to the first corner, and right into Sainz, boom…

Out came the safety car.

Lewis Hamilton was then penalised for slowing down Daniel Ricciardo on the entry to the pit lane, and picked up a five second penalty, before the whole race carried on.

In all the chaos, Sebastian Vettel took the lead, and despite a valiant effort from the Brit, it was the German who took the chequered flag at the end of 57 laps.

with a 6 second gap to second place Hamilton…

In the Premier League, another twist in the chase for the title as leaders Chelsea slipped up at Manchester United, losing 2-0, whilst second place Tottenham Hotspur romped to a 4-0 win at home to Bournemouth.

Meanwhile, the race to replace whichever teams are relegated carried on apace in the EFL Championship, with Brighton now five points clear of Newcastle United, and confirmed as promoted after Derby drew with Huddersfield, whilst the playoff places could well go down to the last day of the season.

In what is called the toughest race on earth, armed forces veteran Duncan Slater became the first double amputee to ever complete the Marathon des Sables. Duncan lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2009 after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

The gruelling race consists of six stages – around a marathon a day – covering over 250 kilometres in total and competitors face temperatures up to 50°C and the terrain is extremely challenging, combining sand dunes and rocky hills.

Having had to drop out of last year’s race with a problem with his prosthetic legs, this year he raised over £20,000 for his chosen charity, Walking with the wounded.

In Super League it was a weekend where players had (for the most part) to back up and play another game in around 48 hours, it was once again the match officials that took centre stage at times.

I’m not going to make scapegoats of the officials, but there are certain ones who, perhaps unknowingly, seem to favour certain teams where infringements are concerned.

They have always been the bane of fans and coaches alike, but some seem to revel in their role as pantomime dames, almost wanting to be at the centre of attention…

It was as usual a weekend of contrasting results for teams, with Salford’s five game win streak ending in France, and Castleford dropping points at St. Helens.