Last summer, I published a post about Alan Bennett’s The History Boys and how much it means to me. It is without a doubt my favourite play and when I saw that the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse was hosting a production of it, I knew that I couldn’t miss it. I saw it at the Theatr Clwyd when I was a teenager and have since had to content myself with rewatches of the film, so the chance to see the material come to life with new vigour was an absolute joy.
Some of you may remember that a while ago, I published a review of the Royal Exchange’s Little Shop of Horrors (if you’d like a refresher, you can find that post here). It was an absolutely spectacular rendering of the material and I enthused endlessly about it to everyone I knew for weeks afterwards – in fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally still bring it up to this day. It was a truly outstanding experience and really fuelled my passion for a musical which I hadn’t known an awful lot about previously. So when I saw that another production of Howard Ashton and Alan Menken’s cult classic was coming to
Manchester, this time to
the Palace Theatre, I was torn. Part of me was keen to revisit this wonderfully fun show, which features some great numbers, but I worried that it would never live up to that excellent Royal Exchange production.
Twelve years ago, a film was released which would define a generation, full of ideas that continue to resonate and dialogue which has since become a staple of the millenial vocabulary. It featured a stellar cast who would almost all go on to have successful careers, and razor-sharp writing courtesy of one of the best women of our time. That film was Mean Girls.
Yorkshire holds a very special place in my heart. As a child, I spent a lot of family summer holidays around Scarborough and Whitby, and I had a blast at the University of Hull. So when I was offered the opportunity to review the Ox Pasture Hall, a luxury country house hotel in the beautiful North Yorkshire moors, I certainly wasn't going to turn it down!
I've previously mentioned how overlooked the studio space in the Royal Exchange is, which is why I particularly wanted to highlight the brilliance of The Solid Life of Sugar Water. From Jack Thorne, writer of Skins, Shameless and the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, comes the story of a young couple struggling to reconnect under a set of tragic circumstances.
|Photo credit: Patrick Baldwin|
The bar had been quiet and the drinks had been cheap. At first it had been exactly what we wanted. We had taken a corner table and ordered the second cheapest bottle of white wine on the menu. But as the night wore on the music seemed to be getting incrementally louder to the point where conversation became practically impossible. The cheap drinks attracted a progressively cheapening crowd, from barely-legal girls in too-tight dresses to a gaggle of women in their mid-forties wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Shazza’s Hen Do’ in neon pink. Each had their own inappropriate nickname printed on the back. They’d scarcely arrived, and already we’d witnessed Spunky Sandra consoling a tearful Anal Amy over her no-good boyfriend. On seeing the queue for the ladies’ snake out into the main bar, we decided that was our cue to leave. Stumbling, giggling, past the bouncers and out onto the chilly city streets, I stopped to take stock.
If there's one thing Manchester's notorious for, it's putting a quirky spin on a conventional idea. You only have to look as far as the Northern Quarter to see examples of this, but don't be fooled into thinking that this is where the boundaries lie. One of the city's latest offerings, Junkyard Golf Club, is housed in the Great Northern Warehouse (right next to the AMC Cinema) and it's exactly what it sounds like; a crazy golf course made of a combination of seemingly random things, incorporating all kinds of "junk" from charity shop bric-a-brac to old washing machines. It started life as a pop-up attraction at the end of 2015, but it's back by popular demand for another twelve week stint, sticking around until the beginning of April.
Although the photo below seems to tell a different story, I am very much a part-time Star Wars fan. In fact, 'fan' is probably too strong a word. It took me twenty two years to see any of the films and while I readily admit that I enjoyed them, it's not really my thing. I'm in no way au fait with that galaxy far, far away and while I have a fleeting interest, it's something I never imagined I'd find myself writing a blog post about. However, after accompanying Shaun - the Jedi in my life and the person who introduced me to the Star Wars phenomenon - to see The Force Awakens, I found myself keen to write about it from the perspective of a relative newcomer.