Category Archives: Theatre & Entertainment

Review: Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, The Lowry Theatre

The UK Tour of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild is currently in residence at The Lowry, Salford Quays. I went along on the first night of the run to watch the show and discover more about this extraordinary story. 

Loosely based on the true story of a girl’s survival of the 2004 Tsunami; Michael Morpurgo’s novel, Running Wild, is a wonderful and inspiring story, brought to life in this award-winning production. Like War Horse before it, Running Wild centres around spectacular life-size puppets and tells a moving story of love, loss and loyalty.

Review: Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, The Lowry Theatre

Running Wild tells the story of a girl called Lilly. Following the death of her father, she goes on holiday with her mother to Indonesia. Whilst taking a ride on Oona the elephant Lilly is caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami. Oona, sensing danger suddenly runs from the beach deep into the jungle with Lilly on her back, ultimately saving her life.

The story continues with Lilly’s struggles to find food and survive in the jungle; a confrontation with a beautiful tiger, bonding with a buffoonery (family) of orangutans and a devastating encounter with a group of hunters in the rainforest. 

This production of Running Wild is suitable for ages 6+. It’s not always an easy watch and there were times when a tear or two rolled down my cheek. The deaths of both of her parents and the traumatic effects of the tsunami were touched on but thankfully not dwelt upon. 

The portrayal of the hunters was unflinching and at times brutal. Running Wild does bang the drum of conservationism and the destruction of rainforests in the pursuit of the production of palm oil. It’s not always subtle, but it is a drum worth banging. If Running Wild helps to raise awareness of the devastation of the rainforests for palm oil, then so much the better. 

Review: Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, The Lowry Theatre

There were some funny and touching moments too. In particular Lilly playing with Frankie the orangutan and bonding with Oona the elephant. 

Lilly, confidently played by 13 year old Jemima Bennett is a talent. She is at the heart of the production and pulls off an accomplished and moving performance. Of course the real star of Running Wild is Oona the elephant, expertly handled by four puppeteers. Oona is incredibly life-like, you just want to reach out and stroke her trunk.

All of the puppet creatures; from the tiger, to the crocodile, the wriggling fish and the family of orangutans are beautifully done. The puppeteers are all fantastic, there but not there, so you focus on the creature and not the puppeteer. Amazing work.

Running Wild is a bold production. It’s not always an easy thing to watch, but ultimately the story is compelling and uplifting. Theatre like this makes you want to read about the subject, look at the products in your bathroom cabinet and do your bit for conservation. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The UK tour of Running Wild supports the Born Free Foundation’s global elephant conservation projects.

Running Wild has a running time of 90 minutes with a 20 minute interval. It also contains flashing lights and loud bangs.

Running Wild is on at The Lowry, Salford Quays 18 – 22 April 2017. To book tickets call the Box office on 0843 208 6000 or visit The Lowry website.

Further information about the full UK tour can be found here.

Preview: Running Wild at The Lowry, Salford Quays

This spring, catch the UK Tour of Running Wild, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted for stage by Samuel Adamason. Running Wild is coming to The Lowry, Salford Quays from 18-22 April 2017. 

Michael Morpurgo’s novel, Running Wild, is loosely based on the true story of a girls survival of the 2004 Tsunami. This wonderful and inspiring story is brought to life in this award-winning production. Originally produced by Regent’s Park Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre; this epic production comes complete with spectacular life-size puppets and tells an emotional and moving story of love, loss and loyalty and of living for the moment.

Preview: Running Wild at The Lowry, Salford Quays

Running Wild is the story is of a girl called Lilly, who, whilst on holiday with her mother in Indonesia, takes an elephant ride.  During the ride, Oona, the elephant, suddenly becomes anxious and runs from the beach deep into the jungle.  With Lilly on her back, they escape moments before the tsunami hits the island.  Miles from civilisation, at first there’s wonder, discovery and tree-top adventures with the orangutans. Eventually her thoughts turn to her mother left behind on the beach, and wild tigers prowl, and hunger hits, Lilly must now learn to survive the rainforest.  And then the hunters come…

Preview: Running Wild at The Lowry, Salford Quays
Michael Morpurgo is the former children’s laureate and the acclaimed author of War Horse. He was inspired by the real-life story of Amber Owen, who was on holiday in Phuket with her mother and stepfather in 2004. When she went on an elephant ride along the beach, the girl noticed the elephant was trying to pull away from the receding sea water.  “He ran away and, as the water came in, I was safely on his back.  He saved my life.” 

When he read Amber’s story in the newspaper, Michael Morpurgo said it was the one bit of hope amid the devastation of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.  The production supports the Born Free Foundation’s global elephant conservation projects.

This production of Running Wild is suitable for ages 6+ and has a running time of 90 minutes with a 20 minute interval.

Running Wild is on at The Lowry, Salford Quays 18 – 22 April 2017. To book tickets call the Box office on 0843 208 6000 or visit The Lowry website.

Further information about the full UK tour can be found here.

What’s the 30 Day Movie Challenge all about?

Last month I took part in the 30 Day Music Challenge on Twitter. Each day using a set of prompts I tweeted a link to a piece of music which fit the bill. It was an interesting and enjoyable experiment, and it made me think about and revisit some music I’d not listened to in  years. I enjoyed the challenge so much that this April I’m going to be taking part in the 30 Day Movie Challenge. 

Each day I will send a tweet based on the list of prompts below. I think the first one, for me at least will be a particularly hard one. What is my favourite movie? Honestly I don’t know, it depends on my mood on any given day. 

30 Day Movie Challenge

It’s really easy to take part, just tweet along with me each day and use the hashtag #30DayMovieChallenge. If you like you can include a YouTube clip, gif or image from the movie you have chosen on that day, but that’s not essential. Try not to pick the same movie more than once. You might also want to say why you have chosen that movie, but 140 Twitter characters can be a bit restrictive I know.

If you are late to the party, don’t worry, you don’t need to do it at the same time as me; but it is more fun if you’re tweeting along with a little group of you. So find a friend or two and and join in the 30 Day Movie Challenge.

Don’t forget the hashtag #30DayMovieChallenge and feel free to tag me on Twitter, I’d love to see your movie choices. Who knows, it might introduce me to some great films I’ve never heard of!

I’m aiming to do an update post at the end of the month documenting my movie choices, so watch this space.

Good luck with your 30 Day Movie Challenge!

Take part in the 30 Day Music Challenge

Over the last 30 days I’ve been taking part in the #30DayMusicChallenge over on Twitter. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing, it’s made me listen to more music than usual and it’s made me think a bit more about things. The 30 Day Music Challenge is pretty easy, the hard part is remembering to do it each day. 

30 Day Music Challenge

To take part, you will need the list of prompts and each day you tweet a link to the song which fits. Just for my own interest, I’ve kept a record of the songs I’d chosen for my 30 Day Music Challenge. The list in full is below. What songs would you choose?

Day 1. A song you like with a colour in the title – The Stone Roses – Fools Gold

Day 2. A song you like with a number in the title – The Wonder Stuff- Room 512 All the news that’s fit to print

Day 3. A song that reminds you of summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Summertime

Day 4. A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget about – Nine Inch Nails – Closer

Day 5. A song that needs to be played LOUD – Rage Against The Machine – Wake Up

Day 6. A song that makes you want to dance – The Smiths – This Charming Man

Day 7. A song to drive to – Utah Saints – Something Good

Day 8. A song about drugs or alcohol – Oasis – Cigarettes and Alcohol

Day 9. A song that makes you happy – The Frank & Walters Fashion Crisis Hits New York

Day 10. A song that makes you sad – James – Protect Me

Day 11. A song that you never get tired of – The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored

Day 12. A song from your pre-teen years – Duran Duran – Rio

Day 13. One of your favourite 70’s songs – Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love (With Some You Shouldn’t)

Day 14. A song you’d love played at your wedding – Oasis – Married With Children

Day 15. A song that is a cover by another artist – Codeine – Atmosphere

Day 16. One of your favourite pieces of classical music – Claude Debussy : Clair de Lune

Day 17. A song you’d sing a duet with on karaoke – Islands In The Stream – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton

Day 18. A song from the year you were born – Abba – Dancing Queen

Day 19. A song that makes you think about life – Bastille – Good Grief

Day 20. A song that has many meanings to you – The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work

Day 21. A favourite song with a person’s name in the title – The Specials – A Message To You Rudy

Day 22. A song that moves you forward – The Wonder Stuff- Room 512 All the news that’s fit to print

Day 23. A song that everyone should listen to – The Baghdadies – Shri

Day 24. A song by a band you wish were still together – Aztec Camera – Good Morning Britain

Day 25. A song by an artist no longer living – Wham! – I’m Your Man

Day 26. A song that makes you want to fall in love – Elbow – Gentle Storm

Day 27. A song that breaks your heart – Johnny Cash – Hurt

Day 28. A song by an artist with a voice you love – Faith No More – King for a Day

Day 29. A song you remember from your childhood – The Rolling Stones – Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Day 30. A song which reminds you of yourself – Echo & The Bunnymen -Nothing Lasts Forever

I’ve created a playlist of my 30 Day Music Challenge if you’d like to have a listen to the songs I chose for this. I realise now I’ve written them down that I have chosen the same Wonder Stuff song twice, but it is one of my favourite songs, so I’m not surprised.

If you like music, then doing the 30 Day Music Challenge is an interesting thing to get involved in. What would you choose?

Review: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, The Lowry

The wonderful story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is being brought to life at The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays this half term. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is currently on a UK Tour and is stopping off at Salford until 25th February. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was my favorite book when I was a child and thankfully it is also a huge favourite of my sons. We couldn’t resist a visit to The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show while it was in town.

Review: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Lowry

The show is based on four of Eric Carle’s wonderful stories; The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and of course, the star of the show – The Very Hungry Caterpillar. His books are beautifully illustrated. The 75 puppets used in the performance are instantly recognisable as being Eric Carle’s creations.

Appealing to pre-school aged children, my six year old was probably at the top end of the age range in the audience. Nevertheless he was enchanted by it, laughing and delighting at the antics of the puppets and heartily joining in when he could. He particularly enjoyed The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse and of course The Very Hungry Caterpillar, especially the bit where (spoiler alert) he turns into a beautiful butterfly. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show runs for a little under an hour. It is just the right length for pre-school children. The audience seemed to really enjoy it, and despite the young audience for the most part almost everyone was transfixed by the performance. There was lots of joining in where the children recognised the story, lots of laughter and a sprinkling of wonder.

Featuring 75 puppets, ably brought to life by puppeteers Adam Ryan, Andrew Cullimore, Sarah Hamilton and Katie Haygarth; The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show faithfully recreates the stories, bringing each one to life with colour, and magic.

Review: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Lowry

It was clear that the colourful performance and instantly recognisable characters had captivated the audience; and it is easy to be captivated by these wonderful stories. I think part of the magic is that these books have a place in the hearts of both adults and the children, and will continue to delight for generations to come.  

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is on at The Lowry, Salford Quays until Saturday 25 February 2017.  For more information and to buy tickets, visit The Lowry website. Details of the full UK tour can be found here.

Preview: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Lowry

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has nibbled its way into the hearts of millions of children all over the world. Since it was first published in 1969 it has been translated into 62 languages and sold over 41 million copies, and is one of the top ten bestselling children’s books of all time. Written and illustrated by Eric Carle, this enduring classic is being brought to life at The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays this February half term.

Preview: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Lowry Theatre

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show will be on at The Lowry from Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25 February, prior to starting a run in the West End.

Featuring a menagerie of 75 enchanting puppets during a magical 60-minute show that faithfully adapts four of Eric Carle’s best loved books for the stage: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show has been adapted for the stage by director Jonathan Rockefeller. The production sees four master puppeteers weave their way through Eric Carle’s stories, bringing to life 75 magical puppets that faithfully recreate the wonderfully colourful world of Carle’s illustrations.

Preview: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Lowry Theatre

Eric Carle’s books have captivated generations of readers with their iconic hand-painted illustrations and distinctively simple stories, introducing millions of children to a bigger, brighter world, and to their first experience of reading itself. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was my favourite book as a child. We wasted no time at all introducing this wonderful story to my son.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is suitable for children aged 2+ and is 55 minutes long with no interval. I will definitely be taking my 6 year old. We are both looking forward to enjoying our favourite book being brought to life.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is on at The Lowry, Salford Quays from
Wednesday 22 until Saturday 25 February 2017.  For more information and to buy tickets, visit The Lowry website.

Theatre Review: Horrible Christmas at The Lowry

For many families it is something of a Christmas tradition to go and see a panto or a Christmas play. We are no different, but this year we thought we’d go and see something horrible, something very horrible indeed –  Horrible Christmas from the Horrible Histories team.

Running until Sunday 8th January, Horrible Christmas tells the story of Wendy Watson who with the help of detective Shirley Holmes sets out to save Christmas from a very bad Santa – Sydney Claus.

This time travelling romp through history sees Wendy and Shirley chase Sydney and Rudolf through the ages, from Victorian villains to Medieval monks, Puritan parties to Tudor times, meeting notable figures from history including Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Charles II and King Henry VIII. 

It’s very funny, it’s fast paced, it’s full of excellent songs, there’s audience participation and a lot of laughs. Plus we all learned a little something about the horrible history of Christmas.

Theatre Review: Horrible Christmas at The Lowry

The songs are catchy and funny, with the rap by King Charles II being something very special indeed. The audience are encouraged to participate in a sing off (with actions) involving stuffing a selection of festive birds into other incrementally larger festive birds. You had to be there, but the boys loved it!

Neal Foster plays the role of “Dad” and a whole host of other historical characters. He was exceptionally funny in each and every incarnation. Chris Gunter is Sidney Claus – the baddest bad Santa of them all. Sidney is a Santa with a large dose of Fagin and an evil twinkle in his eye. His sidekick Rudolph is played to dopey perfection by Ashley Bowden. 

Horrible Histories Christmas is around 2 hours long with an interval. It is suitable for children aged 4+. I took two six year olds and I thought some of it was a little over their heads. They were full of historical facts the next day, so maybe I’m wrong. With tickets starting at £10, this is a furiously funny alternative to the traditional panto.

Horrible Histories – Horrible Christmas The Lowry is on from Wednesday 7 December 2016 to Sunday 8 January 2017

We were invited guests of The Lowry. All opinions are our own.

Preview: Horrible Histories Christmas at The Lowry

Horrible Histories is one of those unique children’s TV programmes which really does have mass appeal. I love watching Horrible Histories, it’s really, genuinely funny, it’s educational and the songs are catchier than the bubonic plague.

Back in April we went to see Horrible Histories – Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders when it was on at The Lowry in Salford Quays. It was a riotous romp through history and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

This Christmas The Lowry is once again playing host to the Horrible Histories crew – from Wednesday 7 December to Sunday 8 January there really will be a Horrible Christmas at The Lowry!

Preview: Horrible Histories Christmas at The Lowry

When Christmas comes under threat from a jolly man dressed in red, it’s up to one young boy to save the day – but can he save Christmas? From Victorian villains to Medieval monks, Puritan parties to Tudor treats, join the Horrible Histories gang on an hair-raising adventure through the history of Christmas in the company of Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Henry VIII, St Nicholas and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as they all join forces to save the festive season!

It’s a celebration of Christmas in the most wonderful, wildly funny and moving way you’ll ever see! We can’t wait, what a brilliant way to kick off the festive season with a bit of Horrible Histories Christmas.

Preview: Horrible Histories Christmas at The Lowry

The show is suitable for children aged 4+. With tickets starting at £10, this is a furiously funny alternative to the traditional panto.

Horrible Histories – Horrible Christmas The Lowry is on from Wednesday 7 December to Sunday 8 January 2017.

Preview: Horrible Histories Christmas at The Lowry

Review: Pride and Prejudice, The Lowry Theatre

I’m not sure what happened at school, I loved reading, I was a vociferous devourer of books, but school managed to take the joy out of every book I ever studied. This regrettably left me with an aversion to both Jane Austin and the works of the Bronte Sisters. It wasn’t until the famous TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth that I began to take more of an interest in the classics.

This week the acclaimed production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is on at The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays (Tue 11 – Sat 15 October 2016). I went along with some good friends to see the production for ourselves.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is one of the most universally loved novels. It tells the story of the Bennet family and their five very different, but similarly unmarried daughters. The Bennet family are of humble means and Mrs Bennet sees the perfect opportunity to improve their social standing when the wealthy Mr Bingley and his eligible friend Mr Darcy move to the neighbourhood.

But while Bingley takes a shine to their eldest daughter Jane, the proud and aloof Darcy instantly clashes with feisty Elizabeth Bennet, the most headstrong and wilful of the Bennet’s daughters. 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”

This production was a lively adaptation of the novel, with Mr and Mrs Bennet absolutely stealing the show for me. Mr Bennet is played by Matthew Kelly, the former presenter of Stars in their Eyes, now an award winning actor. And Mrs Bennet is perfectly and hilariously played by Felicity Montagu, perhaps most well known as Alan Partridge’s PA Lynn. Both have exceptional comic timing, glittering stage presence and they are both physically comedic performers and put their skills to fine use.

Pride and Prejudice

Tafline Steen as Elizabeth played the role of the feisty second daughter well, though I found her modern upward intonation a little distracting at times. Benjamin Dilloway as Mr Darcy was as aloof and proper as he should be and made a fine Fitzwilliam Darcy. 

Pride and Prejudice is an excellent ensemble production with standout performances from Steven Meo as the odious and flamboyant Mr Collins, Dona Croll playing a superior Lady Catherine and Hollie Edwin as Elizabeth’s older sister, Jane.

I was particularly taken by the revolving stage, complete with wrought iron framework which worked on several levels, quickly allowing the scenes to change from an intimate drawing room to a grand ball room in no time at all. 

My favourite scenes were when the whole ensemble cast got together for a ball and the glittering glamour of such an occasion nearly leaped off the stage. You really got a sense of the frisson young couples would have felt as being able to dance and flirt a little.

Stage adaptations of Pride and Prejudice can never pack every detail from the novel into the performance. This adaptation has been trimmed down to just 135 minutes, so some aspects of the story are glossed over a little. Nevertheless the key themes remain, and the adaptation is light-hearted and in so many ways played for laughs. Something which delighted the rapt audience at The Lowry.

Pride and Prejudice

Following sell-out performances at London’s Regents Park Open Air Theatre, this delightful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Simon Reade is now on a major UK Tour during 2016-2017.  Pride and Prejudice is a must see for any Jane Austin fan. 

Pride and Prejudice is on at The Lowry, Salford Quays until Saturday 15th October, 2016. Thereafter the production will continue to tour around the UK. For more information and to book tickets visit the website.

Theatre Review: David Walliams Gangsta Granny

This summer the Birmingham Stage Company are touring the UK with their theatre production of the popular David Walliams Gangsta Granny book. We went along to The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays watch it.

We’ve yet to read the book, but we’ve watched TV adaptations of David Walliams’ Mr Stink and Gangsta Granny and we knew to expect silliness, smells and a heartwarming message underneath it all.

The book was originally published in 2011, and went straight to number 1 in the children’s book charts. David Walliams Gangsta Granny was later adapted for TV and was shown on BBC1 in 2013, starring David Walliams and a host of other popular personalities. 

David Walliams Gangsta Granny

David Walliams Gangsta Granny tells the tale of schoolboy Ben who is sent to stay with his Granny every weekend so his parents can go out ballroom dancing. Ben thinks she is the boringest Grandma ever. All she wants to do is to play Scrabble and eat cabbage soup, but what he doesn’t know is that his Granny was once an international jewel thief known as “The Black Cat”. Very soon Friday nights are the highlight of Ben’s week, as together they plan a daring raid on the Crown Jewels.

The two stars of the show, Ben played by Ashley Cousins and Granny played by Gilly Tompkins are fabulous. Granny, although small, stooped and grey steals virtually every scene. Her occasional cabbage trumps have the audience of small children and their parents giggling – all it needs is a cabbage scented scratch and sniff card to complete the effect.

Ben’s parents are meant to be annoying, and they are. His whiny, self-centred mum especially so, though I did enjoy the almost Mr Bean-like performance from Benedict Martin who plays both Ben’s Dad and nosy neighbour Mr Parker.

David Walliams Gangsta Granny

The supporting cast help to keep the pace up, Umar Malik is notable as penny-pinching but wise shopkeeper Raj and slimy dancer Flavio, and Louise Bailey as the Queen who is rather partial to cabbage soup and doesn’t mind the unfortunate side effects.

Gangsta Granny is full of glorious slapstick humour, it’s colourful, glittery, drab, funny, serious, silly and sad in equal measure. I wasn’t quite expecting to come away so affected by the moral of the story – just because someone is old it doesn’t mean they are invisible. 

Loneliness, especially in old age is a terrible thing, and it’s something I’m particularly mindful of. If Gangsta Granny encourages more people to speak to and check up on their elderly relatives and neighbours, then that’s a very excellent thing indeed. You never know, the nice old lady next door might have been an international jewel thief with a million pounds worth of treasure in a biscuit tin in her kitchen!

David Walliams Gangsta Granny

We thoroughly enjoyed Gangsta Granny, there were laugh out loud moments all the way through, lots of slapstick, funny smells and a thought provoking moral to the story – what more could you want?

The Birmingham Stage Company are currently touring David Walliams Gangsta Granny around the UK. You can find the tour dates here.