Review: A Christmas Carol, Waterside Arts, Sale

We were invited to see A Christmas Carol by Waterside Arts in Sale. All opinions are our own.

Everyone loves a ghost story at Christmas, and for my money, there’s no better ghost story than A Christmas Carol. On Friday, we went along to Waterside Arts in Sale, Greater Manchester to spend an evening watching A Christmas Carol, performed by Guy Masterson.

A Christmas Carol has been made into many films. It’s such a part of Christmas, I can’t imagine a December without calling an especially grumpy relative Scrooge. It’s been made and performed a thousand times over, but this one man show, this monologue performance by Guy Masterson was a masterpiece in storytelling.

Like all Dickens’ stories, there is a cast of many, all performed by Guy Masterson. Each one with a voice or mannerism of their own. Each character you can imagine perfectly, all due to a flick of some hair or the imaginary swish of some petticoats.

Review: A Christmas Carol, Waterside Arts, Sale

A Christmas Carol, performed by Guy Masterson

The stage is sparsely set with a chair and a coat on a hook. No other props are used, all are imagined by actor, Guy Masterson. Every sip from a cup, or closing of a door, you can see in your minds eye. You don’t need anything more, because Guy performs with such intensity, you are fully in the moment. You could hear a pin drop throughout. He jumps, runs, twirls and dances across the stage with a kind of energy I’ve long since been able to muster.

The show is 80 minutes long with an interval. It’s a masterclass in memory and Guy never stumbles. There’s the occasional and not at all hammy twinkly knowing eye to the audience, but the whole 80 minutes are an intense retelling of this classic Christmas tale. The ghosts, and the ghostly descriptions are vivid enough to cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end. Tiny Tim is the sickly hero, played so beautifully you can imagine his pale face at the hearthside.

Each character is perfectly drawn by Guy. Everything is so minimal and sparce that the intensity of the performance really sings loudest. I felt like I’d not drawn breath for the whole 80 minutes.

It was a wonderful way to revisit one of my favourite Christmas tales. It was intense and left you with much to think about. It’s a reminder, as if anyone needed one, that life can be peppered with regrets, and it’s never too late to change your path and do better.

Alas, the show was at Waterside Arts for one night only, but Guy is on tour at various theatres throughout the UK in December. It’s not a colourful, jolly festive feast, but the right kind of ghost story for this time of year. It’s a real treat for Dickens fans. I loved it, and it’ll stay with me for a while.

If you’re local to Waterside Arts, Sale and would like to catch a Christmas show, then there are several different shows on their website with tickets available

If you enjoyed this, you might like to find out about other Christmas shows in and around Manchester this year.

The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin, Waterside Arts

We were invited to see The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin by Waterside Arts in Sale. All opinions are our own.

Going to the theatre at Christmas is something my family really love to do. I’ve got a serious soft spot for Waterside Arts in Sale, and their Christmas shows are always worth a watch. This year, and until 31st December, they’re playing host to their latest family Christmas show – The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin.

This is the story of an eccentric man (Steve Salt) who lives in a shed surrounded by neighbours (variously played by Loretta Hope) who just don’t get him. He’s always coming up with new and wonderful inventions, but when no one comes to his birthday party, he knows something has to change. That day he receives a gift in the post of a globe. He resolves to go to Antarctica and become a penguin, far from people and rejection. He dresses up as a penguin and even learns their language – something the audience is encouraged to do too!

The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin

Along the way he meets explorer Ernest Shackleton, who helps him reach the penguin colony. There he makes friends with the penguins and gets to help out on hatching day!

All the action is built around the shed, which spins on wheels and turns into an arctic tundra, an aeroplane or a mountain. The set is very simple, but very well done. With just a few props you are transported into the Antarctic and into the honking lives of the penguins who live there. There are a heap of crisp white duvets which double up as deep snow drifts, which is so cleverly done.

The hour long show is dotted with magical moments. The dancing toasty coat was so well done, my son and his friend were open mouthed at the magic, because it was magic. At the end, a handful of snow is thrown up in the air and it magically comes down for minutes, which just had them both sat there, agape. It says a lot that a show aimed at children aged 3+ could still hold the attention of two 12 year olds, and what’s more, show them some Christmas magic too.

The man who wanted to be a penguin

Of course, the real stars of the show were the penguins, which came in all shapes and sizes. These were mostly puppets, but it was easy to suspend reality and you really felt for them. You worried about their eggs getting cold, and their struggle to snuggle together for warmth. The chilly atmosphere is only enhanced by the frosty soundtrack, which at times makes you shiver a bit, you’re in the moment so much!

Steve Salt and Loretta Hope both deliver a stunning physical performance, dotted with humour and pathos. The way they climb and leap and gambol through the icy Antarctic landscape really brings an extra, dynamic dimension to the show.

The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin is such a lovely wintery show. It’s just an hour long, so perfectly pitched for little ones, but even not so little ones, like my pair of 12 year olds! It’s an hour of magic, beautifully done and if you learn a little something about penguins along the way, then so much the better!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

If you enjoyed this, you might like to find out about other Christmas shows in and around Manchester this year.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

Christmas is a time for traditions and one of ours is a trip to see a Christmas show or two. In Manchester we have lots of great theatres within easy reach of our home and they always offer an exciting selection of Christmas productions. There’s something for everyone. Love panto? Go and see Cinderella. Got little ones? Go and see The Man Who Wanted to be a Penguin at Waterside Arts. Below are 10 family Christmas shows you can see in and around Manchester this Christmas…

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

The Man Who Wanted to be a Penguin, Waterside Arts, Sale, 30th November – 31st December

This is the story of an extraordinary explorer, a curious conjurer and pioneering problem-solver. You’ll find him pottering in his shed; planning his latest mission. He is learning to speak Penguin and hopes that you will too!

When he arrives at the Antarctic will its icy wilderness meet his excited expectations? Will the penguins’ reception be frosty, or will the colony welcome him with open wings?!

With a playful energy and a mix of puppetry, music and song, this show will be a delightful celebration of wild creativity and the joy of individuality. Read our review here.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

A Christmas Carol, Waterside Arts, Sale, 2nd December

Olivier Award winner, Guy Masterson, veteran of many smash hit solo works such as Under Milk Wood, Animal Farm and Shylock, now presents Dickens’ classic festive fable. Famed for bringing multiple characters to vivid life, Masterson gives us Scrooge, Marley, the Fezziwigs, the Cratchits, Tiny Tim et al in an riveting, performance that will dazzle, enchant, and linger long in the memory. Guaranteed to get you into the Christmas Spirit – in many more ways than one!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Room on the Broom, The Lowry Theatre, 7th December – 8th January

Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in Tall Stories’ fun-filled adaptation of Room on the Broom, the best-selling picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

The witch and her cat are travelling on their broomstick when they pick up some hitch-hikers – a friendly dog, a beautiful green bird and a frantic frog. But this broomstick’s not meant for five and – CRACK – it snaps in two… just as the hungry dragon appears! Read our review here.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Cinderella, Stockport Plaza, 8th December 2022 – 8th January

Well pop on your sparkling glass slippers, jump into your coach and dash along to the Stockport Plaza to find out in the North Wests Premier Family Pantomime – Cinderella!

You’re invited to the Stockport Plaza Pantomime and they guarantee you’ll have a ball! Tickets for the North Wests premier family Pantomime Cinderella are on sale now!….

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Comedysportz Improvised (adults only) Panto, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, 9th & 10th December

Heroes, villains, songs and silliness are guaranteed as the gang improvise a brand new pantomime using only your suggestions and a sprinkling of fairy dust. With plenty of quick-witted gags and games, this loving pastiche of panto characters and tropes will be jam-packed with laughs and unexpected delights – oh yes it will! You don’t want to miss this alternative festive treat that the whole family can enjoy.

Every show is different as players craft loving pastiche of panto tropes and characters from audience suggestions and a sprinkling of fairy dust. The performers don’t know their roles beforehand and might even get you involved in the action! This alternative pantomime is totally unscripted and completely unmissable – book your tickets for one of these family Christmas shows now!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan, Opera House Manchester, 10th – 31st December

Comedy superstar Jason Manford will lead the cast in The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan in the role of Captain Hook, joined by returning Manchester panto favourite and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Ben Nickless as Smee and musical theatre stars Jessica Croll as Wendy, Samara Casteallo as Tinkerbell and Ross Carpenter as Peter Pan.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

The Adventures of Robin Hood – The 80’s Panto!, Contact Theatre, 10th – 31st December

The Contact Theatre in Manchester present a panto 80’s remix of Robin Hood. It’s a fresh twist on the traditional, packed with an upbeat, sing-along, 80’s panto playlist! eight-freestyle‘s Robin Hood is a story of courage, friendship and bad puns. There’ll be plenty of laughs along the way as Robin joins forces with Maid Marion to thwart the Sheriff of Nottingham’s evil plans to kidnap the young Babes. This is a show that has it all: adventure, action, laughs, music, magic and men with mullets!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, 13th – 22nd January

The town of LeVache has a really BIG problem – a giant lives above them. What’s more, it’s the spring festival and there’s only one cook – the Widow Trot – with the assets to make all the buns sticky.

Find out if her son Jack finally proves himself? Will the independent Jill lead the way? Will Bogey and Flickit stop picking their noses? Or will everything be ruined by Fleshcreep, the slimiest villain of all? If only they had a beloved cow who can dance and save the day…

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

Claus – The Musical, The Lowry Theatre, 14th December – 8th January

From the writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comes the world premiere of Claus The Musical. Based on the beloved children’s book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, this brand-new musical is as magical as Christmas itself.

With spellbinding songs from Andy Collyer, heart-warming storytelling, enchanting sets, and a whole load of festive fun, discover the story of Claus and how he became a man forever in our hearts, and on Christmas Eve, forever in our skies.

Abandoned as a baby in the magical Forest of Burzee, he is gifted to Necile, a wood nymph, who showers him with love and names him Claus.  With a helping hand from the mystical inhabitants of the forest – Fairies, Knooks and Ryls – she teaches him that kindness is the most important lesson of all, a gift that Claus eventually shares with us, as he embarks on a journey to bring the miracle of Christmas to the whole world.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Little Penguin’s First Christmas, The Lowry Theatre, 22nd December – 31st December

From the company that brought you the sell-out productions of Snowbabies! and Aleena’s Garden, Little Penguin’s First Christmas is an immersive, festive experience for babies aged 0-36 months and their grown-ups!

Filled with puppetry, original music and sensory delights to stimulate and captivate, this show is a perfect first theatrical experience for your little one.

Join Little Penguin in her winter wonderland as she discovers the magic of her first Christmas.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

If you found this list of family Christmas shows useful, you might also like to read my list of 11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year.

Review: Unbelievable Science with Morgan & West

The Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Greater Manchester is one of my favourite theatre venues. It’s small enough for you to really feel part of the action, but not so small that you are part of the action. Earlier this week we went to see Unbelievable Science with Morgan & West. A show which promised captivating chemistry, phenomenal physics, and bonkers biology in their fun for all the family science extravaganza!

My son, who has recently started high school and fallen in love with science in a big way, was very keen to go. I was equally keen, as the thought of science as entertainment sounded pretty brilliant to me. Part scientists, part magicians, Morgan and West begin their hour long show with some good old fashioned chemistry; with chemical reactions aplenty. This was a great way to start, as everyone loves a chemical reaction, and there were ooohs and aaahs aplenty!

Review: Unbelievable Science with Morgan & West

It was an hour long march through the scientific world, but a thought provoking one. It gently touched on some of the things we all ought to be thinking about; climate change for one. Some difficult topics were explained simply, so that a child, or an adult who didn’t do very well in her science GCSE could understand. It really was a fast-paced show, one which I think we would benefit from seeing again, because it was so fun, but so fast.

Science really is the star of the show here, but Morgan and West are both brilliant. In a previous incarnation, they were both high school science teachers. Now they make people laugh, and bring joy and knowledge to theatres up and down the land. The show really is funny, West plays the straight man, and Morgan the likable idiot. Together they have created a really engaging show. They used comedy in a way to really hook in the audience, the whizz bangs and astonishing scientific tricks made everyone ooh and ahh. And afterwards they often do meet and greet sessions, so you can meet and chat to them both.

Review: Unbelievable Science with Morgan & West

Earlier I mentioned that they were part scientists and part magicians. My Dad was a magician and having grown up in a house where ladies were endlessly being sawn in half and 10p coins forever being pulled out of my ears, I know how closely related science and magic are. It was so good to see them both in the same show. Fear not, members of the Magic Circle, no secrets are revealed. Please go to see this show for the science, but stay for the magic, which is very (very) well done.

The hour long show is packed, and I mean packed with experiments and demonstrations. There’s a 3D section towards the end which is just brilliant. Definitely one of the best demonstrations of how 3D works that I’ve ever seen. I reckon if these guys had been my science teachers at school, I might have passed a few more exams!

My son (aged 11) absolutely loved the show. He really wanted to meet Morgan and West after the show, so we stayed to make that happen. He was really fired up by Unbelievable Science and chose to read up about chemistry when he got home. It really is so good to see a show like this, which entertains as much as it educates and inspires.

Unbelievable Science with Morgan & West is on a UK tour, with some Christmas specials coming up too. We would really recommend it. It’s one of the best things we’ve seen and we went home excited for our science homework (I know, right) and feeling like we’d had the best afternoon out.

Review: Unbelievable Science with Morgan & West

Unbelievable Science with Morgan & West is currently on tour across the UK, and you can find a list of their tour dates here.

The Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Greater Manchester is brilliant and they have an eclectic programme which you can find here.

Review: The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

We were invited to the opening night of The Not So Ugly Sisters in exchange for this review.

The Not So Ugly Sisters is the Cinderella story told from the point of view of her (not so ugly, but actually quite pretty) sisters. It’s fun, it’s glitzy, the songs are catchy; and aside from it being a really great show, it’s also very thought provoking.

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

Set in their hair salon, sisters Dolly (Daisy Ann Fletcher) and Barb (Lucy Rafton) are dealing with the fallout from the forthcoming royal wedding between their sister, Cindy and her future husband, Prince Smarming. The sisters talk, sing and dance their way through childhood tales, recounting the usual fallings out between sisters and best friends. They talk about how they all pulled together to get though the death of their mother and the time they all met the Prince at the ball and how that all went down.

There are broken hearts and broken friendships to mend along the way. This traditional Cinderella story is flipped to show the other side of the tale and it is really interesting. It really makes you think about trolling, cancel culture and how stories can be manipulated to make people out to be different to how they really are. Of course the sisters are not ugly, nor were they mean to Cinderella, and there is a happy ending, so happy that I might have shed a tear or two.

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

Aimed at families with children aged 5+, this 55 minute long show is long enough to tell the story; but not too long that little ones would lose interest. My 11 year old was completely rapt from start to finish. The story moves at a good pace, with upbeat and catchy songs making a regular appearance. The finale is a Christmas song we all know and love, and we are all encouraged to sing along in our seats.

With it being a family show, younger family members are encouraged to wear pyjamas to the early evening performances; with pre-bookable packs of milk and cookies also available (there’s a well-stocked bar for older family members who aren’t driving).

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

It has been so long since we darkened the door of a theatre; I’d almost forgotten how magical it could be. It was a fabulous way to kick off our festive season. There’s nothing quite like a Christmas show to get you in the mood for mince pies and festive magic. If you’ve not yet booked tickets to see a Christmas show; then tickets to see The Not So Ugly Sisters should be top of your Christmas list!

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts runs from 24th November 2021 to Saturday 1st January 2022. 

There are also some BSL and Relaxed Performances which might be useful to know about. 

  • Saturday 11th Dec at 11:00- BSL interpreted and relaxed performance.
  • Saturday 18th Dec at 11:00- BSL interpreted performance.

25 TV shows I’ve binge watched during lockdown

I don’t think I would have got through lockdown without Netflix. It’s kept me reasonably sane and fairly occupied since March. As soon as the boy is in bed, I like to tuck myself up for the evening and have a couple of hours watching TV on my iPad. After a couple of months, I decided to make a list of what I’ve binge watched, and here it is.

I’m an absolute horror for binge watching and if I’ve got the time, I can happily binge watch a whole series in an evening. For this reason, I’m constantly looking for new shows to devour.

I first got Netflix when The Last Kingdom moved from the BBC to Netflix, and I’ve been an avid consumer of on demand TV ever since. I’ve discovered some absolutely brilliant series on Netflix, but I probably watch an equal amount of programmes on iPlayer too.

25 TV shows I’ve binge watched during lockdown

Apparently during lockdown, TV programmes about the countryside, nature and farming have been really popular. As you can see from my list, I’ve also been losing myself of an evening by virtually popping down the farm and herding some sheep.

Here are 25 shows which I’ve binge watched during lockdown…

A Letter to the King – Netflix
After Life – Netflix
All Creatures Great and Small – My5 Channel 5
Anne with an E – Netflix
Bonding – Netflix
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 4OD
Dead to Me – Netflix
Derry Girls – Netflix
Fresh Meat – Netflix
Ghosts – BBC iPlayer
GLOW – Netflix
Grace & Frankie – Netflix
Island Medics – BBC iPlayer
Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing – BBC iPlayer
New Girl – Netflix
Our Yorkshire Farm – My5 Channel 5
Peaky Blinders – Netflix
Pose – Netflix
The Last Kingdom – Netflix
The Trip (and The Trip to Italy) – Netflix
The Umbrella Academy – Netflix
Turn Up Charlie – Netflix
Unorthodox – Netflix
Virgin River – Netflix
Young Offenders – BBC iPlayer

What TV shows you’ve binge watched during lockdown? Would you recommend them? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love some new suggestions.

25 TV shows I’ve binge watched during lockdown

Review: RNCM Young Explorers – Pictures at an Exhibition

On Sunday, the boy and I had a pair of tickets to go and see Young Explorers – Pictures at an Exhibition at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester. Storm Ciara was doing her worst, but we braved the tempests and we were very glad we did.

RNCM Young Explorers is a series of concerts designed to introduce young people to music. They’re generally relaxed performances and no one minds if babies cry or children giggle. It’s a great, unstuffy way to get the kids into classical music. We’ve been to similar things before and my boy has always enjoyed them, so I had a feeling he would like this too.

Review: RNCM Young Explorers - Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition is a piece of music by Russian 19th Century composer, Modest Mussorgsky. He wrote it in honour of his friend, the artist Vikto Hartman. The music is written so you can imagine you are walking around an art gallery, looking at all of the beautiful painting in it. 

Pictures at an Exhibition was a little bit extra special because not only did it feature the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, but artist and author James Mayhew was painting scenes from the music live on stage.

We arrived early, had our RNCM Young Explorers Passport stamped (you get a free family ticket when you have 6 stamps) and took our seats. We had a great view of the stage and the easel where James would be painting. There was also a big screen which had the painting projected onto it, so you could watch every brushstroke in huge detail.

Conductor, Tom Newall introduced the orchestra and got a few children in the audience on stage to help him conduct. It set the tone for the afternoon very nicely; friendly, hands on, lots of fun and with a few giggles. Tom introduced the orchestra and then welcomed James on stage.

Review: RNCM Young Explorers - Pictures at an Exhibition

The performance began and James deftly threw some paint on a board and created the most incredible, beautiful paintings. Half way through the first painting, my 9 year old son turned to me and whispered “this is really incredible”. I knew then when we got home I’d be needing to get the paints out for him.

The music was beautiful and provided the perfect backdrop to the painting. The whole audience was entranced by James and during the hour long performance he produced 10 beautiful paintings. It was over all too soon; but in keeping with the hands-on vibe of the day, the orchestra invited the audience to come and have a closer look at the instruments and learn a bit more.

James was thronged with people, we had brought along one of his books to sign so we hung back a little. James very kindly gave us one of his practice paintings and chatted with my boy a bit. He was thrilled and that night went to bed clutching his signed book.

The RNCM Young Explorers series is aimed at children aged 3+. but younger ones are welcome too. My 9 year old was transfixed by the whole thing and I would absolutely take him back to another performance. I think it’s fed his imagination and sparked a few creative thoughts in his (currently Minecraft obsessed) head. I loved it and will be keeping my eyes peeled for similar performances in the future.

Tickets cost from £6 and you can find details of future concerts here.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

AD/Complimentary Tickets. Summer to me is picnics in the park, festivals and being outside for as much as I can, weather permitting. I spend so much of the year indoors hunched over a laptop, it seems silly not to spend what I can outside enjoying the fresh air and whatever sunshine Manchester sees fit to provide. With the sunshine starting to put in a more regular appearance; last week I hopped on the tram to Exchange Quay and indulged myself in a bit of open air theatre at Ordsall Hall. I went to see Macbeth performed by Three Inch Fools.

Macbeth was performed in the grounds of this beautiful (I mean really beautiful) Tudor manor house near Media City in Salford. I live in Didsbury, so it’s just a really easy tram ride away for me. There’s also lots of parking on site if you prefer.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

Last year I watched Pride and Prejudice at Ordsall Hall, it was during the heatwave and it was a beautiful evening. This year the weather has been a bit more miss than hit, but on the longest day we were blessed with warm sunshine and a glorious sunset. I was glad I took my big coat though, when the sun tucked itself away behind a building, the temperature quickly dropped.

I arrived and as we had pre-booked a picnic, so I went straight to the cafe to pick up my bag of goodies. An adult picnic bag is £8.95 and contains a sandwich, crisps, a nice drink, a piece of fruit and a slice of homemade cake. You can upgrade your picnic bag with a glass of prosecco for an extra £1. The cafe is lovely and sells very good hot drinks, snacks and cake; so if you’ve missed out on the pre-booked picnic you can also stock up on goodies there.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

As with most open air theatre, you’re best off taking your own camping chair or a good rug to sit on. Most people had their own chairs and I brought mine on the tram, no one stared. I met up with some of my friends who had bagged a spot right next to the stage and we all settled into our chairs, munching on our picnics.

Macbeth was brilliant. The five actors from Three Inch Fools whirled and swirled around the small stage, bringing the story to life and entertaining the crowd. It really was one of the loveliest open air theatre experiences I’ve had. I was glad I got there early and bagged a seat close to the stage; it really made me feel very close to the action.

The atmosphere at these events is great. It’s really chilled out, with the actors sometimes leaping into the audience and in one memorable scene, swigging pimms from the can of an audience member. There’s usually an interval too; a chance to pop to the loo and get a hot drink and a snack if you want; or just to explore Ordsall Hall a bit.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

A visit to the open air theatre is a lovely thing to do with friends or family. It’s a great experience and a slightly more relaxed and casual way of going to the theatre. Ordsall Hall is a really stunning venue and really easy to access too.

Ordsall Hall have a great programme of open air theatre lined up for this summer –
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 21st July
  • Gangsta Granny, 31st July & 27th August
  • The Tempest, 3rd August
  • Much Ado About Nothing, 11th August
  • Wuthering Heights, 15th August

Disclosure: We were given complimentary tickets and a picnic in exchange for this post. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Elmer The Patchwork Elephant at The Lowry

AD – Given Press Tickets for review purposes. Not paid.

Based on the classic children’s book series by David McKee, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is on at The Lowry on 19th-21st February. I took the boy along to the first showing of this cheery production aimed at pre-schoolers.

Elmer is a vibrant, funny and kind elephant. He’s different from the other elephants in his herd and he’s not sure he’s happy about that. He tries his very hardest to blend in, unsuccessfully, so he meets up with some of his animal friends who help him to realise that being different is just fine.

Review: Elmer The Patchwork Elephant at The Lowry #AD

Along the way he meets singing frogs, a giraffe, a lion, birds, monkeys and zebras. Soon his herd start to miss him, rejoining them Elmer realises that his friends have always valued and loved his unique personality and appearance.

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is around 50 minutes long. It’s lively and engaging, with catchy songs, brilliant puppetry and some audience participation. The set is colourful and simple, the puppets are great fun, but the puppeteers are what makes the show. All of them were dressed in safari clothes and blended in beautifully. It’s always the mark of an accomplished puppeteer that you watch the puppet and not the person.

We really liked the songs, they’re the kind of thing we could listen to in the car and sing along to on long journeys. There were some funny moments, some touching moments and a lot of feel good stuff too.

My son is 8, but he enjoyed it, he understood the message, loved the songs and his favourite bit were the monkeys. We left with a smile on our faces and chatted on the way home about what made us different and how we could celebrate and appreciate those differences.

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is a lovely show which is ideal for pre-schoolers and young ones. It’s left us with a serious case of the warm and fuzzies.

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is on at The Lowry from 19th-21st February this year. For more information or to book tickets, visit The Lowry website.

Note, we were given press tickets for review purposes. I have not been paid for this post.

Review: Doctor Dolittle The Musical at The Lowry

Every year The Lowry in Salford Quays puts on a big family show. It’s not always Christmassy, but it’s always a good alternative to the traditional Panto. This year The Lowry are playing host to Doctor Dolittle The Musical and we went along to see if he really could talk to the animals.

Based on the popular 1967 film with Rex Harrison; this spectacular new stage show stars Mark Williams as the eccentric Doctor. In Doctor Dolittle, join him and his human companions and his exotic menagerie of animal friends on an extraordinary adventure to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail. With help from the Pushmi-Pullyu and his trusty sidekick Polynesia the Parrot, the good Doctor teaches us not only to talk to the animals but to listen to them as well!

Review: Doctor Dolittle The Musical at The Lowry

Fans of the original film, or the Eddie Murphy re-make will spot a few changes to the original story, but the main characters and the most favourite songs survive. In this production there is more of a focus on Doctor Dolittle’s relationship with the animals rather than him falling in love. Matthew Muggs played by Patrick Sullivan instead falls in love with Emma Fairfax (Mollie Melia-Redgrave).

The production is lush and visually striking, with a versatile paper set designed by Tom Piper. Each scene is brought to life by the animal puppets. There are 39 animal puppets and each one moves authentically and you really start to see some of them as actual animals rather than puppets, especially Jip the dog who is just wonderful. There are two giant puppets – the Giant Pink Sea Snail and the Giant Lunar Moth who are especially well done. At the end the moth flutters over the front few rows holding Doctor Dolittle in its legs, it’s very well done.

Mark Williams as Doctor Dolittle is warm and just crotchety enough. He doesn’t dominate the stage, but gives the animals the space to shine. Matthew Muggs (Patrick Sullivan) is a charming, engaging everyman, whilst Mollie Melia-Redgrave as Emma Fairfax is by far the strongest vocalist in the show and leads us through a procession of songs.

Little Tommy Stubbins; the boy who escapes from the orphanage to go on a grand adventure with Doctor Dolittle; is ably and enthusiastically played by six young boys. I think Thomas Ryan played Tommy on the night we attended and he is someone to watch out for in the future.

Vicky Entwistle voices and is the co-puppeteer for Polynesia the parrot. It’s a large part but I found myself drawn to watching Vicky instead of Polynesia, which was quite distracting. Doctor Dolittle also stars Brian Capron as both Albert Blossom and Straight Arrow. As Albert Blossom (the circus owner) he was brilliantly bawdy and it took a moment for me to recognise him. I really did enjoy the colourful circus scenes which were a real highlight.

Review: Doctor Dolittle The Musical at The Lowry

I feel I must mention the Ensemble cast, who were superb. They really helped to move the story along and were all lively, engaging and great singers and puppeteers.

The production contains 24 songs, some of which you might remember from the films (Talk to the Animals; I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It; and My Friend The Doctor). Doctor Dolittle is two and a half hours long, including a 20 minute interval; there are a couple of parts where the action really slows, which is a shame in an otherwise colourful show.

Doctor Dolittle The Musical is a joyful, colourful, all singing and dancing family show. Fans of the film would really enjoy the musical; and as Albert Blossom would say, you’ve never seen anything like it in your life!

For more information about Doctor Dolittle The Musical, and to buy tickets, visit the website.

Check out our run down of family theatre shows in the region this Christmas.

We were invited guests of The Lowry, all thoughts and opinions are our own.