Nina Simone’s story takes to The Lowry stage in the New Year.

Story of legendary artist and activist Nina Simone takes to The Lowry stage in the New YearNina – a story about me and Nina Simone
Tue 30 Jan – Sat 3 Feb 2018 

The story of legendary artist and activist Nina Simone will take to The Lowry stage (Tue 30 Jan – Sat 3 Feb 2018) in Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone.

Starring the incredible Josette Bushell-Mingo and a live band, Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone is a searing and soulful theatre piece inspired by the life and music of Nina Simone.  

Taking in the singer’s political acts as part of the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s America as well as the struggles in her personal life, Josette Bushell-Mingo finds a parallel with the persisting inequality in today’s society, and questions how far we’ve really come.

Versions of some of Nina Simone’s best-loved songs combine with a clear provocation in this production directed by Dritëro Kasapi, with dramaturgy by Christina Anderson.  Design and costume is by Rosa Maggiora, musical direction by Shapor Bastansiar, light by Matt Haskins, video by Dritëro Kasapi.

Originally performed at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool in 2016, Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone toured Sweden in 2017 before its London premiere at the Young Vic in July 2017.

Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE is a Swedish-based English theatre actress and director. She was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2000 for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Rafiki in the London production of The Lion King. In 2001, she founded a black-led arts festival called PUSH at the Young Vic. Her credits at the Young Vic include: Simply Heavenly (as a director, also West End) and The Iron Man.  Her other directing credits include: Glo (The Volcano Theatre, Canada), When We Dead Awaken (The Vasterbottensteatean, Sweden, Unity Theatre, Liverpool), The Ghost Sonata (The People Show) and The Penelopiad (RSC). Her acting credits for theatre include: Antony and Cleopatra (Royal Exchange, Manchester), Vagina Monologues (New Ambassadors Theatre) and The Creation, Death & Knowledge In Everyman, Virtuoso, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC). For television, her credits include: Blood River. Her film credits include: Blood In Their Eyes.

Dritëro Kasapi is a theatre director based in Stockholm, Sweden. He was educated at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Skopje, Macedonia, where he originates from and where he started his career. Dritëro’s work has been performed internationally at many festivals including Wiener Festwochen, Bonn Biennale and Festival d’Avignon. He was an artistic leader of the CTC, a producing theatre and education centre in Skopje, Macedonia, from 1999-2005, Artistic Director of Gottsunda Dance and Theatre in Uppsala Sweden from 2005-2008 and is currently Deputy Artistic Director of Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm. His recent credits include: Hamlet, Enron, An Enemy of the People and Lampedusa.

Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone performed by Josette Bushell-Mingo and directed by Dritëro Kasapi runs Tue 30 Jan – Sat 3 Feb 2018 at The Lowry, Salford. Dramaturgy is by Christina Anderson, design and costume by Rosa Maggiora, musical direction by Shapor Bastansiar, light by Matt Haskins and video by Dritëro Kasapi.

A clown seeks redemption through honesty and heartfelt truth at the Cockpit in January 2018

January 15th – 19th, The Cockpit
Press Night: January 16th 2017, 7.30pm

After a critically acclaimed run at the 2017 Camden Fringe, Richard Canal’s tale of a clown seeking redemption through honesty and heartfelt truth returns to the Cockpit for a limited run in January 2018. Drawing from his own experiences, Canal’s personal story wipes off the make-up to reveal the face of himself, his persona and the United States’ first decades into the 20th century.

★★★★“a strong and bold piece of theatre” The Open Door

It is November 16th, 1932. The Depression is at its greatest, and vaudeville – the roaring heartbeat of the ’20s – has ceased to beat. Isaac Solomon Loew, a Jewish Mississippian, performs on Broadway as Blueberry, a happy-go-lucky Pierrot. Wrestling with guilts of times bygone, he frequently flees from his pain not only into performance, but also into sex. His increasingly addictive escapes have finally lost him his wife, at the same times as he loses his employment. He enters his dressing-room for the last time; and as he pours his heart out to the audience, shedding his painted mask, he wrestles with his memories, mistakes and misdeeds – either to their conclusion, or his own.

Cry, Blueberry is not, however, a tale of gloom and woe. Blueberry is a trumpeter of life, whose dreams fly above storms and tears; and his twisting, turning, heartfelt and honest-to-God journey – through saloons, towns, cities, brothels, circuses, churches, synagogues, theatres and more – touches on themes including racial injustice, the accountability of bystanders, the profundity of clowning and the ethics of repentance and forgiveness. This magical-realist play presents a poetic, enchanting perspective on the nature of encounters and escapes; on how people detach and isolate themselves from pain and painful truths; and on gladness, sadness and everything in between.

★★★★ “Canal (plays the title role) with incredulous conviction
(…) his voice (is) the real star and belongs on the RSC stage
The Open Door

Richard Canal is a London-based actor and playwright from Spain and the United States, currently studying towards an MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development at SOAS. Aside from his studies, he aims to become involved in theatre for reconciliation, and is working on a couple of one-person historical pieces for other actors.

Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! at Hull New Theatre

Hit musical at venue next year for six performances only

The sensational feel-good musical MAMMA MIA! will come to Hull for the first time ever for six performances only at Hull New Theatre from Thursday, May 31 to Sunday, June 3 as part of the international tour.

MAMMA MIA! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise.

To date, it has been seen by more than 60 million people in 50 productions and in 16 different languages.

When it was released in 2008, MAMMA MIA! The Movie became the highest-grossing live action musical film of all time. A second film, MAMMA MIA! Here We Go Again is currently in production and has a global release in July 2018.

From West End to global phenomenon, the London production of MAMMA MIA! has now been seen by more than 10 per cent of the entire UK population. It is one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years both on Broadway and in the West End, and in 2011, it became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China.

The hugely successful International Tour, since premiering in Dublin in September 2004, has visited 85 cities across 38 countries and sold over 5 million tickets.

With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast. The production is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material and arrangements by Martin Koch.

The MAMMA MIA! International Tour is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East & Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal, Stage Entertainment and NGM.

The MAMMA MIA! International Tour is at Hull New Theatre from Thursday, May 31 to Sunday, June 3 2018. Tickets are from £18 plus £1.50 per ticket booking fee. They go on sale at 10am on Thursday, December 7. Extras members can access 24-hour priority booking from 10am on Wednesday, December 6.

Book over the telephone by calling 01482 300 306 or online by visiting Tickets can also be booked in person at the Hull New Theatre or Hull City Hall box offices.




Chivaree Circus’ Becoming Shades headlines VAULT Festival 2018

Chivaree Circus & Upstage Creative present
Becoming Shades
VAULT Festival, The Vaults, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN
Wednesday 24th January – Sunday 18th March 2018

Chivaree Circus return to VAULT Festival with a brand new and extended version of Becoming Shades, taking audiences on an immersive underworld journey in the long dark tunnels of Waterloo’s Vaults.

Based on the classical myth of Persephone, Becoming Shades is a bold re-imagining that fuses together live music, physical theatre, aerial acrobatics, fire, dance and mime. Journey down the River Styx and join these lost souls in the underworld.

In the original myth Hades kidnapped Persephone but this radical re-telling will subvert the power structure placing Persephone in control, at the centre of the story, leading to her true realisation as The Queen of Shades. Told through contemporary circus, Becoming Shades is a story of empowerment, love and choice.

This dark immersive circus places emphasis on specially composed original music which features rich interplays of vocal harmonies and a combination of live acoustic instruments alongside darker electronic sounds

Producers of Becoming Shades comment, In 2018, the modern form of circus will celebrate its 250th birthday. In order to survive and reach out to new audiences, circus became more fragmented and more specialised. Contemporary circus was born out of a paradigm shift and a burst of newfound energy. We want to push this further in Becoming Shades. A traditional circus audience sits in a circular space with the performers at the centre. In immersive theatre the audience is in the centre and the action all around them. But if this is to become a fully tangible, immersive and interactive experience, then the action must happen closer, and on a smaller scale

The production is raw, exciting and full of energy. Emotionally charged performances coupled with highly skilled stunts and acrobatics result in a production that is true to the essence of the underlying myth (London Theatre 1).

This shifting, cyclical tale creates an emotional tapestry of ideas and impressions. Featuring big aerial drops and exceptional fire elements, audiences choose their own path through this dark and cerebral journey.

Blood Brothers Announces 2018 UK Tour




Bill Kenwright’s ‘Dazzling’ (Sunday Telegraph) production of the international smash hit musical Blood Brothers announces its 2018 tour, opening on Tuesday 16 January at the Theatre Royal Bath.This iconic musical has been visiting theatres across the country throughout 2017 in celebration of its 30th anniversary, performing to sell-out houses and receiving standing ovations.

Considered ‘One of the best musicals ever written’ (Sunday Times), Blood Brothers, written by award-winning playwright Willy Russell has triumphed across the globe. Scooping up no fewer than four awards for best musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway, Blood Brothers is simply ‘Unmissable and unbeatable’ (The Spectator).

Critically acclaimed actress and singer Lyn Paul returns to the seminal role of Mrs Johnstone, following her first performance back in 1997. Hailed as ‘The definitive Mrs Johnstone’ (Manchester Evening News), Lyn has played the role on numerous UK tours and also starred as Mrs Johnstone in the final West End performances at the Phoenix Theatre in 2012.

Lyn first rose to fame in the early 1970s as a member of the New Seekers. She was the featured vocalist on their 1972 Eurovision Song Contest entry, ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow’, in which they came second and lead vocalist on the 1974 number-one hit ‘You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me’. Among the group’s other works, they recorded the song ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’, adapted from an advertising jingle for Coca-Cola, which sold over 20 million copies and still remains one of the 100 best-selling singles in the UK. She has also starred in the UK tour of Cabaret in 2013 as Fraulein Schneider, in Boy George’s musical Taboo and in Footloose – the Musical.

This epic tale of Liverpool life started as a play, performed at a Liverpool comprehensive school in 1981 before opening at the Liverpool Playhouse 35 years ago in 1983, completing sell out seasons in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. Blood Brothers also ran in London’s West End for 24 years, exceeding 10,000 performances, one of only three musicals ever to achieve that milestone.


Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret. The memorable score includes A Bright New DayMarilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.

When Mrs Johnstone, a young mother, is deserted by her husband and left to her own devices to provide for seven hungry children she takes a job as a housekeeper in order to make ends meet. It is not long before her brittle world crashes around her when she discovers herself to be pregnant yet again – this time with twins! In a moment of weakness and desperation, she enters a secret pact with her employer which leads inexorably to the show’s shattering climax.

A sensational cast, incredible show stopping music, remarkable staging and five star performances make Blood Brothers an enthralling night of entertainment.

Willy Russell is undeniably one of this country’s leading contemporary dramatists. His countless credits include Educating Rita and Shirley ValentineEducating Rita, originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, enjoyed a two year run in the West End and was made into a movie starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Shirley Valentine also made the move from stage to screen in an enormously popular film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti.


Bill Kenwright presents


By Willy Russell

Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright

Designed by Andy Walmsley                                   Sound Designed By Dan Samson

Musical Direction by Rich Morris                            Lighting Designed by Nick Richings



Tuesday 16– Saturday 20 January                                                          Box Office:  01225 448844

Theatre Royal, Bath                                                                                     Website:


Tuesday 23 January – Saturday 3 February                                        Box Office: 028 9024 1919

Grand Opera House, Belfast                                                                    Website:

Tuesday 6– Saturday 10 February                                                          Box Office: 01934 645544

Playhouse Theatre, Weston Super Mare                                           Website:

Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 February                                                      Box Office: 0844 871 7607

Aylesbury Waterside Theatre                                                                                 Website:

Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 February                                                      Box Office:  01325 405405

Darlington Hippodrome                                                                                             Website:

Monday 5 – Saturday 10 March                                                                              Box Office: 0844 871 3014

Edinburgh Playhouse                                                                                  Website:

Monday 12 – Saturday 17 March                                                            Box Office: 01242 572573

Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham                                                                            Website:

Monday 19 – Saturday 24 March                                                            Box Office: 01745 330000

Rhyl Pavilion                                                                                                   Website:

Monday 26 – Saturday 31 March                                                            Box Office: 01228 633766

Carlisle Sands Centre                                                                                  Website:

Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 April                                                                    Box Office:  01271 316063

Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple                                                                  Website:

Monday 9 – Saturday 14 April                                                                  Box Office: 01872 262466

Hall for Cornwall, Truro                                                                                              Website:

Monday 16– Saturday 21 April                                                                                Box Office: 01902 429212

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton                                                          Website:

Monday 30 April – Saturday 5 May                                                        Box Office: 01473 433100

Regent Theatre, Ipswich                                                                           Website:

Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 May                                                                  Box Office: 02380 711811

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton                                             

Tuesday 15 –Saturday 26 May                                                                 Box Office: 0844 871 3019

Palace Theatre, Manchester                                                          

‘Tis Unmanly Grief Review

Theatre N16 – until 16 December.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Theatre N16’s last production at The Bedford is a boldly absurd and unsettling look at the impact of grief. Tom’s father has died, and Tom isn’t coping too well, so he digs up Dad and brings him home. Tom’s wife Katie finds out that she’s pregnant, but can’t bring herself to tell Tom once she’s seen Dad sitting in his armchair. As Dad slowly decomposes, the couple’s relationship rots as well, with Katie turning to drink to deal with Tom’s increasingly unhinged and obsessive behaviour.

Tim Crowther’s script is brisk and clipped, echoing Tom’s difficulties in expressing and dealing with his grief, with Tom’s sentences becoming increasingly unfinished, and Katie moving between ranting pleas for sanity and speechless horror as she watches Tom’s withdraw from reality. The dark humour plays well as visitors react to Dad’s presence with varying levels of acceptance, and the use of a large stickman drawing to represent the corpse is a neat touch, especially when Tom carries it around the stage with such care and reverence.

Deborah Bowness’s design – flat images of bath and bed on the floor and wall – lands to the cartoonish detachment from reality, along with Aaron Anthony’s ever watching presence as The Figure – part narrator, part stagehand – switching between multiple roles as visitors whose repeated, useless advice to “Hang in there, Tom” contrasts with Katie’s attempts to help Tom actually deal with his grief. The blackout between scenes become a little tedious, but add to the disjointed atmosphere of the story.

Natasha Pring is excellent as Katie, nailing her growing despair and helplessness; Damian Hasson tackles the difficult role of Tom with great energy. Keeping him just about sympathetic even in his most selfishly destructive moments, Hasson is particularly moving in the scenes where he acts out idyllic childhood scenes with his father’s corpse.

The play ends in a miasma of buzzing flies, with nothing resolved – which is appropriate for a story about an issue that is still not discussed enough and is not an easy fix. Dramatically though, it feels unfinished and abrupt, and a little disappointing for a play that begins with such promise.

La Soirée Review

Aldwych Theatre – until 3 February.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Returning to London, but now plonking their legendary red stage in the swanky surroundings of the newly refurbished Aldwych Theatre, the La Soirée team prove that they can still throw one hell of a party.

With on stage seating and table service for the posh folks, and the red stage sitting in the stalls surrounded by chairs, the atmosphere, the fun club atmosphere is not lost in the theatre. Full of sauce and some mind-blowing skills, performers from all over the world showcase their weird and wonderful speciality acts. The line-up changes, with guest star appearances. Standouts on the night I attended were the Chilly Brothers on the Russian Cradle (nothing to do with Trump’s predilections, thankfully), and Mallakhamb India!, with feats of strength and agility that will leave you open mouthed. Lea Hinz’s grace and power on the aerial hoop is unbelievable in a beautiful act, and local lad LJ Marles is sublime on the aerial straps.

Cabaret Decadanse’s puppetry is outstanding, especially their wonderful diva act, and La Serviette stole the show with their brilliantly choreographed and cheeky number attempting to protect their modesty with towels as they danced naked. Definitely one for your granny to see – she’ll love it!

Daredevil Chicken and Amy G provide the comedy, with Daredevil Chicken doing things with a banana that can never be unseen, and a wonderfully crude quick-change act that will have you howling with laughter. Amy G makes the onstage audience slightly regret their decadence in her turns, giving her pipes (at both ends) a good airing.

This is a show best enjoyed with lots of good friends and lots of good drink – an evening of graceful beauty and joyful stupidity that will make you want to come back for more.

The Invisible Review

Blue Elephant Theatre 30 November – 1 December.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Yuyu Wang’s one-woman show has the potential to be an outstanding piece of theatre. As it is, The Invisible is already a beautifully written and understated examination of identity and belonging. The simple set, with only a giant paper plane on the wall that doubles as a projection screen, and minimal props – paper planes, a phone and apples – mean that Yuyu Wang is the focus of attention for the entire hour’s running time. Wang has the intensity and charisma to carry this off in spades and her magnetic performance makes it easy for the audience to invest in this story, even though the storyteller never gives the character a name.

This anonymity is the thread of the play – Wang tells of the childhood in rural China spent dreaming of leaving on an aeroplane for exciting new destinations, and then the sense of longing for home when she finally achieved her dream of settling in London.

The loneliness of living in a big city can be overwhelming for anyone, but Wang’s portrayal of the isolation and otherness felt by Asian women is palpable in this intimate setting. The reversal of meaning for her floating paper planes – as a child, she floated them as wishes, now she floats them as moments when she feels invisible – is a powerful and emotional image. The loss of family roots and ties is brought home by Wang using her phone to project her face on screen, talking about her mother’s advice sent halfway around the world. The death of her grandparents, which is too painful to keep translating into English, is simply stunning, with Wang dropping her unemotional English tones to speak in her native tongue with huge emotion that crosses language borders.

There are some passages that are a little overlong, although their purpose is clear, with Wang running back and forth to convey the daily treadmill and effort to keep afloat in an unforgiving world, but there are also some magical moments, most notably when Wang turns her camera on the audience and projects their image onto the stage as she muses on the tininess of human life in the galaxy, and the difference an interaction with the people we rush past every day could make. The boundaries between performer and audience are torn down and the questions Wang asks stay with you as you walk from the theatre.

The invisible is a hugely promising piece, which I hope will continue to evolve and find the wider audience it deserves.

Aladdin, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto Review

Leeds City Varieties – until 7 January 2018.  Reviewed by Dawn Smallwood


‘Tis the season for the pantomimes and unsurprisingly City Varieties is hosting another Peter Rowe’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto. Following the success of Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin has begun its run and will run throughout the Christmas season.

Aladdin is a well known story with the production set in Ancient China and the characters’ lives become chaotic with the magic lamp, which the genie (Hannah Price) appears and hilarious consequences follow. The traditional elements which the audience expects in a pantomime is not missed such as the shouting out, the vocal disagreeing, the booing to the villainous Abanazer (Dan Bottomley) and laughing at outrageous scenarios instigated mainly by Widow Twankey (Justin Brett) and Wishee Washee (Kenny Davies). Children are entertained from beginning to end with maximum audience participation and the adults are regularly drawn to its lines, localised references and innuendoes particularly from Widow Twankey (Brett).

The music and singing are performed live with an onstage band in the background to well known pop, rock and soul hits, forming as musical numbers, which people are familiar with such as “I’m a Believer”, “I Will Survive”, “I Feel Good” and the finale’s “Dancing in the Streets”. The musical numbers fit appropriately to the characters’ personalities and the story’s plot. The talented cast, the majority doubling up as musicians, certainly put on a good show and the audience interaction and participation is at a maximum. The highlight must be the fun “boulder” fight in the second act between the audience and the cast. Huge balls are thrown high across the stalls auditorium and many participate.

Courtesy of the creative team, the staging is colourful and bright along with the costumes, particularly the outrageous ones Widow Twankey (Brett) wore, and the along with the lighting and sound including the hazy smoke and strobe lighting complimenting the production.

Like in similar vein to Shakespeare’s comedies, the story ends all well with Aladdin (Alex Wingfield) and the Princess (Grace Lancaster). This is a very good production and Aladdin guarantees an entertaining evening out for all ages and it’s a must see pantomime during this festive season.


For Love or Money Review

York Theatre Royal – until Saturday 2nd November.  Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


Northern Broadsides presents For Love or Money at York Theatre Royal as part of a national tour. This is Barrie Rutter’s swansong as Artistic Director, 25 years after he founded the company. This adaptation is a very Yorkshire take by Blake Morrison, based on the 18th century play Turcaret by Alain-René Lesage.

Set in 1920’s Yorkshire it’s a story of love triangles and greed. Rose (Sarah-Jane Potts), a young war widow, has lost all her money and now relies on the generosity of the older and besotted bank manager, Algy Fuller (Rutter), who is hiding a few secrets. She is leading him a merry dance, for her head and heart is elsewhere, in the hands of the scoundrel Arthur (Jos Vantyler), who is much younger and deceitful through and through. He plays Rose for as much money and gifts that have been bestowed upon her by Fuller.

Virtually everyone is pulling a con, the only real honest character is the plain speaking Marlene (Jaqueline Naylor), who is subsequently fired for her opinions. We learn that Fuller is guilty of embezzlement and Arthur wants to get some more of the action and manages to get his friend/dogsbody Jack’s (Jordan Metcalfe) feet under the table, working for Fuller. This makes for even more double crossing by all parties. After several plot twists, Fuller gets his comeuppance, with Jack and his girlfriend Lisa ( Kat Rose-Martin) being the real winners.

The simple but effective set tells it all, a chaise longue, a chair, but little other furniture, tired curtains and wallpaper with imprints of where hanging pictures once hung but have been sold off.

Potts plays Rose with a supposed innocence, languishing on the chaise longue, one of the very few pieces of furniture she has left, in the last dress that she possesses. Rutter pulls off the corrupt and self-righteous bank manager to a tee, believing himself to be untouchable. Some parts of the show used dance and movement and Vantyler really stood out here, he showed great physicality with his fluid movements and eccentricity. I also enjoyed Naylor’s portrayal of the opinionated housekeeper, short though it was.

I did struggle at times to fully understand the Yorkshire lingo, but this was only a minor glitch. Overall the show is full of wit and double entendre and thoroughly entertaining. The show ends on a great high with the whole cast doing the Charleston.