Thursday, 29 September 2016

Filmreel News: Father of African Cinema Ousmane Sembène's Films Come to HOME MCR

HOME Manchester's forthcoming film season offers an insight into Senegalese writer, producer and director Ousmane Sembène's prolific record as a filmmaker aiming to represent the marginalised and voiceless in society, revealing why he was awarded the title of the father of African cinema.

Under the banner of Rebel with a Camera, the season comprises four feature-length screenings, ranging from his 1966 debut about a Senegalese childminder who returns with the child's family to the south of France, Black Girl (Sun 9 October), through to the posthumous documentary, Sembène (2012), compiled by his colleague and biographer Samba Gadjigo, along with Jason Silverman. Gadjigo will also be appearing at HOME for a Q&A after the film on Sat 8 October.

The other films during the season are the colonial satire Xala (1975), which will be shown on Thu 20 October, and Sembène's final film before his death in 2007, Moolaadé (2004), which tackles the horrors of FGM and concludes the Manchester season on Mon 24 October.

The programme of his selected works is also touring the UK between October 2016 and January 2017, sharing his catalogue of African stories for African audience with intercontinental viewers. You can catch all four films across from Inverness to various London venues, with other destinations including Sheffield's Showroom, Keswick's Alhambra and Edinburgh's Filmhouse.

Words: Ian Pennington

Rebel with a Camera: The Cinema of Ousmane Sembène runs at HOME from Sat 8 to Mon 24 October, 2016.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

On Corporation Street @ Home, 15.06.16

Where were you on 15th June 1996? It’s a question that we have asked each other when we remember, and try to comprehend the biggest bomb detonation in mainland Britain since WWII. Twenty years later, Mancunians and their adopted cosmopolitans have continued on with their lives, thriving, prevailing. United. It is with this sense of unity that has allowed theatre company ANU to ask us to share our memories, and give them a new existence as the heart of On Corporation Street.

Creators of the sold out award-winning Angel Meadow ANU, have returned to HOME with a new promenade performance, weaving the audience through backstage and basements as they reflect on the Manchester Bombings from a 2016 viewpoint. There is no fourth wall, there is nowhere to hide, the audience are a part of this dreamscape and only one thing is for certain: The opinion you leave with will be your own. I was luckily enough to be familiar with the work of ANU after seeing Angel Meadow in 2014. After wiping away a tear of nostalgia of my first printed theatre review, I knew I had certain expectations (all good ones in case you were wondering), of content and style. I have to admit the feeling of guilty amusement at my confused fellow audience members wondering what is acceptable in a promenade performance: "The character has just asked me a question! What do I do? Argh she is still staring at me”. My advice, roll with it. You are going to get more from the experience if you just invest in the moment.

We are first brought into the auditorium, where we are introduced to all the potential characters we could later meet in person. All make their way to the stage, and create an intense slow motion sequence, impressively creating mini snapshots in the midst of flying glass and the quaking earth. Impressive as it was, it did create a pacing issue for the rest of the production, unless the next interaction the audience has with a character really lands. I can only speak for my group, but our first interface was a ten-minute monologue with a lot of long pauses; in this case two slows don’t make a right. I completely understand the intent behind the delivery; a young man trying to comprehend such senseless destruction. However, I think this would have been more effective if this encounter was in ‘real-time’ akin to the other encounters we are about to move on to. This piece was reflective, such are the audience currently remember that day, whereas our other characters are still taking in and processing something that happened a few hours ago.

Two of my favourite moments came from Jamie Matthewman and Una Kavanagh. In a hot and sticky corridor, we listen through headphones to a soundscape of recollections and 999 emergency calls. As I wince at the voiceover recall 180 people all arriving at A&E, a surgeon (Matthewman) takes a quick breather, enveloped in exhaustion and disbelief. All without speaking a word. A short walk away in a hospital breakroom, we meet a nurse (Kavanagh) still trying to steady herself from feeling the “shaking in the air”. As the rest of the audience sat around the table clad with half eaten digestives and abandoned cups of tea, I stood near our nurse host and noticed a vicious looking bite mark on her arm. She apologies, profusely. She apologies for still being emotional, for talking too much and for being Irish. My heart went out to this character, a woman caught in a dilemma of identity and one she feels ashamed of. A heart-rending performance from McCann and a great finish.

Director Louise Lowe and Artistic Director of ANU, has created another strong and unworldly production with On Corporation Street, and one I can imagine will get a lot of comparison to Angel Meadow. Some that saw Meadow may feel anticipations weren’t met, because this production in many ways isn’t as overwhelming. Angel Meadow had a lot to take in, design wise and narrative; it was all very surreal. Whereas here, the production is very ordinary in a lot of ways, but isn’t that just it? An extraordinary event occurred to people going about their very ordinary days and that makes it so hard to comprehend. What I would say, is the action is far more interesting when we are living it with the characters. We are their shadows, discovering the same things, hearing the same things, and struggling the same way. This may not be as feasible with this reflective piece, but I would have liked to see a bit more of it in this production.

Runs until 25th June

Words: Kate Morris

Photos: Graeme Cooper

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Competition: Win Tickets To Mr Scruff's 17th Birthday @ Old Granada Studios

Back in 1999, Mr Scruff couldn't have known the reach and longevity of his sophomore studio effort, Keep It Unreal, in particular its foot-tapping wonders like 'Get A Move On'. 17 years on, the Stockport native is a household name for anyone with a mind open to jazz, soul and funk DJing. His crate digging has introduced many a hip shaker to long-forgotten records, providing the soundtrack to countless revellers' nights out.


For his 17th birthday jive at Old Granada Studios, he's joined behind the turntables by house and disco tune-peddler Francois K, and between them the former Corrie corridors will be alive with shoulder-jutting grooves. Refreshingly, it's billed as a non-mobile disco, so put that phone away and enjoy.

  Mr Scruff non mobile disco

The show isn't a solitary one for the Old Granada Studios venue, with DJ Yoda and the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club with Candi Staton lined up for later in June.

We've teamed up with Old Granada Studios to offer a pair of tickets for Mr Scruff's 17th Birthday gig on Friday 3 June to a lucky winner. To be win with a chance of winning, simply email ian at nowthenmagazine dot com with your favourite Scruff song, as well as your full name. The competition closes at 3pm on Thursday 2 June and the winner will be notified later that day.

Words: Ian Pennington

9pm-3am on Friday 3 June, 2016 Old Granada Studios.
Tickets are available from

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Quippodrome @ Gullivers, 09.5.16

One doesn't really know what to expect from a night labelled Quippodrome. The website, scarce and intriguing, offers little explanation. A video plays in the centre of the website of past Quippodrome evenings and I'm immediately thinking of early Mighty Boosh. Homemade costumes, silly looking characters, exaggerated acting.

From the offset, the evening was welcoming. Compares Jack Evans, and Edy Hurst invite the audience to feel relaxed, and assure us that the evening is probably going to fail. But when it fails, it also works. The performers, clearly well versed in comedy, quickly manage to pick themselves up, find a response, and even on this occasion, lecture about Kangaroos killing Dingoes; all to bemused laughter. It's a journey for both the audience and the performers and not your regular comedy night.

The evening continues with Chris Cantrill who has established himself around the UK as a comedian with a penchant to see the funny side in life's (sur)real stories. His set changes the pace a little, but the laughs keep coming.

After a short interval, we're welcomed back for the main event, The Quippodrome. The four players, Jack, Edy, Jayne and Jon perform a variety of characters and vignettes, worthy of early Channel Four (or when Channel Four was good|). It even kicks off with a very Adam & Joe-esque title card and Evans’ Detective Inspector Horse-hand, who wouldn't look out of place on Vic Reeves Big Night Out. D.I. Horse-hand (a Holyrood experiment if you were wondering) spins his surreal yarn about a whole menagerie of weird equine-hybrid Scots people, and the audience loves it.

The melee of other characters who appear on stage in unique, original acts continue. Dr. Love (yes, we've all heard of him, but we've never actually met him!) gives us some tips on the best sex positions, all with brilliantly graphic drawings.

"It's ok, the perspective may be skewed, but she has breasts, so…"
The segue between the Crane Position and the Fraser Crane Position drew the biggest laughs. We're literally taken on a rollercoaster in the next act with a great use of a web-cam, a stick, and a couple of straws. This part of the show seemed like a metaphor for the whole evening, with its twists and turns, the ups, and the downs, and, of course, the failures (I'd suggest gaffer taping the extension lead!).

The evening is drawn to a close with a wonderful character from the comedic brain of Jayne Edwards. After all the high testosterone, it's a welcoming relief to see Jayne, and her ‘pube art’ will stick in my mind like... well, like a pube sticks in your teeth. Confidently Jayne’s character informs us of how to make it in the porn industry when she was directing. A surreal little story that wonderfully re-introduces the rest of the characters back on stage.

Overall, I've not seen anything like this before. These guys have worked the circuit, and got bored with the scene. They may be doing this for the love of comedy, and I hope they are, because that rawness and passion, and the laughs they gave the whole audience was worth way more than the door price. So much so, I'm going back next month.

Words: Colm Feeley

Friday, 6 May 2016

Murder She Writes @ Kings Arms, 5.5.16

To quote a fellow Scot, "there's been a murdurrrrrrr!" In fact, there's been a fair few in Cabot Cove and the residents have finally realised that the link is one Jessica Fletcher; author and amateur sleuth, always around when foul play is afoot. However, we are going to see dear Jessica in a brand new light, with Vertigo Production's Murder She Writes.

TV series of 264 episodes starring Angela Landsbury, Murder She Wrote is the inspiration to this OTT pastiche, along with Baywatch, Columbo and Twin Peaks. Filling the shoes of Landsbury, Dale Vicker commandingly dons a wig and cardie to bitch his way through two insane hours of whodunnit, complete with saucy songs, outrageous characters and triple entendres.

Stuart Reeve adds more drag to the mix with his League of Gentlemen style grotesque Gramma Frank. There's solid work from Richard Allen as a knock-off Hoff, and Ash Preston as Columbo.

Subtle this ain't and although the rest of the cast ham it up for all they're worth, it did feel like self indulgent fun among mates at times. Sound issues with the backing tracks also meant the lyrics were easy to miss causing some of the songs to fall a bit flat and seem rushed.

Gloriously trashy though it undoubtedly was, the script raised more titters than belly laughs and it needed to be a lot tighter. It just about stayed on the right side of offensive, rather than adult panto but maybe tipping even more into the abyss would have harvested more humour.

It's a fun romp though and Vertigo always come up with something different which is to their credit.  
Lord knows what they would have made of Midsommer!

Words: Drew Tosh

Photos: Courtesy of Craig Hepworth 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Avenue Q @ The Palace, 3.5.16

Being a Twentysomething isn't short of ironies; you hate coffee but it’s your favourite beverage to drink in copious daily amounts. You’re in unpayable debt after getting a degree for a job you hoped would leave you never needing for anything, and there’s everyone’s favourite; already having the experience where you’re not experienced. Ultimately, you’re stuck somewhere between an adult and a child, working the gap between your big dream and the current pays-the-bills job. What can be said of the Twentysomething of today, is that we are adaptable and persistently know the only way to survive this quarter life crisis is to keep making new plans; hopefully ones that make us as happy as we were as kids. Can you remember how happy you were watching weekend cartoons, or Seasame Street? What if you could feel like that again?

At the Palace theatre, sitting in front of fresh faced musical theatre students the lights went down and two screens flicked into life, depicting a sickeningly happy cartoon sunshine as the company flourished into the opening number of Avenue Q.

The abundantly talented cast made it easy for the audience to suspend their disbelief and fall in love with the 11 puppet characters. The actors themselves become essentially invisible; it is the puppets that carry the identity and the spotlight. You may expect to find Big Bird, but we are not on Seaseme Street anymore. Instead we meet Princeton (Richard Lowe), a recent college graduate who finds himself wandering onto Avenue Q with a BA in English and eager to find his 'purpose’. There he meets the colourful (literally) and exceptionally funny characters that live there. All the residents are finding life to be a bit disappointing, but come to accept that this feeling of loss is “only for now” while they journey to their aspirations. 
A huge hat tip goes to Sarah Harlington who played the role of Kate Monster and the infamous Lucy the Slut, for her impeccable vocal ability. Other credit goes to my forever favourite characters, Gary Coleman (Etisyai Philip) and the deliciously devious Bad Idea Bears (Jessica Paker). 

The UK tour cast have brought back the essence intended by music and lyric writers Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, which deserves huge congratulations. The production is ultimately a 'coming of age’ story and uses the Seasame Street metaphor as a device to satirize the anxieties felt going from childhood to adulthood. As children we are encouraged by such characters that we can be anything we want to be and build high aspirations, but fail to be told how disappointing life can be and that in life sometimes our options are limited. This is a sign of the times, and it is something every person in the theatre has felt or is still feeling - actors included. This point really hit home for me listening to the undergrad musical theatre students behind me, imagining that “one of us could be in this programme one day. Such and such, Arden school of theatre.” Unbeknownst to them I am already a graduate and it took me 3 years to land my first paid acting job with a longer wait for a second. But who am I to tell them life isn't that easy?  This powerhouse of a musical was doing a fine job of it, and by the same token the entire cast and creative team endured the same difficulties, but now have this success.

Avenue Q is bright, bold and ballsy. Funny where it needs to be, with a heart that is accessible to everyone. It can be easy to undermine musical theatre as just a sing-a-long 'isn’t everything great’ two-hour experience, but if you dig a little deeper and listen to what the writers, directors and actors have placed in front of you, you will see that this show is made of better fluff…I mean stuff 

Words: Kate Morris 

Photos: Matt Martin Photography 

Friday, 8 April 2016

JB Shorts 15 @ Josuha Brooks, 7.4.16

Audiences for theatre are a bit like church goers. They feel they ought to go but rarely feel enthused enough to actually attend. Maybe it's too expensive, too time consuming, hard to follow or just plain boring. Not so for JB Shorts however. JB is the perfect evening for people who want to dip a toe back into live theatre, or even engage with it for the first time. Six 15 minute, stand alone pieces – a smorgasbord of drama featuring a range of characters and mini tales. If you don't find yourself getting into a particular piece, fret not, there's a whole new story coming along shortly. It isn't easy to write a 15 minute piece; you have to hit the ground running to grab the audience’s attention, lay out a scenario and quickly establish characters but, the writers of JB Shorts 15 by and large, made an impression with every piece.

The Intruder (Diane Whitley) tells of a break-in that causes two elderly sisters to reminisce about a past event. It's left to our imagination to decide what happened but the main focus of the play centres on the effects of Dementia. Thanks to the engaging performances of Joan Kempson and Melissa Sinden and the warm humour in the writing, this piece manages to make the audience smile despite the subject matter. 

Two women meet for a reunion with their 'wild child' school friend in A Different Time by Lia Holdsworth. There's clearly no love lost here, as the former class mates exchange fantastically awful remarks and opinions on each others lives. This is where the piece is at its funniest, as Linda and Amanda viciously chip away at each other, expertly displaying the competitive nature of school reunions. When wild child Samantha does appear, she is a reformed character who forces them to re-evaluate what actually went on in the past. 

Office life can be a battery hen existence, punctuated by pointless and boring meetings. This gathering is attended by characters that we can all recognise; the timid woman who somehow became a manager, the disenchanted go-getter getting nowhere, the skiver and the unbearably smug know-it-all (a hilarious Will Travis). Peter Kerry’s Humble at times gets a little too OTT, and even though we know the pay off from the outset, it's a journey of belly laughs getting there. 

If the scene from the Last Supper had happened up North; False Prophet is how it might have played out. Jesus, a fading star with wannabes snapping at his heels and his disciples of fans worshipping a new kid in town. It's a clever and funny idea written by Paul Coates, that the enthusiastic cast wring every last laugh out of. 

Build A Bonfire by Trevor Suthers suffered a little by being the only straight play in a collection of comedies, but it did raise an interesting point about art and censorship. Should the crimes of the creative prevent their work from being displayed? However, the characters and their middle class world were a little clichéd and difficult to sympathise with. 

A Labour Party Spin Doctor ends up in a coma after Ed Milliband fails at the Polls. Fedora wakes up weeks later, only to discover Jeremy Corbyn is the new Labour leader. Paul Mason and James Quinn’s Party Animals is the strongest and funniest play of the evening. Fedora is an appalling, outrageous yet fantastic creation thanks to the combination of sharp, topical writing and a magnificent performance from Sally Carman who quite rightly got the best reception of the night. 

A thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre in a wonderfully intimate venue. 

Words: Drew Tosh 

Photos: Courtesy of JB Shorts

Friday, 26 February 2016

Preview: Extra Love Album Launch gig @ Band on the Wall, 26.02.16

Building on the success of their EP, Big Man, Extra Love serve up more helpings of feelgood, conscious music with their debut album, Out Of The Dark.

With their signature brand high on energy and positivity, they bring their unique flavour to create a fresh style of reggae.

Highlights of the album include the easy, atmospheric sprawl of 'Rubadub Soldier', the soaring vocals and jazzy horns of 'Freedom', and the infectious bounciness of 'Be Ready'. 'Ruff Out There' has a slightly darker edge, but still boasts a nice, laidback swagger.

The deep tones of singer Angelos, coupled with the rhythmic chants of Kuntriranks is the perfect vehicle to express the band's message.

Out Of The Dark brings a touch of sunshine to the rainy Manchester streets, makes your body get up and puts a great big smile on your face.

Words: Anna Tuck

Monday, 8 February 2016

Cats @ The Opera House, 2.2.16

Much like the first album I bought, I will always remember the first musical I saw on stage. Musicals, or music in general for me, had been restricted to VHS, music channels or CD before then. Everything suddenly become so much bigger, and that is what resonates most in my memory. How could it not, with a cacophony of voices and choreography that was explosively elegant and soft; all under a low hanging full moon?

Cats was other worldly, and certainly set the motion for my own stage aspirations. Now, over a decade later, “let the memory live again”. Yet, this wasn’t the show I remembered. The same déjà vu moon had me convinced I had been here before, so why was everything so strange?

Based on T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s ‘Book of Practical Cats’, the show is set on a junkyard playground where the annual Jellicle ball takes place. We are introduced to each feline friend and their personalities through song; lyrics from the 1930’s poems of Eliot and melodies of composer Andrew Llyod Web’ber. The show has had an impressive life span of over 30 years. Considered as ‘ground-breaking’ when it opened in 1981, Cats went on to be crowned the longest-running musical in the history of the West End in 1996. It then scooped up the same accolade in Broadway the following year. Translated into ten languages, performed in over 20 countries, while continuing to sell out tours; the longevity of a cat’s life holds true.   

There are still glimmers of this shining success story during the performance at The Opera House. Sadly, an irresistible curiosity to update the show well and truly killed the cat. One moment in particular being the infamous Rum Tum Tugger scene where we are introduced to the cocky and charismatic Tom Cat of the show. Oozing confidence and sexiness, Tugger satirises the ‘bad boy’ of a given generation, so earlier performances used Elvis Presley as a model. The instinct to update this is the right one, but the result was oh so wrong and laden with stereotypes that came off almost cartoonish! Dressed with a backwards cap, gold chains and baggy pants, Tugger is updated into our 21st Century bad boy from the streets. Though, give him a slingshot and go back 15 years you’ve got Bart Simpson. Maybe Mr Webber is trying to relate to the Topshop generation, who are also stuck in the 90s.  

Despite the tone given off so far, the cast are all evidently talented; both the choreography and the score are notoriously difficult. A phenomenal range is required from it’s singers and a fierce precision from the dancers, but above all, a collective ability to work as an ensemble. This, for the most part, the company did do well. On occasion, performers were in it for themselves rather than as a group, sending key moments out of sync. To be picky, in the opening song ‘Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’, you really can’t have a lyric boasting the ability that all cats can begin a scale in high C, to then only have one cat demonstrate. Each cat has their opportunity to have their own moment, so I was disappointed that the ensemble scenes were not joint. 
The most famous song of the show, ‘Memory’, is easily the best thing about this production, and thankfully went untouched. Grizabella (Anita Louise Combe), the Glamour Cat, sings this beautiful nostalgic song of remembrance of her glorious past, and declares her wish for a new life. To dominate a song of such magnitude is an astonishing accomplishment, and one that Combe’s performance was nothing short of. 

Cats has one more of it’s nine lives left to live, and one I feel would be the thriving if it stayed true to what it does best. The rebirth of this classic was understandable but evidently unnecessary. This musical is one that has been passed through generations, and has done so with fond memories from the audience’s first experience. Like Grease or The Sound of Music, you can’t change the originals. Some memories last forever, it’s our job not to forget them.

Words by Kate Morris
Images courtesy of Ambassador Theatre Group