2014 Favourites

2014 has been a great year for Manchester theatre.  Of course this blog is just me so I can’t watch, or even be aware of, everything.  But I have seen some amazing things this year.

HOME has produced two outstanding site specific plays this year.  In June,  the ‘Edinburgh Castle’ in Ancoats hosted ‘Angel Meadow’, in which groups of eight were taken on a historical journey through the depths of Manchester’s ‘lost strangers’.  Then in September a spectacular performance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ filled the Victoria Baths, for most part being performed in one of the empty pools.  The final scene in a filled pool was stunning.

This was a good year for the 24:7 festival, showcasing ten new plays and several other events.  24:7 is an effective stepping stone for writers and other theatre makers, and an accessible way for audiences to see many new plays.  I saw seven of the ten and was particularly taken by John Clarke’s ‘To the Dam’ and Julie Burrow’s ‘Alterglow’.  I’m looking forward to ‘Tongue Twister’ at the Re:play festival.  20141112_185536 - Version 2

The Royal Exchange had several excellent productions during the year.  Of course the highest profile was Hamlet with Maxine Peake; her performance was truly amazing and added a very new dimension to Hamlet.  But Orlando and Britannia Waves the Rules were both well acted, well written and thought provoking productions.  Secret Theatre’s ‘A Series of Increasingly Impossible Events’ at Swan Street was innovative, physical theatre at it’s best.

I don’t go to the Lowry enough, but I did see the new adaptation of the Seagull, Othello (Frantic Assembly) and the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, all of which were outstanding.  Chris Thorpe and Hannah Walker’s ‘I Wish I was Lonely’ was a fascinating piece.

There has also been some excellent Fringe theatre this year.  1956 Theatre’s rep season at Salford Arts Theatre was a highlight, including the excellent Wolf.  At Bolton Octagon there was One Hand Clapping, and at the King’s Arms, Fool for Love.  At Moss Side Fire Station, the site specific ‘No Guts No Glory’ was unmissable.  The best of Manchester’s Fringe Theatre is some of the best theatre in Manchester.

IMG_5557 - Version 2A great find this year has been the Capitol Theatre, home to MMU’s drama course.  The quality of production and acting is consistently high, and often the play selection is innovative. ‘Time and the Room’ and ‘Brezhnev’s Children’ were both superb, but ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ was outstanding.

Both JB Shorts showcased a range of new short plays; something for everyone, which means I loved a couple but really didn’t like others.  ‘A Hairline Crack’ was by far my favourite, and I am pleased this is on at the Re:Play festival.  Contact’s showcase, Contact Compacts, also featured some excellent new writing, directing and acting.

So, at this time of year I ask myself: ‘If I had to pay for the ticket, which plays would I most want to see again?’

This year, the three plays would be:

‘Romeo and Juliet’, Victoria Baths, for HOME

‘Fool for Love’, King’s Arms

‘No Guts No Glory’, Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Gym, Common Wealth

Here’s to 2015!


Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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