Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the Staff/Student Newsletter for Performance!
As this is the first issue of the new academic year, we would also like to offer a HUGE WELCOME to our new Level 4 students! We hope you’re settling in well and taking advantage of all the academic, cultural, and social opportunities that Salford has to offer. The Staff/Student Newsletter is where we showcase the amazing things that are happening in our Performance community. So, please let us know about any projects you’re working on, shows you’re taking part in, or content you’re producing. We’d love to feature it!
In this bumper edition of the newsletter, we’ve got details of L6 CWaP student Rhys Harris Clarke’s role in Sex Education, L5 BAMP student Lucy Ryan’s experience of competing for Team GB, and all the goss on the launch of a brand-new radio station featuring some of Salford’s finest talent. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve got news of recent creative projects by Georgiana Ghetiu, Malcolm Raeburn, Richard Talbot, and Ali Matthews, and much, much more.
There’s also a round-up of what’s on at the local theatres so you can be sure not to miss any of the incredible work currently being showcased in Manchester. Don’t forget to check out our Guess the Technician feature, either – can you guess who’s hiding behind the camera?
Finally, we’re on the hunt for new Student Editors! Join us on the editorial team where you’ll be involved in crafting calls for contributions, writing and editing copy, gathering news from your fellow students, and taking in part in discussions about the content and direction of the Newsletter. It will look fantastic on your CV and help you to develop the transferable skills that employers are looking for. If you want in, please email us a short overview of why you’d like to join the team and what skills you can bring to the role. A paragraph or two is enough. Applications are required by Friday 1st December.
Abby and Bron 😊
Abby Bentham: A.A.Bentham@salford.ac.uk Brainne Edge: B.Edge@salford.ac.uk
Industry Chat with L6 CWAP student Rhys Harris-Clarke!
Rhys has been a very active member of our CWAP cohort over the last three years, doing a lot of professional work outside of the University. In this chat, he talks about his theatre tours as well as recent stint on Sex Education, Netflix.
Show me the Funny!
“What sort of bees work in Haunted Mansions?
– By Rheanon Shaw, Comedy Writing and Performance L6
Got your own firecracker of a joke for the next edition? Email the editorial team and let us know!
Salford Students Peak with New Radio Show!
By Helen Mason
A new radio station launching on 18th November will have two students who were taught at The University of Salford on their presenter lineup.
High Peak 1 will be playing ‘Hit Music for The High Peak’ when they switch on this November, from their studios in Torr Vale Mill in New Mills.
Two former Media and Performance students will be part of the weekday lineup. Grace McIntosh will be broadcasting to the High Peak on the mid-morning show. It’s packed with fun features and hit music, along with lively chat. Grace approached Helen during her second year of study and expressed a keen interest in pursuing a presenting career, so when the opportunity came up to launch a station, Helen knew Grace would make a fantastic addition to the lineup. Meanwhile, Lewis Magee presented a show on the student radio station, ‘Shock Radio’, and sent Helen a demo in his first year. Helen was so awestruck, she sent it to Craig Pattison who was presenting on Global’s ‘Heart’ at the time but also ran his own online radio station; Craig was so impressed that he immediately asked Lewis to work with him, editing and producing shows and recording interviews with artists. This has led to Lewis taking on both a production and presenting role for High Peak 1. Lewis’s show will be 6pm-10pm and will feature brand new releases before they hit the charts along with a mix of hit music.
Grace McIntosh says ‘Having a mid-morning show on High Peak 1 is a really exciting opportunity to venture into an area of presenting I am yet to try – radio! I have really enjoyed applying the skills and experience I already have along with learning and developing lots of new radio-specific presenting techniques in the training sessions we are having. I am really looking forward to the launch on 18th November to get stuck in and showcase all the hard work the brilliant team have put into making the new station a success.’
Performance lecturer Helen Mason says she’s thrilled to be able to offer these talented graduates the opportunity to forge a career in radio, and for them to be able to use their presenting, content creation and media production skills to entertain the High Peak on their shows. She hopes to be able to continue offering work experience and career opportunities as the station grows in the future.
Craig Pattison, Station Director, said, “As an industry, we’ve seen so many radio stations be networked to London recently, and now we’re getting a chance to bring local radio back to the North West with talent from The University of Salford.”
High Peak 1 will be aimed at 18-35 year olds and will feature hit music, you should be able to tune in on DAB (across the High Peak area), on your smart speaker or online at any time and find yourself listening to a song you love. The music is all from 2010 upwards so features the very latest artists along with established radio favourites like Ed Sheeran, Lizzo and Rita Ora.
A degree in Media and Performance has allowed these students to develop and hone their skills, and now they’ll be taking the next step up and hitting DAB Digital Radios in time for Christmas.
High Peak 1 will launch officially on DAB on Saturday 18th November. Grace and Lewis’s first shows will be on Monday 20th November.
You can find out more about High Peak 1 at their website: highpeak1.co.uk
Guess the Technician!
Can you guess who’s hiding behind the camera? You’ll find the answer at the bottom of the newsletter.
Stage Combat Students are on Point!
by Abby Bentham
A group of fourteen lucky students at Level 5 and Level 6 are now taking part in a new Stage Combat course offered by BAMP Programme Leader and Lecturer in Performance, Richard Goodwin. The 8-week course, which is offered free-of-charge, takes place every Thursday evening from 18:00-20:00h. The course is currently full, but it will run again after Christmas, when it will be made available to a new intake of 14 students from all degree levels.
Students focus initially on unarmed dramatic combat (including punches, kicks, throws, hair grabs, strangulations, etc.) and develop toward engaging in choreographed set pieces. Students are then introduced to weapons, including rapier and dagger and will learn to perform choreographed fighting scenes whilst delivering text.
Students from Media City and the BAMP course will also be filming and editing these scenes to be made available to students for their reflection and future development.
Students are already reaping the rewards of this additional training. Ollie Boulton, who is in the final year of his Theatre and Performance Practice degree, was thrilled by how quickly his skills developed. He said, “Just from the first two sessions alone I have learned more than what I was expecting from this. I’ve found the experience engaging and enjoyable. I find what we have learned will benefit me in future as I plan to take what I’ve learned and apply it in future productions and roles in theatre.”
For Hannah Ward, who’s in the final year of her Media and Performance degree, the classes have potentially opened a new career path. She enthused, “The combat training sessions have sparked a passion for me within the stunt industry and has shown me the in-depth routines and co-ordination that goes into each move. Each session keeps progressing with moves/skills, building my confidence to be able to use these skills in the industry later, in jobs, if needed.”
Details of the new intake will be released after Christmas so if you want to practice your sucker punch and learn some knockout new skills, please keep an eye on your emails and Blackboard!
The Faux Faux – I Better Run
By Georgiana Ghetiu
Over the summer, I directed a music video for The Faux Faux in collaboration with the singer, Faith Vern. We wanted to capture love in a timeless way and showcase the weight of its complexity; figuring out how to carry on when it feels like everything is grinding to halt. The visuals were driven by statuesque poses, negative space and stillness in motion, solidifying the notion of a relationship which slowly erodes in time but remains unmoved. This led to the choice of filming at the beach – a place which is both calming, but also at the mercy of the unforgiving ocean.
Faith presented me a lovely noir moodboard as a starting point, which we added to and reinterpreted, focusing on motifs such as the hands touching to signify different stages of their closeness. We also wanted to avoid too many direct close-ups as we wanted to portray a universal emotion, not one that is only specific to this couple.
We filmed this at Crosby beach, continuing Faith’s “ode to the North” she has established with previous videos. The biggest challenge was maintaining the aesthetic of solitude we had initially planned for, as we ended up filming on the hottest day of the summer so naturally everyone was out sunbathing.
Faith describes the single as “It’s all very well falling in love, but what about after that, what about later down the line? I Better Run is a tale of love, imperfections et al. It isn’t a breakup song, quite the opposite, it’s about holding it all together both literally and mentally.”
By Richard Talbot
In 1986 I left home after an argument with my parents. I spent two years living and working abroad. From Egypt I moved on to Thailand, and Singapore, eventually landing up in Japan. This adventure planted a lasting fascination with other countries, languages, and cultures. This summer, thanks to research funding from the Great Britain Sasakawa Fund and internal Research Impact and Engagement and Participatory Research funding streams in the School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology, I was able to repeat the journey in phases, and in reverse. From Japan to Egypt, I tracked down the people and places that have haunted my imagination for years.
This journey was seeded during the lockdown when we couldn’t travel at all and began with an online exchange with marionette puppeteer Kay Aika in which we explored the potential for human performers and puppets to interact in virtual spaces and livestreamed workshops. This became Human-Idiot-Puppet (HIP), a project about the comical space between human and puppet movement. Kay and I met face to face during a residency at Studio Kura, in Itoshima, a rural area with the word for string ‘ito’ in its name. We ran a workshop linking Japanese and Korean local artists as well as artists-in-residence from Germany, Canada and America. The focus on physicality was helpful in a context of multiple languages, gestures, and ranges of self expression. But cultural difference was not as much an issue as climate. During a typhoon in Japan, we evacuated to a shrine for shelter. There, the presence of an animated object became even more potent.
In a subsequent HIP workshop at the Alexandria International Theatre Festival, on animating puppets and humans, most participants seemed to have big phones and plenty of data, but national powercuts compressed the available airtime. I discovered a strong network of Arab Theatre Festivals and huge enthusiasm for live theatre, for experimentation and boundary-pushing. I have witnessed performances from Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf that often challenged European stereotypes of Arab culture, especially around religion and gender.
A review of some recent Palestinian performances can be seen here.
A review of a transgender performance from Oman can be seen here.
Since the workshops, I have been developing devising techniques, workshop content and editing skills so that we can work more smoothly from conception to broadcast through a global participatory process that has a large element of hybrid interaction. We’ll be sharing this with students at Salford during the Physical Theatres module and in a public workshop in Spring 2024.
Here are blogs about the workshop that I led in Japan and Egypt: https://rtalbot9.wixsite.com/ludicresearch/post/hip-project-workshop-alexandria
Bringing Home the Bling from the World Transport Games!
By Lucy Ryan
Some of you may recall that, earlier this year, the Performance Staff/Student Newsletter supported me in my bid to make it to Australia to compete in something called the World Transplant Games. The World Transplant Games is what it says on the tin… It is an international event where transplantees (recipients of anything from a kidney, lung, and heart, to a bone marrow transplant) participate in sports for their country. In my case, I had a heart transplant as an infant, and I was selected to represent Team GB & N.I.
To be selected you had to meet the qualifying times/distances in your home country. I was fortunate enough to qualify at the annual British Transplant Games back in 2022 with my time for the 3km racewalk.
As you might also remember it wasn’t a given that I would compete in the Australia from 15th-21st April 2023, because I had to fundraise the estimated £3,500-£4,000 it was going to cost! This isn’t easy to do when you’re working full-time, let alone when you are a full-time student! Thanks to many generous friends, relatives, local businesses and a skydive I was able to raise not only enough to cover the costs, but I even had £65 leftover, which I have donated to Transplant Sport.
It is safe to say I have never wanted to do a skydive, but I figured I could not ask people to sponsor me for something that is easy-peasy to do; it had to be challenging and push me out of my comfort zone – quite literally in this case! Thankfully, I was strapped to my tandem skydive instructor, George, otherwise there is no way I would’ve jumped out of a plane at 10,000ft. I started with a thirty-second freefall, one second for every extra year of life thanks to my donor. Due to the fact the skydive was in Britain and not Australia, it was cancelled due to our weather: not once, not twice, but three times! However, it was worth the wait for perfect skydive weather. It was so clear when it took place that you could see the Isle of Wight from our location at Old Sarum, Salisbury. I even have GoPro footage that captured the experience, along with my wild skydive hair!
As a result, I raised enough to make it to Perth, and it genuinely was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! It was a privilege to meet and compete alongside over a thousand inspirational people, all of whom have their own unique transplant and/or donation journey.
We had a wonderful opening ceremony with all 45 teams parading through Perth and across the Matagarup Bridge into the humungous Optus Stadium, where the games officially began. Later that week, I competed in the 3km racewalk, 100m sprint and ball throw. I won a silver medal for the 3km racewalk and came 6th in the 100m final which I was happy with, as I was sprinting more for fun, and it was a bonus not to come last! I didn’t medal in the ball throw, but I had a ball competing.
Despite being half the size of our host’s team (Team Australia, who had 240 competitors compared to our 120), we came away victorious with the most medals won by any team…a whopping total of 288!!!
Alongside the training days and competing, there were times to let your hair down literally, for example the Cultural Evening at the Boola Bardip Museum in Perth, where you were encouraged to wear their country’s cultural dress. I had struggled to work-out what British cultural dress was suitable for 25C+ heat in Australia, but thankfully, a final-year University of Salford fashion student, Agata Ksiazkowskaca, came to my rescue. Agata custom-made me a beautiful velvet blue dress that I delighted to wear, especially as it was the perfect excuse to photobomb other gorgeously dressed competitors’ photos.
Whilst in Australia, I surreally celebrated my 30th Heart Transplant Anniversary, whilst competing for Team GB & NI. This would never have happened without my amazing donor, my brilliant family and the talented medical teams who have kept me ticking along, so Thank You!
It was an honour to compete for Team GB & NI, whilst simultaneously raising awareness of the benefits of transplantation and organ and tissue donation, along with the need for more donors. My hope is this encourages some people – perhaps even yourself – to have that vital discussion with loved ones about whether you’d like to be an organ and/or tissue donor.
Last, but not least, a HUGE THANK YOU goes out to everyone who supported me back home whether it was financially, with kind words of support, or helping me train – I could not have brought home a silver medal without you.
There’s now a brief period of rest before I begin training for the 2024 British Transplant Games in the hope of re-qualifying for Team GB & NI and the next World Transplant Games, which are being held in Germany in 2025! Wish me luck!
Lines in The Sand
By Malcolm Raeburn
In August I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful actors on a radio dramatisation of Georgina Howell’s biography of Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert. The brilliant adaptation by Mary Cooper was called Lines In The Sand. The two-part drama went out on BBC Radio 4 and starred Fenella Woolgar (Call The Midwife) as Gertrude Bell, a remarkable woman who was almost certainly more important to the creation of modern day Iraq and the shape of the current Middle East – for good or ill – than the more famous TE Lawrence – Lawrence of Arabia.
I played Gertie’s father, Sir Hugh Bell, a steel magnate from Middlesbrough. Thankfully (as my Middlesbrough accent is pitiful!) it was decided that Hugh Bell spoke with an RP accent. It is one of the peculiarities of my radio career that I am often called in to play ‘posh’ people, even though I am in reality from a working-class family in the West Midlands and grew up on a council estate. I dropped my Black Country accent when I went to university in Leeds (it was causing unwanted amusement to audiences when in Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine The Great I played a king – when I cried “Am I not a king?” in my accent it sounded to the audience like “Am oi not a kink?”) I have sometimes wondered if I went too far in changing my accent, having never been asked to audition for Peaky Blinders, despite coming from ten miles away from where it is set…
I also played a Scots general in the Gertrude Bell radio drama. I asked my daughter for help in getting it right – she is an accent wizard and is currently studying voice coaching at the Royal Central School of Drama – but I always worry that my accent starts in Dumfries and ends in Aberdeen! However, it is worth persevering, as many radio plays call for multi-rolling – the most characters I have played in one radio play is five, which was pushing it! – and changing accent is one of the easiest ways of distinguishing one character from another.
One of the additional pleasures of appearing in Lines in The Sand was having the opportunity to work again with Nathan Ariane, a BAMP alumnus from the early 2000s, whom I taught Radio Acting. He is partly of Tunisian heritage and he, along with another Manchester actor, Ali Gadema (Libyan heritage) and the great Raad Rawi (Egyptian), was cast as someone who spoke some Arabic and could speak the English lines with an authentic accent (but not Nathan’s everyday accent, which is pure Manc to my ears).
As many people know, I can go on for hours about the joys of performing in radio drama: in what other medium would I have been cast as an Icelandic trawlerman, a hitman, a boxer (!) or a 26-stone Rochdale councillor? Radio is an actor’s playground and the most fun you can have with your clothes on (which reminds me of bouncing up and down on a mattress with Kelly Hunter, making the sorts of noises that suggested we were having fun without our clothes on: probably the safest sort of sex ever!).
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival Project – AKA SalFUNNI 2023
By Daisy Jeavons
In August of this year I got the incredible opportunity to travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Salford University’s fringe troupe, SalFUNNI. It was my first time ever going to the festival and it is truly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Getting to perform at City Cafe was such an amazing feeling – filling up a room with people that want to see you is a feeling like no other. My girlfriend, Mia Lewis, and I performed a five minute set as our double act Are You Sitting Comfortably – a combination of absurd sketch and character work- which we found worked really well with an Edinburgh audience, and gave us the confidence and motivation we needed to continue working on our act further. Performing for nine evenings in a row with a bunch of other funny and creative people was so exhilarating, and getting such a great response to our act really validated what we were doing.
As well as performing, I also managed to see sixteen shows over my two weeks there – I just wish I could have seen more! Being surrounded by such a variety of comedy really showed me how there is such a space out there for weird and alternative acts. I discovered a love of clowning after watching Julia Masli’s masterpiece Hahahahaha, and Elf Lyons and Duffy’s Heist, which I want to incorporate into my own future work. Other notable shows that I totally loved (and comics I would recommend seeing in the future) were Skin Pigeon by Lorna Rose Treen, John Robins’ Work In Progress and If You Can’t Say Anything Nice by Chloe Petts. The genuinely wide expanse of talent and diversity at the festival made it such a warm and exhilarating place to be, and gave me so much inspiration for my own comedic style.
The social aspect was also a huge factor in my enjoyment of the Fringe. Visiting the various pubs, making connections with other comics, spotting the people you’ve seen on telly at Pleasance Courtyard and sneaking into industry bars was a big portion of my nights in Edinburgh, and from that I was able to meet some really interesting people, get spots at different gigs, and just have a laugh.
My Edinburgh experience has shaped me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’ve incorporated some of the interesting and alternative comedy I witnessed into my own comic persona- such as clowning and character- and have truly seen that there is an audience for Are You Sitting Comfortably?, which has instilled me with such confidence and inspiration. Mia and I plan to go down to the Fringe in 2024 with a show, and without my experience with SalFUNNI, I never would have had the courage. The Edinburgh Fringe is truly a place like no other, and it holds a special place in my heart.
Darren disseminates his research
Following on from a series of workshops in acting for motion capture with performance students at the end of last academic year, Dr Darren Daly, Lecturer in Stage & Screen Performance, has had an essay accepted for publication in the special issue of Theatre, Dance & Performance Training, which is due out in June 2024. The essay is entitled ‘Finding Agency in the Imagined Body through Unreal Engine’s Live Link Performance Capture’.
Darren also presented a paper at the Theatre and Performance Research Association annual conference at Leeds University in August/September. The paper, ‘Intimate exposure: Connecting the camera to actor training on screen’, will be further developed as an article for publication. The work stemmed from a series of practical workshops that Darren ran with performance students, in which they explored their relationship to the camera in screen acting.
Salford Students Battle to Save Santa!
By Abby Bentham
Level 6 TaPP students Callum Galgani and Amy Woods proved themselves to be knockout actors recently, after being cast in a Christmas charity music video that also featured Julie Hesmondhalgh. Director Martin Cooper needed some actors to take part in fight scenes, in a narrative that involved Santa being kidnapped by bad guys who were determined to ruin Christmas. Lecturer in Performance and BAMP Programme Leader, Richard Goodwin, who runs the extracurricular stage combat course here at Salford was happy to recommend Callum and Amy, based on their expertise and professionalism. Richard said, ‘When the director contacted me to ask for actors with stage combat experience to perform in his video, I mentioned the opportunity to the group of very motivated and committed actors who engage in the stage combat enrichment activity. Both Amy and Callum seized the opportunity, and I was very happy to recommend each of them, knowing that their professionalism and eagerness to learn would be of great value to the project.’
Callum was cast as the stunt double of the hero of the video, whilst Amy took the role of one of the baddies. Their time on set was action-packed. After contributing ideas for how the scenes could unfold and capturing some energetic action shots, the video culminated in an exciting fight scene where Amy and Callum went hand-to-hand in combat. Ultimately, Callum emerged victorious, and Christmas was saved!
Both Callum and Amy had great fun on set and were delighted to have some high-quality professional work to add to their showreels. For Amy, the project has also piqued her interest in working in this field after graduation. She said, “doing this has made me extremely interested in stage combat and doing it as a career in the future.” Despite having to wear a tight-fitting morph suit on set, Callum also had a great time shooting the video. He said ‘I really enjoyed the shoot; it was a good experience all around – it was nice to get to meet people and partake in a project for charity too! All the people involved were very professional and everything went according to plan.’
Director Martin Cooper couldn’t have been happier with the end result. He described Callum and Amy as ‘wonderful’, due to their positive, proactive attitudes and highly developed professional skills. He said ‘Their professionalism was exemplary, and they were both early on set, followed direction perfectly and really displayed their clear skills. More than this, they went above and beyond to ensure the shoot ran smoothly and assisted in any other way they could to make sure the day stuck to schedule. I’d gladly have either of them back on set again.’ The video will be released on YouTube at the end of the month and the charity hopes to raise vital funds to support the homeless this Christmas.
The stage combat course will be running again in the New Year. Keep an eye on your emails and Blackboard if you’re interested in taking part. Callum and Amy’s experiences show how valuable it is to add extra skills to your repertoire!
The Write Stuff! Phil Mealey’s Screenwriting Masterclass
By Kyle Heywood and Rob Graham
On October 4th, BAFTA-award-winning screen writer Phil Mealey came to Salford to give a two-hour masterclass in the New Adelphi Theatre. Phil was very engaging during the masterclass, mixing in comedy with detailed information, advice, and anecdotes about his own story. It was fascinating to hear about his life, particularly when he talked about how he was from a working-class background. This was very inspiring, as Phil explained how he worked his way up from the bottom to become a writer on one of the most successful British sitcoms in TV history.
In the first half of the masterclass, Phil outlined his background and how he grew up in Stockport, which was relatable considering it is close to the University of Salford. He had a humble beginning in a working-class household and didn’t know what he wanted to do in life, until he eventually started to enjoy being comedic and started to write comedy sketches. Phil explained that you do not necessarily have to have a lot of money, resources, or materials to achieve a writing career. He outlined how he took what he saw as an entertaining hobby and then proceeded to send his sketches off to many different radio stations until, eventually, one of his sketches was aired on the radio. Phil also outlined how he had his own struggles along the path of writing, such as when he missed an opportunity to work on the Mrs Merton Merton Show that turned Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash into stars, and also when he got significantly in debt whilst writing. This was inspiring as he showed how he overcame the obstacles in his path.
Phil explained how he started writing with his friend, Craig Cash, and how they wrote The Royle Family together, having been friends since they were teenagers and sharing similar interests in terms of the career that they wanted. He also spoke about his other writing partner, Caroline Aherne, explaining how great it was to work with her. He informed us how important collaborative work is within the writing industry and how making connections can determine your success. Phil showed us clips from The Royle Family to illustrate the points he was making. He emphasised the importance of writing a unique voice for each character and making them authentic. He also outlined the comedic tropes he tends to write, going into depth on the characters from The Royle Family and the writing behind the characters.
At the end of the masterclass, Phil invited the audience to ask questions about writing. He was extremely informative and answered each question carefully. Some questions were about how to get into the industry from a working-class background, to which he explained that the background should not impact on our ability to become successful writers. He advised us to send our work to as many studios and radio stations as possible and also that we shouldn’t be disheartened by rejection and keep pursuing our writing, by sending it to as many sources as we can. During the Q&A, he also went into more depth about the industry and how to draft and submit work and how we should not take failure to heart and always take criticism onboard. It was fantastic to get such good, personalised advice from an experienced writer.
After the masterclass, everyone felt more empowered to take opportunities that come along, especially after Phil told us about his regret at missing opportunities in the past. After the Q&A, he showed us the BAFTA award he had received and showed a picture of himself and his writing partners collecting the BAFTA. After this, we were allowed to take pictures next to him holding the BAFTA, which was surprisingly heavy. Having the opportunity to meet Phil and to hold a BAFTA is a rare experience that we would definitely recommend!
In addition to being an extremely informative afternoon, the masterclass was a positive, entertaining, and inspiring experience. Phil’s tips will help students improve their screenwriting, process a script, create an effective story for an audience, and get their work out into the world.
Chaos Reigns in Noises Off!
By Aoife Schofield
On Tuesday the 17th of October, around a hundred first year performing arts students from the University of Salford made their way to The Lowry Theatre to watch a performance of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off!
Many students were unaware of what the performance was about and what would be taking place on the stage but it’s safe to say the show did not disappoint. Exploring the play-within-a-play format, the performance began with Act One being about the actors on stage rehearsing a play, with the audience unaware of the fictional play’s director being sat in the audience. It caused great surprise when he yelled from the audience from right behind me! Many laughs were shared in the first act, whether the students understood all of the jokes is uncertain, as some of the jokes were ‘of their age’ (the play was first performed in 1982) and definitely appealed to an older audience. However, that didn’t stop people from enjoying it!
After the interval, the second act involved us watching the performance of the play from a backstage point of view. The terrific staging transformed into a wings point of view and we were able to watch the downfall of the play begin. Chaos erupted as the show started with hilarious events involving a beer bottle, a cactus and cast arguments. Theatre students will almost certainly understand the annoyance of these things as it may have happened to them. After many laughs, the end of the second act confused me as the curtain fell but no one was leaving; it took me till the actors coming back on stage to realised there was a third act. The final act involved us watching the play as an audience watching the play the actors were performing. I know, confusing! We watched as the whole performance fell apart in front of us: contact lenses were lost, people fell down the stairs, and patience was tested. Overall, it was a fantastic night and nearly made us forget that we had to write an essay on the play!
This was an extraordinary piece of theatre that exceeded my expectations through the comedy and story. I would definitely recommend seeing this play if you ever get the chance; I doubt you’d be disappointed.
Mushroom Language – A Triumphant Homage to Folk Horror
By Lara Herring
Mushroom Language: A Fungal Gothic is the brainchild of Ali Matthews & Company. It is a playful yet macabre experience that lives up to its name. A cerebral, at times absurd, navigation of the human mind by way of mycelial metaphor, the story is at its heart a human one; two characters lament and protest the fundamental concerns of the human condition: who am I, where are we, what is the meaning of all this?
The production opens with an air of mysterious allure, as the set design transports the audience into a barren wasteland, populated by dead trees adorned with bones; a sinister crow mask hangs unexplained and unnerving from a leafless branch. From the very first scene, the audience is introduced to an unnatural world that exists in an otherworldly space and time. Scenes blend and flow into one another making the show as a whole an uninterrupted, interconnected stream of consciousness that is at once bewildering and enchanting.
With no physical scene changes and no intermission, the onus is on the two performers (Ali Matthews and Tom Halls) to carry the weight of the narrative and to communicate in abstracts without losing their audience. Both do this with aplomb. The relationship – in our traditional understanding of the term – is unclear between the two; at times they seem sibling-like, other times they come across like an old married couple. They share moments of affection, moments of ecstasy, moments of disdain, and moments of harrowing fear. Yet in this otherworldly space, the complexities of their connection are not confusing. Indeed, they make sense within this place in which boundaries, expectations, and understandings are in a constant state of flux.
Given the arduous and abstract task of exploring mushroom language and the mysteries of the mycelial network through the medium of dramaturgy, it is no wonder that the play is often psychedelic. The characters regularly appear intoxicated by their connection to each other and to the “earth”. The earth in this case is a brown tarp that covers the stage, full of “invisible” holes that the performers remove things from and put things in throughout the performance. This interaction between the players and the set creates another blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality, between nature and the unnatural. Original music by Hannah Miller of the Moulettes adds yet another layer to the tapestry.
Mushroom Language: A Horror Gothic is triumphant in its homage to folk horror; a beautifully unsettling journey that immerses the audience in a dreamlike atmospheric world of mushroom mycelium, transcending the boundaries of human and mushroom languages.
GREATER MANCHESTER THEATRE ROUND-UP
COMPILED BY STEPHEN M. HORNBY
The Lowry is the major arts complex in Salford, with a large main stage (The Lyric), a second theatre (The Quays), a studio and an art gallery housing L.S. Lowry’s works. Their programme for this season includes the return of two leading theatre companies with new shows. In their first commission since 2019, Frantic Assembly and Lemn Sissay O.B.E. collaborate on a thrilling new adaptation of Metamorphosis, Kafka’s famous novella. So is written and performed by David Woods and Jon Haynes, the co-artistic directors and founders of Ridiculusmus, a 30-year artistic partnership of international acclaim, avant-garde mess and polymathic pursuit of the ever unattainable.
Manchester’s largest producing house and home of the prestigious Bruntwood Prize for playwriting. One highlight of this season is Brief Encounter, Emma Rice’s smash-hit adaptation of Noël Coward’s iconic film of the same title directed by former Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom.
Hope Mill Theatre
The most successful fringe venue in Manchester, often mentioned in The Stage. They specialise in musicals but have a varied programme. This season includes To Wong Foo The Musical which is based on the 1995 cult-classic film, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, written by multiple Tony Award nominee Douglas Carter Beane. “Make America Drag Again”.
Shakespeare North Playhouse
At the heart of the building is a reconstruction of Inigo Jones Cockpit-in-Court theatre, which functions as their main stage. The Playhouse is also home to Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden and a studio space. A highlight of this season is The Book of Will, a co-production with the Octagon Theatre, Bolton and the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch. This comedy by Lauren Gunderson tells the story of The King’s Men as they band back together to gather the Bard’s scattered masterpieces and save his words before they’re lost to history.
Contact is a centre for the development of young people’s creativity and runs programmes of skills -building as well as seasons of work. This season’s programme includes 1, 2 Punch a hard-hitting double bill exploring love, regret and men’s mental health through two pieces I Can See Us and Ta/To/Me from Birmingham-based choreographer and composer, Daniel Lukehurst. Also for one night only is Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel written and performed by Tim Crouch which switches between scathing stand-up comedy and an audacious act of collective imagining. “It’s a celebration of live performance and a skewering of the state we’re in now”.
HOME is a city centre arts venue with a main house, a studio, five screens of cinema and an art gallery. A special part of this season’s programme is the 30th anniversary revival of Jonathan Harvey’s iconic, coming-out and coming-of-age story Beautiful Thing, set in the nineties, which is about community, friendship, rites of passage and what it is to be 16 and in love.
The Octagon has emerged from a massive rebuilding programme. They offer some interesting writing workshops and a full, live programme including a new musical adaptation by Kate Ferguson & Susannah Pearse of Around The World In 80 Days based on the novel by Jules Verne but with a gender-swapped lead as Lady Phileas Fogg takes up the famous challenge.
The Kings Arms
The Kings Arms is a fantastic pub with a studio theatre on the first floor. It’s also the home of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival and a great place for student theatre companies to launch themselves from. In November they’re hosting Fight Like A Girl! a fundraiser for Cancer Research UK. “MC’d by the hostess with the mostest Roo Pilkington, prepare to be thoroughly entertained by four nights of amazing short plays!”
My Top Three
If I had three shows I could go to this season, I’d pick these… but that’s not guarantee of anything!
- To Wong Foo The Musical at Hope Mill Theatre from 21st October-17th December
- Metamorphosis at The Lowry from 14th-18th November
- Beautiful Thing at HOME from 31st October – 11th November
Please be aware that all shows may have adult content and each venues webpage listings should be consulted for any content warnings.
A Whole Year of Theatre… for only £40!
By Hannah Briggs
The New Adelphi Theatre have released a new Season Ticket that is available for all students through their Inspire funds!
The New Adelphi Theatre Season Ticket gives students half price access to the New Adelphi Theatre’s extensive year long programme of comedy, dance, drama, music events and more.
To attend a year of shows, this would normally cost in the region of £80 plus; but by purchasing a season ticket you can see every eligible show until August 2024 for half price – at just £40!
Students will then be sent a special Season Ticket code which will grant them access to every eligible show in our programme. Simply visit the New Adelphi Theatre website and add your code. Find your hidden Season Ticket seat, and prepare to be blown away!
For more information, including terms and conditions, please email Hannah Briggs on email@example.com.
A Monthly Night of Pyjamas, Nostalgia and plenty of Laughs!
By Charlotte Cropper
Charlotte Cropper, Front of House and Audience Development Assistant for the New Adelphi Theatre, has created a new monthly Manchester comedy night, @CroppaChoppa’s Slumber Party, in the heart of Northern Quarter.
The show, presented as a noughties sleepover, not only features professional alternative comedy acts and slumber party games for the comedians and audience to participate in for prizes, but also Salford students in a showcase slot.
Charlotte, who graduated from BA (Hons) Media and Performance in 2021 and was recipient of the Dean’s Award at the following Create Awards, has a dedicated 5-minute paid slot each month to showcase rising comedic talent from the University of Salford, giving them the opportunity to perform in a safe, supportive environment alongside professional comedians.
Daisy Jeavons and Mia Lewis, Level 5 Comedy Writing and Performance Students, were the Salford Showcase spot for September’s opening night, with their absurd comedy double act “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” going down an absolute storm. When asked, they “had the time of their lives” and were “so, so honoured to be there for the debut”. Charlotte is passionate about cultivating a positive, silly and inclusive comedy experience for both the acts and audience, and hopes that the night will continue to grow into the New Year.
The Halloween Special in October brought another incredible turnout and had a fabulous line-up, showcasing Salford student and Comedy Society Secretary Ellie Hemingway! Tickets for the November Show are available here: https://bit.ly/SlumberPartyNov23
Ellie Hemingway Instagram: @ellie_wishes_she_was_funny
Are You Sitting Comfortably? Instagram: @sittingcomfortablycomedy
Illuminate Your Talent with Discount Membership of Spotlight!
Spotlight is the industry’s leading casting platform and admittedly is known for being notoriously hard for performers to get on to! However, Spotlight has now changed its joining criteria and performing arts students at University of Salford are now eligible to join – and at a reduced student rate!
This means that third year students and alumni studying acting, drama, theatre studies, dance or musical theatre can join the platform and showcase their talents to casting professionals in theatre, television and film.
Click here for details of how to apply as a graduate or final year student member: https://www.spotlight.com/join-us/graduates/
Guess the Technician – Answer!
This edition’s camera-shy tech is Connoll Pavey, Media Production Technical Demonstrator and mo-cap enthusiast extraordinaire! Did you guess correctly?