Friday, 26 February 2016

Film: Suffragette, Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax

Square Chapel offers its regular Friday morning film screenings (part of the Arts and Biscuits programme).  Not only the tickets are reasonably priced put includes complimentary coffee or tea and biscuits.  

Suffragette was the chosen film screened.  Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep; this film, part of the International Women Day Celebrations.  This remind us the Suffragette movement and the fight for women's votes.

(Image accessed from

Their noticed cause didn't see eye to eye by the male dominated society at the time. Women enduringly lived in what was more or less a man's world, socially and legally at least, and expected to behave 'genteel'.  Not to mention the subject of abuse they suffered too.

Following decades of campaigning peacefully, led by Emmeline Pankhurst  (Meryl Streep), they had no choice other than intensifying the fight.  It featured Maud Watt's (Carey Mulligan) journey; a young mother who subsequently became a Suffragette and gave up a lot so that future generations can have the rights and freedom.

Suffragette is an excellent, moving and powerful portrayal of a movement which shaped women's rights today.  Many women around the world today are fighting a parallel movement similar to the Suffragettes.  One can hope for the positive outcomes from the causes now and in the future.  Although women's rights have positively moved forward still there is a lot of work to be done worldwide.

Arts and Biscuits Programme is an exciting programme at the Square Chapel.  The screening was certainly well attended, evidently from seeing many people in the auditorium. The Imperial Hotel, adjacent to the venue, offers value for money lunch for ticket holders. The delicious food makes it all worth while!

There are other events planned at Square Chapel celebrating International Women Day on 8th March 2016.

Arts and Biscuits Programme at Square Chapel for the Arts (February 2016)

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Press Launch for Leeds Lads, Leeds Carriageworks, Monday 22nd February 2016

Rod Dixon, Red Ladder Theatre's artistic director, began proceedings by introducing this forthcoming project.

(Accessed from

Following success of Promised Land four years ago, a similar format will follow suit with Leeds Lads.  The play is about Tara's journey into the past involving her grandfather and Leeds Pals during World War I in the Battle of the Somme.  The production will coincide with the 100th anniversary of this poignant event and how this had a sacrificial impact on those who fought including the soldiers from Leeds.

There will be a humanities perspective on the subject with the emphasis on Tara's and the sacrifice her grandfather made.  This event and sacrifices certainly shape what the communities of Leeds today.  Dixon shared how the army was more diverse in the First World I than it is today and how the city is far move diverse than it was almost a 100 years ago.

As well as remembering the war and its consequences this plays offers the audience to see the people of Leeds past and present share their life experiences including their hopes and fears.  The casting will include 40 local performers and a debut stage appearance will be made by Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain Rugby League player. JJB, he is known as, is especially excited about playing a role as a sergeant and hopes his performances will continue inspiring all in the community.

David Wheatley shared how Leeds Civic Art Guild brings people together through amateur dramatics.  He recalled how football fans' involvement in Promised Land and is optimistic about Leeds Lads attracting rugby league fans.  Anthony Clavane, Writer of Leeds Lads, reiterated how sport links to and unites the communities.

A great opportunity to attend the press launch.  Now waiting in anticipation for Leeds Lads which opens in June at the Carriageworks Theatre.  Looks like it will be a sell out! Better get booking today!

Auditions are open to all locally and is taking place between 19th to 21st May 2016.

Key links:

Video: Leeds Rhinos Foundation - Changing Lives through Sport (Featuring JJB)
Red Ladder Theatre Company
Interview with Rod Dixon  (August 2014)
Leeds Civic Art Guild

Dawn Smallwood
23rd February 2016

Out of Chaos Two Man Macbeth - Sunday 21st February 2016

Out of Chaos Macbeth have brought their two man show to Leeds Slung Low Hub.  Their mission was to bring the Shakespeare tragedy to life in 80 minutes.  The interpretation of 30 characters relied solely on Troels Hagen Findsen and Paul O'Mahoney.

(Imaged accessed from

From beginning to end the spirit of story telling came alive with the two actors smoothly switching between the different characters' parts.  There was a great use of voice including its pitch and tone. The body language complimented the performances with its varied body movements, demeanour and facial expression.  This inhibited the mood and emotions especially with the intensity shown in Mahoney's eyes who played Macbeth.

Simple props were used to the maximum effect for each of the scenes.  Clare Browne's lighting was impressive especially the use of red lighting to show Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's blooded hands after murdering.  The performance had an eerie feel and prolonged silences which is down to successful use of dim lighting and the wind outside at the time complimented the ambience which obviously wasn't planned.

Mike Tweddle, artistic director, ensured it was fast paced throughout.  The revised text didn't compromise the integrity of Macbeth and its themes.  Audience interaction is to the maximum and is encouraged from repeating choral lines and helping with some of the 'lines'.

A clever contemporary production which is worth seeing live!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Around the World in 80 Days (Written on behalf of North West End)

This review was originally written for North West End and the link can be found here.

(Accessed from

Jules Verne’s Around The World in 80 Days certainly offers more than Phileas Fogg living his life like clockwork. An uncharacteristic bet leads him to spontaneously circumnavigate the globe in 80 days by ‘boats and trains but no aeroplanes’. He is a typical Englishman who is determined complete the journey as fast as possible only to face unforeseeable events and experience hilarious consequences on the journey.
The audience is invited to join this adventure and travel with Fogg and his faithful servant, Passepartout. The six person cast, doubling as musicians, narrate the story with live music, circus tricks and singing catchy musical numbers. They present this with humour, irony and wit. Interestingly there are some prophetic familiar references which are synonymous today such as when the railway network comes to a halt and Indian food conquering the world.
An engaging pantomime approach is applied throughout this production where the audience is directly and indirectly involved whether it is locating a missing character from the story or participating in a trick. The characters mingle with the audience in the auditorium when they navigate their way round the world; through the depths of an Indian jungle and later catch the San Francisco bound boat from Yokohoma which they almost missed. The props are used effectively on stage and above; particularly good is the use of a miniature hot air balloon and its ascension from the stage when they are crossing America.
This is certainly a lively energetic family show with something for everyone. Every member of the audience is engaged from the beginning to the end. Guaranteed laughter is imminent with a fast paced fiesta feel like adventure being told like no other. A credit to the presenter, New International Encounter and its director, Alex Byrne, and collaborator, Rich Rusk, for putting on an excellent adaptation of this celebrated novel.
If travel has changed Fogg he certainly acknowledged this from the comfort of his chair and cup of tea at the very end. He quoted that one can travel and become a different person. Certainly true today!

Dancing Bear (Written on behalf of The Reviews Hub)

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub and the link can be accessed here.

(Image accessed from

This preview of Dancing Bear is a crucial piece in the continuous development of the show as the company is planning to tour this production nationally and internationally next year.   This preview coincides with the LGBT History Month and is part of West Yorkshire’s Development Programme, Furnace.
The cast welcomed the audience and encouragement was provided, the message – being free and not to be convinced or converted.  The cast, doubling up as performers/musicians, came from diverse backgrounds, introduced themselves and relayed their fears and feelings.
The Club on the Edge of Town, a musical number, was about Divina De Campo (Owen Farrow) who engaged with everyone, through drag, his journey about coming out, breaking free and being reborn.  With song and dance, he colourfully shared his spiritual awakening.
Half way through the show, the director shared his personal journey.  The balance of gender, sexuality and faith were explored and he explained how his life experiences enabled him not to compromise his integrity and spirituality.
There were some thought-provoking and powerful spiritual settings.  The audience was drawn to think further about the relationship between sexuality and faith and the impact it has on gay people and society in general.  Following on from today’s current affairs; homosexuality and gay marriages and its relationship with the church and media were explored.  This included the basis how one observes the world people live in, the words people go by and the emotional and psychological weight people carry.
As well as poignancy and provocation, there was some humour thrown in with a dancing bear in costume (Andrew Gardiner) which lightened the mood.  This suggested one being natural in what they feel in order to follow their orientation and beliefs.   The talented cast of musicians and singers, accompanied by a live band, sang and narrated songs and text that cover a diverse range of themes including love, hope and peace, linking to humanity and spirituality.
The quote “I’m a Lonesome Dancing Bear” summed up the loneliness and challenges many in the LGBT community face.  This brave thought provoking and beautiful production offers opportunities to each one and all, regardless of sexual orientation or religious belief, to find one’s inner peace and spirituality.  No conclusions should not be drawn, but instead, celebrate the people’s uniqueness and diversity of this world.
Dancing Bear is an excellent production raising the crucial themes which will sure develop from strength to strength on a future tour.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Tide and Time (Written on behalf of The Reviews Hub)

This review was originally written on behalf of The Reviews Hub and the link can be accessed here.

(Imaged accessed from

Carriageworks Young Theatre Makers write plays based on personal life experiences and their creatively is certainly encouraged.  Under the direction of professional theatre director Ruth Cooper, the young group have created Time and Tide after being inspired by Albert Einstein’s assertion that: “The only reason for time, is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
The story takes place when Abi (Alison Martin) and her friends go on a school trip to the coast.  On discovery of a watch, unexpected activities happen, including time travel and time disruption in front of their eyes.   There are numerous flashbacks from the past and flash-forwards into the future; including a family visit to the coast during World War II and pupils downloading information from technological glasses on a school trip.  These events happen at the very same spot following a discovery of the same item and at a similar time.  They are reminded that time moves on, before and after one’s existence, and universal activity happens at the same time without one’s awareness or control.
It encourages the audience to really think about the concept of time and its measurement with the pocket watch, the key object, questioning such.  The production is staged simply and intimately with effective lighting and thoughtfully chosen musical accompaniment is played between the scenes.
Time and Tide is a well planned and thought-out production of around 35 minutes.  The play may be a short one; however it addresses the theme on stage and is delivered by a talented and enthusiastic cast of 20 youngsters.  Their next production is War Letters next month at the same theatre.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Harvey - Leeds Arts Centre

Leeds Arts Centre presents Mary Chase's Harvey at the Carriageworks Theatre.  It's about the imaginary friendship Elwood has with Harvey, an invisible anthropomorphic rabbit.  Elwood is keen to share their special friendship with the town's folk.  Veta, however, is embarrassed by her brother's friendship and is determined to get rid of Harvey.

Accessed from (

This play explores a variety of issues ranging from mental health to institutions and how the issues were seen by society in the 1950s.  Sixty plus years later these issues are just as unique and relevant today which are flavoured with poignancy and hope.

Leeds Arts Centre delivers the story on stage by an enthusiastic and hard working cast under the direction of Alan Buttery.  Supported by modest staging and lighting, courtesy of the company's production crew.  Their next production is Macbeth in April!