Sunday, July 14, 2019

Kasterborous In Bolton

Review





Written by Jonathan Hall

Directed by Liz Hume-Dawson



The King's Arms, Salford 11th July 2019



Review by Brian Gorman




You don't necessarily need to be a huge Dr Who fan to enjoy this comedy-drama, but boy does it help! The attention to detail is remarkable, extending to carefully mocked-up VHS cassette covers and fake stage show flyers placed on the audience seats. Jonathan Hall's bittersweet tale of a typical 1990s Dr Who convention is a fun ride, with more than a few surprisingly shocking moments.

Dean Taylor is fantastic as the burned-out, desperate, booze and drug addled writer, treated as a god by adoring fans, but gradually revealing a cynical and predatory nature. Hardcore Dr Who fans will recognise who this character is probably based on (I can think of a couple), and be aware of certain grubby incidents and behaviours witnessed behind Travelodge doors over the years. Lee Petcher hits all the right notes as the overworked convention organiser, keen to supply his star guests with their every need whilst keeping the packed schedule on track, despite (in the context of the story) the late cancellation of 'star attraction' Bonnie Langford (who played the much maligned assistant, Melanie Bush, to Colin Baker's and Sylvester McCoy's Doctors in the 1980s).

Lesley Molony is pitch perfect as ex-assistant Jenny Carpenter, still much aggrieved by her character's complete lack of development (a common complaint from many a Who actress over the years!). Jenny is soon to star in a profit-share production of MacBeth, and is keen to demonstrate her thespian credentials to an audience who only really want her to perform her popular lung-busting scream, and join in with a competition to see how many different ways one can say "What IS it, Doctor?" 

Lee Petcher, Luke Perczyk, Liz Hume-Dawson, Lesley Molony, and Dean Taylor

Luke Perczyk is hilarious and affecting as obsessive fan Alan; a young man with a severe lack of social skills, but whose heart is in the right place. Director Liz Hume-Dawson gets the balance between drama and comedy just right, allowing for the belly laughs and the more cringeworthy scenes to sit comfortably together. It would have been very easy to go for all-out farce (Dr Who fans have always been an easy target), or even to explore the opposite end of the spectrum with a serious psychological examination of the perils of fanatical behaviour, and the spiritually demeaning work many a fallen star has to undertake. Thankfully, director Hume-Dawson manages to keep things firmly grounded, and produces a show that entertains without pretension.

Incidentally, after watching the play, I went for a drink in a late Manchester bar, and bumped into Salford-born actor Christopher Eccleston (who played The Doctor back in 2005). He asked me what I'd been to see that night!

Kasterborous In Bolton is a real treat, with an appeal far beyond its target audience.



Monday, July 01, 2019

BOND IS BACK!

'ONE MAN BOND' returns on Friday 5th July, at 1.30pm. Rhyl Little Theatre!

Photo by Shay Rowan


For the millions of fans awaiting Daniel Craig’s latest James Bond extravaganza, here’s something to whet the appetite until agent 007 returns to the big screen.

Following a successful nationwide tour last year, writer/performer Brian Gorman returns to the stage in ‘One Man Bond: Every Bond Film In 60 Minutes’,with an award-winning performance covering over half a century of the most successful movie franchise in history. After appearing at the 2018 Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, Brian won The Salford Star Award for ‘Best Performer’, and has been invited to perform at The Rhyl Comedy Festival on Friday 5th July at 1.30pm.

The show was recently staged at the world famous Pinewood Studios (home of the Bond movies), and the 2018 Starburst Media City Festival in Salford.

Photo by Shay Rowan

‘One Man Bond’ is written by, and stars, Brian Gorman as over 150 characters, including every James Bond from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, plus M, Moneypenny, Q, and the infamous villains Dr No, Goldfinger, Blofeld, Mr Big, Scaramanga, Jaws, and Raul Silva. It is a whirlwind tour of every cinematic adventure of the world’s favourite secret agent, and his often outlandish missions to save the world time and time again.



This unique production features a single actor, without elaborate props, costumes, or special effects, and takes the audience from the groovy, psychedelic sixties of the super smooth Sean Connery, through to the modern day bone-crunching, and ultra realistic, Daniel Craig. The show lasts approximately 60 minutes (plus an interval).

Brian’s recent work has included writing and co-producing the highly-acclaimed ‘NEW DAWN FADES: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester’,which has toured nationally for the last 6 years, and played to capacity audiences and standing ovations. The show will begin a new tour, later this year, opening at Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre on 12th September.

Photo by Shay Rowan

Brian was born in Wigan, and studied for a degree in English and Art at Chester College in the 1990s; he then worked at the Chester Gateway Theatre for 12 years, and appeared on stage in a variety of productions including the hugely popular ‘Bouncers’. He is also a writer/artist of graphic novels, his latest being ‘NEW DAWN FADES: A Graphic Novel About Joy Division & Manchester’, which has been both highly popular (now on its third print run) and critically acclaimed. Other books include ‘EVERYMAN: A Celebration of Patrick McGoohan & The Prisoner’, which is based on his one man stage play.

Reviews for ‘One Man Bond’:

“An acting tour de force – brilliantly capturing the essence of each Bond actor and the non-PC absurdities of the Bond series. It’s a show that definitely keeps the British end up!”

– Robert Sellers (Author of ‘The Battle For Bond’)

“ …in an electrifying way, Brian Gorman takes to the stage with real animation, not just imitating but in a way embodying every Bond character he takes on. Hilarious. From the Biff!, Biff!, Wallop! of the fight scenes through the clever characterisations and voices to the inevitable Boom!, Boom! explosions that ripped through the end of virtually every scene.“

– Louder Than War

“…What’s important in a show like this is for all the characters to be distinct and recognisable; thankfully, Gorman is a skilled impressionist, getting the vocal tics of every Bond spot-on and even making us chuckle with his perfect capturing of Roger Moore’s distinctive stance. His Christopher Walken is a treat. This is one fan’s loving and hilarious tribute to the history of Bond movies”

– Starburst Magazine

“Brian performed to an audience of hardcore 007 fans at Pinewood Studios, and they were totally enthralled. Thoroughly recommended show.”

– Bondstars.com

“Nobody does it better than Brian Gorman in ‘One Man Bond’. Unmissable”

– The Shanklin Hotel, Blackpool

Tickets are at a special low price of just £5 for this event.


https://brhylliant.wordpress.com/brian-gorman/

Sunday, June 09, 2019

David Lynch Inspired Party Night


From the Facebook page:

"The weird and wonderful club night which takes place in the mind of one of cinema’s most innovative and unique creative geniuses, is now taking place in the real world at Night People on Saturday 6th July!

The main room will host the David Lynch Disco which will include music from his films, his own music and bands/artists who are influences on/are influenced by the great man himself.


Room two will be converted into the famous Twin Peaks restaurant, the RR Diner, and casino, One Eyed Jacks, while the legendary lounge-jazz band, The Sycamore Trees, will perform a live set of ambient, moody classics. You’ll even be able to sip on damn fine coffee and tuck into some cherry pie!"


Yours truly is involved, and there will be an exhibition of my David Lynch inspired paintings and drawings, plus photographs from my good friend, Shay Rowan!



BACK IN ACTION!


It's been over a year!! I had been uploading reviews to my new website, but have now allowed it to lapse. I shall now upload everything on here.
Update: Am still getting used to being scalped, I shaved my head to film a couple of scenes for the revamped production of 'NEW DAWN FADES: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester', and will see myself projected onto a large screen this September at The Dancehouse, Manchester 12th - 14th, Sheffield Leadmill 16th to 17th, and London's Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate 19th to 21st.



Director Sean Mason films 'Dr Dee' (Photo: Shay Rowan)


And, 'ONE MAN BOND: Every Bond Film In 60 Minutes' returns in July, at the Rhyl Comedy Festival. The first performance since winning the 2018 Salford Star Award for 'Best Performer'.
https://www.facebook.com/events/653831401696307/


Receiving the Salford Star award


More theatre/film/music reviews to come!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Marvel Us: All The Marvel Movies. Kind Of




MARVELUS


Written & performed by The Just Us League (Gary Tro & Javier Javier)

The Waterside, Sale

Touring

Reviewed 11th May 2018


Review by Brian Gorman


'Every Marvel movie in an hour. Kind Of.' Well, if this doesn't sell, nothing will. Marvel seem to have conquered the movie world over the last decade, and with the recent release of the hugely successful 'Avengers: Infinity War' (which has smashed records all over the world, in no time at all), this is perfect timing.
This is theatre stripped to the bone; just two guys in onesies, on a tiny, empty stage (save for a hand-written A3 notepad, handily displaying each film's title in multi-coloured felt tip). A pretty mixed audience ranged from fifty-somethings to teen-agers, with a near equal mix of male and female, which is surely something every producer dreams of. Black Sabbath's classic 'Iron Man' created a suitably tense and dramatic atmosphere, as the lights dimmed, and we waited for our heroes to take the stage. To lighten things up a little, we also had the contrast of Guardians of The Galaxy's breezy, feelgood number, 'Hooked On A Feeling' to get us in the right mood. The 'Just Us League' are composed of New Zealander Javier Javier, and Bristolian Gary Tro; two stand-up comedians (and self-confessed nerds). They make a great team, and like all good double acts, present very different stage personas – Javier is dressed in blue, and is the shorter, more sardonic one. Gary, in red, is the tall, bald, and slighty goofier one. A good natured preamble had the guys bondng with their audience as fellow nerds, and explaining just how they'd decided which Marvel movies to cover, and which to ignore. Taking on the guise of a P.E. teacher, Javier divided the movies into teams A and B. Unsurprisingly (at least to us afficiandos), Team A comprised of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor:Ragnarok, etc. Whilst Team B had Elektra, Blade, and Thor: The Dark World. Special mention was given to the execrable Fantastic Four movies, who Javier neglected to include in either team.
Only 2 people in the audience hadn't seen 'Avengers: Infinity War', which resulted in a short, spoiler-free, sketch “to get it out of the way”, depicting a frustrated Hawkeye sitting at home and desperately trying to imagine his team-mates managing to save the universe without him. Then, on to the show proper, with 2008's Iron Man. I had expected a potted version of each movie, but instead we were presented with self-contained, often seemingly improvised on the spot, sketches that attempted to sum up each film's plot. This threw up some surprising choices (at least to me), focussing on many characters' often unexplored motives and emotions. Iron Man had Tony Stark's best buddy Jim Rhodes/War Machine obsessing over why his calls were not being returned, and WW2's Captain America's Steve Rogers awakening in modern day New York, with all the non PC attitudes that character would likely retain. Each sketch was played with energy and obvious enthusiasm, with many audience members reacting with undisguised delight at many subtle (and some not-so-subtle) comics in-jokes. Javier and Gary seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, bringing their heroes and villains to life, and high-fiving one front row punter who was the only one to get an obscure joke about Thor!
The God of Thunder sketch was absolutely inspired, with Asgard's favourite son played as a cocky, rich boy describing his 'gap year' on Earth (whilst slying commenting on the movie's shaky plotting). Gary's impression of Chris Hemsworth's cod Shakespearean delivery was hilarious. The popular Hulk/Loki scene in 2012's Avengers had an angry, bellowing Gary throwing around a spare blue onesie, followed by the guys arguing over the cost of this extra costume/prop only being used for one sketch. There followed a comically tearful description of the life of poverty-stricken actors on tour, having to manage with a near zero budget, and the fact that they couldn't even afford to stay over in Sale that night (and were, instead, a taxi drive away in a downbeat area of nearby Altrincham).
The flow of Marvel movies was interrupted by Gary revealing that he never really wanted to do this show, and would much rather be performing a version of Disney's Beauty and The Beast, while Javier looked on, aghast at his friend's love of such obviously unworthy material. The payoff to this sketch came right at the end of the show, when an offstage Gary, on microphone, did a simply beautiful impression of Marvel head honcho Stan Lee, enlightening Javier to the fact that Disney now owned Marvel, and he was lucky they weren't “sueing the ass off you guys!”

This was full-bloodied, breathless, and infectious stuff. Two guys, and their audience, having a simply 'Marvel Us' time!




Wednesday, May 09, 2018

In Conversation: Christopher Eccleston




In Conversation: Christopher Eccleston

Home, Manchester Sunday 6th May 2018

Review by Brian Gorman


It's Manchester; I thought it was gonna be raining!” says Christopher Eccleston, in that famous, gruff, Salfordian accent. On one of the hottest days of the year, the star of some of TV's grittiest, uncompromising, and groundbreaking drama (Cracker, Hillsborough, and Our Friends In The North among them) took a seat, and effortlessly entertained his attentive and appreciative audience. In conversation with Dr Kirsty Fairclough of The University of Salford, the 54 year old actor was in town as a guest of The Pilot Light TV Festival, and fresh from a highly-acclaimed RSC production of MacBeth currently running in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Looking every inch Shakespeare's sinewy, coiled spring of a warrior, Eccleston was a pretty fearsome presence, with that famous chiselled profile, boxer's physique, and awesome Roman nose. Admitting he had always been a bundle of restless energy, you could certainly imagine him in the great classical roles, and it was good to hear that he wants to do more live theatre, following a hugely successful career in television and film.


In conversation with Kirsty Fairclough   (photo: HOME)

Eccleston is very proud of his roots, and credited his family with providing him with a secure upbringing, and a solid set of values. Raised on a poor housing estate, the youngest of three children, he remembered the huge impact that television had on him. His parents regarded the box as an educational tool, and watched many a quality drama, and documentary. Soaps were ignored, as were the everyday lowest-common-denominator fodder. Though not particularly academic, Eccleston was always curious, and determined to question the world around him. Reflecting on his drama school years, he was obviously very concerned that he would probably have never had the opportunity of an acting career if he was starting out today. After graduating from the Central School of Speech and Drama, he initially struggled to find acting work for some years, until his big break came as Derek Bentley in the 1991 film 'Let Him Have It'. He remembered being inspired by fellow cast member Tom Bell, who was impressed at the young man's levels of concentration. Eccleston went on to star in Danny Boyle's low budget thriller 'Shallow Grave', and a regular role in TV's 'Cracker' raised his profile even further. Eccleston credits writer Jimmy McGovern for much of his success, and felt very strongly that an actor should seek to do good work, and not just go after the money. The actor was very candid about some of his more recent roles, and regretted going against his instincts to star in 'G.I. Joe' and 'Thor: The Dark World'. He jokingly blamed his agent for persuading him to do the high-paying, blockbuster films, and enjoying their percentage of his fee, while he would always know that the DVDs were out there.
Asked by an audience member about working with the notoriously volatile Nicholas Cage, Eccleston was very complimentary about his co-star of 'Gone In Sixty Seconds'. He told of one instance when Cage turned up on a hugely expensive motorbike, having bought it on the spur of the moment on his way to the set.



Signing for a young fan   (photo: Simon Ibison)

There were a number of obvious Doctor Who fans in the audience (judging from the TARDIS dresses, Tom Baker t-shirts, etc.), and he seemed happy and relaxed to talk about his time on the show (which he left, after only one series, back in 2005). Never having been a fan, he'd been intrigued to hear that the show was coming back, and was to be written by Russell T Davies, whom he admired after they'd worked together on the epic religious TV fantasy 'The Second Coming'. Trying to get a handle on the character, he'd been out running when he realised that The Doctor would be a pretty lonely character after becoming the last of his race (The Time Lords). With a huge grin on his face, Eccleston proudly stated “And, I can do lonely!”. He regretted his overall performance, though, admitting that he never felt comfortable with the comedy elements, and that he'd played the part “too broad”. No mention was made of the circumstances under which he left the show, but he did remark that he considered every actor to play The Doctor as having been stronger in their second season (apart from the great Tom Baker, who hit the ground running). He'd taken the role as he felt he needed to broaden his range, and prove that an actor should be able to play all kinds of characters. Taking his life in his hands, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he said “We all know Doctor Who is for kids, don't we?” Following a low murmur of good-natured discontent, he pushed his luck further by saying “Come on, it is, isn't it?”

Eccleston wears his heart on his sleeve, and has often been criticised for being outspoken, prickly, and rather straight-laced. However, he was on excellent form here, and genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself. He indulged one young fan (Richard Lloyd), when demonstrating a laser engraved portrait of himself as The Doctor, by shining the light from his mobile phone through the piece, and delighting the audience when his face appeared on the white surface of his chair.


The Doctor appears!   (photo: Matthew Rimmer)




Eccleston as MacBeth    (photo: RSC)

 A discussion about his current role as MacBeth saw the actor energetically striding about the stage to describe the RSC set, and the fact that a huge clock, counting down to zero (and the end of his character's life), was visible at all times. This necessitated the actors getting their timing spot on, but Eccleston said he was never aware of the countdown during the performance, and it was up to MacDuff to kill him either slowly or quickly at the end.

This was a passionate, charismatic, yet relaxed and immensely good humoured Christopher Eccleston. A man with his feet firmly on the ground, and an undiminished energy and desire to do good work. “I don't want to do rubbish. But, sometimes, I've ended up doing rubbish when I've gone against my instincts”. He insisted that an actor should look for good writing, and that it would always show them in a good light. His nightmare, he joked, would be for him to be forced to watch a DVD double bill of 'Thor: The Dark World' and 'G.I. Joe'!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

AUNTIE & ME

Theatre review



Written by Morris Panych

Directed by Brainne Edge

The King's Arms, Salford

Reviewed 27th July


Review by Brian Gorman

Rating: 4.5 stars


The dark, claustrophobic, and (on the occasion of this summer's evening) sweltering atmosphere of the upstairs theatre, at The King's Arms in Salford, is perfect for this gloriously gothic and peculiar little piece (which runs at around 75 minutes, without an interval). Imagine, if you will, Alan Bennett and Samuel Beckett having a good old evening in, downing the grape juice, and getting off their heads on crack cocaine. Well, maybe that's pushing it, but I'd guess that 'Auntie & Me' is what they'd come up with. Especially if they'd had the cheese, too.
Kemp (Sean Mason) is a sad, pretty pathetic, and morose middle-aged sadsack, who receives a letter from an aged aunt on her last legs, and promptly heads off to see out her last days, and plan for the funeral. Except, she doesn't appear that pleased to see him, and manages to hang on, for what seems to Kemp, like an eternity. 


Here we have two actors on stage (Mason, and a suitably grumpy, and almost mute, Siobhan Edge), but 'Auntie And Me' is essentially a one man show. Sean Mason excells in the part of Kemp; a hybrid of Fawlty-era John Cleese, and Allo Allo's Gorden Kaye. He's a dishevelled, somewhat effeminate, well-educated, yet hapless fellow, scarcely able to deal with his own everyday life, nevermind having to look after a bed-ridden relative. With barely a flicker of response from Auntie, Kemp rambles on at length, and we eventually begin to sympathise with his sad, lonely existence. It soon becomes apparent, though, that Kemp needs Auntie, as much as she now depends upon him.

Photo: Shay Rowan

This is classic British tv sit-com, reminiscent of the much-loved Steptoe and Son, Rising Damp, and Porridge. Mis-matched characters, seemingly unable to barely tolerate each other, yet harnessed together by fate; with a grudging empathy and respect slowly developing. The youthful Mason has a puppyish demeanor, but expertly portrays the aging Kemp, and his world-weary outlook. The struggles with his 'black dog' of depression, and aching need for love and acceptance are conveyed beautifully. We feel for this guy, and his pain is all too obvious. Edge's granite-faced, almost comatose Auntie, is a perfect foil; her moments of stage business all the more effective following the long periods of sitting in bed, listening to her reluctant carer's woes.
Director Brainne Edge keeps a tight rein on the emotions, and allows the characters space to develop gradually. There are no frills, and they aren't needed, as this is a strongly-written piece which concentrates on character and atmosphere. The amiable, yet impotent Kemp does have his more serious moments, particularly when the inner emotions break through, and Mason explodes in terrifying fashion.
Auntie and Me has two perfectly-controlled performances, and works superbly well. Old-fashioned on the surface, but with depth, pathos, and even a little bit of Orton-esque farce. This production deserves a much wider audience.



Tags: Auntie and Me, Morris Panych, Sean Mason, Siobhan Edge, Brianne Edge, King's Arms, Salford

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

THE DEAD, LIVE

Carly Tarett & Howard Whittock


Theatre Review

Written by Daniel Thackeray
Directed by Alex Shepley

The Met, Bury

Reviewed on 13th July

Review by Brian Gorman

4 stars


Lawrence Dodds is a run-of-the mill stage medium, a mix of Peter Falk's crumpled detective Columbo, and Ken Stott's down-at-heel Inspector Rebus. Dodds seems to be a dead man walking, a guy at the fag end of his career, and lacking the starry charisma (shallow though it is) of a Derek Acorah. In a perfectly-pitched opening scene, we find Dodds downing more than his fair share of cheap whiskey, whilst schooling nervous new assistant Rachael Connor (Carly Tarett) in the dark arts of audience exploitation. We are told everything we need to know about this amoral charlatan. He's a complete fraud; and he appears to have no shame about it. Using simple word play, Trump-esque self confidence, and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) – owing a debt of gratitude to the likes of Derren Brown, Penn & Teller, et al, he elicits crucial snippets of personal information from audience members, and makes them believe he is actually channelling deceased relatives. Rachael duly plays her part, pretending to be an innocent punter, but the evening takes a very dark turn when an unexpected (and, as we discover, rather unwelcome) guest threatens to humiliate Dodds, and uncover the spiritual shennanigans. 

Lawrence Dodds  (Howard Whittock)

With only two actors on stage, this is a tight, atmospheric, and unsettling piece, which utilises the minimum of props and stage set to maximum effect. As the story takes place in a theatre (on this occasion, the lovely new 'Box' studio at The Met, in Bury), and part of the action has Dodds inter-acting with members of the (real) audience, we are sucked gently, and efectively, into the unquiet world of writer Daniel Thackeray. Chilling sound effects, effective use of complete blackouts in the confined space, and a quite terrifying, yet simple, onstage ghost effect makes for a nervy evening for those of a delicate disposition. Howard Whittock plays Dodds with the distracted air of a man barely conscious of the physical world around him. He is disturbingly placid, and distinctly unmoved by the emotional and spiritual wounds he is delicately fingering. Carly Tarett grounds the piece, with a realistic and wholly sympathetic performance as the callow young Rachael, who grows a backbone when things begin to fall apart. Anne Baron plays a third, rather chilling and unsettling, character in the play, but I won't spoil anything by saying any more!

Writer Daniel Thackeray with actor Howard Whittock


Thackeray channels the great Nigel Kneale (creator of tv's 'Quatermass', and cult classics 'The Stone Tape' and 'The Year Of The Sex Olympics') in his sparse, unshowy script. The dialogue is lean, crisp, on the nose, and sharply effective. Alex Shepley's directing avoids the pitfalls of trying too hard to scare her audience, and wisely allows the actors to inhabit their respective characters, and let the story gradually unwind to its chilling conclusion. The scares are subtle, and the atmosphere grows naturally, rather than being delivered fully-formed. This is a hugely enjoyable piece, which certainly leaves the audience hungry for more. My main quibble with the production is the short running time (just under an hour), and the fact that things end rather abruptly. However, one shouldn't really complain too much, as there are far too many shows that shamelessly outstay their welcome. Scytheplays' 'The Dead, Live' is short and sweet, but delivers a heck of a sting.