13 Nov 2013

Who @ 50

Poster for Who @ 50, created by Colin Brockhurst

From 17th-30th November Manchester will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC's beloved science fiction series Doctor Who with its very own Who @ 50 fringe festival, comprising screenings, performances, interview panels and other entertainments in a number of venues across the city centre. Scytheplays. in association with Lass Productions, is excited to be able to contribute to proceedings by producing two live stage adaptations of two of the series' earliest adventures.

Phil Dennison as the First Doctor.
When the Doctor was a young man, he was an old man...
Photo by Andrew Greenland, with lighting and design by Peter Michael George and Paul Anderton

An Unearthly Child by Anthony Coburn was the first ever episode of Doctor Who, broadcast on 23rd November 1963, and the Scytheplays team, working from original BBC camera scripts, have adapted it to be staged in Manchester's Fab Cafe on the 17th, 18th, 19th and the anniversary itself, 23rd November 2013.  Popular fringe actor Phil Dennison (Lass Productions' Porridge and Hot Fat), working with Scytheplays for the fourth time (after The Ballad of Halo Jones, The Year of the Sex Olympics and V for Vendetta) plays the first ever incarnation of the Doctor, as originally played by William Hartnell.  Laura Plows, recently seen as Eden Page in Scytheplays' Hotel Midnight, plays Barbara Wright, while Ian Chesterton is played by Edward Barry and Susan Foreman, the Doctor's grand-daughter, by Jess Heaps.

Following An Unearthly Child the same team will mount a production of another of the series' earliest adventures, 1964's The Edge of Destruction by David Whittaker, again performing at Fab Cafe on the 23rd, 24th and 25th November.

Poster art for An Unearthly Child & The Edge of Destruction
Designed by Colin Brockhurst

Tickets are £4 on the door, or £7.50 on the 23rd (which will be a double-bill performance of both An Unearthly Child and The Edge of Destruction), and can be booked in advance via WeGotTickets.com at the below links.

An Unearthly Child: Sunday November 17th, 5.30pm
An Unearthly Child: Sunday November 17th, 7pm
An Unearthly Child: Monday November 18th, 7pm
An Unearthly Child: Tuesday November 19th, 7pm

Double-bill: Saturday November 23rd, 2pm

The Edge of Destruction: Sunday November 24th, 3pm
The Edge of Destruction: Monday November 25th, 7pm

Please note: These are not-for-profit performances and all money raised will be donated to the Alzheimer's Society, in recognition of the ailment tragically suffered, towards the end of his life, by William Hartnell.  The performances are produced by Gareth Kavanagh and Terry Naylor, designed by Terry Naylor and directed by Daniel Thackeray.

Other events in Who @ 50 will include: Adventures in Time and Space: 50 Years in 50 Rels, a new comedy play by Ian Winterton which has the ambitious aim of compressing the whole history of Who into one hour; special screenings of the seminal William Hartnell film This Sporting Life, the behind-the-scenes drama An Adventure in Space and Time and the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary special The Day of the Doctor; Doctor Who-themed performances by the Comedy Sportz UK Improv Troupe, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, comedy open mic night Wet Feet, and performance poet Rod Tame; and interview panels with Doctor Who comic artists Adrian Salmon and Martin Geraghty; Who and Coronation Street producer Phil Collinson; and the programme's first-ever director, the legendary Waris Hussein, who will be present for the first performance of An Unearthly Child, having directed the original version in 1963.

For booking links and details for all the events in the festival, go to www.WeGotTickets.com and search under "Who At Fifty".

30 Oct 2013

Horror fringe success - catch them while you can! (Extra performance added for Count Magnus!)

Tomorrow is Halloween night - which as well as the glorious Pagan festival of Samhain also means, sadly, the end of the first Greater Manchester Horror Fringe Festival.  It has been a short but fun run, and the reactions from critics and audiences suggest that these productions have filled the niche for eerie and horrific entertainment left by barren TV and cinema schedules (along with Manchester's own excellent Grimmfest from earlier in the month).

Simon Clark's Hotel Midnight has been running at the Lass O'Gowrie since Monday and there are two final performances, tonight and then on Halloween itself, both at 7.30pm.  The reviews have been good and the Salmon Room is very limited for space, so if you want to see it, book now!  Links below:

Hotel Midnight - Wednesday 30th - full price
Hotel Midnight - Wednesday 30th - concessionary
Hotel Midnight - Thursday 31st - full price
Hotel Midnight - Thursday 31st - concessionary

The Fiction Stroker review
The Good Review, er, review

Meanwhile the one-man show of Count Magnus enjoyed several performances last week, and comments from audience members included: "compelling", "brilliant", "really interesting" and, from the Fiction Stroker, "a highlight of the fringe so far".  You can read his review of this show and the Centurion preview here; meanwhile, one extra performance of Count Magnus has been added at 6.30pm on Halloween.  Booking links for both shows are below.

Count Magnus Thursday 31st - 6.30pm
Count Magnus Thursday 31st - 8pm

Finally, although the run of Centurion is over, the show (starring Adam Beresford, Tom Reed-Goodehall and Lily Shepherd, above in Andrew Greenland's photo), was a popular success at Fab Cafe.  The Fiction Stroker's review above was of the incomplete preview, but the finished show gained excellent notices from Starburst and The Good Review.  Well done to director Paul Anderton and the team!

V for Vendetta - ready to hit Oldham!

Lass Productions and Scytheplays' V for Vendetta - the stage adaptation of the classic and hugely popular graphic novel by Alan (Watchmen) Moore and David Lloyd - is coming to Oldham for a special Bonfire Night promenade performance at the cult cellar bar, Jackson's Pit, having just been a huge hit at the first-ever Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

Sinead Parker stars as Evey Hammond

V for Vendetta's Lakes performance went down very well on October 19th, packing out Kendal College's The Box Theatre with an enthusiastic and thrilled crowd.  It was a wonderful experience for the company, with Kendal College's staff and volunteers looking after us and never failing in their energy and enthusiasm. And it was heartening, and an honour, for all of us to be part of the inaugural Comic Art Festival, and to see it all go so well!  Above are two photos from the performance taken by Elspeth Mary Moore.

The Jackson's Pit performance - which, in a first for this production, will be done in promenade to take full advantage of the unique venue - will begin at 7.30pm on Tuesday November 5th.  It features the same acclaimed cast as the Kendal production, including Sinead Parker, fresh from her hit Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Norris and Parker: All Our Friends Are Dead, as Evey Hammond; and several of the cast have links with Oldham already, including Daniel Thackeray and Michael Whittaker (recently seen at the Oldham Coliseum in A Lot Of It About and Romeo and Juliet respectively) as V and Dominic Stone; and local actress and writer Carly Tarett (Princess Dee: The Diana Story Retold) as Dr Delia Surridge.

Above is Jake Geen's poster art, and you can book tickets for the performance at the links below (subject to booking fees):

Full price
Concessionary price

You can see a trailer for the production via YouTube here and read a review of the original Manchester production here.

We regret to announce, however, that the planned 7th November performance at The Oakwood, Glossop has had to be cancelled due to logistical difficulties.  So the Jackson's performance will be the last chance to see V for a little while!

24 Oct 2013

The Greater Manchester Horror Fringe - well underway!

Hotel Midnight: Humpty's Bones.  Photo by Jez Smith
The Greater Manchester Horror Fringe is now well underway, with preview performances of Centurion and Count Magnus having taken place, and further performances scheduled for over the weekend and into next week.  The first Bloomin' Hell Ghost Tour at the King's Arms (book here) has also been held tonight and another is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday 25th October (two tours, at 8pm and 9.30pm).

Above is a scene from Centurion, Baz Greenland's science fiction ghost story which has been spectacularly realised by director Paul Anderton at Fab Cafe.  (L-R) Scytheplays regulars Tom Reed-Goodehall (Wine of India) and Adam Beresford (The Ballad of Halo Jones) are joined by Lily Shepherd (Scarlett Fever, There's Only One Man... United) as the small crew of the scout ship Venture, investigating the possibility of establishing a colony on a distant planet - a planet which may not be as lifeless as it seems... 

Rick (Tom Reed-Goodehall) alone aboard the Venture - or is he...?
After a successful preview on Tuesday, the play will be performing at Fab Cafe on Saturday 26th October (1pm), Sunday 27th (3.30pm and 7pm) and Monday 28th (7.30pm).  For door prices and direct booking links via WeGotTickets go to this blog entry.  The production design and lighting in the pictures above is by Peter M George, the photography by Andrew Greenland.

Howard Whittock.  Photo by Shay Rowan
Howard Whittock's one-man performance of MR James' classic ghost story Count Magnus also previewed to a delighted audience at Town Hall Tavern last night.  Further performances will take place on Friday 25th (6.30pm and 7.30pm), Saturday 26th (7.45pm and 8.45pm) and Thursday 31st (6.30pm and 8pm), and direct booking links via WeGotTickets can be found at this blog entry.

However, we unfortunately have to announce that the production The Hag, originally scheduled to run alongside Count Magnus at Town Hall Tavern, has been cancelled due to unforeseen difficulties. Customers who have pre-booked tickets will receive refunds.

Tracy Gabbitas, Laura Plows and Sean Croke in Humpty's Bones, part of Hotel Midnight.  Photo by Jez Smith
Meanwhile, terrifying horror anthology Hotel Midnight inches closer to its debut performance at the Lass O'Gowrie this coming Monday (28th October, running nightly at 7.30pm until Halloween).  Simon Clark, acclaimed author of the original short stories on which the play is based, visited rehearsals in Salford this week to meet several members of the cast and crew as they worked on the stories Swallowing a Dirty Seed, They Will Not Rest and Humpty's Bones.

Simon Clark discussing They Will Not Rest with actors Carmen Dooley and Taran Knight
Photo by Andrew Greenland
Additional cast and crew for Hotel Midnight can now be announced.  Joining director Sean Mason and actors Laura Plows, Tracy Gabbitas and Sean Croke in Humpty's Bones will be Terry Naylor, returning to Scytheplays for the first time since playing several roles in the original The Ballad of Halo Jones, having recently returned from a new tour of Eric Northey's acclaimed Telling Lives.  Meanwhile Swallowing a Dirty Seed and They Will Not Rest will be directed by fellow Halo Jones actor Richard (Benjamin) Patterson in his first production as director since last year's Harvey.  The cast includes Andrew Marsden, Solaya Sang, Amir Rahimzadeh (Lass Productions' Blade Runner), Taran Knight (Wine of India) and Carmen Dooley.  Welcoming you to the place of ill-repute that is Hotel Midnight will be Sean Mason as the Concierge.

Photo by Andrew Greenland
Pictured above are several of the Hotel Midnight team in terrified and terrifying mode: (L-R) Simon Clark, Tracy Gabbitas, Sean Mason, Laura Plows, Andrew Marsden, Taran Knight, Carmen Dooley, Baz Greenland (adapter of Swallowing a Dirty Seed), and co-director Richard Patterson.  After the rehearsal Simon Clark praised "those wonderful performances by the actors - and the terrific direction and adaptation by the writers," adding, "It really was an exhilarating experiences to see the stories come alive." We think it will be exhilarating for audiences too - so don't miss it!

Direct booking links via WeGotTickets for each of the performances of Hotel Midnight can be found here.

14 Oct 2013

Greater Manchester Horror Fringe: Count Magnus

Howard Whittock as MR James in Count Magnus.
Photo: Shay Rowan
A chilling tale by the master of ghost stories, MR James, is to be brought vividly to life by Scytheplays as part of the Greater Manchester Horror Fringe.

Provost of King's College, Cambridge at the turn of the twentieth century, James took great pleasure in regaling students with his terrifying ghost stories every Christmas Eve, but now he has been persuaded to exercise his talents for Halloween.  He would now like you to join him at Manchester's Town Hall Tavern to enjoy the sinister story of the poor English academic who, in researching the reign of terror presided over by a particularly vile Swedish count, discovered rather more than he bargained for.

The classic story is performed by Howard Whittock (Harvey, The Year of the Sex Olympics) and directed by Daniel Thackeray with dramaturgy by acclaimed director Rebecca Fearly.  A trailer for the production is available to view via YouTube.

A free preview performance will take place on Wednesday 23rd October at 9pm (shortly after the debut performance of The Hag at the same venue).  Tickets for subsequent performances are £3 on the door or can be booked at the links below (subject to booking fees):

Count Magnus - Friday 25th October, 6.30pm
Count Magnus - Friday 25th October, 6.30pm7.30pm
Count Magnus - Saturday 26th October, 7.45pm
Count Magnus - Saturday 26th October, 8.45pm
Count Magnus - Thursday 31st October, 8pm

Discount tickets for Count Magnus in a double bill with The Hag, with which performances alternate, can be booked at the following links.  Please note double-bill tickets are transferable between different performances if there is more than one performance in a day, but valid only on the date shown.

The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Wednesday 23rd October, 7.30pm
The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Friday 25th October, 9pm
The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Saturday 26th October, 9.30pm
The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Thursday 31st October, 6.30pm

11 Oct 2013

Greater Manchester Horror Fringe: Hotel Midnight - revised performance dates and casting news

Contrary to the previous announcement on this blog, the Scytheplays/Lass production of Simon Clarke's Hotel Midnight will now be performing exclusively at the Lass O'Gowrie from 28th-31st October at 7.30pm.  Tickets can be booked at the links below (a limited number of tickets will be available on the door).  Please note, online booking is subject to booking fees.

Hotel Midnight - Monday 28th October, 7.30pm
Hotel Midnight - Monday 28th October, 7.30pm (concessions)
Hotel Midnight - Tuesday 29th October, 7.30pm
Hotel Midnight - Tuesday 29th October, 7.30pm (concessions)
Hotel Midnight - Wednesday 30th October, 7.30pm
Hotel Midnight - Wednesday 30th October, 7.30pm (concessions)
Hotel Midnight - Thursday 31st October, 7.30pm
Hotel Midnight - Thursday 31st October, 7.30pm (concessions)

Details for one of the segments within Hotel Midnight can now be revealed.  Humpty's Bones will feature Laura Plows (Spring Ignition: Slouching Towards Bethlehem) as Eden, Tracy Gabbitas (recent Platinum Best Actress Award winner for Essential Travel at the Cinerockom International Film Festival, and soon to be seen in Mike Heath's new play All Tommorrow's Parties) as Heather, and Sean Croke (New Dawn Fades, Rotten Apples) as Curtis.

Humpty's Bones actor Sean Croke (right) with Brian Gorman in the Lass Production Rotten Apples,
directed by Sean Mason (photo: Shay Rowan)
Humpty's Bones, based on the novella by Simon Clark which is currently available from Telos Publishing, is written for the stage and directed by Sean Mason.

Finally, a new website for Scytheplays' frequent collaborator Lass Productions - including details and images from many past productions - has been launched and can be found at this link.

Greater Manchester Horror Fringe: The Hag

After Centurion, the next original piece of writing to feature in the Greater Manchester Horror Fringe Festival is Victoria Lennox's The Hag, which performs on October 23rd, 25th, 26th and 31st - Halloween night, of course - at Town Hall Tavern on Tib Lane, central Manchester.

The Hag is a chilling ghost story set in a modern-day nursing home.  Kindly care worker Jude has her hands full dealing with the grumpy and wilful Iris, who seems to be getting more depressed and difficult day-by-day. But is it just loneliness - she has no living friends or relatives outside the home - and her fractious relationship with senior carer Helen that is getting Iris down?  Or could Iris really be telling the truth when she says that something evil visits her room every night?

Directed by Sarah Wilkinson, The Hag welcomes back actress Leni Murphy (V for Vendetta's Rosemary, and The Ballad of Halo Jones's second Toy Molto) to Scytheplays, in the role of Jude, while Anna Davenport plays Helen and Lauri di Melchor plays Iris.

Also featuring Catia Perry (Blade Runner, The Best), The Hag is a short and sharply chilling half-hour play and tickets cost just £3 on the door or £3.30 at the links below (subject to booking fees).  Entry to a free preview performance at 6.30pm on Wednesday 23rd October will be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis as seats are limited.

Book to see ticketed performances of The Hag at the following links:

The Hag - Wednesday 23rd October, 7.30pm
The Hag - Friday 25th October, 9pm
The Hag - Saturday 26th October, 6.30pm
The Hag - Saturday 26th October, 9.30pm
The Hag - Thursday 31st October, 6.30pm

Double bill-tickets to both The Hag and Count Magnus (another short ghostly tale which is alternating with The Hag at Town Hall Tavern) can be bought at the discount rate of £5 on the door or £4.95 if booked online.  As there are more than one performances of each play on most days, a double-bill ticket is transferable to different performances as long as they are on the date specified - please check with the door staff.  Double-bills can be booked below:

The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Wednesday 23rd October, 7.30pm
The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Friday 25th October, 9pm
The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Saturday 26th October, 9.30pm
The Hag and Count Magnus Double-bill - Thursday 31st October, 6.30pm

10 Oct 2013

V for Vendetta at the Comic Art Festival - new trailer online!

With just nine days to go before the new version of V for Vendetta debuts at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, a new trailer for the production has been made available for viewing via YouTube here.

Tickets for the production - which runs for one night only as part of the festival at 8.45pm, Saturday 19th October, at Kendal College's The Box venue - are selling fast but are still available for booking at this link.

Above is the poster art, by Jake Geen.

3 Oct 2013

Centurion in the Manchester Horror Fringe

Scytheplays' second announced contribution to the Manchester Horror Fringe will be Baz Greenland's science-fiction chiller Centurion, performing at FAB Cafe, Portland Street on the 22nd, 26th, 27th and 28th of October.

It tells the story of the three-person crew of the spaceship Venture, who think they are alone on the remote planet to which they have been dispatched to conduct environmental tests ahead of a possible colonisation. But one of them sees a human-like figure stalking the landscape outside the ship.  They soon discover clues that suggest the planet has been visited before - possibly by the legendary lost spaceship, Centurion...

The first original (as opposed to adapted) piece of drama produced by Scytheplays since its first production, Kevin Cuffe's The Say Can Blues in July 2011, Centurion came about when writer Baz Greenland approached Scytheplays about writing one of the horror fringe's literary adaptations (and indeed he has written one of the story adaptations in Hotel Midnight).  Creative director Daniel Thackeray takes up the story: "In the early discussions Baz pitched a horror story set in deep space which was interesting, but which didn't quite suit the gothic horror style I was after at the time.  However, when it became clear that Manchester's FAB Cafe were keen to host a show in the horror fringe, Baz's idea seemed like the ideal fit. The bespoke sci-fi environment of FAB offers unique possibilities and Baz jumped at the chance to tailor his script specifically for the venue."

Directed by Paul Anderton, who recently helmed Organised Chaos Productions' Broken for its critically acclaimed North West tour this year, Centurion promises an intimate and intense site-specific experience which is pure theatre, but that tips its hat to movies such as Alien and Event Horizon.  Tickets will be £7 on the door or £5 concessions (with a half-price preview on the 22nd), or you can book via WeGotTickets at the links below.

Half-price preview - Tuesday October 22nd, 7.30pm
Half-price preview - Tuesday October 22nd, 7.30pm (concessions)
Saturday October 26th, 1pm

2 Oct 2013

Simon Clark heads up the first Manchester Horror Fringe!

The ten days leading up to Halloween 2013 see a number of events forming Manchester's first-ever Horror Fringe Theatre Festival.  Scytheplays, with Lass Productions and Yer Maun Productions, have played a large part in initiating the festival, which we are very excited to announce will launch with the Lass/Scytheplays production of Simon Clark's Hotel Midnight.

Simon Clark is one of Britain's most popular and acclaimed authors of horror fiction, with such titles as the apocalyptic Blood Crazy, the Vampyrrhic series, and the John Wyndham sequel Night of the Triffids among many others.  Hotel Midnight will feature adaptations of three of his most imaginative and haunting stories written by some of the Manchester fringe scene's best adapters.  In Swallowing a Dirty Seed, adapted by Baz Greenland, a reclusive writer allows two lost students to stay overnight at his remote Welsh cottage - but he does not realise just how lost they are.  In They Will Not Rest, adapted by Ross Kelly (Wine of India), the end of the world has come and for most of the world's population, to sleep means death - but three people have found a way to stay awake, if they can only trust each other.  And in Humpty's Bones, adapted by Sean Mason (V for Vendetta), when Eden Page goes to stay with her eccentric archeologist aunt in a remote part of Yorkshire, a local dig throws up something very unusual; something ancient but that, somehow, Eden knows - and it knows her...

Simon Clark
Simon himself says, "There is a grand tradition of dramatizing ghost stories for the theatre. The Horror Fringe in Manchester continues this proud tradition. I'm delighted that some of my eeriest stories will become part of this ambitious event," and adds, "I've been fortunate enough to read the adaptations of my stories by three extremely talented writers and can say to anyone who enjoys uncanny and thought-provoking drama in the vein of Quatermass, Lawrence Gordon Clark's TV ghost stories and The Twilight Zone then they are in for a very special treat."

The Horror Fringe will also take in other Manchester venues, including Fab Cafe and the Town Hall Tavern, for a number of accompanying events between 21st and 31st October.  Details of the other events - including some exciting and specially-crafted plays derived from both new writing and classic texts - will be announced on this blog in the next few days.  Scytheplays Creative Director Daniel Thackeray says, "It was felt by a few of us on the fringe scene that there wasn't enough horror theatre around - especially around the time of Halloween.  It's exciting to be able to redress that somewhat.  And as someone who remembers being vividly terrified reading Blood Crazy a few years ago, I'm so pleased to have Simon on board and think we'll be kicking off the festival in fine style!"

Hotel Midnight will open at Studio One, the new space at Salford's King's Arms Theatre, before moving on to the Lass O'Gowrie.  Tickets on the door will cost £8 (or £7 concessions) except for half-price preview performance, or you can book in advance via WeGotTickets.com at the following links:

On the Friday at the King's Arms there will also be an opportunity to attend the Blooming Hell Ghost Tour at 8pm, for those who fancy a spooky double-bill!

The performances of Hotel Midnight at the Lass O'Gowrie can be booked using the following links:

28 Sep 2013

V for Vendetta comes to Kendal!

18th-20th October 2013 sees the first ever Lakes International Comic Art Festival.  Inspired by legendary illustrator and writer Bryan Talbot (The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Batman, Magic: The Gathering) the event promises to be the first such festival in the UK to mimic the scale and eclecticism of Continental comic arts festivals.  Taking place in Kendal, Cumbria, it will not only feature fascinating exhibitions, talks, screenings and panels with an international array of comic creators, it will also be packed with competitions and fun family events.  Lass Productions and Scytheplays are incredibly thrilled that theatre will also play a part in the festival, in the form of our acclaimed production of V for Vendetta.

The performance will be staged with the support of the brilliant students and staff of Kendal College, taking place at The Box, the college's state of the art performance space, at 8.45pm on Saturday 19th October. Tickets are £9; they are already on sale and can be booked here. Following this, the production will be performed at two venues in the North West: Jackson's Pit in Oldham, Lancashire for a special Bonfire Night performance on 5th November, and The Oakwood in Glossop, Derbyshire on 7th November.  Tickets will be soon be available to book via WeGotTickets, and specific links will be posted to this blog as soon as they go on sale.

The production will be a new, streamlined version of the play, helmed by the original team of director Ross Kelly and writer Sean Mason, and with several members of the original Manchester cast returning, including Sinead Parker as Evey and Daniel Thackeray as V (pictured above in Karen Berry's photograph).  They will be joined by original cast members Carly Tarett as Dr Surridge, Michael Whittaker as Dominic Stone, Jez Smith as Lewis Prothero and Brian Gorman as Peter Creedy.  Brian, also a noted comic artist and writer (of the recent Joy Division graphic novel New Dawn Fades and its smash-hit Fringe adaptation), will be appearing on a panel at the event and signing examples of his work.

Very sadly, Stuart Hudson, Leni Murphy, Paida Noel, Marlon Solomon and Tori Tunnah have been unable to reprise their roles from previous versions of the show.  However, we're very pleased to welcome aboard a number of wonderful actors familiar from earlier Scytheplays productions including Liam Grunshaw (Wine of India) as Eric Finch, Morag Peacock (The Ballad of Halo Jones) as Valerie, Phil Dennison (The Year of the Sex Olympics) as Bishop Lilliman, and Daniel Blake from earlier versions of V for Vendetta, now in a new role as The Man.  The small but pivotal role of The Girl will be played by an actress new to Scytheplays, Anita Joanne Kerr (The Wrong Side of Town, High School Musical).

For full details of the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, including information about the competitions and family activities, please go to the main website here, and the beautifully presented programme is here.

13 Sep 2013

The acclaimed Wine of India available to view online!

Sam (Will Hutchby) embraced by Will (Taran Knight) in Nigel Kneale's Wine of India
Photo: Shay Rowan
2013's Greater Manchester Fringe was another hugely successful festival for the city with many shows such as Hand Over Fist and New Dawn Fades proving huge hits with both critics and audiences - not bad at all given that this year's Fringe faced competition from both the packed Manchester International Festival and the hottest summer weather for some years.  Although it reached slightly smaller audiences than some shows in the festival, Scytheplays and Lass Productions' Wine of India proved to be one of the most palpable critical hits with an array of four- and five-star reviews.

Julie (Morag Peacock) troubled, with Nita (Gemma Ryan) and Jonna (Una Love) in the background.
Photo: Shay Rowan
"Cerebral, dark and funny" (the Fiction Stroker); "the actors make the entire concept believable" (What's On Stage); "clever staging and direction" (The Skinny); "a bold and intelligent piece of theatre" (Viva Lifestyle Magazine); "it is the little touches that make all Scytheplays productions so special" (The Good Review)... To read the full reviews just click on the links.

Jonna with Mac (Liam Grunshaw)
Photo: Shay Rowan
Co-director Daniel Thackeray says, "It's thrilling to think that the show has been so well-reviewed.  The credit belongs to the late, great Nigel Kneale, of course, on whose coat-tails we all swing - but also to Ross Kelly for writing such a clever adaptation and to the cast who gave such flawless performances in very limiting circumstances.  I am so pleased we were able to get the production on camera, so that those performances have been preserved to some extent - although of course a video can never fully replicate the experience of actually seeing a play first-hand - and that we can share the production on YouTube so that fans of Nigel Kneale everywhere can now see Wine of India, instead of just reading and dreaming about it."

Dod (Tom Reed-Goodehall) and Sam (Will Hutchby)
Accordingly the full performance video is available to view on YouTube here.  Daniel continues: "The recording is a combination of three different performances taken from three different angles, cut together.  I have to say that filming the show was something of an afterthought and the hand-held footage was not always ideal.  There are definitely some clunky moments.  However, I tried to cut it in a way that reflects the way it might well have been shot in a multi-camera studio in 1970, and I'm quite pleased with the end result.  I hope it stands as enjoyable viewing even if you didn't see one of the performances live."

Russ (Luke Helly), Jonna and Bee (Carole Bardsley)
Photo: Shay Rowan
The video will remain available to view via Daniel's YouTube channel, which has just been updated with several other videos pertaining Scytheplays productions.  As well as the original trailers for Wine of India and Together in Electric Dreams, there are performance clips from the latter play and from the original and revival versions of The Ballad of Halo Jones, Together in Electric Dreams and our first Nigel Kneale adaptation, The Year of the Sex Olympics.

Adam (Quentin Knight)
Photo: Shay Rowan
Meanwhile, the cast of Wine of India have been busy on stages elsewhere.  Almost simultaneously with playing Will, Taran Knight has won plaudits for his portrayal of Mic in Richard O'Neill's new play Temper, premiered as part of the 24:7 Festival, while Morag Peacock and Luke Helly were acting in Lass Productions' Rotten Apples (directed by The Ballad of Halo Jones and V for Vendetta's Sean Mason in between starring in Suspended in Space directed by fellow Halo actor Phil Dennison) within three hours of saying their last lines as Julie and Russ!  Will Hutchby appeared in the closing play of the GM Fringe, Jack Rosenthal's Big Sid, while his fellow Toby, Benjamin Patterson, starred in Colin Connor's Meanwhile, which has just transferred from the Lass O'Gowrie to the Bolton Octagon.  Sex Olympics' Coordinator Priest, Howard Whittock, starred with Together in Electric Dreams' latest Akiko, Jess Lee, in The Ray Harryhausen Skeleton Orchestra.  V for Vendetta's Michael Whittaker won acclaim (and sell-out audiences) for his performance as Joy Division's Ian Curtis in New Dawn Fades (written by Peter Creedy himself, Brian Gorman and also featuring the ubiquitous Sean Mason) and his co-star as Evey (and sometime Rodice Olsun) Sinead Parker has just taken her comedy show Norris and Parker: All Our Friends Are Dead to Edinburgh where she and comedy partner Katie Norris played to full houses and massive acclaim. Finally, Una Love has been cast in upcoming Manchester comedy-drama play Women's Voices - tickets are available to book at the link!

1 Jul 2013

Wine of India in the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival

Julie and Will Packer know what awaits them...
Morag Peacock and Taran Knight in Wine of India
Photo: Ben Dobbs
The second annual Greater Manchester Fringe Festival opened today.  Bigger and better than last year - as it needs to be, this year facing heavy-duty competition from the biannual Manchester International Festival - this Fringe takes in 14 different venues across Manchester and Salford.  But as with the 2012 fringe, the Lass O'Gowrie is at the heart of the action with several in-house productions, including the now-traditional collaboration with Scytheplays.  And as with last year, the production in question is inspired by the writing of Nigel Kneale - in the case a new stage adaptation of the BBC TV Wednesday play, Wine of India.

Poster artwork by Jake Geen

Originally broadcast in 1970 and starring Brian Blessed, Wine of India was a one-off science-fiction piece exploring a future in which medical science has abolished ageing, but with a price.  Once a person reaches the end of their contract with the state to provide them with rejuvenating drugs, they must die.  And when Will Packer reaches his contract day, he finds he must attend his own funeral. At this bittersweet and brief reunion with his family and friends, he will finally be able to taste the wine of India...

Broadcast once and then wiped in the BBC's 1970s videotape purge, no visual material is known to survive of the original TV production of Wine of India and the script was never published.  The new stage version is therefore an incredibly rare chance to experience this classic play, which is filled with the black humour, searing intelligence and bleak worldview for which its author is renowned.  And the writing/producing/directing team behind the highly-acclaimed Year of the Sex Olympics stage production has once again assembled a superb cast including that production's Kin Hodder, Will Hutchby, as Mike and Sam; Scytheplays' second Halo Jones, Morag Peacock, as Julie; and several newcomers to Scytheplays including Taran Knight (soon to be seen in both the 24:7 Theatre Festival's Temper and Receptive Theatre Company's The Ray Harryhausen Skeleton Orchestra) as Will, Una Love (currently appearing in Organised Chaos Productions' Broken at the Buxton Fringe Festival) as Jonna, with Quentin Knight as Adam, Gemma Ryan (Mind the Gap Theatre's Stig of the Dump) as Nita, Luke Helly (Lass O'Gowrie's Rotten Apples) as Russ, Tom Reed-Goodehall as Dod, Carole Bardsley as Bee, The Hooligan Factory's Liam Grunshaw as Mac and Menyee Lai  as Pat.

Family photos are always embarrassing:
Julie (Morag Peacock), Jonna (Una Love), Will (Taran Knight), Russ (Luke Helly) and Dod (Tom Reed-Goodehall)
Photo: Ben Dobbs
Wine of India performs at the Lass O'Gowrie on Thursday 11th July (7.30pm), Friday 12th July (7.30pm), Saturday 13th July (3pm and 7.30pm) and Sunday 14th July (3pm).  Tickets are £8 and can be bought on the door or pre-booked online here.

10 Mar 2013

V rocks the Sci-Fi Weekender... and souvenirs are available!

Evey and V in the Main Void.  Photo: Karen Berry Photography
The Sci-Fi Weekender - Britain's annual Mecca for cult entertainment across all media - hit the Hafan y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli, Wales last week, and Scytheplays and Lass O'Gowrie Productions were there with V for Vendetta.  Here are some photos from the ten-minute preview scene, performed in the Main Void - the event's central performance space - during the convention's opening cabaret on Friday night, March 1st.  The preview featured Sinead Parker as Evey and Creedy actor Brian Gorman filling in for the temporarily indisposed Stuart Hudson as 'the Man', who threatens Evey before V (Daniel Thackeray) appears to save the day.

Evey entrapped, as V looks on.  Photo: the Fiction Stroker
Thanks to the technical support of the Weekender's entertainment providers, Area 51, and the lighting of Peter M George, V has never looked more spectacular, and an audience of several hundred greeted the preview scene with rapturous applause.  It's fair to say that the following night's performance of the full play in the jam-packed Spaceport venue - with Stuart Hudson back in place - was not without sound problems, but nevertheless the enthusiasm of the audience remained high with applause following almost every scene, and feedback was extremely positive.  It was a great adventure for the V for Vendetta team, who were able to return to the Main Void afterwards to dance the night away to Craig Charles' funk and soul!

It's to be hoped that Lass O'Gowrie Productions and Scytheplays will be able to mount further performances at similar events in future.  In the meantime a limited number of programmes and posters from the Weekender event - signed by cast members and featuring unique artwork - are available at £2 for posters and £1 for programmes.  Please e-mail guiltedge@hotmail.com for details.

Evey and V survey 'the opening night'.  Photo: Lee Howard/CelebExposed
For more from the photographers go to the Karen Berry Photography, Fiction Stroker and CelebExposed websites.

25 Feb 2013

V for Vendetta comes to the Sci-Fi Weekender!

The poster art for V at the Sci-Fi Weekender, created by Jake Geen

After large audiences and great reviews for V for Vendetta's run at the Lass O'Gowrie in January (not to mention a sell-out audience for the final double-bill of with The Ballad of Halo Jones), the show is making a swift comeback - but with a difference.  The new performance will be staged at the Sci-Fi Weekender in Wales on March 2nd.

One of the country's biggest science fiction conventions, the Weekender (formerly known as the SFX Weekender) is has now been running annually for four years.  Organisers Area 51, on seeing V in Manchester, invited Lass O'Gowrie Productions and Scytheplays to bring the show to their event.  However, this version of V for Vendetta will be substantially retooled to fit the needs of the hugely popular Weekender - which has a packed schedule already brimful of exciting entertainment and guests from the world of science fiction and fantasy, including actors Craig Charles (who will be bringing his famed DJ set), Peter Davison (Doctor Who), Brian Blessed (Wizards Versus Aliens) and Chase Masterson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and authors like Simon Clark (Blood Crazy) and Ben Aaronovitch (Moon Over Soho), among dozens of others.

Writer Sean Mason and director Ross Kelly have worked hard to create a new, streamlined adaptation of the graphic novel.  A number of Alan Moore's original characters and subplots have had to be excised to achieve a shorter running time, and this, plus scheduling conflicts, mean that, very sadly, original cast members Michael Whittaker, Tori Tunnah and Paida Noel are unable to appear in the new version.  However, the brilliant duo of Leni Murphy and Daniel Blake - who memorably played the Almonds in the Manchester production - have stepped in to play Valerie and Dominic Stone.  Returning from the Manchester production will be Sinead Parker as Evey Hammond, Daniel Thackeray as V, Marlon Solomon as Eric Finch, Carly Tarett as Delia Surridge, Jez Smith as Lewis Prothero and Stuart Hudson as Bishop Lilliman.  Musician Nathexious is creating new musical themes for the Weekender production.

Lass O'Gowrie Productions' Gareth Kavanagh said, "I've long thought that theatre deserves a place at the table at the great conventions so it's an honour to be bringing V to the Sci-Fi Weekender.  And with original V editor and old pal Dez Skinn in the audience...  No pressure!"

24 Jan 2013

Sunday January 27th: Live Alan Moore double bill

This Sunday, January 27th sees the Lass O'Gowrie in Manchester hosting a thrilling and exclusive double bill of two of Scytheplays and Lass O'Gowrie Productions' recent collaborations, both drawn from the writing of Alan Moore: The Ballad of Halo Jones at 4pm and V for Vendetta at 8pm.

The Ballad of Halo Jones, based on Moore's comic strip serialised in 2000AD from 1984 to 1985 and drawn by Ian Gibson, is a restaging of the production recently performed at Leeds Thought Bubble in November 2012.  Ross Kelly and Ian Winterton's adaptation premiered to rave reviews at the Lass last January and is now returning home with an expanded and refined script.  The Fiction Stroker was present at the show's staging in Leeds and you can read his review of the production here.

Halo Jones (Morag Peacock). Photo: Elysian Photography

Meanwhile, V for Vendetta - adapted by Sean Mason from the 1983-88 comic book series written by Moore with art by David Lloyd, originally serialised in Warrior magazine - has just played to packed audiences from January 8th to 13th as part of Midwinter Lassfest.  The production has received very positive reviews from The Good Reviews, What's On Stage and the Fiction Stroker - as well as one not very positive one from The Public Reviews, but we can handle that.  Forbidden Planet Online have also published an interview with V actor, and The Ballad of Halo Jones director, Daniel Thackeray in which he discusses the double bill and the challenges of adapting a comic book for the stage.

V (Daniel Thackeray) in the Shadow Gallery. Photo: Ben Dobbs
The 'rep company' feel of the two productions enhances what should already prove to be a very special day of entertainment for both comic fans and people who love fringe theatre.  The two plays share several cast members, notably Sinead Parker, who stars as Rodice in Halo and as Evey in V, while that play's Eric Finch, Marlon Solomon, plays several roles in Halo including Mix Ninegold.  Other actors who appear in both shows include Leni Murphy, who has just received rave reviews for her multiple turns in Yer Maun Productions' Harvey, (Toy Molto in Halo/Rosemary Almond in V), Carly Tarett (Brinna Childresse-Lao/Dr Delia Surridge) and Brian Gorman (Peter Creedy), making his Halo debut as the Proximen and the Captain.  Meanwhile V's adapter, Sean Mason, appears in Halo as the Glyph and Paida Noel, from last year's production of Halo, now appears in V as Valerie Page.

Mix Ninegold (Marlon Solomon).  Photo: Hannah Telfer
The Man (Michael Whittaker) and Evey (Sinead Parker).  Photo: Ben Dobbs
Valerie (Paida Noel).  Photo: Ben Dobbs
Attendance at the plays costs £10 for each show individually and £12 for the double-bill.  Unfortunately online tickets have already sold out both for the V for Vendetta performance and for the double bill, but you can book tickets to see The Ballad of Halo Jones at this link.  There will be some tickets available on the door for both shows, but these will be sold on a first-come, first served basis so be early!  Enquiries about reserving tickets can be made via phone to the Lass on 0161 273 6932.

6 Jan 2013

V for Vendetta: almost here

As V for Vendetta nears its start date, here are some shots from the final rehearsals showing director Ross Kelly working with actors Marlon Solomon (Eric Finch) and Daniel Thackeray (V).  The show begins this Tuesday at the Lass O'Gowrie, January 8th with showings at 6.30pm and 9pm, then continues on Wednesday at 2.30pm (half-price matinee) and 6.30pm, Thursday at 6pm and Sunday 13th at 8pm.  Tickets (including concessions) are available to purchase online here.