Analogue Theatre

Theatre Bouquets 2016

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We’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing theatre again in 2016. Here, in order of viewing (and with the benefit of hindsight), are our favourite productions of the year.

Hangmen – Wyndham’s Theatre, London

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An excellent start to the year’s theatrical viewing, Martin McDonagh’s play was absolutely superb: funny, frightening and thought-provoking with an outstanding central performance by David Morrissey.

The Girls – The Lowry, Salford

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This was the biggest surprise of the year for us: on paper, it sounded a million miles away from the sort of thing we usually enjoy, and we went along reluctantly. But it was a truly delightful production – flawlessly realised.

The Merry Wives – The Lowry, Salford

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Northern Broadsides version of The Merry Wives of Windsor was a rambunctious, irreverent take on the tale, with the inimitable Barrie Rutter clearly relishing the role of Falstaff.

I Am Thomas – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

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A strange and eclectic production, telling the tale of Thomas Aikenhead, the last person in Scotland to be hanged for blasphemy, this was essentially a series of vignettes and musical interludes, with an ensemble taking turns to play the eponymous role.

King Lear – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

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Michael Buffong’s King Lear was a tour de force, a gimmick-free yet undeniably modern production. Don Warrington was well-cast in the central role, but it was Pepter Lunkuse’s Cordelia who really stood out for us. She’s definitely one to watch!

Stowaway – Home, Manchester

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Analogue Theatre’s troubling tale of a stowaway falling from a flying aeroplane and landing in the car park of a DIY store was fascinating, depicting a moment where worlds collide and understandings begin to take root. A thought-provoking, political play.

Royal Vauxhall – Underbelly Med Quad, Edinburgh

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A quirky and irreverent musical, telling the true story of when Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett dressed Princess Diana in drag and took her to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London for a night out, incognito. We loved this production.

Wonderman – Underbelly Potterrow, Edinburgh

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Based on the short stories of Roald Dahl – and incorporating a true incident from his eventful life – Gagglebabble’s collaboration with the National Theatre of Wales was a sprightly mix of drama and music with a deliciously dark heart.

Cracked Tiles – Spotlites, Edinburgh

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This beautifully crafted monologue, written and performed by Lorenzo Novani, was the downbeat tale of a young man who inherits a Glasgow fish and chip shop from his father Aldo. Novani was quite staggering as Riccardo.

Dear Home Office – Underbelly Med Quad, Edinburgh

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This was the story of unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in the UK, performed with touching vulnerability by eight refugee boys. The play was an amalgamation of the performers’ own experiences, blended with fictional accounts. A raw and truthful exposé.

The Suppliant Women – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

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It’s a rare thing indeed when you go into a theatre and are treated to something unique – but that is the word that kept coming to us, as we sat entranced in the stalls of The Lyceum, watching David Greig’s production of The Suppliant Women. Truly brilliant.

Grain in the Blood – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

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A real one-off, this was a stark, unnerving chiller, at once contemporary and classical, with dialogue that was taut and ultra-modern in style, all fragments and silences and unfinished thoughts. This was a complex, angular, unwieldy play – a fascinating watch.

Jack and the Beanstalk – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

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By far the best panto we have ever seen, this was a standout production, with fantastic performances from King’s Theatre regulars Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott. It brought the year to a celebratory end.

Susan Singfield

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Stowaway

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Home, Manchester

06/05/16

Hidden in the wheel arch of a plane from Dubai, a stowaway falls to his death in the car park of a DIY superstore. The fall is witnessed by Andy (Steven Rae), an event that makes his own recently disrupted life begin to unravel – and when a passenger on the plane, Lisa (Hannah Donaldson), a crime writer returning from a prestigious literary festival, reads about the incident, she feels compelled to try and find out about the dead man – who was he and what brought him to such a horrible end? But even when she returns to Dubai to investigate, she finds that nobody wants to give her any answers.

The four actors that comprise Analogue Theatre’s production present a whole series of intertwined stories which serve to flesh out the tale, but also demonstrate how close proximity to a tragedy intensifies the situation. In a series of cleverly constructed flashbacks we find out more about the dead man, seeing him as a child in India with his sister and how his attempts to better his own life lead him into the construction industry in Dubai, working on glittering high rises for the super-rich, whilst being paid slave wages and made to work around the clock. Eventually his only hope of a better future is to try and escape from the awful  world into which he has unwittingly blundered.

This is a sharp and sinewy story, one that delivers more questions that it offers answers for. It’s a prescient tale and one that I would highly recommend. An after-show discussion with two of the actors and some lecturers from Manchester University also benefited from a guest spot by Gulwali Passarlay whose book The Lightless Sky is based around his own experiences as a 12 year old refugee fleeing from from Afghanistan.

Stowaway concludes tonight (7th May) at Home, Manchester, before moving on for a single performance at The Civic, Barnsely on the 12th. If you’re able to catch a performance, please do: you’ll be moved, informed and riveted by what you see onstage.

4.5 stars

Philip Caveney