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