Share |
Aug 5th


By Kirstie Niland

Combining an orchestra with acid house DJs sounds as unlikely as holding a rave on Lytham Green – but they did it and the audience was mad for it. 

Haçienda Classiçal is much more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane to 80s and 90s Madchester, it’s pure musical genius, blending opposite genres to create a concert appealing to all ages and backgrounds.

And Lytham absolutely loved it.

Following a warm-up by electronic dance band 808 stage, the Haçienda club’s original DJs Graeme Park and Mike Pickering took to the stage with the Manchester Camerata Orchestra and the AMC Gospel Choir.

Happy Monday’s singer Rowetta was tremendous, reaching a crescendo with the 1986 Candi Staton track You Got the Love – a track she sang on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in memory of those who died in the Manchester bombing.

Haçienda Classiçal gives Rowetta a sensational platform to showcase the impressive vocals she has lent to some of the world’s biggest bands, including Simply Red and the Black Eyed Peas.

A personal favourite was a rework of Mory Kante’s Yeke Yeke – and everybody’s favourites included Blue Monday, featuring the voice of New Order and Joy Division co-founder himself, Peter Hook.

The beachfront stage with the beautiful Lytham skyline as a backdrop was the perfect setting for a hugely uplifting rendition of the Ultra Naté floor filler Free.

And to remind us where the Mad in Madchester comes from, the legendary Bez gave us some signature dance moves in a bright yellow anti-fracking T-shirt.

Lytham Festival has gone from strength to strength since the event organisers Cuffe & Taylor first launched it in 2009. It has grown from a one-night show with Lesley Garrett and Alfie Boe to a week-long extravaganza attracting around 70,000 festival-goers to see stars such as Rita Ora, Tom Jones, Michael Ball, and this week Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson.

Haçienda Classiçal truly embodied the Lytham Festival’s billing of a "well-crafted mix of nostalgia, contemporary and classical music" with something for everyone to enjoy".

In the words of the Inner City classic, they’re having big fun, and the party’s just begun…

Still to come: Madness; The Official Aftershow Party featuring DJ Rusty Egan with Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet; and A West End Extravaganza and Firework Finale with Lea Salonga, Collabro, Ruthie Henshall, Claire Sweeney, Jon Lee, Jodie Prenger, Lucie Mae-Sumner, Beau Dermott, Jon Lee and Marti Pellow, accompanied by the 60-piece Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.

Book your tickets here.

Nov 16th

Shawshank Redemption

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Winter Gardens Opera House

Until Saturday 19th November

“Sometimes kid, you gotta suck it up,” declares a seasoned inmate.

And at Shawshank that can mean literally anything, from everyday bullying to being gang raped or murdered for being honest. The irony and injustice of being incarcerated under corrupt rule is something most of the inmates have come to accept. Even the resourceful prison “fixer” Red refuses to have hope.

But not Andy Dufresne. Despite being innocent yet condemned to a double life sentence for the murder of his wife and lover, Andy brings hope and meaning into the inmates’ lives while playing the long game, anchored by the vision of Rita Hayworth - and a rock hammer.

The Academy award-winning movie, based on Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption has been adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns for the theatre. I was keen to see how the legendary movie would work on stage.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Under the direction of David Esbjornson, the play unfolds like a pop-up book as the characters spring up into action, pent up energy bursting through their denim uniforms, ready to battle through the often terrifying pages of life inside a maximum security prison.

There is no curtain up, just lights up, and we are thrown violently behind bars to the sound of deafening bangs, clunks and clanks. Spotlights skim the towering prison walls and surround the prisoners, with new arrivals stripped of their clothes and former lives, the old hands preparing to greet or beat them. The Opera House, with its high ceilings and expansive stage, is perfect for the imposing Shawshank set.

As with all famous films, there’s always an urge to want the cast to look like the screen actors, which calls for a suspension of disbelief. Morgan Freeman’s Red and Tim Robbins as Dufresne are both daunting acts to follow, no matter how talented the cast. However, committed and confident performances from London’s Burning star Ben Onwukwe and Eastender’s heartthrob Paul Nicholls took my mind off the original, and focused it firmly on these two accomplished artists, and the characters' journey through a drama about friendship, loyalty, isolation, regret, and hope - as the men deal with the flickering reality of a light at the end of the tunnel.

This is not a show where secondary characters blend into the background. Every single cast member contributes something important, presenting us with an excellent portrayal of the extremes of prison life. In one moment you witness a man clutching the pages of Lady Chatterley’s Lover amidst howls of laughter; in the next there are howls of pain at the murder of a man who died because of his naivity and loyalty. And then there is panic and pathos in one of the most heart-breaking scenes; the attempted suicide of the oldest inmate Brooks, the institutionalised prison librarian who cannot face being released into the outside world. In these moments I forgot the original and became immersed in the live action in front of me.

Some aspects deviated from the film, which as a huge fan I would have preferred to remain true to the original, but they did not detract from how impressive the production was overall.

For the Opera House, Shawshank Redemption is a successful foray into some serious drama in between the hit musicals, and I would highly recommend it. Be it the film or stage version, this is a story that never gets old, and neither does Dufresne’s motto of “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

So go and see it while you can J

The Shawshank Redemption will run at Blackpool Opera House from Monday November 14 to Saturday November 19 and tickets are on sale now from


Photograph courtesy of Blackpool Winter Gardens

Oct 22nd

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Opera House until Sunday 1st November

I guessed that the world premiere of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, starring the legendary David Hasselhoff, was going to be a lot of fun - and it was even better than expected.

This show has the feel good factor by the bucket load – a simple story with a moral message, packed with 90s (and the odd 80s) hits and populated with stereotypical party people of the day.


It’s written and directed by Jon Conway, who along with Shane Ritchie, created the jukebox musical concept with 70s show Boogie Nights. So this story told via the hits of the day was bound to be a recipe for success. Especially for those of us who remember when dungarees, Hammer pants and sparkly Union Jack dresses were the dress code to Spice Up your Life. (Floppy hats off to costume designer and production photographer, former glamour model Linda Lusardi).

Add to the mix high energy dance routines, plenty of neon, and retro sound and light effects and you are catapulted on to the party isle of Ibiza with Penny (Stephanie Webber), as she arrives to spend the summer with her Dad, a DJ and night club owner played by The Hoff. There she learns about the dangers of drugs and falls in love with holiday rep and aspiring DJ, Rik (Shane Ritchie JNR). Meanwhile her dad learns, well, how to be a Dad.

Even though the plot includes blackmail, drug dealing and the aftermath of divorce, the overall feel is light-hearted, with the journey through first love, making mistakes and doing the right thing incorporating plenty of cheesy moments to make you smile.

The Hoff is of course the main attraction, and manages to effectively combine comedy, schmaltz and straight acting. Such is his cult status he could carry almost anything off no matter what vocal range is required but his powerful rendition of Barry Manilow’s Even Now is lovely, and he pays an entertaining homage to his Baywatch days with true superstar style.

The Voice contestant Stephanie Webber demonstrates why Will.I.Am. was so impressed with her singing, and Kim Tiddy of Hollyoaks as the Hoff’s girlfriend Mandy is a similarly strong vocalist. Both are excellently cast in their roles, as is Barry Bloxham as the villain of the piece, Ebenezer.

However it’s Shane Ritchie JNR who injects the most warmth into his character as likeable lad Rik, showing all the signs of following in his Dad’s footsteps to become a well-loved household name. Having previously stepped into his shoes to play Roddy in Boogie Nights, Shane Ritchie JNR proves he has become a major talent in his own right and has us cheering when he finally wins approval from Penny’s Dad and the coveted DJ spot at Club Nirvana.


His family were out in force to support him, including parents, Shane Ritchie and Coleen Nolan, and brother Jake Roche of Rixton fame. He certainly did them all proud.

PR Sarah Rhodes promised us the party night of the year and Last Night a DJ Saved My Life delivered, right up until the fun-packed finale. I won’t spoil the surprise but the audience loved it.

Judging by the applause, in the words of the classic 90s Yazz favourite - the only way is up!

Photographs courtesy of Linda Lusardi

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life runs until Sunday 1st November, Tuesday to Sunday evenings at 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2.30pm.

Adults - £39.50, £35.00, £30.00, £20.00

Concessions - £35.00, £30.00, £25.00

Show and Dine Package - £24.50

Groups 10+ - £35.00, £30.00

Groups 20+ - £30.00, £25.00


Tickets are available from

Oct 11th

A Tender Thing

By Kirstie Niland

The Dukes, Lancaster

Until Saturday 17th October

Ben Power’s re-working of the greatest love story ever told has resulted in a beautiful and bittersweet production which more than lives up to its name. A Tender Thing looks at what might have happened if Romeo and Juliet had lived and stayed together beyond their youth.

The result is a gentle, mesmerising tale of two Morecambe pensioners reaching the end of their lives after decades of happiness by the sea, having suffered loss amidst the love and laughter. A Tender Thing is a poignant but powerful tale of young love grown old.

The Duke’s theatre in the round provides the intimate setting for this clever work of art, brought to life under the direction of Louie Ingham. Ben Power has seamlessly woven together the text of Romeo and Juliet with some of Shakespeare's sonnets to create the tale of a couple whose love has stood the test of time but who eventually face the same threat of separation as the original star-crossed lovers.

The elderly partners are given dialogue from other characters to stretch their story over the additional decades, for example their childlessness is attributed to the death of their daughter with words from the nurse who cared for the young Juliet in the classic play. Then when Juliet discovers she is terminally ill and does not want its consequences to change her in the eyes of her lifelong mate, Romeo uses words from the famous love Sonnet 116 to reassure her: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” And just as the Bard's Romeo and Juliet addressed themes of youth and age, so does Ben Power’s version, with the lithe young Lucas Button and Ruby Henderson using interpretive dance in a haunting depiction of the aged couple’s younger selves and their memories as they reflect on events and each other.  

Shakespeare’s words bring warmth and tenderness to a familiar bedtime routine, as the weary but still playful pair bid each other goodnight: “Parting is such sweet sorrow that I’ll say good night until tonight becomes tomorrow....Oh blessed, blessed night.” But true to the classic tragedy a grey morning awaits them.

Rachel Daniels’ minimal set features a multi-purpose box which is transformed realistically into a bed and a dining table by the cast, and the seaside setting is peppered with deck chairs, baskets and sea shells as the sands of time quite literally drift away under the fading light.

A Tender Thing is a moving mix of emotions and words, with Ian Blower and Jenny Lee as the aged Romeo and Juliet both endearing and believable in their mature but ever-youthful love for each other.

Photographs courtesy of The Dukes, Lancaster.

Tickets £12.50 to £16.50 online or at with from the Box Office: 01524 598500


Sep 22nd


By Kirstie Niland


until Saturday 26th September

Another hit musical has premiered at the Opera House and the cast of TOMMY, directed by stage and screen star Paul Nicholas, have totally smashed it.

This new production, based on the award-winning movie adaptation of The Who’s chart-topping album, tells the powerful tale of a deaf, dumb and blind pinball player who becomes an international messiah.

Its release coincides with the 40th anniversary of the movie’s release in 1975, in which Paul Nicholas played Cousin Kevin alongside big names such as Elton John, Tina Turner, and the Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey in the title role. It’s been brought bang up to date with a futuristic set and nods to four decades and the time frames it travels through - resulting in a fast-paced and colourful kaleidoscope of action, including a Michael Jackson Moonwalk, upright 40s army scenes, and bright 50s costumes.

We are dragged immediately into young Tommy’s world as he suffers the trauma of witnessing his father shoot his stepfather. In What About the Boy? his parents, Mr and Mrs Walker, played by Will Barratt (whose vocals are remarkable) and Ashley J Russell, press upon him urgently: “You didn’t hear it, you didn’t see it! You won’t say nothin’ to no one," and Tommy takes them literally as he stands motionless in front of a mirror showing no emotion. But we feel his pain as his senses collapse and Tommy becomes a captive ball, flipped through a series of medical assessments and family gatherings.

The off-kilter Christmas is a genius reflection of Tommy’s other-worldliness, his stillness in stark contrast to the rejoicing relatives blowing party horns. As he ricochets around the family, being abused by his Uncle Ernie and tortured by Cousin Kevin, you feel his retreat is a blessing in disguise.


We already know that Blue band member Antony is an excellent singer, but his vocal ability for musical theatre is showcased when he takes on Pinball Wizard and wins. And those less familiar with his acting prowess could not fail to be impressed with his performance as the sinister Cousin Kevin. Having interviewed Antony prior to the show, I was intrigued to see how this likeable Cockney family man would play such a callous charter but he nails it. His own affable nature gives depth to the opportunist sadist, giving way to a glimpse of the insecurity that is so often the basis for bullying.

Meanwhile 2009 X-Factor winner Joe McElderry creates an angelic and powerful presence, voicing Tommy’s cries poignantly from within when he performs Feel Me Touch Me. His ethereal image and soaring vocals so effectively reflect the detachment from the horror around him that the surreal sitiation in which Tommy's intuitive skills at playing pinball gain him cult status actually becomes believeable.

This is also where the Opera House’s grand arched stage provides the perfect platform for Tommy to be placed on his pedestal and projected around the auditorium - and the result is stunning.

As the frenzy reaches fever pitch and frusation growns within Tommy's mother, she smashes the mirror he stares into. His senses are suddenly released and he revels in the worship of superstardom, before realising that this fame is as false and lonely as his withdrawal was. As Tommy decides to embrace reality, the lights come up over the audience and the cast come down to greet us, and we feel part of his willingness to connect with normal life. "We want to be like you," say his worshippers. "No, I want to be more like you," Tommy finally admits, and so begins his recovery. Ahhhh.

TOMMY sure plays a mean pinball and there is still time to see this exciting and moving production. Do not miss the opportunity!

Tickets from £20 to £39.50 online or on 01253 629666

Photographs courtesy of Blackpool Winter Gardens


Jul 31st

Cats the Musical

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Opera House

 Until Sunday 6th September

The cat definitely got my tongue after seeing this sensational performance of Andrew Llloyd Webber’s record-breaking show at Blackpool Opera House. The artists playing T S Eliot’s cats are so in tune with each other, moving so lithely and fluidly as one, I was left speechless.



The intricate choreography keeps the Jellicle Cats on their toes throughout, as they spring seamlessly from one number to the next in perfect harmony. Yet despite their unity, the character of each cat gradually emerges, bringing to mind the words in The Naming of a Cat from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, from which the performance has been adapted:


When you notice a cat in profound meditation,

The reason, I tell you, is always the same:

His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation

Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name.


Every single one of the performers blends beautifully into the ensemble but also brings something unique, so that one minute you are mesmerised at the cast’s movement as a whole, and the next smiling at the individual personalities their names convey. The sheer energy and flexibility is astonishing, and theatre-goers are treated to some exciting close-ups as the cast creep stealthily along the aisles, interacting with the audience to their surprise and amusement.


Spectacular costumes and make-up, a dramatic set, and outstanding sound and light effects are accompanied by a fantastic live orchestra. Together they create such a powerful effect you are immediately immersed into the back street alleys where the cats go about their daily business - and you feel the anticipation build as they wait to see which of them Old Deuteronomy will take to the Heaviside Layer for a new lease of life.


Some of my favourite moments came from: Skimbleshanks, with a jovial Evan James giving the Railway Cat a Welsh lilt as the cast skilfully conjures up a giant pop-up train; a rapping Rum Tum Tugger introduced by Jack Butterworth; a dastardly double act by Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Harry Francis and Georgie Leatherland); and a dazzling Magical Mr Mistoffelees in a black, sparkly catsuit complete with flashing lights.


However, the peak for me was an absolutely superb and unforgettable performance of Memory by Jane McDonald.





Prior to this show I have been more familiar with Jane McDonald on Loose Women and Elaine Paige’s version of the song. So I was not expecting to be so utterly mesmerised by Jane’s rendition of Memory in the show’s heartbreaking climax. Her voice is powerful but beautifully gentle, and she injected such pathos into the lyrics it gave me goosebumps. Meanwhile her sensitive portrayal of the beautiful but aged outcast Grizabella has a fragile dignity that makes her acceptance back into the tribe and gift of a new Jellicle life well-deserved.


A new day for Cats the Musical has begun with the casting of Jane McDonald, and once again Blackpool Opera House is the cat that got the cream of the summer season. 


On until Sunday 6th September. Tickets, priced from £20 are available from


Photographs: Alessandro Pinna

Jul 29th

Oliver Twist

By Kirstie Niland

From The Dukes, Williamson Park, Lancaster

Until Saturday 15th August 2015

Williamson Park is currently alive with the voices of street children as The Dukes transports us back to Dickensian days for a spectacular version of Oliver Twist, retold by Coronation Street scriptwriter, Debbie Oates.

With its magnificent memorial, and landscape created from a disused quarry, Williamson Park’s dark caverns and woodlands beneath a panoramic skyline beautifully reflect the nooks and crannies of Oliver’s journey through a criminal world and out into a bright new future.

The play begins at the foot of the towering Ashton Memorial, where orphan Oliver is thrown out and sold on the open market, before finding himself on the run from Fagin and his young gang of pickpockets.

Yet again The Dukes has created a magical performance out of the natural surroundings, with a strong, unconventional cast, some playing multiple roles, but all adding a Northern, comedy “Twist” to the title.

A female Artful Dodger is played by 4ft 11ins Josie Cerise, who for me was the highlight of The Dukes’ Christmas show Cinderella, as ugly sister Grizelda. Here she plays half of another double act, this time a "Little and Large" one with 6ft 4ins Andrew Ashford as the Dodger's dim-witted sidekick Charley Bates.

Also returning to The Dukes is Russell Richardson as Fagin, shortly after his role as Fanny Hawthorne’s father in Hindle Wakes. Jerome Thompson plays the naive Oliver with an amusing hint of dopiness, while Victoria Brazier’s performance of magistrate Mr Fang draws the biggest laughs.

The audience was full of delighted faces, and even though there are some hairy moments, this version leaves out some of the darker details so that smaller children can enjoy the show too.

Once again The Dukes’ annual summer walkabout has proved the perfect promenade performance - and it’s on until Saturday 15th August so don’t miss it.

Personally I can’t wait for the next one. Please Sir, I want some more!

Photographs: Dan Tierney

Tickets are available from the Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit

Mar 11th

Jesus Christ Superstar

By Kirstie Niland

Winter Gardens Blackpool

Blackpool has definitely got the wow factor this season, and Jesus Christ Superstar delivers a cast gifted with such powerful vocals they can surely be heard in heaven.

Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, the UK touring production stars the West End’s Jesus, Glenn Carter, alongside Welsh Baritone and X-Factor finalist Rhydian Roberts as Pontius Pilate; musical theatre star Tim Rogers as Judas Iscariot; and Rachel Adedji as Mary Magdalene. However on press night, understudy Jodie Steele put in a strong performance as Mary, with an especially rousing performance of I Don’t Know How to Love Him.

Ever since Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera was first performed in 1971 the musical score has become familiar to most. Even those who haven’t seen it could probably sing along to Superstar. Forty-four years later the musical story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus is still spellbinding.

The Winter Gardens is the ideal venue for the impressive set - a combination of opulence and austerity providing a dramatic backdrop for the events that unfold through the eyes of Judas. The sound and lights are literally a sight to behold, transforming the stage into a horrific yet heavenly spectacle as Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Carole Todd’s choreography sees the cast work together expertly, with scene changes so fluid each merges into the next seamlessly, with movements beautifully reflective of the tragedy and comedy. Costume and make-up have staged a spectacular coup with King Herod. The fabulous Tom Gilling sports heart-shaped nipple tassels, glitter and the biblical version of a medallion.

Scenes led by actor and voice-over artist Cavin Cornwall as the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas will leave you wide-eyed at his almighty tones. (Google Hairy Ford Cortina Nescafé ad for a taster).

Rhydian Roberts is nicely menacing as Pontius Pilot, who authorises Jesus’s crucifixion. For me, his performance was one of the most commanding.

The singing is pitch perfect throughout, and Glenn Carter's vocal range is verging on miraculous. His anguish is expressed through the highest notes, and his exchanges with the equally gifted Tim Rogers (Judas) feature some superb Heavy Metal style vocal gymnastics.

The finale is no less shocking for being expected but I won’t spoil it by giving away why (apart from the obvious). Clearly it wasn’t just me left overwhelmed, as one exhausted audience member exclaimed on the way out: “I couldn’t be crucified every night!”

Photographs by Pamela Raith Photography

Jesus Christ Superstar is on at the Winter Gardens Blackpool until Saturday 14th March. Bookings on Ticketmaster.

Mar 6th

BLACK By 20 Stories High

By Kirstie Niland

The Octagon Theatre, Bolton

My first thoughts on watching the horrific story unfold in Black is that this couldn’t possibly be the kind of thing that happens today. Not only have I never witnessed the kind of despicable racist abuse described, but the really shameful thing is, this kind of thing DOES still happen today.

So Toxteth-based 20 Stories High are doing society an enormous service by bringing Black to theatres and schools, both where racism is rife as well as where it isn’t. For the only way to eliminate racism is to educate, and this play focuses on doing just that, as teenager Nikki (played by Abby Melia) learns some home truths about her own thoughts, and the dangerous prejudices of the world she lives in.

Written by Keith Saha, Black is a monologue by Nikki, interspersed with interactions with new neighbour Precious (Craig Shanda, who presence is felt as he DJs n the background throughout), the eldest son of an African family who have moved into a mostly white estate on the outskirts of Liverpool.

The events that unfold as the family is taunted, abused and violated are extremely difficult to hear as Nikki begins telling us the story, in a matter of fact way at first, about the opinions of the racists targeting the family. The most disturbing thing of all is that Black is based on a true story, and as Nikki becomes increasingly upset and distressed, so we feel helpless in the audience. How can anyone treat their fellow human beings like that?

Abby’s portrayal of a character born into prejudice is so realistic you hang on to her every word, waiting to find out the fate of a family she is supposed to hate but can’t. In the end her courage and integrity are stronger than the pressure she faces from the racists, even those closest to her, and this is the triumph of Black. The power of education. With immigration such a hot topic and political persuader, racist attacks are on the increase in the UK, which is why it is vital that plays like Black are seen by youngsters while they are still at an impressionable age. Not so that they can be brainwashed but so they can think for themselves once they have all the facts.

Personally I don’t think anyone could do this with greater impact than 20 Stories High does with Black – and the message delivered by Precious in his and Nikki’s Country Road duet at the end.

OUR country. OUR road.

Photographs by Robert Day

Black is touring to a number of venues and will perform in schools for students aged 13+.

For further information contact, tel: 0151 708 9728,


Feb 27th

Hindle Wakes

By Kirstie Niland

The Octogan Theatre, Bolton

Hindle Wakes is a good old Lancashire yarn, set in a fictitious town just before the First World War. It focuses on two sets of parents and their offspring, Fanny Hawthorn and Alan Jeffcote, who are discovered to have spent a secret weekend alone together.

To make matters worse, Fanny is a weaver at the local mill and Alan is the mill owner’s son. Their fathers have been friends since they were boys but that doesn’t make it socially acceptable. Even worse, Alan is engaged to Beatrice, the daughter of local bigwig, Sir Timothy Farrar.

Oh dear...there’s going to be trouble at mill.

Fanny and Alan have gone separately to Blackpool during Wakes Week, the annual holidays when all of Hindle’s workers down tools. After meeting up they decide to disappear for what would now be known as “a dirty weekend” in Llandudno. Their friends cover for them but a tragedy alerts Fanny’s parents to the truth.

Once their secret is revealed Alan is pressured to marry Fanny and there ensues a series of funny, touching and frustrating conversations involving both families, which result in Fanny turning him down. It’s great to see Colin Connor in a more light-hearted role as Beatrice’s father after some of the intense characters he’s played recently. His portrayal of a well-to-do man about town who sees nothing wrong with such an indiscretion - until he fears it will impact on him financially - has perfect comic timing.

Tristan Brooke puts in a fine performance as the feckless Alan, and Natasha Davidson is utterly believable as the feisty weaver who puts him in his place. Between them, the cast play out the social conventions stereotypical of the day with aplomb.

The simple set echoes their differences, beginning with a sparse gathering of furniture for the Hawthorn's home, which expands to become a more luxurious layout for the Jeffcote's.

When Stanley Houghton wrote Hindle Wakes in 1910, not only was it unusual to have a working class woman as the main character, but one with a Northern accent who sees no problem with a pre-marital fling would have been unheard of. Therefore the play caused plenty of controversy when it was first performed in 1912.

While today's audience may have chuckled when Fanny was branded a “hot blooded little wench,” who was “jolly immoral,” in those days this carry on would not have been a laughing matter. Yet we see Fanny earn a grudging respect from Alan’s Mother, and even praise from the spurned lover himself: “You’re a damn good sport.”


As Alan sets off jauntily to see if his ex-fiancée will take him back, and Fanny remains content with her freedom, we applaud the spirit of independence which was well before her time – you go girl!

Meanwhile the men, as ever, remain perplexed about women, as Jeffcote muses: “And these are the creatures that want us to give them votes!”


Photographs by Ian Tilton

Hindle Wakes is on until 21st March.

Tickets: £26.50 - £10, discounts available including SEASON TICKETS, groups, schools and young person's £5 tickets. Available on 01204 520661 or at