Asylum seeker’s play is London bound

By Peter Stanners

A play written by a tortured Cameroonian asylum seeker who lives in Greater Manchester will now be shown in London.

Lydia Besong’s play ‘How I Became an Asylum Seeker’ will be performed at the Break the Silence event on Sunday 28 November, at 3pm, at the Riverside Studios.

The event, organised by Women For Refugee Women (WRW), aims to shine a light on the hidden experiences of women who seek asylum in the UK.

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Lady From The Sea-Royal Exchange, Manchester

By Sadia Habib

Manchester Mouth’s entertainment guru gets to grips with the choppy waters of love in her review of Sarah Frankcom’s production of ‘The Lady from the Sea’ at Royal Exchange theatre.

Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea beautifully illustrates the dilemma encountered by the dreamer Ellida as she struggles between honouring her commitments to her husband and her step-daughters or opting for a life with a past lover – The Stranger (Bill Ward)- who has happened to return to her life.

Apparently Ibsen was inspired by Norwegian folk tales in the writing of The Lady From The Sea. One of the legends concerned a sailor who returned home to find that his wife had assumed he was dead at sea and thus re-married. This legend is cleverly explored in this production and incorporated in the stories told by Ellida (Neve McIntosh).

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Love On The Dole – Octagon, Bolton

By Sadia Habib

Manchester Mouth’s entertainment guru talks economic turmoil in her review of David Thacker’s adaptation of ‘Love On The Dole’ the Octagon, Bolton.

Octagon’s Love On The Dole is based on a 1930s Walter Greenwood novel (which was later adapted by Ronald Gow). Born in 1903 in Ellor Street, Salford, Greenwood inherited his parents’ and grandparents’ ambitions to leave behind this neighbourhood with its “jungles of tiny houses cramped and huddled together” in which “men and women are born, live, love and die and pay preposterous rents for the privilege of calling the grimy houses ‘home'”.

Throughout Thacker’s production we see how poverty pervades the lives of the characters of Hanky Park, a working-class community in Salford. The characters are struggling to get by on the pittance earned and this tale highlights the plight of those who are desperate to get out, “Hanky Park…we can’t get away…it gets everybody”.

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A Streetcar Named Desire – Octagon, Bolton.

Manchester Mouth’s entertainment guru Sadia Habib reviews David Thacker’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at the Octagon, Bolton.

A classic play that some would say is synonymous with a young and unknown Marlon Brando. If you have seen the film adaptation you will have high expectations of Thacker’s production and these will be fulfilled.

The star of the show is Clare Foster (Blanche Dubois) for she manages to carry each of her scenes with energy and intensity in a long production, which reminds the audience of Blanche’s very nervous disposition. 

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Rafta Rafta – Octagon, Bolton

MANCHESTER Mouth community reporter Sadia Habib reviews ‘Rafta Rafta’ showing at Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

Maybe you missed the popular and successful 2007 run of Rafta Rafta in London.  Luckily it is showing again and this time at a local venue – Octagon Theatre in Bolton.

Rafta Rafta is an adaptation of Bill Naughton’s play ‘All In Good Time’ by Ayub Khan-Din, who wrote the well-known hit ‘East is East’.

Set in Bolton, Greater Manchester, Rafta Rafta explores the life of an immigrant Indian family.

To read the rest of this review visit the Culture section of the main Manchester Mouth website.

No Idea – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

MANCHESTER Mouth community reporter Sadia Habib reviews Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence’s ‘No Idea’ – Royal Exchange Theatre.

Two actors – Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence – have ‘no idea’ for a play they would like to write/perform. Let’s go ask the public, they decide.

To read the latest community reviews visit the Culture section of our brand new website.

1984 – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

MANCHESTER Mouth community reporter Sadia Habib reviews Matthew Dunster’s adaptation of ‘1984’ – The Royal Exchange Theatre.

George Orwell’s political masterpiece 1984 still holds great resonance with a contemporary audience: the idea of an omniscient and omnipotent Big Brother brings to the forefront current debates about CCTV surveillance, identity cards and governments holding sensitive data on their citizens.  The dramatic scenes of torture in the production also remind the audience of uncomfortable news coverage of similar painful humiliations at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay.

Sayings like Big Brother and Room 101 have become familiar language for today’s audience with their own connotations in mainstream popular culture.  However, in the play these watered-down terms, and others such as Newspeak, Thought Crime and Doublespeak, have dangerous consequences of mind control in a dystopian and dangerous world.

The opening of the play successfully establishes the persistent and pernicious interruption of thoughts through the telescreen device: the monotone, almost malicious drone of the Party’s indoctrinating words linger in the minds of the audience, reflecting the lack of privacy in the minds of the residents of Oceania, Orwell’s dystopian world.  The props of the telescreens are used effectively throughout the play to highlight an intermittent penetration of peace of mind.

The fleeting moments of pleasure experienced by Winston Smith (Jonathan McGuinness), the main protagonist of Orwell’s novel, when he witnesses the proles and their simple pleasures, and in his stunningly passionate union with another Outer Party member, Julia (Caroline Bartleet), bring some light in an otherwise very dark play.  The production also manifests the mindsets and lifestyles of the proles through use of music and laughter, a stark contrast to the bleakness that pervades Winston’s life.

Winston’s quiet desperation is evident on McGuiness’s face as he seeks to learn the end of the rhyme:  “Oranges and lemons/Say the bells of St. Clements/I owe you five farthings/Say the bells of St. Martins…”. And the audience, share the joy as he bonds with others through this rhyme. The prop of the picture of the church hanging over the bed above the junk shop is cohesive with the rhyme and powerfully depicts the past times Winston is aching to hold on to.

This production of 1984 ensures that the long speeches in the novel have maximim dramatic impact and are accessible to the audience. The complexity of the political concepts are elaborated upon through the use of actors representing the three factions of Oceanic society: the Inner Party, the Outer Party and the proles.  The audience, therefore, are able to engage with abstract notions without the play being overly-intellectual.

We are reminded about control of the body reinforcing control of the mind – Winston writes his private thoughts in a tiny alcove behind the telescreen, and each morning he is made to participate in a tedious and tiring exercise regime in front of the telescreen.  However, this production cleverly highlights the nature of body control through the disturbing scenes of devastating torture.  The production places emphasis on physicality furthermore by showing us the stunning scenes of love between Winston and Julia as moments that are rebellious, beautiful and hopeful.

Dunster’s adaptation remains very faithful to the original text, whilst creating a very modern debate about how elements of the Orwellian vision ring true today.  In the language of Oceania, a doubleplusgood production.

1984 is playing at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 27 March 2010.