Friday, 9 October 2009

Someone Will Take the Chair at the Nuffield...

2009826_80288333.jpgLancaster University's Nuffield Theatre hosts a solo show with five performers on 21st October – four of which are audience members.

Oliver Bray, known to Nuffield audiences from his work with Until Thursday Theatre Company is performing solo in a new work, Villa, based around a Russian family’s tragic story of loss. Exploring British naivety, philosophical wordplay and Chekhov, it's described as a foray into Eastern Europe that subtly upsets narrative conventions.

"Some of you will be implicated, directly," says Bray. "Some of you will enjoy the story, a bit. Some of you will be amused. But know this – I’m on my own, my suit is sharp and someone is going to have to sit in those chairs."

Until Thursday have been making theatre performances for six years with productions that include the fragmented and boozy We Should Have Stood Still, the best selling and Hip Hoppy Droppin’ Shoppin’ and the bitter-sweet, politically ignorant It’s a Question of Taste.

Oliver Bray: Villa - 8.00pm 8pm, Wednesday 21 October 2009. Tickets: £10 / £7 concessions. Age recommendation: 16+

• There are a limited number of free tickets available for this performance to those aged 16-25. Please contact the Nuffield box office on 01524 594151 (24 hour answerphone) for further details.

Chamber Orchestra Launches New Uni Concert Season

The Northern Chamber Orchestra

The 41st season of the Lancaster International Concert Series opens with an enchanting concert from the Northern Chamber Orchestra later this month. The orchestra has developed a formidable reputation for its engaging and exciting concerts. This evening includes a performance of the Cello Concerto in A Minor by Schumann which will be heard in an intriguing arrangement for cello and string orchestra.

The concerto, completed in just two weeks, was never performed in Schumann’s life time and first premiered four years after his death on the 9th June 1860. We’re delighted that the concerto will be played by one of today’s most expressive cellists, Raphael Wallfisch, a firm Lancaster favourite using his 1760 Gennaro Gagliano cello.

Raphael-Wallfischw.jpgRaphael Wallfisch is one of the most celebrated cellists performing on the international stage. He was born in London into a family of distinguished musicians, his mother the cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and his father the pianist Peter Wallfisch. Raphael is regularly invited to play at major festivals such as the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, Spoleto, Prades, Oslo and Schleswig Holstein.

Under director Nicholas Ward, the Northern Chamber Orchestra also brings us; a string symphony from Mendelssohn’s miraculous teenage years; a youthful suite by Janácek, bubbling with Czech tunefulness; two delightful Dvorák orchestrated piano waltzes for an anniversary ball and Mozarts Fugue, which started out as a piano piece, to form part of this darkly fascinating instrumental work.

• The Northern Chamber Orchestra concert takes place at 7.30pm on Thursday 22nd October 2009 within the Great Hall at Lancaster UNiversity whilst the free ‘Meet the Artist Event’ will also be within the Great Hall starting at 6.45pm. Tickets: £19, £16 (£15.50, £13.50 concessions) £7 Young person

Singers Sought for New Dukes Show


Lancaster's Dukes theatre is on the lookout for singers to take part in a new and hilarious show that’s coming to the venue in November as part of a national tour.

The Creative Learning Department are looking to bring together a choir of at least 30 singers to take part in Spymonkey’s Moby Dick, a glorious mis-telling of the Herman Melville novel. The choir will play an invaluable part at the end of the show, as they joyously sing a rousing two verses and chorus of 'Bright Eyes' accompanied by cast.

Spymonkey have tested this ending a number of times, and it has proven to take the audience by storm, offering a riotous ending to a fantastic show.

queequeg25-200.jpgFour actors find themselves trapped in the belly of a literary monster. As they pondor the irony of their fate they recount the story of Moby Dick, sparkling with their own fantastical flourishes. The novel's epic examination of good, evil, fate and obsession is lost on them. And then, mysteriously, found on them again.

• Rehearsals will take place on Sunday 1st November, with performances on Thursday 5 – Saturday 7 November. To take part please email Louie Ingham at

• Tickets cost £12 and £10 (concessions). Please call The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or see to book. There are also a number of free tickets available for under 26s as part of the A Night Less Ordinary Scheme.

• There will be a post show talkback session with the cast after the performance on Friday 6 November and is free to ticket holders.

All Ghouled Up for LitFest!


Above: The Litfest team pose in costumes from Lancaster's After Dark costume hire. Photo: Jonathan Bean.

There'll be ghouls, monsters and mafiosi at litfest this year - watch out!

Lancaster's literature festival, which runs from October 16-25, features a wide range of novelists, short story writers and poets, and one of the events offers the chance to really get dressed up for your night out - as Paul Magrs, author of the Brenda and Effie series Never the Bride, Something Borrowed, Conjugal Rites and several Doctor Who novels and audio dramas, reads on Saturday October 24th at 9.30pm at the Storey Auditorium.

Magrs books are based in the seaside town of Whitby, where the ageless and mysterious Brenda keeps her bed and breakfast. Her best friend, the elderly Effie, runs a junk shop next door. Whitby's ruined abbey rests on the gateway to Hell - and it's their job to control the ghouls that find their way into town.

The event celebrates the publication of the fourth novel in the series: Hell's Belles.

The books have so many fantastic characters that litfest couldn't resist playing dress-up. The charming Alucard, the sinister Mr Danby, the glamorous waitress Jessie... there's plenty to choose from. Audiences can dress up too if they like - there will be more ideas on the litfest website at

• Tickets (£7.50 and £6.00 concessions) can bebooked online at the litfest website or bought from the Lancaster Visitor Information Centre by calling 01524 582394.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

LitFest Special for Spotlight

There's a powerful line-up of poetry and music on offer at this month’s regular Lancaster writing and music event, Spotlight, next week, with some of the area’s top-notch writer’s and performers in a special event to kick off this year’s litfest festival.

marvin_cheesman.jpgMarvin Cheeseman made his debut as a comedy performance poet in 1998 at Manchester's Frog and Bucket comedy club. The following year, after winning several poetry slams, he was featured in the Manchester Poetry Festival. The year 2000 saw the release of his first poetry collection Full Metal Jacket Potato published by The Bad Press. The success of this book led to appearances at a range of festivals and comedy venues around the country, including four separate appearances at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

Over the last five years Marvin's work has featured on BBC Radio 1, 2 and 4 and he appeared on the BBC television poetry series Whine Gums. He has published a limerick collection entitled Making Prawn Sandwiches for Roy Keane. A new book, We Hate It When Our Ex-Lodgers Become Successful was published in 2008.

Poet Kim Moore is currently on the second year of a part time MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Met. This year she has been a runner up in the Mslexia 2009 Poetry Competition and had work accepted in Poetry Review, The Frogmore Papers, Iota and Staple. She is a member of 'A Poem and A Pint' who organise poetry readings in Barrow and writes, usually in the car, in between teaching at different schools, which has the added effect of making her value the time she gets to write.

Poet Ron ScowcroftPoet Ron Scowcroft returns to The Spotlight with a new selection of poems. Recently chosen to appear in The New Writer, his prize-winning work has featured regularly in national poetry magazines and on the Guardian Books website.

Multi competition winning poet, Peter Crompton writes from the heart. From insane and frustrated rants about Tesco culture and self scan checkouts, to the depths of domestic violence and mental health. Pete will take you on a roller-coaster ride of emotion. Funny, frustrated... passionate and gentle, expect to leave satisfied that all your emotions have been jingled with.

Also in the line-up for the night, which as usual will kick off with an Open Mic session during which "Anything Can Happen!", will be music from Paddy Garrigan and Rashid Winter.

Paddy Garrigan began writing music as a teenager. This proved fleeting and didn't last long, so he soon made the difficult transition into writing music in his twenties. Pleased with the results, over the course of the last five or so years, Paddy has diversified into writing music in his thirties. He hopes to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Paddy most frequently writes whilst walking, the beat of his feet marking out the metre of the song. This does not fully explain why so many of his songs have ended up being in time. His songs cover a variety of subjects ranging from a brief argument with the Universe to the monsters of the briny deep, from stone circles to skin grafts. He has recently started writing a musical based on the form of the traditional Mummer's plays which he hopes will revive the flagging fortunes of both the musical theatre and of Mummer's plays.

Paddy's musical CV is a wonder to behold; open the folder and it regales you with 'The Toreador's song' from Carmen before launching into 'The Lonely Goatherd' from The Sound Of Music. Paddy plays a plethora of musical instruments, which he collects and hangs on the walls of this house, as they fade less quickly than wallpaper. He is currently one of the three corners of the Wierdstring Band, and was a member of the Pier Group, The Wisemen, The Puma Sutras, Dan Haywood's New Hawks, Moonstone, The Gokarnas, Sonic Tradition and several other bands you've never heard of. His music has been performed across Europe, albeit generally by Paddy himself.

Musician Rashid Winter

Making his first appearance on the bill at Spotlight, Rashid Winter made his fab debut at the Open Mic back in July and impressed with his jazzy guitar playing.

• Compered by Simon Baker the literary parade kicks off on Friday 16th October at 8.30pm at the Storey Auditorium, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster. Doors: 8.15pm, Admission: £4/£2 (Conc.). More info:

Master of Flutes in Morecambe

Master of flutes, whistles and Uillean pipes, Michael McGoldrick will perform at Morecambe Dome this weekend (Saturday October 10th) with his band.

Michael’s solo projects have received world wide acclaim, allowing him to explore a sound and direction that is both inspiring and totally unique. Winner of ‘Musician of the Year’ at the 2006 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Michael’s live performances are truly special and give the audience a chance to enjoy the sheer energy as well as the subtlety of the music.

Regarded as one of the greatest flute players of all time, Michael has collaborated with the likes of Jim Kerr, Youssou N’Dour and John Cale. Founder of ‘Toss The Feathers’ and ‘Flook’, in 1998 Michael was invited to join Scottish folk legends Capercaillie, and in the same year joined the ‘Afro-Celt Soundsystem’, still finding time to launch yet another band ‘Lunasa’.

Michael’s band for this part of the tour consists of Dezi Donnelly on fiddle from Sharon Shannon’s band, Ed Boyd on guitar and John Joe Kelly on bodhran, both ex-Fluke, Donald Shaw on keyboards from Capercaillie, Ewan Vernal on bass, also Capercaillie and Deacon Blue and James MacKintosh on drums from Shooglenifty.

Michael’s new album Aurora is due to be released in October 2009.

• The show will start at 7.30pm and tickets cost £14 adults, £12 concessions from the box office on 01524 582803.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Play Park Plans to go on Show

happy_mount_park_playarea.jpgConcept designs for a new "natural" play area in Morecambe's Happy Mount Park are due to be revealed.

Based on the underused mini-golf area at the rear of the park, the play area has been designed on the principles of "natural play".

This approach encourages more creativity in the design of play environments using natural elements such as trees, rocks, mini-hills and other natural play features.

Earlier this year, young people were asked to work with the council and its designers to share ideas of what could be included in the new play area.

The comments have been incorporated into the initial concept designs, which will go on show between 10th and 16th October.

They will be available to view in the park and on the Lancaster City Council website at:

Council officers will be in the kiosk at the centre of the park to discuss the plans between 3.30pm and 5.00pm on Thursday 15th October.

The council’s Play Rangers will also be in the park between 4.00pm and 5.00pm on the same day.

“We are very grateful for all the help we’ve received so far from young people in designing the new play area," commented Coun June Ashworth, Cabinet member for children and young people, "and their ideas have played a key role in shaping the plans.

“On its completion the play area will transform an underused area of Happy Mount Park and we’re all looking forward to seeing the designs come to life.”

Comments made during the consultation will be taken into account when producing the final design for the play area.

The design and build of the play area is funded by grants totalling more than £114,000 from the BIG Lottery, Lancashire County Council Play Builder, Community Design and Arts Council England.

• Comments on the plans should be made by email to or by telephoning 01524 582822 by October 16.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Fall under the 'Godspell'

Local theatre group, About Theatre will stage what's believed to be the first ever production of Stephen Schwartz’ Godspell in Lancaster in November – the first of the religious rock operas and a modern day retelling of the New Testament parables.

The Grand will be host to a story of a man filled with goodness and wisdom, his struggle to share his love with the world and the tragedy of his betrayal.

This production is the second in memory of local theatre enthusiast and director, Roger Bradley and all proceeds will be donated to Cancer Research.

• About Theatre presents ‘Godspell’ at 7.30pm at the Grand Theatre, Lancaster from 19th – 21st November 2009. All tickets £10 all tickets including programme. All proceeds to Rosemere Cancer Foundation for melanoma research. More info on About Theatre at:

• All bookings can be made through the Grand Theatre Tel. 01524 64695 (between 10.00am & 3.00pm) or book online at

Sunday, 4 October 2009

In Review: Of Mice and Men

OMAM8.gifBy John Steinbeck; Directed by Kevin Dyer

The Dukes, Thursday 24th September – Sunday 24th October

Review by John Freeman

The Dukes publicity describes John Steinbeck's own play of his powerful novel of ranch hands, death and yes, mice, as one of the true American classics. That's a pretty tough reputation for anyone to take on the stage play, but director Kevin Dyer and the ten-strong cast deliver the goods with an assured, riveting production that holds you from beginning to end.

That's no small achievement: with an opening act that's about an hour and a half long (the second is shorter), some might balk at seeing a play set in the 1930s American depression, wondering what relevance it might have to our own lives today. (Of course, it has). But thanks to some terrific acting - not least from brilliant newcomer Andrew Ashford as the slow, strong and tragic Lennie - the play simply flies by as you're drawn into the desperate lives of wandering ranch hands seeking work, armed with high hopes of securing a better life and an uneasy partnership to get them by.

OMAM5.gifThroughout, backed by a simple but effective set design by Alison Heffernan, the entire ensemble cast, which includes Paul Dodds as Lennie's long-suffering companion, Noel White as Slim, Chris Jacks as the put-upon Crooks and Cloudia Swann as Curley's anonymous wife, give outstanding performances, conjuring up a terrible time of uneasy lifestyles with work a scarcity, the hopes that things will get better... and the grim reality of their lives, as events spiral out of control.

Of Mice and Men may be packed with metaphor and allusion, but the story itself remains a relevant today as it was when it was first written in the depressed 1930s. None of the power of that story is lost here.

OMAM3.gifThe Dukes has been raising the bar with its recent productions, with plenty of deserved praise for its work such as the recent Sabbat. But thanks to the combined work of this fine cast and production team - even Spikey the dog, who gets his own bio in the programme - the bar has surely been raised another notch.

It was no surprise that that were more than a few tears from some members of the audience as this play came to its grim, unsettling conclusion, a finale mirroring earlier, seemingly matter-of-fact day-to-day events on a farm. This is a simply unmissable production: all credit to everyone involved.

Of Mice and Men runs at The Dukes until Saturday 24th October. Ticket prices range from £16 - £8.50. Schools and Group Discounts Available: call 01524 598500 For Information. If you are under 26, free tickets are available (Tue and Wed). For performance times, visit our What's On page or visit The Dukes web site

The Dukes has a Fan Page on Facebook here

Other Reviews

Lancashire Evening Post

"Kevin Dyer's direction, Alison Heffernan's set, Brent Lees' lighting and Mark Mellville's music all add their own subtle hues to a great story given a great production."

The Stage

"Keeping the emotional balance between their brain and brawn and our sympathy and repulsion can be a problem [in this play] but here the interaction between Paul Dodds as a determined but doomed George and Andrew Ashford as a giant of a Lennie is handled superbly. Remarkably this is Ashford’s first professional role so to make him as believable as he does is all the more of an achievement."

More Links

The National Steinbeck Center

Martha Heasley Cox Centre for Steinbeck Studies

Of Mice and Men on BBBC Bitesize

Of Mice and Men: The Student Survival Guide

• Production photos in this review by George Coupe

Organ and Trumpet Recital opens Lancaster Cathedral’s Autumn Season

music_coultondunnett_w.jpgLancaster Cathedral’s Autumn Season of concerts and events begins on Friday 9th October with a recital featuring internationally known trumpeter John Coulton and David Dunnett, Organist of Norwich Cathedral.

The programme will include works by, among others, John Stanley, Henry Purcell and Giuseppe Verdi. The Cathedral’s 1888 Ainscough pipe organ has just been refurbished by Henry Willis & Sons of Liverpool and the combination of the organ and Coulton’s virtuosic trumpet-playing promises an unforgettable evening for all who attend.

This season of concerts and events at Lancaster Cathedral also features pianist Costas Fotopoulos in concert on 6 November (7.30 pm) and a plainsong workshop and introduction to Gregorian chant on Saturday 14 November (2.00pm – 5.00pm, St Walburge’s Chapel).

The Cathedral Christmas Craft Fair, always a popular event, will take place in the Cathedral Social Centre on Wednesday 18 November (from 7.30pm-9.00pm).

The season ends on Friday 11th December (8:00pm) when the Cathedral will welcome the Lancashire Sinfonietta for its annual holiday concert by candlelight.

• Tickets for the opening concert are £10/£8 and the performance begins at 7.30pm.

• Tickets and further information about all of these events are available from Lancaster Tourist Information (tel: 01524 32878) or the Cathedral Events Co-ordinator (tel: 01524 384820 or email: