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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller – Octagon Theatre

REVIEW By Hilary Dawes

Directed by Holly Race Roughan, this is the first major UK production in almost a decade of Arthur Miller’s classic play.

Set in the fifties by the docks of Red Hook, a working-class part of Brooklyn, this powerful and poignant story echoes the format of a Greek tragedy, narrated by the lawyer Alfieri.

Eddie Carbone is a longshoreman on the docks, and as he arrives home from work, we join him, his wife Beatrice, and their niece Catherine, as they await the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins from Sicily who are hoping to gain employment and make enough money to send back to their families, living in poverty in the battered economy of post-war Italy. As they wait, talk turns to Catherine’s wish to start work in an office, which Eddie vehemently opposes, and he begins to realise that, at seventeen, Catherine is no longer his little girl.

Cousins Marco and Rodolpho arrive and are initially welcomed by Eddie, but as it becomes apparent that Catherine and Rodolpho are attracted to each other, Eddie’s feelings for Catherine become more complex and his animosity towards Rodolpho turns to hatred. Tensions rise and events spiral out of control as Eddie becomes determined that Catherine should not become involved with Rodolpho, resorting to shocking and desperate measures despite the sound legal advice from Alfieri.

Jonathan Slinger gave a superlative performance as Eddie, carrying us along on a rollercoaster of emotions, managing to sway our feelings towards him from anger and disgust to sadness and compassion. Kirsty Bushell was compelling as Eddie’s anguished wife Beatrice, as she tried in vain to calm her husband’s rages and persuade him to do the right thing, whilst Rachelle Diedericks gave a strong performance as his devoted niece Catherine.

There were convincing performances too from Tommy Sim’aan and Luke Newberry as chalk and cheese Italian cousins, Marco and Rodolpho. This was the first production of the play where Alfieri was played by a woman, and Nancy Crane performed the role beautifully with a calm and measured demeanour. Elijah Holloway (in his professional stage debut) and Lamin Touray were excellent as Eddie’s workmates Louis and Mike.

Praise must also go to the creative team, who with an almost bare set, dominated by a giant neon sign, managed to convey the atmosphere of the docklands, the Brooklyn streets and Eddie’s sparsely furnished home.

This powerful and emotionally charged piece of theatre should not be missed and is running at the Octagon, Bolton until 30th September 2023.

To Wong Foo is premiering at Hope Mill Theatre

PREVIEW By Steve Cooke

Hope Mill Theatre have announced the full cast and creative team for the world premiere of TO WONG FOO THE MUSICAL, based on the 1995 ground-breaking film, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar. The musical is written and directed by original film screenplay writer and multiple Tony Award nominee Douglas Carter Beane, with music and lyrics by Lewis Flinn. The production will open at Hope Mill Theatre on 21 October for a limited 9-week run!

TO WONG FOO THE MUSICAL will star Peter Caulfield (Tammy Faye, Almeida Theatre; Jesus Christ Superstar, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) as Vida Boheme, Gregory Haney (TINA – The Tina Turner Musical, West End; Hamilton, Original Broadway Production) as Noxeema Jackson and Pablo Gómez Jones (In Dreams, Leeds Playhouse; Les Misérables, Mexico City) as Chichi Rodríguez.

Joining them are Carolyn Maitland (Next To Normal, DonmarWarehouse; Jersey Boys, West End) as Carol Ann, Duncan Burt(FRIENDSICAL, UK Tour) as Sheriff Dollard, Alexander Kranzas Bobby Ray (professional debut), Arthur Boan (OKLAHOMA!, West End) as Tommy Paul, Ayesha Maynard (Hairspray, Kilworth House Theatre) as Beulah June, Emily Ooi (Miss Saigon, Sheffield Crucible Theatre) as Bobby Lee, Jermaine Woods (Sister Act, Eventim Apollo) as Willie Joe/John Jacob, Lee Harris (Les Misérables, West End) as Ed Earl/Crazy Elijah, Natalie Day (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Arts Theatre) as Mary Lou, Scott Hunter (The Play That Goes Wrong, West End) as Billy Budd, Susie Fenwick (Beautiful, UK Tour) as Clara Pearl, Samantha Bingley (Beauty and the Beast, London Palladium) as Rose of Sharon Theo Maddix (Cabaret, The KitKat Club) as Rachel Tensions/Jimmy Jack. Also in the cast are Jamil Abbasi (Great British Bake-Off Musical, Noel Coward Theatre) and Megan Davies-Truin (Jerry Springer the Opera, Hope Mill Theatre).

TO WONG FOO THE MUSICAL has direction by Douglas Carter Beane, choreography by Jane McMurtrie musical supervision by Brad Simmons, set design by Katie Lias, costume design by Gregory Gale, wig design by Bobbie Zlotnik, make up design by Andrew Sotomayor, sound design by Sam Glossop, lighting design by Jack Weir, video design by Dan Light, musical direction by Andrew Hilton, associate direction by Joseph Houston, intimacy coordination and fight direction by Haruka Kurado, associate costume design by Rachel Tansey and casting by Sarah Leung. The artwork is designed by FEAST Creative with videography by Umbrella Rooms.

The 1995 film, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, which has become a cult-classic, featured an all-star cast including Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, Stockard Channing, Robin Williams and Ru Paul.

Set in 90s New York TO WONG FOO THE MUSICAL tells the story of 3 Drag Queens, Vida, Noxeema and Chichi, who embark on a trip across America to attend the Drag Queen of the Year Finals in Hollywood. When their car breaks down in Middle America, their lives, as well as those in the town, are turned upside down, in this joyous, heartfelt, and high camp musical extravaganza! 3 drags have come to save America, one show tune at a time! The musical was created at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts where Douglas Carter Beane is on the Board of Directors.

TO WONG FOO THE MUSICAL is produced by Hope Mill Theatre!


PHONE: 0161 275 9141

Hope Mill Theatre, 113 Pollard Street, Manchester M4 7JA.



Flexing her well-toned acting, comedy, dancing and singing muscles Sue Devaney took us on an intense, moving, hilarious and enlightening ride on the addiction roller-coaster in ‘Didn’t You Used To Be somebody? [Commissioned for Recoverist Month* by Portraits of Recovery and developed in partnership with HOME.] Sue’s ‘work-in-progress’ collaboration with the wonderful Jason Yates.

Their creation, Jessie Jackson, is ‘a woman of a certain age with an insatiable appetite for all things bright and beautiful and off the scale bad’. We experience her highs and lows through six seamless scenes including bullying at school, relationship with dad, fame through a TV reality show, encounter with weight watchers and a full-blown breakdown. The audience are drawn into her world of addiction and experience the impact of the triggers and emotional chaos that is addiction.

The venue fittingly was the Gallery at HOME Manchester, currently the home of the Balmy Army* Space.

The sell-out audience [I am reliably informed could have sold out at least 4x] included people in recovery, supporters of people in recovery, recoverists [recovery + activist] as well as actors and media types.

The after-show Q&A included testimony of resonating personal experiences and constructive criticism alongside much heartfelt support for this project and its potential impact on those directly affected by addiction and across the wider community.

To know that your personal experiences are common to many others, that you are not alone, can be vital to people suffering from addiction as they ride the recovery train.

For the wider community to have access to the chaotic inner lives of addicts can promote greater understanding and wider empathy.

‘Didn’t You Used To Be Somebody’ achieves all the above and will hopefully continue to develop into a vehicle for greater awareness and understanding accessible to the whole of the UK.

Huge thanks to Sue and Jason for this vital creation.

I shall eagerly follow its development and share its progress with you all.

* The Balmy Army project is a movement for youth-led mental health activating the power of art and activism. Over the past year young people, artists, madpride organisers, radical dreamers, disability justice doers and everyone else trying to cope have come together with the common aim of striving for Mental health support that works. They have been busy sharing poetry, making placards, activating social media takeovers and mass acts of civil disobedience, in fact creating a space where anything (safe) can happen, where the Balmy Army can play, plan protests, give performances and even print ‘Madidas’ t-shirts. I urge you to find time to experience Balmy Army for yourselves - it’s free to drop into the Balmy Army's space at HOME.

* Recoverist Month celebrates the aspirational hopes, desires, fears, and dreams of Greater Manchester, people, and communities in recovery from addiction. Lived experience is centre stage, promoting positive health messaging and framing recovery as a viable lifestyle choice.Recoverist Month September 2023. An initiative led by Portraits of Recovery

Peyvand Sadeghian presents Dual دوگانه‎ (Dual do-ga-neh) at HOME Manchester


Dual دوگانه‎ (Dual do-ga-neh) at HOME Manchester this October is created and performed by Peyvand Sadeghian interrogating her dual UK-Iranian nationality in this interactive, dark, and playful show about passports, protests, and prejudice.

Peyvand is British, Parisa is Iranian: one woman with two passports and two names. This bold, experimental solo performance explores what it is to be from two opposing states. Mixing dynamic video projections, music and interactivity, the dark and comic performance is based on creator and performer Peyvand Sadeghian’s experiences as a UK-Iran dual national.

Dual دوگانه is inspired by Peyvand’s first visit to Iran aged 10 to meet her father’s family. Peyvand and her father were held by the Iranian government. Unable to return to the UK, Peyvand doesn't understand why she can't go home and longs for a familiar world of baked beans and London buses.

The politics within Dual دوگانه‎ have come into sharp focus since its original iteration at Vault Festival. The performance was staged prior to the “Woman Life Freedom” movement, sparked by the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini in September 2022. As Peyvand says: “Now the question isn’t just what would Parisa be doing there - but what should I be doing here?” Dual دوگانه aims to empower audiences to be advocates for their own causes and be allies for each other.

Dual دوگانه‎ has been developed by a team of multi-nationals including the Iranian diaspora. Some of whom, due to the nature of the work, have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of political repercussions if not for themselves, then their families in Iran.

Peyvand continues: “I got stuck there (in Iran). It was a very confusing time, and eventually I came home to West Ham, politically aware and had no one to talk to about it. It was one of the most formative experiences of my life. But this show is not a “Poor Peyvand” pity-party. I wanted to share the complex and contradictory feelings around the nationalities I hold - something that I have very little control over but has shaped my life considerably.”

“In trying to piece together this personal history, my father’s voice also features - but our memories are reshaped over time. So, I went down the route of “what if”. What if I, Peyvand, had lived out my life in Iran as Parisa?”

Peyvand works across stage and screen as an actor, has extensive experience as a collaborator working with other companies, and is an emerging artist leading on her own projects. With performance at the core, they’re evolving a multi-disciplinary practice encompassing text, movement, puppetry, stop motion animation, film, and digital technology. The child of an immigrant and refugee, London-born & bred, yet not born British, Peyvand sits at an intersection between colonised and coloniser. Their work is informed by real-world research, geopolitics, social theory and lived experience. Embracing an approach that is inquisitive, and responsive, she seeks to make work for a similarly curious audience. Believing in the communal act of theatre to root us in the present and offer the potential for exchange.

HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, M15 4FN

Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 October 2023

7.45pm | £15


Sunday 01 October

Black History Month Celebrating Nigeria Independence Day

Themed: Festival of African arts, culture, dance, and awards.

This year's event is even more special as we mark the fifth anniversary of the Nigerian Community Association based in Rochdale.

The event promises to be a vibrant and culturally rich experience that showcases the beauty and diversity of African heritage.

It's a momentous occasion to celebrate the community's achievements and contributions over the past five years.

Highlights of the event include:

Cultural Performances: Immerse yourself in the vibrant rhythms and dances of Nigeria's diverse cultures with captivating live performances.

Guest Speakers: Gain insights from distinguished speakers who will share the historical significance of Nigeria's journey to independence and its impact on the global stage.

Traditional Cuisine: Savour a delicious feast of authentic Nigerian dishes that will tantalize your taste buds and transport you to the heart of Nigeria.

Art and Exhibitions: Explore a gallery showcasing Nigerian art, history, and achievements, offering a glimpse into the nation's incredible contributions to the world.

The Nigerian flag will be hoisted at the council offices at Number One Riverside on Saturday 30 September to mark Nigeria Independence Day. All are welcome, for more details click here:


Phone: 07456 136150

1pm - 6pm

Castlemere Banqueting Hall, 8 Castlemere St, Rochdale OL11 3SW.

Tuesday 03 October

AppleJacks Line Dance Club

Linedance Class every Tuesday, for all levels including beginners, improvers, and intermediates.

They welcome people who have never danced before, existing dancers and those who wish to return to line dancing after a number of years. This is a very friendly class, and they will make all new members feel very welcome.


Phone: Pauline Bell 07841 124491

7.45pm - 10.15pm

Alkrington Community Centre, Hardfield Road, Middleton, M24 1TQ

Wednesday 04 October

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - AGM – annual subs are due.

We meet every Wednesday at Rochdale Unitarian Church, starting at 7.30pm prompt (doors open from 7.15pm). The door is kept locked so please ring the bell on arrival.

If you would like to see the club for yourself and meet our members, you are welcome to attend as our guest for up to 3 weeks before committing to membership. Annual subscription is £36 for single or £46 for joint membership.

A weekly room fee of £2.50 is also payable on arrival at the meeting. Refreshments are 50p.

Visit the link below for a full 2023 syllabus.

£2.50 for room fee

Phone: Secretary - Ed Whitaker

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start.

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP

Wednesday 04 October

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have John Powell baritone (Cambridge & BBC Singers) & Elin Rees piano (RNCM).

The concert series has been held at St Mary’s since 2001 and was granted the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2020… during the pandemic.

Running every Wednesday, Music at Lunchtime is a weekly live classical music concert series that has been going since the 1960s. The sessions were initially run at the old Rochdale Art Gallery by the local authority, but since May 2001 have been run by volunteer-enthusiasts and artistic director, Dr Joe Dawson.


Phone: Dr Joe Dawson 01706 648872

Doors open 12noon, concert starts 12.30pm - 1.30pm

St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane/St Mary's Gate, Rochdale OL16 1DZ

celebrating creative arts and artists - an oasis of positivity supporting individual and community wellbeing.

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