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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA



previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke





Louise Taylor soprano with Jonathan Ellis piano played music for Valentine’s Day at TLC

Review by Dr Joe Dawson


Popular local soprano Louise Taylor began solo singing at the age of 24, going on to perform over 30 lead roles in light opera and musicals as well as singing oratorio and fronting a dance band. All this while enjoying a 40-year career in journalism, most recently as editor of Cheshire Life for 11 years until 2020.


After starting to learn the piano at the age of three, Jonathan Ellis studied at Wells Cathedral School, and moved on to the joint music course of the RNCM and Manchester University, where he graduated first-class from both institutions and gained higher diplomas and prizes as a soloist, accompanist, and chamber musician.


This experienced duo produced a varied and enjoyable programme for Valentine’s Day. Roger Quilter was a twentieth century master of English art song that rivals German lieder. Louise and Jonathan opened with Quilter’s best-known song, Love's Philosophy, in virtuosic style, followed by some of his heartfelt settings of Elizabethan Lyrics.


As an instrumental interlude, Jonathan played intense piano pieces by one of Quilter’s contemporaries, Sir Arnold Bax with aplomb.


Then the pair celebrated British music theatre composer and celebrated actor Ivor Novello. Hit numbers from The Dancing Years: I Can Give You the Starlight, My Dearest Dear and Waltz of My Heart instantly evoked his heyday, and oozed nostalgia.


Finally, across the pond for a medley of the Great American Songbook composer of Broadway and Hollywood, Cole Porter. It's De-lovely, Let's Do It, You're the Top! lit up the otherwise gloomy weather outside. An Encore was demanded, and a riotous ‘I could have danced all night’ showed off the dynamic qualities of both performers to the full.



UK premiere of Kate Attwell’s Testmatch

Preview by Steve Cooke

A compelling new play comes to the Octagon in May with the UK première of Kate Attwell’s Testmatch.

Lord’s, present day. The Women’s Cricket World Cup: England versus India. There’s a rain delay. Stuck in the same locker room together, tensions mount, ambitions are laid bare and a whole new tactical game begins.

Calcutta, 1800. Two British administrators encounter challenges on the field of play that threaten the entire regime.

In this game of integrity and power, past and present collide.

Diane Page directs Aiyana Bartlett (India Two and Daanya), Aarushi Ganju (India One and Messenger), Haylie Jones (England Three and Two), Tanya Katyal (India Three and Abhi), Bea Svistunenko (England One and One) and Mia Turner (England Two and Memsahib).

Diane Page returns to the Orange Tree to direct for a third time, following revered productions of Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman in 2022, and as the 2021 JMK Award winner, directing Statements After An Arrest Under The Immorality Act. Her other credits include The Tempest, Julius Caesar (Shakespeare’s Globe.), Lost and Found (Royal Opera House), Out West (Co- director, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre).

Diane Page said: “I’m really excited to be directing the UK premier of Kate Attwell’s play Testmatch and to be back again at the Orange Tree. I’m looking forward to working on the play with our fantastic cast and team, and to sharing it with audience.”

Kate Attwell is a playwright, television writer and devised theatre maker. She is currently working on commissions for Manhattan Theatre Club, A.C.T., EST, and Playwright's Horizons. Her previous productions include So Long Willy, and her work has been developed at Portland Centre Stage at the Armory, The Bushwick Starr and New York Theatre Workshop.

Aiyana Bartlett plays India Two and Daanya. This marks her UK debut. Her theatre credits include A Hundred Words for Snow (Gothenburg English Studio Theatre). Her television credits include Piglets.

Haylie Jones plays England Three and Two. Her theatre credits include Lear (Hope Mill Theatre, Shakespeare North Playhouse), Romeo and Juliet, Little Women, Stig of the Dump Theatre). Her television credits include Blind Spot, Stay Close, Coronation Street, and The Cup; and for film Wanderland, Public House and Jamais Vu.

Tanya Katyal plays India Three and Abhi. Her theatre credits include The Empress (RSC), and for television Eternally Confused and Eager For Love.

Bea Svistunenko plays England One and One. Her theatre credits include The Tempest (Shakespeare's Globe), Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet (Guildford Shakespeare Company), and A Very Expensive Poison (The Old Vic). Her television credits include 3 Body Problem, Litvinenko, Industry; and for film, Beetlejuice 2 and Cost of Living.

Mia Turner plays England Two and Memsahib. Her theatre credits include Boys (Tabard Theatre).

Aarushi Ganju plays India one and Messenger. Her theatre credits Unlocking Canons House (Canons House), Roobaroo (The Space), Henry VII (The show must go on(line)) and Face Off (The UnDisposables). Her television credits include The Three-Body Problem.

The creative team includes Director: Diane Page; Designer: Cat Fuller; Lighting Designer: Rajiv Pattani; Sound Designer: Simon Slater.

Testmatch comes to the Octagon from Thursday 23 May – Saturday 1 June. Tickets start from £15 and are on-sale now.

Find out more and book tickets via the Octagon Box Office on 01204 520661 or at

Octagon Theatre, Howell Croft South, Bolton BL1 1SB


Shed: Exploded view at the Royal Exchange

Review by Steve Griffiths

This is a play which won the prestigious Bruntwood prize for new writing for Phoebe Éclair-Powell. It has now been put on the stage under the direction of Atri Banerjee.

I have to admit that it was with trepidation that I sat down to watch a one act play with no intermission. What if it was so poor but escape was out of the question? Would it assail me, old, white, male stale? Fortunately, the splendid cast soon had me in their spell. As there is no printed biography you will have to go online to see how they came to be chosen. From the youngster Norah Lopez Holden to the Wil Johnson playing an Alzheimer gripped Tony there was not a weak link. Not often you can say that with total honesty.

The open stage with no visible set allowed the cast to show how actors go about their craft. Using word, Actions, and expressions to show how relationships develop and change over time. How small cracks can become gaping chasms despite the best efforts of the couple. How communication becomes harder despite the best intentions and love of one individual for the other.

Yes, it’s a demanding play as the scenes change by the minute and the dialogue overlaps. In addition, the time shifts are dynamic though well signposted.  But once you tune in it all makes perfect sense. And the reinforcing as two characters end on the same words is specially effective.

Two things which still puzzle me; shed I sort of get as an exploded series of relationships relating to the Cornelia Parker art work. A friend who went to the play before me asked about the words scribbled by the cast on the stage. I don’t know why. But this is a minor query. The plays the thing.

On until 02 March

Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH

Phone: 0161 833 9833



Thursday 29 February 2024


A full-scale production set in the murky Dark Ages where love, politics and witchcraft collide.

A warworn Macbeth is told by three sisters that he is fated to become King of Scotland so beginning a series of events that lead to the destruction of Kings, friends, and souls as he, and his Lady, try to cling to the tainted crown.

Enjoy this classic tale as portrayed by William Shakespeare with sorcery, ghostly apparitions, and spectacular sword fights!

Age Recommendation: 11+

Occasional short bursts of haze used. Choreographed fights (mild violence, no gore). Flashing lights (not strobes).

To book your tickets please visit the link below or call the Box Office on 0300 303 8633.

Tickets from £16

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 


Middleton Arena, LCpl Joel Halliwell VC Way, Middleton M24 1AG


Thursday 29 February 2024 - Saturday 02 March 2024

Visit Fireground Museum

Join us at Fireground this week to discover Greater Manchester's firefighting story.

Fire museum attractions are on show inside the museum including our collection of historic firefighting artefacts from the 18th century to present day, plus home-made refreshments in the new Fireground Café, and souvenirs from our fantastic new gift shop! We have a wide choice ranging from toddler to collector.

Under 4s are free, Children (aged 4-15) and Concessions £5, Adults £7, and Family (4 people) £20.

Phone: Fireground 01706 341219

Open Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 10am - 4pm

Fireground, Maclure Road, Rochdale OL11 1DN


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


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