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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA



previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke





The Importance of Being Earnest – by Oscar Wilde at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Review by Seamus Kelly

The Royal Exchange Theatre is an excellent venue to stage a play in the round and this modern version of the classic play be Oscar Wilde is no exception.

This production, directed by Josh Roche, takes a play from 1895 and places it in a modern setting with plenty of modern references but all the while skilfully reflecting the nature of the original work. Perfect examples of this are the way Cecily (Rumi Sutton) poses for selfies, showing how much she values appearance over everything else, and uses her mobile phone to record her diary entries. This really is an excellent production, highly enjoyable and with lots of very funny moments.

Jack Worthing (Robin Morrissey) is the main protagonist, a country gent and pillar of the community who has created an imaginary brother called Earnest, who is the black sheep who gets into scrapes and needs Jack to help him. In reality Earnest is simply an excuse to enable Jack to leave his country home and head to London where, calling himself Earnest, he can behave as he likes, and in ways that he could not as Jack.

Falling in love with Gwendolen (Phoebe Pryce), the cousin of his friend Algernon (Parth Thackeray), in London, whilst using the name Earnest is where the complications begin. Gwendolen returns his affections but reveals that the name Earnest is absolutely important to her in being able to love and completely trust him. Gwendolen accepts the marriage proposal from Jack (using the name Earnest).

Gwendonlen’s mother, Lady Bracknell (Abigail Cruttenden), will not agree to the engagement and from that point onwards the complications and twists build on each other until the final resolution at the end of the play when Jack, having discovered his real origins, realises “the importance of being Earnest”.

The use of a modern setting is very effective and makes the story easier to understand for a modern audience almost 130 years after the play was first performed.

The staging was a very definite move away from the traditional Victorian setting is simple with chairs, sofas and tables to represent what would traditionally be the drawing room, and the garden represented by fluffy imitation hedges in a shade known as Millennial Pink. The pink garden had been created deliberately, by designer Eleanor Bull, to be frivolous and silly and also link to the pink plastic flowers popping up in coffee shops now.

The whole cast were excellent and work together beautifully. There were no weak performances, and the characterisations, expression and comic timing were all just right. If I were to pick out a couple of standout performances they would be from Abigail Cruttenden as Lady Bracknell, for her expression and completely believable character, and James Quinn playing the butler Lane and gardener Merriman, with absolutely excellent comedic expression and timing.

The use of modern props including a modern, and suitably noisy coffee machine, and letter a leaf blower, was very clever and added a layer of humour specifically for a modern audience.

There were many laughs throughout the performance and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the show, acknowledging the actors with a rousing standing ovation.

This really is a very funny and accessible modern production of Wilde’s classic play, and I would highly recommend it whether or not you are familiar with this or other of Wilde’s works.

The production runs until 20th July.

Tickets can be booked through 

There are Sensory Adapted, Captioned, Audio Described and British Sign Language performances – dates and detail of the Royal Exchange Theatre website.

Gary Delaney & Special Guests in Rochdale

Preview by Steve Cooke

Laughter and good vibes coming up at Champness Hall on Friday, August 9th, as the hilarious Gary Delaney takes the stage for Feeling Good with Gary Delaney.

Gary Delaney is a double Sony Award Winner, a regular guest on Mock The Week and Nominated for a Chortle Award.

He excels in delivering witty and charming jokes that are sure to capture your attention. His humour is infectious, and his demeanour reminiscent of a playful schoolboy unable to contain his laughter after each punchline.

Gary is the only comedian to have achieved the feat of having two jokes in the same top 10 list for Dave's TV Funniest Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe. With a successful tour that was extended four times and included over 200 venues and 370 shows, he is widely regarded as the leading comedic talent of his generation. Highly popular on Twitter, he has amassed a large following and is frequently quoted as one of the most popular comedians in the country.

Gary’s special guests for the evening

Dave Twentyman very much wears his heart on his sleeve in a show described by audiences as brilliantly moving, heartwarming, honest but most importantly hilarious.

His lived experience of ADHD is the source of his creativity and lightning quick humour. A hilarious and moving account of genius minds in a mundane world.


Steve Shanyaski transitioned from a mundane office job to a career in comedy at the start of 2003 and has been thriving ever since. He quickly rose in the comedy scene, making it to the semi-finals of the prestigious BBC New Comedian of the Year and the North West Comedian of the Year Final within six months of starting out. Steve also had the opportunity to showcase his talent on BBC7 Radio Showcase Spanking New later that year. His accomplishments include being named the Holsten Pils Comedian of the Year in 2005 and winning the title of best breaking talent at the Birmingham Comedy Festival the same year. Steve is known for his charismatic and humorous performances, drawing on his natural storytelling abilities, creative imagination, and musical background to captivate audiences.

Shazia Mirza has appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show, Would I lie to You? QI, Meet The Richardsons, Celebrity MasterMind, Loose Women, The Late Late Show, Top Gear, Graham Norton Show, The Apprentice You're Fired, and was the star of Celebrity The Island- Bear Grylls and is in the new upcoming series of 'Celebrity MasterChef' starts July BBC1. And has been nominated as one of The 50 funniest comedians of the 21st Century in The Telegraph.

09 Aug 2024

Doors open at 7:30pm, with the show starting promptly at 8:30pm.

Champness Hall, Champness Hall, Drake St, Rochdale OL16 1NZ, UK




Saturday 06 July 2024 - Sunday 07 July 2024

All That Jazz

The Alyson Livesey Academy of Dance and Drama presents a magical medley of musicals

Saturday performance time is 7.30pm Doors open 7pm

Sunday performance times is 2pm Doors open 1.30pm


Middleton Arena, Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC Way, Middleton, Manchester M24 1AG


Wednesday 10 July 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Hannah Andrusier soprano (Oxford Univ & RNCM) & Tim Kennedy piano (Cambridge Univ & RNCM staff) (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.


Wednesday 10 July 2024

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Outdoor meeting (Springfield Park)

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 2024 syllabus.

£2.50 for room fee

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP




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

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