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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke






The Taming of the “Shrew” at Hope Mill Theatre

Preview by Steve Cooke

HER Productions return this summer with their 6th annual Shakespeare Production once again mixing it up and laying down their own take on one of Shakespeare’s most talked-about and subversive comedies – The Taming of The “Shrew”. Running at Hope Mill Theatre on June 19 – 30, the production will then move to Shakespeare North Playhouse and conclude its run with two nights at Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield on 17 and 19 July.

The plot focuses on a drunken patron (Sly) who falls victim to the gang of ‘Bella’s’, who run and operate a cabaret club. As Sly wakes from his wild night, he is told a story, supporting a wider prank that Sly is not a drunken patron, but a Lord of great status and wealth. Our Bella’s spin him a tale about a wealthy merchant of Padua, and two daughters: Katherina and Bianca. Because of Katherina’s “shrewish” disposition, her father has declared that no one shall wed Bianca until such a time as Katherina has been married. But why are they telling him this story? And what is Sly’s connection to the women?

With their signature all female and non-binary cast, HER Productions continue to put their creative flair and original stamp on Shakespeare classics – this time setting their Taming of the “Shrew” in a Cabaret club, fusing the worlds of burlesque, clowns and cabaret to explore this politically charged and much-loved play.

Hannah Ellis Ryan, HER Productions founder and actress – perhaps known best to Corrie fans as the “evil” Hannah Gilmore whom she played for 35 episodes, is turning her hand at directing for the first time after her six plus years of producing these legacy Shakespeare projects. She will be stepping into the Director chair alongside co-director: Amy Gavin. With a background in cabaret and burlesque, Amy will lead on creating the 'Shrew's' vibrant world of cabaret, while Hannah focuses on the dramaturgy and support around Shakespearian text.

Hannah comments: 'It would be no exaggeration to say these Shakespeare projects are the highlight of my year. To now step up and direct for the first time – I am beyond thrilled, but I could not do so without one of my greatest friends and collaborators by my side. Amy and I have known each other for over 10 years and trust each other implicitly. Our vision for Taming of the 'Shrew' has always been so vibrant, so clear and I could not be more excited for us to bring it to life with this outrageously talented cast. We will feature “10 Things I Hate About You” references, Clown, Cabaret, Pole Dancing, crochet beards and so much more. Audiences are in for a real treat.”

Hope Mill Theatre - 19-30 June 2024

Shakespeare North Playhouse - 10-13 July 2024

Lawrence Batley Theatre - 17 & 19 July

HER Productions are a small company, with big ideas, founded by a close-knit team of Manchester-based, female theatre makers.

They produce Shakespeare, new writing, verbatim, digital and published plays. If it's right for them and has an important female-identifying voice, they will give it a platform.

‘We are motivated to keep pushing ourselves to generate relevant, important storytelling in whatever form it is best served.’

Why HER and why women?

Female creatives are still vastly underrepresented both on and off stage across the UK.

Their industry has much work to do before women have equal representation.

‘As producers, we have always found ourselves drawn to female-led stories, and HER is our way of embracing this. Although we have a female-focus, all our projects seek to empower everyone involved and leave no one behind. Equality is both goal and the journey.’

‘We care about safety and compassion. No voice being amplified should leave another silenced.’


Duo Cantelina: Sophie Clarke mezzo soprano and Ravi Nathwani guitar – Scintillating sounds brighten the day at TLC

Review by Dr Joe Dawson


Standing in at truly short notice, Duo Cantelina wowed the audience at St Mary in the Baum with their professionalism and vibrant beauty of sound. Their scintillating Spanish colours brightened the day.


Sophie Clarke mezzo soprano and Ravi Nathwani guitar are master’s students at the RNCM and are each experienced performers in their own right. They perform all over the UK and as a duo were recently invited to perform for the National Day of Spain by the Consul of Spain.


Liverpudlian Sophie is the first RNCM student to be sponsored by the international Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and winner of both the RNCM Song Cycle Competition 2023 and the Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition 2022. She quickly charms her audience with ease.

Born in Reading, British Asian guitarist Ravi Nathwani began learning classical guitar at the age of six, then saxophone at nine. He began studying at the RNCM with Craig Ogden in 2018.


As a duo they recently gained First Place in the RNCM Song Cycle competition with Manuel de Falla’s 'Siete Canciones Populares Españolas'. They began their concert with these enchanting pieces and the Spanish theme recurred throughout with other songs by Rodrigo and Duarte.


Sophie has a unique mezzo tone which embraces a guttural Flamenco growl through to a beautifully focused classical range.


Ravi is a sympathetic accompanist as well as gifted guitarist. He also arranged the crossover songs: a gorgeous Morgen by Richard Strauss effortlessly segued to Edelweiss by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Kurt Weill and Robbie Burns were similarly effective and a spirited Spanish version of tarantella, Zapateado by Giménez, literally put its stamp on proceedings to rapturous applause. 


The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday at 12.30pm at St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane, Rochdale, OL16 1DZ. Entrance fee is £6. Contact 01706 648872 for further information.



 Preview by Steve Cooke


Factory International presents three nights of runway performances showcasing the city’s underground clubland and nu-wave cabaret scene curated by the acclaimed director and choreographer Darren Pritchard and long-time collaborator Rikki Beadle-Blair.


House of MCR (20 – 22 June) is an exuberant celebration of Manchester’s QTIPOC (Queer, Trans and/or Intersex Person of Colour) community, taking elements from international underground subcultures and bringing them to a giant runway stage in the huge Warehouse space at Manchester’s Aviva Studios.


Hosted by the renowned performer, director and activist Rikki Beadle-Blair, 27 QTIPOC performers from Manchester’s nightlife scene will take to the stage each night, competing in six categories: We Dress, We Sing, We Dance, We Strip, We Lip Sync and We Are Family. For the final category, performers will be joined on stage by members of their chosen or biological family as a closing expression of unity, love and solidarity. No night the same, the audience will decide who comes out on top.


Created by Darren Pritchard and Rikki Beadle-Blair, House of MCR is a joyful space for everyone where audiences will be dazzled by sequins and death-drops whilst also learning about the history and politics of a culture created by and for marginalised people brought in recent years to the mainstream.


The performer’s outfits have been created with support from students from the Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University under the tutelage of award-winning designer Gavin Douglas.


Each two-hour performance at Aviva Studios will be followed by an afterparty hosted by local legends, Ghetto Fabulous, Club Zindagi and Swagga.


Darren Pritchard said: “House of MCR will be a spectacular celebration of Joy. Nothing like this has been produced on this scale for the communities I am working with. We are aiming for the audience to have the night of their lives.”


Rikki Beadle-Blair said: “The mission is simple - to bring together all races, genders and sexualities and give them the night of their lives. Dressed up or dressed down - The House of MCR is a gorgeous wild safe space where everyone belongs. Even you. …Especially you.”


Creative Team

Created by Darren Pritchard and Rikki Beadle-Blair

Tayo Akinbode – Vocal Coach

Gavin Douglas – Fashion Coach

Joshie Hariette - Lighting Designer



House of MCR

South Warehouse, Aviva Studios, M3 4JQ

20-22 June (Press Night 20 June), 7:30pm

Seated and standing tickets available from £10





Saturday 15 June 2024

Footprints in the Sand

The United Christian Singers present - Footprints in the Sand.

A musical by Joseph M. Martin

From the inspired pen of Joseph Martin comes a new sacred work that will be a true inspiration to your walk of faith.

Footprints in the Sand takes us to the lakeside beaches and along the dusty roads of Galilee, to the ancient streets of Jerusalem and far beyond. It traces the journey of faith for some of those who responded to Jesus’ call to follow him. 

Through word and song, we celebrate the incredible story of some of the men and women whose lives were turned around by Jesus as they tell of their amazing experiences.

Footprints in the Sand has a gently contemporary flavour and incorporates several narrators, well-known hymn tunes, newly composed anthems and several best-selling choral songs.

Retiring collection

Phone: Jan Hicks 01706 648779


St Andrew's Methodist and United Reformed Church, 46 Entwistle Road, Rochdale OL16 2HZ


Sunday 16 June 2024

Free Sunday Old Court Room Comedy Night Solo Shows

June Brings something different to the Old Court Room Comedy night.

Two Solo Festival shows thanks to Cartwheel Arts Free or VIP tickets available.

Award winner Jenny Hart presents her debut hour show Lezard.

A chaotic and uplifting show of side-splitting observational stand-up, killer songs and a kazoo solo or two. Do you feel like you've never quite fit in? Then come along and join in as we delve deep into the caverns of Jenny's head spooning out inner saboteurs, sexuality and why Lizards are the best pets.

Colin Etches at 6:30pm

‘Attention Deficit’ Debut stand-up show from up-and-coming neurodivergent comedian who shows that, when life is at its darkest, it’s laughter that gets us all through. In comedy, lots of things go in threes. ADHD, Autism and Dyspraxia aren’t usually the first that come to mind. As an adult, neurodivergent comedian, Colin Etches, was diagnosed with all of these, and, in the darkest of times, he discovered the healing power of laughter. Let Colin share that healing power with you as he takes a frank and funny look at his own life story and inner workings of his unique mind. Finally, at the age of 44, he can drop the mask and get to grips with being the autistic, clumsy, runaway adoptee son, sibling, parent, grandparent and life partner he was born to be.

You have Colin’s permission to laugh at his awkwardness, and through his hilarious stories come to understand what life is like for someone whose life often takes ridiculous turns. And not always the turns Colin would choose! His is a unique perspective on life, love and everyday situations. Join him to see things from his, often absurd, point of view.

Why not grab a Sunday Roast At the Flyer before the show.


Phone: Richard Attwood 07720 849866


The Old Court Room above the Flying Horse Hotel, Packer Street, Town Centre, Rochdale OL16 1NJ


Tuesday 18 June 2024

Girls Night Out with Flat and the Curves

As seen on the BBC, brace yourself for this award-winning smash hit Girls Night Out with Flat and the Curves, the comedy girl band that’s leaving a trail of sequins across the UK in 2024!

This powerhouse, glittery cabaret is a fierce blend of outrageous vocals, rip-roaring humour and unapologetic horniness! They’ll chat inflatable d**ks, hen-do blackouts and dance-floor finger b**ging…no subject is off limits!

Feel empowered at this riotous show, BY fabulous women FOR fabulous women! Enjoy a night to remember with your huns filled with laughter and audacity! Imagine Sex and the City teams up with The Spice Girls.

Sharing their sensational talent and wit with you is Katy Baker – the voice of Judy Garland and the attitude of Ross Kemp; Issy Wroe Wright – the love child of Madonna and Aled Jones; Charlotte Brooke – the face of Bush and the moves of Jagger; and Arabella Rodrigo – Dita Von Tina Turner.

Tickets from £29

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 


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


Wednesday 19 June 2024

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - outdoor meeting.

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.

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP


Wednesday 19 June 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Clarice WingYin Pang clarinet (Bloomington USA), Johanna Leung clarinet (Hong Kong & RNCM) & Ellada-Angelina Pavlou piano (Greece, Trinity-Laban & 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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