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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke



REVIEW By Seamus Kelly

HER Productions, Unseemly Women & Girl Gang Manchester - 8th June 2023 - Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester.

“Lear” is a new production of the Shakespeare tragedy “King Lear” from HER Productions, Unseemly Women and Girl Gang Manchester.

The production features an all-female, or non-binary, cast and uses a simple set and modern dress, and a little modern music. HER productions. Director, Kayleigh Hawkins, includes a few surprises and an effective representation of the wild stormy night without needing complex sets or effects.

Whilst this production might not appeal to all traditional fans of Shakespeare, it has much to recommend it for those with more modern tastes not least the quality of some of the leading performances. Learn might prove an interesting introduction to Shakespeare’s tragedies for those who, like this reviewer, had previously been put off by our experiences in school.

Christine Mackie (well known for playing Dr Gaddas in Coronation Street) in the lead role, as Lear, was outstanding with a powerful, and often sympathetic, portrayal of the highs and lows as Shakespeare’s aging monarch descends into madness. Her performance during the storm scenes and the realisation of the terrible wrongs that Lear had committed was very moving.

Haylie Jones was strong throughout as the scheming Edmund switching allegiances between Lear’s heirs and convincing his father, the Earl of Gloucester, that the legitimate brother, Edgar, had been plotting against him.

Fiona Scott as Edmund’s father, the Earl of Gloucester, was also excellent portraying the character as the upright supporter of the monarch who loses confidence and suffers the terrible revenge of Lear’s daughter Regan, and eventual reunion with Edgar.

Occasionally it was a little difficult to follow the plot as sisters Goneril and Regan, and their husbands, encouraged by Edmund, undermine each other and Lear himself.

This production gave a powerful representation of the tragedy of Lear, which brought about by the monarch’s own vanity, inability to understand the true nature of his daughters, and by their hunger for power, results in so much death and loss.

Overall this was a good night at the theatre and the audience response was clearly positive. The nurturing and developmental roles of the theatre and HER productions may occasionally lead to slightly less polished performances but those attending this show can expect a very intense telling of Shakespeare’s story with non-stop action, a few surprises, and some excellent performances. If you cannot catch a performance at Hope Mill the production will move to Shakespeare North from 21st to 24th.

HER Productions

HER Productions is a female-led theatre company based in Manchester whose productions, from Shakespeare to brand new writing, showcase local female theatre makers. Previous annual Shakespeare productions have been Romeo and Juliette, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.

Hope Mill Theatre

Hope Mill Theatre based in an old Mill Building on Pollard Street, Manchester, presents a variety of performances including theatre, music, and comedy. The theatre also serves as a Community Hub with amateur dramatics, community choir, community orchestra and a play reading club as well as its own Theatre School offering training in musical theatre for ages 2 to 18.

FRAG (Friends of Rochdale Art Gallery) Thursday 8 June at Touchstones - Ebor Studio Littleborough Guest speaker Kara Lyons artist and director.

REVIEW By Dr Joe Dawson

Artist, director and founder, Kara Lyons gave a fascinating illustrated talk on the evolution of Ebor Studio in Littleborough. A story of creative vision, courage, and sheer hard graft.

Beginning as a 4-storey Victorian cotton mill, through to the 1970s as a plastics factory, the Ebor Mill was semi derelict about 15 years ago when Kara and her husband decided to ‘repurpose’ it.

It has evolved to accommodate a community of 17 professional painters, sculptors, sound artists, dress designers, furniture makers, video artists, ceramicists, glass makers, performers, and photographers; and houses Gallery FRANK (named after a family benefactor). It now contributes to the cultural life of the local community and beyond with contemporary exhibitions and events, including workshops and classes - see and

A delightful benefit from the potentially disastrous pandemic restrictions is a large billboard that supplies a changing openair exhibiting point 24/7. Furthermore, the rear yard has been reclaimed to give outdoor opportunities such as workshops, events and even a wildflower community garden with rhubarb, bees, and herbs.

A thrilling local powerhouse and with a recent £30K Arts Council Grant for support, let’s hope that it continues to flourish.

Thursday 13th July – FRAG visit to the Ebor Studio Littleborough from 13:00.

Please note after 12 August Touchstones will close for refurbishment for about 18 months. Watch this space for temporary arrangements.

FRAG organises talks and trips and helps to support Rochdale gallery – including contributing to acquisitions and conservation works and enabling the recently successful ‘A Tall Order’ exhibition.

Currently FRAG meets every second Thursday:

13:00 coffee and biscuits and meet up - 13:30 speaker.

All welcome – entry £4 Members £3

Annual membership £10

Contacts: Chair Jenny Buckley 01706 358686 or Touchstones 01706 924492


Sunday 25 June

South Pennine Singers

This is South Pennine Singers' third visit to Littleborough, and their first to Hare Hill House.

They are a long-established 4-part choir, based in Burnley and conducted by Sue Temperley, a Littleborough resident.

They will be performing a variety of songs to entertain you, along with one or two instrumental solos too.

Light refreshments will be served afterwards.


Phone: Sue Temperley 07778 422747


Hare Hill House, Hare Hill Park, Hare Hill Road, Littleborough OL15 9HE

Tuesday 27 June

Eid Bazaar

Join the Banqueting Hall for a family evening as they prepare for Eid with lots of stalls selling food, mehndi, desserts, perfumes, hijabs, clothing, snacks and treats for all the family.

All stall enquiries to Tasneem on 07837 828754.


3pm until late

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

Wednesday 28 June

Wednesday Art Group

The weekly Art Club will regularly explore a variety of topics using collage, drawing, painting, and mixed media drawing from Touchstones Rochdale’s current exhibitions and the borough’s collections. All materials will be provided.

The sessions are designed to reduce stress, build confidence, and meet others through creativity.

Creative Health and Well Being Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation based in Rochdale. They run art sessions that are informal and relaxed whilst ensuring the topics are informative and help participants to build skills.




Touchstones Gallery Rochdale, The Esplanade, Rochdale OL16 1AQ

Wednesday 28 June

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Away battle at Padiham PC.

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.

£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 28 June

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Music from 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

An oasis of positivity supporting individual and community wellbeing.

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