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Month: December 2019

Review: Scouting for Girls at Albert Hall

Written by Mia Edwards…

The year is 2015. A text appears on my phone. I am embedded in a McBusted-in-bed marathon. The text reads: For your 18th do you want tickets to see Scouting for Girls with me and my mum? 

Fast forward a month or so, and a venue in Bouremouth is filled with the melody of thousands of voices clamouring to be the lead harmony. It is feel-good galore.  

I must say, four years later, the set list is remarkably similar. The second song to be played is ‘Heartbeat’. This disappoints me slightly since it is my favourite; I would rather have the suspense of guessing when it will appear. However, it launches viewers into a euphoria that does not dwindle, even as the band begin to interweave some of their newer material with which many audience members are not yet acquainted. Clearly, most of us came for the classics. In true British form, we long to for the slightly pervy ode to posh girls with good bums. The newer music is a bit more sentimental, which the band appear to have clocked is not the desired mood. We are paying for an evening of laughter and reminiscence as an antidote to post-election blues. Certainly, Scouting for Girls deliver on this front.  

Their inclusion of the audience is what makes the show more of an immersive experience than a showcase of musical prowess. The band members are talented, but the standout moments are those that the audience involvement is incorporated into the performance. The audience demographic is hearteningly diverse; older couples stand alongside primary school students, all of whom have attended to belt out songs from their younger years. People pay to come to concerts like this as a sort of medicine. Songs overlap and are woven with songs by other well-known artists. A particularly memorable moment is when the audience are divided into two, and asked to sing ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ lyrics.  Lead singer Roy Stride begins to ‘Hound Dog’ which charmingly underlies the gleeful audience duet.  

This is not a serious event. Whilst there are moments of musical serenity, the concert is a gateway to early-adolescent reminiscence and a right laugh with some strangers. If you attended, you would have known most of the lyrics. Maybe you would have pretended not to. But they would have been on the edge of your tongue, awaiting sweet release. We cannot evade our inner Georgia Nicholson that lurches forth – gowned in an olive costume and snogging boys on beaches – when ‘She’s So Lovely’ begins to play. Scouting For Girls remain the best in British musical silliness.  



Review: Roots at HOME Theatre

Written by Jo Chitty

You would be forgiven for entering a performance of Roots at HOME, having read the necessary leaflet, and yet still having no concept of what you were about to witness. In fact, on Thursday I both entered and left a performance of Roots in a similar state of dazzled confusion. Over 65 minutes, the 1927 Theatre Company ferry the audience through an anthology of lost and obscure folk tales, translated by director Suzanne Andrada from brief descriptions into dialogue-driven vignettes. Dark, blunt, and sometimes jarring in their change of pace, the players work with a large projected screen which provides them with shifting backdrops, costumes, props and even virtual cast members. Roots has a fantastical yet playful quality which is boosted by a live musical double act, providing a rare and impressive range of instrumentals, linking animation with theatre and creating a truly energetic narrative.


The atmosphere that 1927 cultivated in Roots was, to me personally, one of quiet discomfort. It seemed to me that to chuckle along with some of the more gruesome, twisted elements of the tales, one would require a darker and somewhat stilted sense of humor. However, for what positivity it lacks in its dialogue, Roots more than makes up for in the playfulness of its choreography. The cast delivered a lively performance in keeping with the fast-paced animations, hitting mark after mark, effortlessly blending with the projections. The restrictive nature of such tight choreography lends itself well to the off-piece and blunt humor of the company. The animations themselves were diverse, visually stunning and unsettling. I found myself drawn away from the actors on more than one occasion to the corners of the projection and the smaller details of the illustration. It would have been no easy feat for animators and producers to converge the two mediums in such a coherent fashion. As a result of their work, I found there to be moments of genuinely surprising ingenuity which left me blinking wide-eyed and dazzled in my seat.


The musical element of the performance was truly integral to the experience. Two musicians stood by throughout, providing an eerie and underlying twang, acting as extras for one tale and silent observers for the next. The double act had truly impressive and inventive musical abilities. One tale about a murderous fisherman family was made all the more ethereal and haunting by a carpenters saw being played with a bow and warped into an ascending whine. As was expected, the music was in perfect synchronization with the animators and actors, marking both the tense and humorous moments with equal skill.


As a company, 1927 and its collaborators have done an excellent job of producing their style of wry and somewhat disturbed humor in Roots. Although branded as their most ‘family friendly’ show, I struggled to imagine children as the satisfied demographic. I even questioned if I had any place there myself. The older gentleman chortling loudly beside me was, perhaps, better suited to the genre they represented, having developed a fascination for the macabre which both my guest and I agreed we were sadly missing.

Review: Night Moves and Night and Day Cafe

Written by Olivia White

The Minneapolis-born Night Moves graced the very ‘on brand’ Manchester’s Night & Day Café. Having only played the ‘Cottonopolis’ once before a few years back, I was certainly cautious about the crowd they’d be able to bring on a chilly Sunday evening. However, from the second I arrived; my doubts melted away in the warmth that centred around the orange-washed stage. 

In fact, I had to weave my way through the crowd to get any way near the front as most of the fans had gathered far earlier to support Night Moves’ special guests Wovoka Gentle, who were utterly spellbinding. 

When the quirky quintet finally took to the stage, there was an air of nervous energy from the band, but this soon diffused as they were greeted by the typically British, passionate wooing and applause. Frontman Micky Alfano has a distinctively soft vocal style, certainly one that echoes an older, more soulful style of song writing. The Neil Young comparisons that Alfano seems to commonly get ring true however the musical soundscape that Night Moves concoct is more in the realm of a 60’s sounding almost psychedelia-infused folk rock. 

Night Moves effortlessly layer all of their hypnotic guitar riffs, synthesised beats and love-struck lyricism to create their euphoric and cinematic sound. Blending a mix of genres from blues, pop, rock and folk but remaining tightly within the realm of a storytelling style in vocals, it’s very easy to be transported to a totally different ‘place’ at a Night Moves live performance. At times however, the limited narrative in between songs did mean some of their songs did merge into each other and I was disappointing that the setlist did not include my personal favourite ‘Ribboned Skies’ which has easily made one of my top releases of the year. 

Despite this, the band’s ability to stir an ‘over the pond’ crowd like they were able to on a Sunday evening was certainly impressive, demonstrating the loyalty that their Brit-fans clung to. The incessant shouting from the crowd for song suggestions and humbling retorts from Night Moves made for a very intimate and wholesome set.


Review: Black Midi at White Hotel

Written by Olivia White

Where to even begin? 

Black Midi continue to strike awe, shock or confusion (sometimes all 3) in the eyes of those who witness their mismatch of genres, styles and eccentric vocals. However, without fail, they consistently attract cult fans to their sold-out live performances and paved their own entrance to the Mercury Awards as freak underdogs.  

Defying all expectations, utterly uprooting any genre boundaries and possessing a confident and unapologetic attitude of how they would much rather be considered “terrible than middle of the road”. Black Midi are undoubtedly one of the most fascinating musical projects of this decade. I do not often find myself with very few words after seeing a live act, but the very core of Black Midi is simply transfixing. 

With Black Midi performing at one of Manchester’s most authentic and strange spaces, the infamous ‘White Hotel’ in Salford, it first appeared that the London-born band couldn’t have been hosted at a better Northern venue. Without uttering a single word, the peculiar, oddly matched quartet strode upon the raised platform to a sea of bellowing male cries. The crowd was mostly male with the occasional female, but I was surprised to see so many older people had gathered. I would have imagined most ‘dads’ would have harnessed the response of “what is this racket” or banning such noise from the household. 

Despite a few technical issues with mics which undoubtedly were exacerbated by the fact that the venue decided to add a makeshift tent to one side of the stage which allowed the music to flow out rather than resound off the dingy walls, Black Midi firmly held their own and grasped every gaze of their onlookers in the packed out intimate ‘DIY’ space. 

Not even half a minute into their first song ‘Reggae’, their compelling drummer Morgan Simpson tore the shirt from his chest with a single arm motion before slamming back down on his seat and kicked things off with Midi’s entrancing back beat. Simpson is unlike any other drummer I have ever seen. Perhaps it is very easy to cast the drummer in a band aside with their positioning on stage and arguably lack of ability to move but boy does Simpson rip this status quo to shreds. In fact, Simpson is the driving force of the entire band displaying potent and raw energy without so much as a quiver out of line. 

Black Midi flickered between tracks from their experimental, hair raising debut album released earlier this year to volatile outbursts of guitar interludes creating an atmosphere likening the audience to mere observers of a jamming session. 

For such a long time, I’ve waited for an age defining act that will outrage as much as inspire its successors just as Zeppelin and Bowie did… Black Midi might just be it. 




Review: Blend x De Rumba Presents Pedro

By Head of Arts and Culture, Saoirse Akhtar-Farren

This Saturday evening, Lisbon met Manchester, in a collaboration named ‘Blend x De Rumba’ which certainly brought the much needed heat to Manchester.

Boiler room DJ and producer PEDRO upon his first visit to the UK, was supported by Idania Borero-Knight, also known as Miss Puerto Rico, in a vibrant and creative set that explored the depths of modern Latin rhythms, and Afro vibrations.

Blend x De Rumba was hosted at YES bar in Manchester, and it’s three alternative floors were ram packed as per usual Saturday night. Nobody had any intention to have a deep catch up with a friend; indeed, groups, singletons, and couples appeared to have only one thing on their mind – to boogie.

Beneath the enthralling chaos of the YES atmosphere, Blend x De Rumba took their stage in the basement room, and literally brought the steam rising off the dance floor.

As the sound of ABBA ‘Voulez Vous’ drowned out behind me and the rhythmic latin carnival notes pelted the entrance door, I made my way into the Basement where I was transported back to Nottinghill Carnival, but in completely the wrong outfit.

For half of the time I was envisioning myself dancing on the stage of Channel One with Miss Puerto Rico sounding the tunes behind me and feeding the good energy to the crowds.

However, when I did zone back into the Basement room of YES I was aware that no one else was sweating as much as my friend and I. In my opinion, the crowd unfortunately lacked the energy for such chest bumping music. Nonetheless, Blend x De Rumba managed to cater for both crowds, setting the scene for an upbeat social event with smaller shimmies and friendly catch ups by some.

Miss Puerto Rico and PEDRO moved in rotation. They also demonstrated great communication by producing their sets with similarities which enabled flow and a smooth transition, but still maintained a recognisable identity within their own sets that was clear for the audience to hear.

Miss Puerto Rico played more with niche but also iconic, latin sounds and dancehall bangers, whereas PEDRO teased with Techno beats and Hip-Hop lyrics that he integrated thoughtfully into the exotic rhythms of his set.

San Juan-born Idania Borrero-Knight, now based in Manchester, is a breath of fresh air to Manchester’s predominantly Techno/House and Drum ‘n’ Bass scene. Miss Puerto Rico has an inspiring music taste, and with no shame, I did try to shazam much of Borrero-Knight’s set. My only success story was one track called ‘Bum Bum Tam Tam’ by MC Fioti. Nonetheless, this tune was one of many that flirted between Soca, Merengue and Calypso sounds, as well as Baila Funk and Kuduro.

As ‘CULTUREPLEX’ poignantly states, Borrero is a “purveyor of PanLatin and Afro vibrations”. PEDRO is acclaimed as currently one of “Lisbon’s Most exciting producers”, who’s youth was largely influenced by the styles of Tarraxo, Kizomba and Kuduro. Such genres as the above have enabled PEDRO to distinguish his name at the forefront of Lisbon’s electronic revolution.

Similarly to Miss Puerto Rico, PEDRO works with a dynamic and malleable framework of music that crosses time, borders and cultures, but maintaining one similarity across all genres, ENERGY! All in all Blend x De Rumba was a huge success.

What is apparent is that Manchester as a whole is only beginning to experience such musical compilations. Nonetheless, DJs like PEDRO and Miss Puerto Rico are establishing their name in the Manchester music scene. I fortunately got to see them in a much smaller and intimate venue, but in five years time I doubt this will be the case.

Review: Plant Fetish at HOME Theatre

Written by Digby Barrowcliff

After reading the description of the play by Chanje Kunda, it was rather hard to know exactly what to expect from the performance. Collecting her thoughts, Kunda bursts into her narrative with a beaming smile and the punchy statement that wine must be one of her five a day as around each glass of has around five grapes in it! Scrolling through her news feed she is fed up of who is doing this and that, and who is recently married and who has won an award. Being a skint and sexless single mother she draws us into her wicked and humorous journey of finding the right man. Through failed Tinder dates, sparks that have fizzled out, and a typical teenage son, Chanje begins to feel fed up with life.

Sentence by sentence, she weaves her experience of living with complex PTSD and anxiety for most of her life into the monologue about her finding out about women in Mexico who are so exasperated by men that they decide to marry trees instead. A sultry dance by Chanje surrounded by her recently collected gathering of plants demonstrates her partial acceptance of this lifestyle.

Personally, I feel that she was that she attempts to offer a slightly different view on those dealing with mental difficulties; in particular, her allegory of seeing a broken plate on the ground and you: if this plate didn’t belong to you, would you care how this plate was broken? Or when it got broken? Is it your job to pick up the pieces and try and try and put it back together again? This was a brief moment of reflection for myself – and others in the audience who knows anyone with mental difficulties or is dealing with them themselves – to perceive these situations differently. Chanje demonstrates that instead of having the company of others to calm her and help her manage her anxiety and PTSD, she has her plants. Plants give nothing but pleasure and support and ease her along her journey.

Plant Fetish is a an enticing monologue and view into Chanje’s life experience; you find yourself engrossed by her poignant, yet belly-laughing performance. A simple set with Chanje surrounded by one of her loves, her plants, does the absolute trick. With this rather charming performance, what resonates with Chanje’s performance is that she has accepted what has happened and is ready for what lies ahead.

Silk Photography, Chanje Kunda

Review: The Shadow at HOME Theatre

Written by Katya Camyab

Upon watching “The Shadow,” and knowing that it was solely based on dance, I was anxious as to whether I would enjoy it due to the lack of speech. However, I can safely say that I was hooked from beginning to end, intrigued by the complexity of themes such as the power of the unconscious and desire. These themes were explored through the performers use of powerful choreography and extreme facial expression in order to convey the darker aspects of the human mind. Anthony Missen’s choreography is a triumph!


“The Shadow” follows the story of six individuals whom are spurred on by their unconscious and unknown side of their personalities. Anthony Missen explains that “The Shadow” is present within all of us. The artistic use of consistent black and white lighting, helped to explore this concept further, alluding to the light and dark aspects of an individuals mentality and the lengths in which they are willing to go to to conceal it.


As the play developed and the plot intensified, we were able to witness the darker sides of the characters onstage. This had been achieved through the use of solo pieces where the intensity of the characters unconscious and the deeper sides of their humanity had been heightened. This emotive use of intense choreography, allowed me to connect with the characters onstage and question the isolation one may experience when stripped back to one’s truest form.


There is a particular pair of cast members that I find it essential to mention as I was transfixed by them from beginning to end. Theo Fapohunda and Juliana Javier – Fapohudna executed their movements incredibly, demonstrating amazing core strength and emotional passion throughout. The lack of talking within the show intensified their relationship as it allowed the audience members to independently interpret the meaning behind the dancers’ movements.


Anthony Missen spoke to The Mancunion and explained that if we were to take one thing away from the show it would “be that everyone in the audience will spend a moment reflecting on their own shadows,” and I definitely did. The concept of “The Shadow” added an extra dimension to the play, as there had been a “shadow” for each member of the cast, dressed in all black outfits. This alluded to the aspect of our unconscious that often we want to remain unseen. Therefore, it was effective that the use of costume had been incorporated in order to facilitate this concept and deeper meaning.


Often I found it difficult to concentrate whilst watching dance pieces due to the lack of speech. However, I was glued to the characters onstage throughout. The complex choreography and the use of lighting particularly the incorporation of “the shadow,” allowed the audience to always have something to focus on and be intrigued by. The Shadow is continuing its UK tour until the 30th November 2019 at HOME and I urge you to go and see it!