A Christmas Carol at North West Theatre Arts Company

Winter’s not for me. Much rather stay in my cosy Grinch cave. Instead I’m at NWTAC’S theatre on Lightbowne Rd. Brrrrr. It’s an icy wind blowing up my pants so I slip inside, get straight to the bar, glug my wine, toss the glass over my shoulder and saunter to my seat.

Ebenezer Scrooge, my distant relative, is star of the show. Got to show willing. Bah!

Curtain goes up to reveal a truly miserable street housing his dark, dismal abode. It’s misty, spooky even – perfect. I manage to withhold my glee until the man himself appears on the stage. My heart wells up to find he’s as miserly an old geezer as a miserly old geezer could be. Wonderful! I nod, smugly, at my fellow audience.

Then, before you know it, singing and dancing. What’s up with these people? I tried to put my fingers in my ears. Tried to stop them. But they just kept doing it. Singing…and dancing? Utter ruination. Bah!

Then it happened. I started to chuckle. Once I start to chuckle that’s it. Game over.

The ghosts of Christmas Yet Come, of Christmas Past and Christmas Present were universally brilliant. So funny they blew my socks off. The supporting cast were superb and the whole show expertly put together.

Acting, singing and dancing aside it’s the attention to detail that never fails to impress. The costumes were perfect from the top hats and floppy bedtime caps, down to the buckled shoes and soft leather boots. Sound effects and special effects created the perfect atmosphere for each scene. Bright colourful lights danced with the razzmatazz, spot lights caressed the tender duets and soft shadows enhanced more sombre moments.

Make-up turned Gareth Maudsley’s face into an old Scrooge’s so well that you didn’t give his true age a second thought. His deliverance of the role was fabulous. Even I felt sorry for him. Briefly.

As usual, the NWTAC team put their own clever spin on this traditional Christmas play. The story telling was up-beat and perfect, sending a message that applies as much today as it did when Dickens first penned it.

Two or so hours passed in no time. I didn’t want it to end.

“Some people are just born with jazz hands, aren’t they?” someone said as I chuckled my way out into the night.

I admired my long green hairy sprouting fingers. Ah, they must mean me.

Details of this and upcoming productions at NWTAC are on their website here. You can sign up for their newsletter or follow them on Facebook.

Also, keep an eye out for them over the coming weeks. They’ll be performing at the Moston Community Annual Event at Moston Green (outside St Dunstans Church) on 30th November and leading carols at Failsworth Lower Memorial Park on 10th December.

Happy 10th birthday NWTAC

I’ve seen some excellent performances by North West Theatre Arts Company (NWTAC) but ’10’ is special. It’s a compilation of hits, scenes and dance routines celebrating the decade since they were formed.The show kicked off with the full company belting out Reet Petite to an energetic dance routine. It’s a great way to start because it does two things. First, it grabs the audience. Second, it breaks the ice for the cast. That’s important for the newest members of NWTAC theatre school, especially if it’s their first time in front of a live audience.

Nerves dispelled, they slipped in and out of subsequent numbers as if they’d whipped the ruby slippers off Judy Garland when she wasn’t looking.

A further 47 numbers followed – 47! Blockbuster show stoppers, dances, romantic duets, rock songs, the lot. I was delighted to hear some from my favourites from shows like Phantom of the Opera and Joseph and the films Oliver Twist, Annie and Grease.

The cast delivered with confidence and commitment and when the Musical Director herself took to the stage you could see why. Beth Singh treated us to a medley of songs from ‘Little Voice’ with true quality.

It’s difficult to pick individuals out as they were all so good but ‘Summer Nights’ performed by Phoebe Sutherland and Owen Omoruyi-Garcia was awesome and deserves a special mention. Phoebe had Olivia Newton John down to perfection. Also Solomon Asante-Owusu and Elton Amoateng (and ‘the boys’) performed ‘Mysterious Girl’ cheekier than Peter Andre ever did. And Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ by Jonny Molyneux and Poppy Evans was amazing. I could go on.

There were lesser known songs (to me at least) too. ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’ by Grace Donohue was one. Both the lyrics and Grace’s portrayal were hilarious. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to see The Book of Mormon at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. ‘Hello’ (i.e. the doorbell song) was exactly as I remember it and had us all in stitches.

You may think that the varying range, different tempos and emotions would result in some awkward transitions. Not so. Our host for the evening Jonny Molyneux has great stage presence and that special gift ‘comedy timing’. Sticking mostly to script he facilitated the changes in mood with expertise, sharing with us the story of NWTAC over the past 10 years with an expression and wit you can only marvel at.

Two hours passed by in a flash and ’10’ ended with a stirring rendition of ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables. The cast were emotional and awesome in equal measure. We swept to our feet to give them a wholly deserved standing ovation.

One year ago I stepped through the doors of NWTAC theatre, chatted for a couple of hours with Prab Singh (Director), was introduced to Mark Beaumont (Stage Manager) and given a guided tour of the building. They’d taken over what used to be the Tizer depot on Lightbowne Road 3 years earlier and transformed the space into a full on theatre.

I’ve been back many times since. Laughed, clapped, cheered and cried.

Happy 10th birthday to everyone at NWTAC. May you keep returning to the stage, singing, acting and dancing your hearts out for many years to come.

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Failsworth community making connections

On 26th September Failsworth Town Hall hosted a new event ‘Community Connection Forum’. Bit of mouthful, so what was it all about, who was there and why?

The flyer summed it up as ‘giving residents the opportunity to explore the wonderful community groups we have in Failsworth’. The emphasis was on health, wellbeing and volunteering. A good cross-section groups and organisations were represented, loaded with information on who they were and what they were about.

I like the town hall. It has a feel good factor. Built in 1880 it currently homes the local library and the fabulous Wholesome Cafe. It occupies an enviable spot alongside the Rochdale Canal but I’ve never ventured upstairs to the main function room before.There’s an air of awkwardness while people work out what the order of play is. I was late, announced my arrival by spilling water across the floor, so thank god Failsworth Community Choir hadn’t quite started. I like a choir, that feel good factor again. They kicked things off with songs like ‘Lean on Me’, ‘One Day Like This’ and successfully broke the ice.There were free cakes and biscuits as well as hot drinks on tap. I filled my boots, it’d be rude not to. Most of the stands had freebies on offer. Lucky I’d brought a carrier bag.

Wouldn’t say there was a big rush to start with but as the evening unfolded there was a definite ‘buzz’.

I looked about the room and started with the ‘Virgin Liaison’ reps. They impressed me. I’m not usually all that impressed when the pavement gets dug up. But they got across their pride in the company and a genuine keenness to connect with the public and resolve issues.

The Failsworth Growing Hub display caught my eye. It included some truly awesome photos taken by one of their members. Oh and they offered me a free selection of their produce. Straight in the bag! They meet on Thursdays at this great spot alongside the canal next to the Wholesome café…Action Together, Age UK and ROAR (Rochdale and Oldham Active Recovery) were also full of enthusiasm. I picked up a brilliant booklet listing all the activities for the over 50’s in Failsworth. Well worth a look and I reckon you can pick up a copy at the library or click here for the link.

Moston Brook Friends Group’s stand was the place to go if you like the outdoors. Lots to do, regular woodland walks and nature events a plenty.

If you’re energetic, or more to the point if you’re not, Making the First Move had some clever ideas to help you exercise more, sleep well and feel better – without spending loads of cash.There were groups offering support for people struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression, amazing to talk to and all local. The organisers are getting ready for next year’s Failsworth Carnival and have set the date, 16th and 17th May. The Girl Guides were inviting new members/volunteers and, back where we started, Failsworth Community Choir want your voice.

It was an excellent event and hopefully there will be more. If you get chance, go along and see for yourself what’s going on.  Fill your boots… oh, and take a carrier bag.

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