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March 19 -22
Teignmouth Poetry Festival 2020
Featuring: Liz Berry, Hannah Lowe, Inua Ellams, Vanessa Kisuule and many others
Festival details:
Tickets available from:

February 4-8

An Inspector Calls

Liverpool Playhouse

On tour until May 23


Make no mistake, this is most bizarre, so much so, that comes an announcement early on requesting the audience to leave the building, no mad rush for the exit because everybody assumed it was to do with the play. As if that didn’t provide more than enough drama for one night….

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Fancy a closer look?

Introductory offer: 2 back issues for just £7, down from £5 each,
and that includes p+p: £1.60 (saving £3) –
because reading magazines helps judge the best match with your work
in order to maximize publication opportunities.

Overseas, 2 back issues: £16 (€18/$22),
down from £10 each, saving £4

NB, ‘back issues’ does what it says on the can,
ie here, it doesn’t mean current and previous issue
because they’re still on sale,
although most issues sell out pretty swiftly:
#170 – #173; #175- #184.

Information is posted at regular intervals,
regardless of what the date counter says
(because I keep forgetting to update it), unless –

I’m busy thinking, finally got to the bottom
of Deadwater Fell but rather disappointing;
not many sympathetic characters, were there?

Subs: £18/4 pa. Single issue: £5, all including p+p

Overseas:  £40/€50/$60. Single issue: £11/€14/$16

NB, cheques payable to me, not to ORBIS.

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Orbis 190

£5 (Overseas: £11/€14/$16); Subs: £18/4 pa (Overseas: £40/€50/$60)

Front cover artwork: ‘Gaia’, Luke Jerarm, photograped by Peter Raymond
back cover, detail from image:

It’s a whole new world out there – and in here, and like Bianca Pellet,
that must give you
Hope, especially when the … pearl-coloured morning
(Dawn Gorman) is slowly giving way to brighter skies, if not quite as early as
Mike Bedford,
at 2 am. And we cover some BIG themes, like Jami Macarty
and Leviathan… Moving swiftly on, since David Heidenstam is discussing
Improbabilitiesyou may want to know  more about Clown’s crossing by
Caroline Price, how cute is Foxy (Christina Buckton), and why 
Ralph Mold
is writing about the life in
BrianNot only that, if you are intrigued,
like Alessio Zanelli,  about The Missing Words,
well, maybe James B. Nicola knows how to find the answer:
One Reason Why I Use a Big Old Dictionary.
Or look up something just as fascinating in this issue:

Featured Poet,
Ian McDonough: (The Windows; Family Tree; Man in a Puddle; Fishertown; Montana

Poems from
Ciaran Buckley, These Witchmen; Dawn Gorman,This pearl-coloured morning;
Jo Peters, I know you don’t read poetry but…; Estill Pollock, Cat;
Sabyasachi Nag, How to Interpret a Dream?;
Lois Roma-Deeley, Night Driving with Narcissus and Echo

Prose from

Cat Campbell, What moves the river; Gaby Fulda, The Master;
Carsten Smith-Hall, Never give up

Past Master

Merryn Williams on Arthur Symons


James B. Nicola on Snow in the Suburbs by Thomas Hardy

Reviews by Maria Isakova Bennett, David Harmer, Clairr O’Connor, D. A. Prince,
Theresa Sowerby, Lynne Taylor
and Noel Williams

Orbis 190 contributors also include

Veronica Beedham; Glenn Bradford; Arthur Broomfield; Peter Burrows;
Terese Coe; Gail Dendy; Andy Eycott; Robin Gilbert; Paul Green;
Pauline Hawkesworth; Andrew Heath; Lance Lee; MaryEllen Letarte;
Sheila Martin; 
Mark Paffard; Jo Peters; Tanya Prudente; Donna Pucciani ;
Gwen Sayers; Pam Stocker; Robin Lindsay Wilson; Dorothy Yamamoto


Peter Pan


December 21-January 12

Reviewed for Writebase:


Storyhouse of course enters into Christmas spirit full blast with this first class adaptation of an old classic. The aerial feats are absolutely amazing (balanced by the characters’ frequent descents below stage), as is the entire design, exquisitely realised via setting, music and costume. What’s not to like, especially having Tinker Bell upgraded to virtually partnering Peter Pan and Captain Hook played by a woman.

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November 11-16

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Liverpool Playhouse


It was a dark and stormy night… back in 1816, the Year Without Summer, when Byron challenged his companions to write something to rival a German ghost story. Fruitful indeed, considering Dr Polidori’s tale of The Vampyre seems to have influenced Stoker’s Dracula. And curious that neither Byron himself nor Shelley were able to conjure anything up, while it turned out to be Mary Shelley’s claim to fame

Yes, here we are again, and yet another Gothic production, but this time, there’s a distinctly modern sensibility as Ms Shelley herself is narrating, commentating, and smashing up the Fourth Wall. Eillidh Loan whirls around the stage, hefty book clutched under her arm like a Journal, doing a splendid job, part emo teenager, part junior version of Fleabag, if rather flippant at times. One suspects that Mary Shelley, undoubtedly precocious, was altogether more serious and sophisticated.

But what an impressive set, visually stunning, which, mostly in monochrome, imbues a dream-like atmosphere. A window-lined gallery also serves at the opening as the prow of Walton’s ship in the Arctic wastes. Throughout the play, access to this level is gained by stylized, wizened trees, although being white does bedeck a cheerful hint of Christmas. The stark whiteness, nonetheless, is becomingly set off by black costumes, mostly World of Leather. However, the Monster is clad in flesh coloured long johns which emphasises his vulnerability – Michael Moreland is quite remarkable, combining stilted jerky motion with, almost literally, heart on sleeve emotions. For all his atrocious deeds, he still engages our sympathies. Likewise, Mary’s; fascinated and fearful, facing up to what it is which she in fact created.

Now I must confess never, somehow, having got round to reading the actual book although I have seen a couple of adaptations, and the film of the RSC production, but of course, all versions are different so some aspects seem new, or least, have you racking your brain. Or turning to Google… But one particularly interesting interpretation is that Mary Shelley and the brilliant young scientist Victor Frankenstein are drawn almost as two sides of the same coin, so driven and so passionate, almost as if they have collaborated in writing this epic tale. Ben Castle Gibb, obsessed, frenetic, has also met his match in the monster, both so good at portraying Father and Son, Creator and Creation, Hunter and Hunted, both doomed never to find peace.

On the other hand, Sarah Macgillivray was perhaps a little too much over the top to endow Justine with sufficient pathos while Thierry Mabonga, called upon to provide some variety as the Captain, younger brother William and old friend Henry, as the last, seemed mostly focused on the importance of being earnest. There again, Dr Frankenstein would not have been the easiest of people to deal with. Hence Natalie McCleary’s delicate turn as exasperated fiancée, Elizabeth. And Greg Powrie as the sombre, down-to-earth father, appropriately, helped to hold the whole thing together.

The purpose of this production, as announced by its heroine is to be the ultimate in horror stories, although in trying a bit too hard and a bit too loud to emphasise that, it tends to undermine questioning the morality of the experiments made by men of science. But Frankenstein is indeed an astonishing story. The eponymous doctor brought the dead to life but it was a clever young woman who animated something revolutionary, and that has proved to be the enduring stuff of legend.

Reviewed by Carole Baldock

November 11

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

A new version for Storyhouse by Glyn Maxwell

October 5-19

Storeyhouse, Chester

Reviewed for North West End:


It’s the classic horror trio, Dracula, Frankenstein (ok, the monster – or is it?) and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Well, quartet then, perhaps. And maybe the most memorable. Everybody understands what is meant by a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality. So no pausing for exposition, and you’re immediately

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Tour ends in London, November 29 – February 1

October 14-19


Liverpool Playhouse

Reviewed for Writebase:


‘Life is a minestrone’, the song says, as indeed is Amélie’s: rich and full of variety. But something of a mishmash. Just like this musical, much of which I found difficult to follow, the dialogue being, naturellement, in a heavy French accent (if nearer Welsh occasionally, for some strange reason). It was

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September 24-28

Little Miss Sunshine

Liverpool Playhouse

Reviewed for


The American Road Trip is the stuff of legend, while dysfunctional families are hell on earth, all around the earth, mostly when in pursuit of their dreams. Put them together, in a clapped out camper van, on a more than likely futile quest, and what can possibly go wrong? And in a musical…

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August 21-26

The Cynthia Lennon Story

Hope Street Theatre

A version of this review appears on Writebase:


This girl was a fascinating, intelligent, beautiful woman, a talented artist who happened to be married to John Lennon – if ever a person could be said to ‘live in interesting times’ as the alleged Chinese curse has it, it was Cynthia Lennon.

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American Idiot

July 9-13American-Idiot-tt-1400x700

Liverpool Playhouse


And just who is the idiot? The amiable, artless Will (Samuel Pope), who gets his girlfriend pregnant and ends up stuck at home? The one who escapes to the big city and becomes trapped by drugs? Or the third one, who’s unlucky enough to join the army and lose a leg (and has a lobotomy;

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