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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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Orbis 189, Autumn 2019

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, will Ocado top the poll
again this year for worst customer service?

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 189 (Autumn)

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

Front cover artwork: ‘The Silent room’ by Van Renselar
back cover, detail from image:

Do not despair…

We may be going less than gently into the darkest part of the year,
taking too much of a Forward Step along with Elizabeth McSkeane,
but like
Harry Gallagher, best keep Clutching At Dreams because it’ll soon be
you-know-what, and that could mean Pass the parcel with Alison Chisholm,
raising a
Toast with Liz Byrne – and a few Presents from Michael Swan.
But some of you may perhaps follow Rob Walton’s lead, making Assignations,
while others, 
as Linda King suggests, could make themselves useful mending; no,
not those kind of Seams, from Tracey Hope but what Laura Potts is telling us about
The Body Broken. Or finding out  about Samuel Prince’s Olympus Camera Rupture
and Martin Bennett’s Staffordshire Macwhirr.
Yes, it may be cold outside but you can always escape into the warmth of Orbis.

Featured Poet
Gerður Kristný
: Anne Frank; Triumph; Ægisíða; God; North

Poems from:

Jan Ball, Not sharing at Yoshu;
Alexander Hand, White sesame seeds, about two pounds;
Heikki Huotari, Confirmed; Beth McDonough,Yet another riddle of strange states;
Ann van Wijgerden, Elephantine

Prose from

Sari Pauloma;The Train Arrived; David McVey, Offending the Senses;
Mark Reece, Boy

Translation, Judith Wilkinson: Toon Tellegen, Wat Ik van een gedicht verwacht
and Woorden die hij niet kan schrijven

Past Master: Peter Viggers on Cesar Vallejo

Article: ‘The Spring And Fall In A Writer’s Step’ by Will Daunt

Reviews: Maria Isakova Bennett, Ross Cogan, Philip Dunkerley, David Harmer,
Clairr O’Connor, D. A. Prince, Theresa Sowerby
and Andrew Taylor

Orbis 189 Contributors also include

Alex Barr; Jill Boucher; Brian Docherty; Peter Ebsworth; Joel Robert Ferguson;
Anas Hassan; Alistair Heys; Nigel Jarrett; Carl Nelson; Mhairi Owens;
Khadija Rouf; Frances Sackett; Hermione Sandall; John Short

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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Club Tropicana

July 1- 6

Liverpool Empire

Reviewed for Writebase


Not one but two pairs of star-crossed lovers; a case of mistaken identity; unrequited love; hero with a fatal flaw…no, this is not Shakespeare. Nor, for that matter, as I had fondly imagined, a biography of Wham. My companion reckoned it was most like Benidorm in fact. I’d have called it a Summer

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Mslexiathumbnail_Orbis 14 page Mslexicon

July 12-14

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