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Information is posted virtually every day,
regardless of what the date counter says, unless –

I’ve been wondering: does Alex Turner
really sound more and more like Bowie?



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Orbis 183, Spring

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

Front cover artwork: ‘Dragonflies First Flight’ by Amanda Dagg
back cover, detail from image:

Who wouldn’t love to know More About the Marmoset? Fortunately,
Max Gutmann can explain. 
And why is Alex Josephy writing
On Not Going into the Garden? It’s a Gift,
says Sarah Lindon, like creating poems such as Julie Maclean’s Light Wave
and Particles of Icarus
and John Timothy Robinson: A Keepsake
in Handfuls of Memory Eart
Or even when you know things like
This is how it feels before the rain, as Ben Macnair tells us.
Meanwhile, Yvonne Adami can be discovered Walking the Merri,
whilst Katherine Swett 
is a Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.
Mark Carson however reveals the grim details 
of being an Apprentice;
like John-Christopher Johnson, think Frankenstein
On that rather dark note,
let us reassure you there’s plenty here to make you Smile
thank you,
Lorna Sherry; you’re sure to enjoy this issue,
along with Grahaeme Barrasford Young – Because I say so.
And finally, or rather, with Tony Hendry,
simply And

Featured Poet
, Judith Shaw: Greek Juggernaut; genuine middle eastern sculpture;
it helps somehow; There are more fences now

Poems from Lucía Orellana-Damacela, Rain Noir:
Zebulon Huset, Of Chivalry and Chance;
Ed Jones, When Jesus Spoke to the Elephants;
Mary Makofske, Creation/Apocalypse;
Hannah Stone, ‘How unpleasant to meet Mr Eliot’;
Martin Zarrop, Sleepers

Prose from Jim Meirose, The Burning Bush;
Luba Ostashevsky, People are crazy;
Lorna Sherry, Smile

Past Master: Eamonn Lynskey on Eugene Lee Hamilton

Reviews by Maria Isakova Bennett, Philip Dunkerley, David Harmer,
Afric McGlinchey, 
D. A. Prince, Andrew Taylor, Lynne Taylor and Noel Williams

Contributors also include

John Arnold; Anne Ballard ; Stephen Clarke; Jim Conwell;
Nigel Ford; Paul Francis; 
Pauline Hawkesworth; Richard Hughes;
Paula Jennings; Lindy Newns; John Perrault; 
Anne Rees;
Peter Viggers; F. J. Williams; Nicky Winder

Shrek: The Musical    

Liverpool EmpireShrek5a096c19-e350-436c-8cf7-68e8c0a864a8

June 13-23

On tour until January 6


What a pantomime – is it really possible for such a transformation, to make a cartoon film into a successful musical? Hell, yes. After all, if somebody can run the gamut from nun to doctor’s wife to royalty… Princess Fiona has you wanting to google another word for ‘feisty’, and you’re full of

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A Little Night Music

May 5-July 8



Some people may feel that a musical is a lot of songs interrupted by the plot whilst others suspect it’s the plot which has t o endure people bursting into song all over the place. Sondheim, bless him, always seems to get it right, perhaps not least in

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April 10-14

On tour until June

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella

Liverpool Empire

Reviewed for North West End; a version of which is on their website:



On tour until June

A little bit disco, a little bit rock n’ roll – as Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo’s Arts Editor pointed out to me: ‘Not really ballet at all. It’s Matthew Bourne. It’s a show.’

And so it is.

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April 10-14

The Last Ship

Liverpool PLayhouse

On tour until July

A version of this review is on the Northern Soul website:


You could say it looks like Sting’s ship has come in with this production… yes, far too many maritime metaphors spring to mind, rather as words and language do for Adrian Sanderson (Charlie Richmond), the intellectual docker. And there’s a fine line between archetype and stereotype, so we also

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March 27-31

Hard Times

Liverpool PLayhouse

On tour until May 26


Oh dear, turns out this does what it says on the can. As it happens, a long time ago, my son, a huge Dickens fan, suggested the book would serve as an excellent introduction to the Great Man although not at all sure I did read it. But what do I know about Dickens? Precious little probably, and to generalise: cariactures rather than characters; bizarre nomenclature; inclination to sentimentality; sorrowful demises.

Northern Broadsides, perhaps not surprisingly, have chosen to frame this adaptation using circus scenes, and thank goodness for that, because their trademark use of music at least helped to liven things up. The remaining scenes take place largely in the Gradgrind and the Bounderby households – and there’s an apposite choice of name; not giving too much of the game away to note a link to ‘bounder’. Going one step further, they are abundant, what with flaky Tom Gradgrind, the chancer, Mr Harthouse and creepy Bitzer, the odious Mrs Sparsit being the female version.

Scenery and props are pretty minimal, likewise, special effects, but the costumes, from the prosperous to the poverty stricken, are well done, and particularly attractive for the showgirls.What is distinctly unattractive is the exploitation of the remarkable Louise Gradgrind (lovely performance from Vanessa Schfield), oppressed by father, then by husband. The audience actually hisses Bounderby’s initial approaches when she is, as Mrs S describes her ‘a chit’. And, finally, having always gone well out of her way to help him, disgracefully ungrateful brother, convincingly played by Perry Moore. Other undesirables include Howard Chadwick as the bombastic Bounderby, and Andrew Prince, who does however pull off a conflicted Gradgrind exceedingly well, and probably in contrast to the blustering chap Rutter may well have been in a seemingly tailor made role – ah no, wait a minute; spoilt for choice, perhaps he’d have gone for Bounderby in the end? Back to Mr Prince, who manages to gain our sympathy when realizing the error of his ways, as well as in virtually adopting Sissy, a spirited performance from Suzanne Ahmet; in effect, we get two heroines for the price of one.

The first half didn’t half seem to go on a bit, to the extent that the subplot was somewhat hard to follow and thus not particularly gripping, with Steven Blackpool, although admirably played by Anthony Hunt, and Rachael (Victoria Brazier), in a doomed relationship. But a strking transformation into Mrs Sparsit, whom it was cheering to see get her comeuppance; an obsequious sneak, yet convinced she was so superior to all those around her. Meanwhile, Darren Kuppan dishes out a double blinder; two different kinds of repulsion as the despicable on the make Mr Harthouse and weirdo Bitzer.

Although everything picked up a touch later on, just enough to earn 3*, tha’ts mainly on the strength of Northern Broadsides: good company, shame about the play, basically. But fair enough, they must be nearly as popular as Dickens himself, and even if I found this a bit of a tedious evening, vibrant enough to go down well with the audience.

Dempsey and Windle Competition


ENTER ONLINE FROM D&WPublishing website:


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Reviewed for North West End; shorter version appears on their website:

March 6-10


The Musical

Chester Storeyhouse

On tour until November


A production based on a National Treaure could alas, end up bland, perhaps boring. After all, nobody ever had a bad word to say about the

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The Great Gatsby

February 22 – March 25

The Great Gatsby

Theatr Clwyd and Guild of Misrule co-production

The Dolphin Hotel, Mold


Well, this is great fun – as long as you check the small print on your life assurance: up and down rickety stairs; in and out of a dilapidated pub’s crumbling rooms. Then hugging the walls during the fight, chase and dancing scenes.

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March 13-17

On tour until April 21

The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales

Liverpool PLayhouse


Not too bold a claim, saying that many Knee High productions are pure magic. And not too great a step to their coming up with something based on

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