The Greater Manchester Fringe first took place in 2012 with 6 different venues and a handful of shows in each. Since then the Greater Manchester Fringe has grown each year with more performances, more ticket sales and more venues taking part… that was until the coronavirus shut them down in 2020. But now they’re back for 2021 with a jam-packed programme of performances across Greater Manchester venues… and I’m delighted to say that the annual Hannah’s Bookshelf Greater Manchester Fringe Special is also back! On this week’s show I’ll be hearing from some of the writers, producers, directors and performers who are taking part in the 2021 festival.
The broadcast details (including the link to listen online) are at the bottom of this post, but here’s what’s coming up on the show…
1868. Victorian England is hitting its stride and there’s money to be made in the grim north. ‘Where there’s muck there’s brass.’ And places don’t come any muckier than Manchester. Nor people any brassier. Drawn from historical records and personal memoirs, the play follows Detective Caminada (you may remember him from my review of Angela Buckley’s The Real Sherlock Holmes!) into a Manchester underworld of con-artists, forgers, medical quacks, imposters, pickpockets, and revolutionary anarchists, dispensing single-minded and unwavering justice as he goes. I spoke to Eddie Capli and Ryan Mulvey from Pact Productions to find out more.
A multimedia journey about two friends emerging as artists after decades of work and within the confines of lockdown. The journey focuses on the last year of their artistic endeavour and how it has enabled years of creativity to come together as a performance. The performance involves self-penned urban folk tunes, experimental improvisations, AI, images and video. There is no escaping the political element and the impact of recent years on feelings about being English. The performance hopes to be postcard for those whose future experience of history will not be that written by the forgone political winners. I caught up with the mysterious C to hear more about the performance.
I Remain is a one act drama by Starry Night Theatre Productions and is based on the true story of the writer’s great, great, grandfather, Private Harry Hayes of the Manchester Pals 17th Battalion of the First World War. The play follows the story of Will, Harry’s great-great-grandson, a rebellious teenage boy struggling to come to terms with his demons. Whilst staying at his grandma Ada’s house to escape the troubles he faces at home, he stumbles across a box of old photos. Amongst the photos he finds an old picture of a soldier, Harry Hayes. Along with the photo, Will finds a stack of letters written by Harry whilst in the trenches in France in 1916. Will becomes absorbed into these letters and Harry is once again brought to life through the words of the past. Writer and director Parissa Zamanpour, and cast members Callum Jones, Adam Perrott and Julia Lacey will be talking about the play on today’s show.
One woman. One unspeakable crime. It’s 1987 and Shirley Jones is on trial for murder. Based on a true story, Jordan, by Anna Reynolds, is a powerful and profoundly moving play that asks difficult questions about what we can forgive in the name of motherly love. I spoke to Sara from Easy Company to find out more.
After being in exile in Scotland for more than a year, Scott McPherson naturally chose the Greater Manchester Fringe 2021 as his first destination outside of Scotland. Scott has used his time in exile to put together a comedy show, which shows the inner workings of Scott’s mind. In his debut Greater Manchester Fringe 2021 show, Scott interrogates everyday experiences with a comedy twist. Scott McPherson spoke to Hannah’s Bookshelf to tell us more about his Fringe show.
Patricia’s coming out… of Marlene Dietrich’s suitcase! With the all-important wig, the songs and suits, the sequins and suspenders. Comic and poignant solo cabaret. Fast-moving – like Dietrich’s long line of lovers. She brings cross-dressing Marlene to life before your very eyes. Hear about Patricia’s adventures on tour with a legend, and some back stage secrets … And meet the woman who was way ahead of her time, bisexual icon who answered to nobody – not even Adolf Hitler! Award-winning writer and performer brings you ‘glamour, sex – and a penchant for men’s clothing …’ Yes, trailblazing Patricia and Marlene are up-and-running again! I spoke to writer and performer Patricia Harthorne about Dressing Up Dietrich.
Jimmy Vandenberg works in his garage in downtown Detroit, fixing the ‘old beauties’ from his youth – the Mustangs and the Thunderbirds. But Jimmy is a troubled guy as he prepares to return to Vietnam where he served more than fifty years ago. It’s as if part of him never left; so he’s going back to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. Leaving Vietnam is the new one-man show by Richard Vergette, the award-winning playwright whose previous work in Manchester includes As We Forgive Them and An Englishman’s Home. I talked to Richard to find out more about the play.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Toxic follows two men and the circumstances which have caused them to spiral. Andy discovers his husband has been having an affair. Stuck in a soul-crushing job, his lifejacket of love was the only thing keeping him afloat. His best friend James is a man’s man, who uses gags to disguise his vulnerability. Will the toxic culture of silence and stoicism swallow them too? Or by opening the conversation, can they escape the clutch of their demons? Their lives are not the only lives at stake. I heard from writer Dan Lovatt and director Connor Goodwin about their sold-out show.
Following an onstage scandal, James retires from stand-up comedy, only to be offered a surprise comeback gig at a secret London location. Accepting, he finds himself plunged into a wild and sordid gathering of the British political class. It’s the toughest gig of his career and one he may not escape from with his life. Absurd political storytelling from Max Turner Prize finalist James Harris (‘assured stage presence’, TNT Comedy), perfect for those who like their comedy satirical, outrageous and just plain bizarre. An antidote to our ongoing political meltdown. Comedian James Harris talks to Hannah’s Bookshelf today about what we can expect from the show.
This immersive theatrical experience juxtaposes a party atmosphere with a dark, sombre and, at times, unsettling plot. Sophie has organized a surprise 80s party for her parents and you are invited! The party flashes back and forward in time from 1989 to the present exploring different character’s memories of what happened that night when Alex met Nick. Each flashback gives clues that unleash a terrible secret, a mystery unraveling, a night some would rather forget. If Alex and Nick are to continue their relationship they need to tackle the demons from the past. I spoke to Beccy Durham of Falling Stars Theatre to find out more.
Join three adventurers on an incredible journey, searching for the moonshine, myth and madness of the American Wilderness. An evening of stories and songs. Tales of outlaws, ghost towns, the emigrant, the doomed lover, the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, real and imagined. Written from the nitty-gritty experience of months-long treks and road trips, off the main strip, along the backwoods and byways of the southern states of America, Steve Bonham and The Long Road bring to life the songs and stories from their acclaimed American Wilderness Odyssey album and its companion book. Their music is definitely acoustic but of a powerful and stirring kind. Big melodies and great riffs abound and the stories they wrap round them are intimate and expansive, funny and moving. The Long Road consist of Steve Bonham, the Vagabond Philosopher, Kev, the ‘Big Man’ Moore and Chris ‘the Bishop’ Lydon, all desperados seeking some kind of redemption, and all joining me on Hannah’s Bookshelf to talk about American Wilderness Odyssey!
As we move forward into what we hope is a more inclusive and embracing world, the B of LGBTQ+ is still regularly left silent, particularly when it comes to men. Three Way explores some of the many misconceptions about bisexual men, whether they really exist, whether they are as promiscuous as the internet says, and whether they can even be trusted. Three Way is a collection of three monologues, two from the point of view of bisexual men, Michael and Guy, and one from Clara, the daughter of a bisexual father. Collectively these monologues explore topics of identity, regret, shame and love across a spectrum of life experiences and ask the questions ‘is it ever too late to accept who you are’, ‘is there ever room for ethics in a relationship based on physical touch’, and ‘do we ever really forget the ones who hurt us first?’. We’ll be joined by Alexander Millington, Creative Director of Split Infinitive, to learn more.
In a flat above a chippy, Mark and Ange live a life of cynicism, promiscuity, and monotony. The two queer friends seem to be an inseparable duo, but we see their friendship challenged by new relationships, envy, and miscommunication. Sour Milk is an original, heartfelt, kitchen-sink drama traversing the effects of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s Manchester. I’ll be joined on the show by Oliver Hurst of Red Brick Theatre to hear more about the play.
A witty and heartbreaking monologue about Alice, as she returns home on the hottest day of the year to say a difficult and untimely goodbye. One that will leave a hole in her life forever. The Same Rain That Falls on Me is a new piece of writing from new graduate theatre company Autumn Theatre. Alice is in her final year of university and is facing the impending loss of her father to cancer, set against the backdrop of the hottest day of the summer and climate protests, she returns home to be with her family in this difficult time. Same Rain deals with issues of grief, climate change, growing up, and family. I spoke to Katie Marks of Autumn Theatre to find out more.
Two plays by Selina Helliwell… The Formidable Lizzie Boone will pull you into her world for a night of drama, healing and dark humour. Centred around a therapists office, this one-woman show explores the intricacies of humanity through a woman who loves vodka with lemonade and a cat called Lionel. With lively voice-overs bringing to life an array of characters from soothing therapist Marie to wild child Debz, amongst others, this play is bursting with soul and humanity. And Fruit Salad, one of GMF’s Digital Events for 2021, follows Cherry and Peaches who became friends because of their unusual, fruity names; and went on to form a very close bond over the years. From their late teens until their late twenties, they meet at the same pub to catch up over cheap wine. Over the course of the play, their paths start to spiral away from each other, as they go through the challenges of university, relationship issues and one of them struggles with substance abuse and her mental health, which fractures their friendship. Fruit Salad blends heartbreaking moments with humour to create a love story of sorts about an unlikely but beautiful friendship.
Simon Says is brought to you from the incredible mind of Simon. Religious leader. Saviour. God. Let him show you the joy he can bring to your lives as we follow four ungrateful followers through this parable of hubris, discontent and ingratitude. After growing tired of his less than lavish lifestyle, 458 decides to rebel against Simon. Trying to convince his fellow believers to join him on his journey to liberation. However due to their respective blind loyalty, apathy and stupidity, he struggles to get everyone on the same page. On top of their dysfunction, all the good things Simon has done for them and everything Simon has saved them from, keep popping up. A comedy that blends depth and frivolity, Simon Says will make you laugh, rejoice and exclaim “I love you Simon.” I caught up with All Day Breakfast Theatre Company to find out more.
Sian Parry-Williams has created her own little world of eccentric, comical and relatable characters based on her very own family members and real life experiences with them. She shares all the funny and ridiculous things her relatives say and do through the world of audio. They just could not be made up. From a little, old, North Welsh lady who has had enough of Bread of Heaven, to an uptight Reverend who must keep up appearances, and to a Mum who just tries so hard to be ‘hip n happening’ but ultimately… fails. Be transported to a world of giggles and lightheartedness that we all need right now. These characters are lovable, hilarious and most of all relatable and real. And Sian is sure they will remind you of your own relatives. Hence the title.
ConeBoy is a music, spoken-word, and drama show from writer and musician Clive Parker-Sharp – ConeBoy: The Punk Rock Musical. Clive was at the forefront of the British punk movement, with such bands as Spizz Energi, Athletico Spizz 80, The Members, and a founder member of 80s rockers Big Country. He also played with Jesus and Mary Chain spinoff The Expressway, and in collaborations with art rocker Marshall Star. As an author he brings his second book, the semi-autobiographical ConeBoy, alive with collaborator Marshall Star, in a funny, poignant and cutting take on the media from the 70s to now, via the lens of a boy made famous because of his appearance. A book event like no other! We’ll hear from Marshall Star on the show to learn more about ConeBoy.
John Darwin’s Happy Hour is a poetic celebration of the journey from childhood to middle age. The people and places that bring happiness in between the drudgery of work, miserable mondays and unwanted obligations. From schoolboy boozing to OAPs battling on mobility scooters, via West Wales, Manchester, Istanbul and all points in between, the show is a search for love and belonging in the dullness and futility of everyday life. I caught up with poet John Darwin to find out more.
and… Subdural Hematoma
The Greater Manchester Fringe runs from 1st-30th September, so the shows will be underway by the time the Hannah’s Bookshelf Special airs. In fact, I’ll already have seen my first show of the year! As in previous years, I’m going to be reviewing GM Fringe shows for North Manchester FM throughout September. On today’s show, you can hear my first review… Eleanor May Blackburn‘s Subdural Hematoma is on at Salford Arts Theatre on Friday 3rd September at 7.30pm. Find out what I thought of it on Saturday’s show!
Catch the show on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).
Missed the show? You can catch it again here: