A Night at the Theatre

A Night at the Theatre

True North and Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough, Halifax

Having a night out, dinner and a show, and a chance to escape some of the realities of everyday life, is still something of a novelty after the last two years. The whole evening at Dean Clough, Halifax provided that escapism in a way that felt effortless and yet relaxed and welcoming at the same time.

Dean Clough itself feels like one of those ‘Hidden Gems’ people seem to so fondly speak of, although in this case, what a gem it is! As Halifax appears to be getting more recognition with some of its beautiful heritage assets, Dean Clough should certainly not be overshadowed.

Our food and drinks were delivered promptly and with style, all dishes looked appetising and did not disappoint. We couldn’t resist the cliché of snapping photos of our food, so elegantly presented were they, particularly the main courses. The selections of the pre-theatre menu offered variety and we both deliberated over our choices, all sounded so tempting!

True North had such a cosy and intimate feel, we were able to enjoy our meal at our own speed with just that slight air of anticipation of a room full of people eager to get to the main event of the evening, watching the joyful production of As You Like It.

The theatre itself had an air of an outdoor performance, walking through the exposed stone tunnels added to the anticipation of the production and particularly for this show, the feel of the venue made it appear that we really were a part of the story. What an incredible setting. Such a beautiful venue, I hope to see it continue to flourish and thrive in a way that will allow for further investment back into this space.

As much as the food and drink, and the wonderfully engaging show were the reason for our visit to Dean Clough, the customer service, the friendly team working in both the restaurant and the theatre, and the overall feeling of being welcomed into this intimate space were the lasting memory that we will hold with us and will be what encourages us to visit again and to boast about our fantastic evening out in this space.


As You Like It

Northern Broadsides tour of ‘As You Like It’ culminates this week in a return home to the Viaduct. The cast have been all over the country since February and through many substitutions, cast-changes and cancellations. Saturday’s performance did not escape this fate, with no fewer than four cast changes posted – including two performers stepping out script-in-hand.

With so much upheaval it was a delight to see such a joyful production. The evening opened with the razzmatazz of a wrestling tournament – all lights and egos, with cheer-leading chants and a larger-than-life MC. Unrest, inflated egos and rivalry abound. As the courtesans flee into Arden to escape jealous death-threats, they find they are able to shake off the bindings of society, class, time and, gender and experience real freedom.  The use of a forest of coatstands felt like a nod to Narnia – another timeless province.   A highlight of the performance was the journey through the trees, beautifully choreographed so the coatstands moved far more than the characters – a really fluent moment of magic.  Life in the forest seems slower and yet the story moves on apace, revealing fantastical love stories and hidden identities.

Shaban Dar’s strong portrayal of the lovelorn Orlando was grounded and honest. His scenes with ‘Ganymede’ portrayed confusion and surprise with no hint of fear – if only this reflected real life! However, the shining star of the night was EM Williams as Rosalind: they were an evocative mix of poise and warmth and their visible softening from opening to epilogue was mesmerising.  Celia was played by Isobel Coward with lovely understated assurance: her vulnerability was painted all over her face. The “new” Phoebe (Eva Scott) brought a bawdy confidence to the stage which contrasted beautifully with Rosalind’s intelligent warmth, and the simple yet pragmatic Audrey (covered with great style, and absolutely no affectation, by Hallam Breen) completed the traditional “female” roles – the fact she was played by a male stand-in brought an opportunity for extra humour and affirmed the production’s aspiration to explore freedom from gender restraints.

Likewise, Bailey Brook gave us a Silvius content in a relationship that was unconventional in a different way: his acquiescence to the dominant Phoebe was fresh-faced and unabashed – in sharp contrast to his brash, over-confident ‘Chainsaw’ Charles. The two Dukes, both played by Halifax native Tom Shaw, were a lesson in learning to live with an open heart: Shaw’s body language alone was enough to depict the subtly differing characters. Aron Julius marked himself as one to watch as Oliver – another character of contrasts, deftly handled.

Having seen this production in Leeds, I was much more engaged by Touchstone (Joe Morrow) in this more intimate venue.  His acerbic asides and flip delivery suited the room – making his unscripted moments as we headed into Act 2 funny, fresh and friendly. His herding attempts were hilarious – although I have never encountered sheep with so much wit! I was also more moved by Claire Hackett’s Adam here in Halifax. Hackett is an assured actor with a gravitas that lends extra depth to her characters – her final moments were a lovely punctuation point in the tale. And, although I didn’t catch all of his dialogue, Adam Kashmiry’s softly spoken Jacques was easier to hear in the smaller space too. Of course, the acoustics at the Viaduct added extra atmosphere to Amiens’ musical talents – Jo Patmore has a mellow, folky vocal that sealed the forest’s enchantment.

There was a special atmosphere in the theatre at this particular performance – one could attribute it to simply being on home turf, or maybe the fact that it was Northern Broadside’s 30th birthday – but I suspect an added dash of jeopardy made for a more mindful and mutually supportive performance. This was a cast in tune with each other, and committed to showcasing the best of the whole company.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and feel privileged to have seen this particular show in Halifax.”

Midnight Reviews