Friday 7 December 2018

Black Beauty At Z-Arts, Manchester Theatre Review (Review Visit)

Last night we were guests of Z-Arts to review Black Beauty - their Winter show presented by Red Bridge and Traverse Theatre Company. This is a modern and very imaginative retelling, but it'll satisfy true fans as well as newcomers and we all loved it.

Funny and honest but light-hearted, it's actually more of an homage as Black Beauty's life story is told in a different way than ever before...

I love Z-Arts because, as I said on social media last week, walking in is like going to the home of family you didn't know you had. The atmosphere is always happy and friendly, it's full of excited children and milkshake is 35p. You couldn't be in a more relaxed venue. It all changes once the lights go down though, audience behaviour has always been sensible and impeccable.

Our evening started with some crafts - there were lots of horse-themed activities on offer and my boys chose to ice biscuits. Z-Arts runs lots of craft workshops for all age groups as well as theatre, dance and a host of other events and activities.

Biscuits in hand, it was time for the show. The seating at Z-Arts may not be the world's most comfortable, but it's very steep, so you can always see well, even if you are short.

The set was sparse at first, just a horsebox and a phone. I swear this was a real horsebox full of tricks, my partner grew up with horses and says it's an incredibly clever model.

The whole show was performed by the two stars from Red Bridge Arts, Paul Curley and John Currivan, with their ninja assistant, Shona Repp. They play brothers Andy and Andy, and their horse Hamish. They actually live in the horsebox, which had exactly the same wallpaper as my childhood home in the 80's. My mother also collected horse brasses, it was a bit uncanny...

Andy and Andy are looking for work, but Hamish can only work in a very specialised field, so chances are looking slim. To fill the time they read a copy of Black Beauty and that's when the story really begins.

There is singing, dancing and plenty of laughter, plus a good dollop of pantomime. There are also a few poignant moments, but nothing is too heavy or dwelt on, and there is nothing to upset or scare the younger audience members. Andy and Andy's life is interspersed with the storytelling and they have known hard times, but have dreams of their own Hollywood ending...

We thought it was excellent. So incredibly polished, totally professional and beautifully executed. Timing was spot on and the humour was perfectly weighted. The audience at any age loved it. My partner's parents have a pony farm and Black Beauty is a story he knows incredibly well. He even shed a smiling tear or two in parts, I spotted him...

Black Beauty will be performing at Z-Arts on Saturday 8 Dec, Sunday 9 Dec, Friday 14 Dec and Saturday 15 Dec, times vary. Suitable for families with children of all ages, especially 5-11, runtime 90 minutes plus interval. Tickets are a ridiculously fair £9.

Find out more and see the whole programme of events, shows, classes and workshops on the Z-Arts website.

Tickets from £5 - £9 (Hulme residents £5 / Bright Sparks Family Members £6).
Relaxed performance Sat 15th Dec at 2.30pm
BSL interpreted performance Sat 8th Dec at 2.30pm

We were guests of Z-Arts to review.

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