Friday 14 December 2018

The Forest Of Forgotten Discos! Festive Manchester Family Theatre (Review Visit)

Earlier this week we were guests of Contact Theatre to watch this year's seasonal production, The Forest Of Forgotten Discos! Contact's premises is undergoing improvement so this family performance, which is suitable for anyone, is being hosted by Hope Mill Theatre.

The Forest Of Forgotten Discos! is written by Jackie Hagan, a multi-award winning playwright who is herself disabled. It features a deaf performer and has sign language throughout, which only adds to the experience and makes it ideal for families or groups of friends who have a deaf member.

I've never been to Hope Mill before and unfortunately for them both ends of their road are closed, so you have to wind through a couple of backstreets to sneak in somewhere in the middle, then straight across the road into the big car park. They sent instructions and we drove past twice, so I suggest you are cleverer than me and read them BEFORE you leave home...

Once inside, this is an amazing building which is indeed an old mill and has all kinds of crazy architecture. You walk into the huge bar area and it is a real shock. Loads of varied seating, a gorgeous Christmas tree and a warm welcome. It felt so cosy compared to outside, like a different world.

The play begins with everyone in the bar and one of the main characters, Alexa the Virtual Assistant (played by Sophie Coward), arrives. Her outfit is amazing and very much in the style of Dr Who and the BBC Props Department - made from all kinds of semi-familiar objects sprayed and attached to an awesome silver dress. She 'scans' a few of the audience to check they're okay to enter the forest and then leads everyone through.

The Forest is in the next room, so this performance is also ideal for people with limited mobility. Seating in the theatre area is chairs, cushions and soft blocks, so ask in advance if you need something reserving.

Photo Credit: Contact Theatre

Our boys obviously felt comfortable as they went and sat on cushions at the front with the other children. The set was really exciting. Loads of colour and what seem to be 'forgotten' items in the trees, like sticklebricks and other tiny toys, and lots of baked beans. There were 4 curtained areas and a big, grassy central stage area.

Alexa is soon joined by Red (played by Paislie Reid), a 9 year old girl who has run away from home. Alexa introduces Red to the other woodland inhabitants, her friends the 3 forgotten bears, as played by Sarah Cocker, Ali Briggs, and Marcquelle Ward. This is where it all starts to get very exciting...

Photo Credit: Contact Theatre

The 3 forgotten bears are all very unique and quirky characters, but they are all really nice and just as any teddy bear should be. One of them, Bear Minimum, had my favourite line of the whole play and something we should all teach our children, "always respect someone wearing a tabard". When I was an impressionable 10 year old someone I respected said to me "wrap up your rubbish before you put it in the bin in the ladies, because someone has to empty that and it could be you". We need cleaners for survival more than we need bankers... Anyway, I digress...

The acting was brilliant. Smaller theatres do not mean less professional work and the cast of 5 actors have a string of TV and theatre credits and were all excellent. One of the bears is a deaf actor and at least one of the others had learned British Sign Language especially - you couldn't tell. Their signing was great and it looked like they'd all been doing it for ages. The signing was throughout and my partner was proud to pick up a few new signs to add to his repertoire.

At the end of the performance there is, as you might expect, a little bit of a chance to shake your pants and have a bit of a dance, and it worked so well that the entire audience joined in. The track list was a selection of classics and gave a last chance to practise a little more sign language and, in the case of my 8 year old, teach the cast your best Fortnite 'Floss'!

We loved it and we all had a great time. The storyline was nice and simple for children to understand, but there is actually a lot of depth to it and the adults in the audience probably had a different experience to the children. There are messages to take home and remember, and as Red realises what is truly important to her life, she has a happy ending to her story too.

A brilliant performance which is great for an audience of any age 5+, but ideal for children aged around 5-11 and their families, and also for any family or group with a deaf member, as you can all enjoy this one equally together.

The Forest of Forgotten Discos! Runs from Tues 11 December to Sunday 23 December at Hope Mill Theatre. Tickets are on sale now priced £13/£7 – booking is available at or by phone on 0161 274 0600. We all loved it and we all remembered how to disco.

My boys were asked if they wanted to leave their own feedback on a special tree:

"I enjoyed the play a lot especially the bits where Bear Hugs farted and when you could go up on stage."

"I liked it, especially the bit where we started dancing".

Our visit was free to review.

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