Manchester Fringe: Double Bill Of Drama Opens Up At Hope Mill Theatre

An intoxicating musical about the life and music of 1930s gay cabaret sensation Suzy Solidor, played by Jessica Walker, is to be staged 4-9 July, at Hope Mill Theatre, as part of Greater Manchester Fringe.

All I Want Is One Night is presented by Watershed Productions, in association with The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. It sold out its premiere at The Royal Exchange and is returning after a successful run at Wilton’s in London.

During an increasingly whisky-fuelled evening, as Suzy regales the audience with her most famous songs, her past and present begin to collide. She encounters lovers, artists, her absent father, and finally herself…

Chris Wallis of Watershed Productions said: “It is about a gay French cabaret singer called Suzy Solider,  who was singing in Paris in the 1930s and 1940s. She was an extraordinary woman, who was painted by every painter in Europe, from Cocteau to Bacon. She used to sing in her cabaret club, surrounded by her pictures.

“She sang erotic lesbian lyrics, fabulous songs and she had a huge audience. She has disappeared from history and no-one knows why. She spent her declining years dressed as a French admiral in a museum.

“The play is about Suzy’s life. It’s about her early days, living with a woman who was an antique dealer, moved to Paris and became a cabaret singer. She eventually ended up owning her own club…Jessica Walker, who wrote the play, has translated these songs beautifully and they retain the earthy content and the love content.

“It is the most extraordinary show. It was done at the Royal Exchange as a promenade performance…. so we are changing it form being a promenade performance to being in a theatre, laid out like a cabaret club, with tables, and you will be able to drink while you’re there.”

Both Jessica and her co-star Rachel Austin, who plays Daisy, are local. Jessica’s dad wrote the lyrics to the Cream songs, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, including  Sunshine Of Your Love.

Performances of All I Want Is One Night follows performances of The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in the World, Performed in Compete Darkness, which starts at 7.30pm.  A joint ticket is available for Tuesday – Sunday evenings at a reduced rate.

Julia Pastrana was born in the 19th century with a genetic condition that meant she was covered in thick dark hair. She toured as a singer and when she died was mummified and displayed in a glass cabinet with her dead son.

Chris said: “There is no stage. You come in as an audience, you sit on a chair arranged in four blocks. The lights go out, completely. No exit signs, nothing, and it all happens around you. You hear it, you smell it, you might even feel it. The whole play happens in the round, in front of you and to the side of you. It is an extraordinary experience.

“It was originally commissioned by Tom Morris at Battersea Arts Centre, who ended up directing War Horse. It got five gold stars from everybody and was Time Out’s Critics’ Choice of the Year. It toured for a while in 2003 and went abroad and then it stopped being done.

“Shaun Penderghast, the man who wrote it, knew I was doing Hope Mill and said ‘What about this?’ I want to create a real fringe atmosphere, as you would in Edinburgh, three or four shows in a day. I’m not sure we have enough of a professional audience in Manchester to do shows from midday to midnight. But I know we have enough to do Pastrana at 7.30pm and All I Want Is One Night at 9.15pm. You can buy a joint tickets or just see one of them. There is about a 25 minute turn around in between the shows, so you can sit in Hope Mill’s wonderful bar. You could be in Shoreditch, it has that feel.”

The cast of Pastrana is six, including the writer and director, and Karina Jones a partially sighted trapeze artist and was in the show that opened at the The Lowry and was nominated for a Manchester Theatre Award.

About Author /

Matthew has been writing for the past 5 years about music, sports and movies and has now finally got his chance to write about theatre. Having previously worked for the likes of Kerrang and Uncut, as well as previously having a radio show for 6 Towns, he has interviewed hundreds of bands throughout his career.

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