Category Archives: review

UNIVERSITIES INC.

As part of the series of UCU Teachout sessions being run during the strike period, Distinguished Professor Bob Jessop delivered a talk, ‘Universities Inc’, to a packed out audience at the Gregson Centre. The talk explored what Prof Jessop termed ‘academic capitalism’ and its relationship to an increased financialisation of the UK Higher Education system, and situated the ongoing pensions dispute in a wider context of structural economic changes taking place within universities.

Prof Jessop considered the core historic functions of the university as an institution, namely the provision of higher education and the carrying out of scientific research, and HE’s shifting in line with the forces of marketisation. Whereas in the post-war era of welfare statism and mass production HE institutions such as Lancaster University were designed to create ‘mental labour’ for an increasingly post-industrial society, Prof Jessop explained how today’s universities are behaving more like financial institutions. Since the 1980s, democratic participation in university governance have been sidelined in favour of professionalised management, he argued, adding that since the early 1990s senior academics were asked to attend business management style sessions. Such professionalisation of university management has, he argued, only worsened over subsequent decades.

Jessop highlighted how the diminution of government grants has lead to an increasing reliance upon endowments, greater numbers of fee paying students, bonds, credit markets, and rents to fund themselves. Indeed, having issued first bond in British HE in 1995, Lancaster University can be seen as having been a pioneer in such financial marketisation.

Drawing attention to the expansion of campuses in recent decades, Jessop highlighted how it is real estate (rather than the intellectual labour of staff) that has proven to be the key asset of the contemporary university, recalling a former Lancaster Vice Chancellor telling him that when talking to other managers he would boast of being ‘a seven crane vice chancellor,’ clearly demonstrating how the building up of physical assets on campuses has become so central to UK HE as a source of economic value and revenue.

The talk showed how in such a marketised environment, one only worsened by the new Higher Education Act and the uncertainties of Brexit, British universities are now fearing credit rating downgrades, and are seeking to drastically reduce their labour costs as a result.

From the talk, a bleak picture of contemporary UK HE emerged. As institutions embrace the process of financialisation precarious staff face further immiseration, with students treated primarily as a revenue stream.

In the subsequent Q&A session, the pensions strike itself was viewed by several contributors as having opened up an opportunity for more critical engagements with the university and the ills it inflicts upon staff and students alike. The question of how to reach the wider public and inform them of the dire situation in HE was also raised, with a contributor criticising a recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme for narrowly focusing on the extravagance of individual Vice Chancellors as opposed to offering the public a more structural critique of the processes of marketisation.

I found Prof Jessop’s talk an illuminating one for highlighting the complex challenges facing those of us within the marketised university, and for all the bleakness of the situation, I found that the subsequent discussion of how to resist these processes filled me with hope that we can build a more democratic and just HE system.

Contributed by Toby Atkinson, PhD candidate (Sociology)

REVIEW: DAVE SPIKEY, A JUGGLER ON A MOTORBIKE

Dave Spikey played the Grand Theatre on the night of the first day of the industrial action. However, no mention of strikes, Brexit, Trump, or Boris in this act: the gathered throng was treated to two hours of beautifully crafted mini tales and sketches based around the story of his comedy career. Dave had been working in the NHS for 19 years as a Biomedical Scientist when in 1987 someone uttered the immortal words, ‘You’re really funny, you should be a comedian’. Only a few months later he won the national talent show ‘Stairway to the Stars’, clinching the award with a routine about a juggler on a motorbike. Thirteen years later on Friday 13th October 2000, he switched off his microscope for good and now in 2017/18 his tour celebrates the 30th anniversary of his comedy career. In the show, he looks back on his life and his journey from working class kid to Chief Biomedical Scientist to much-loved comedy performer and writer.

All of this was populated with various larger than life characters – lots of references to his work on ‘Phoenix Nights’, which produced giggles of recognition from the audience. Very little swearing and when he did it was for effect, although many stories were quite filthy in a very British innuendo fashion. For a lot of the audience the trip down his childhood memory lane evoked a degree of nostalgic pleasure. This was all delivered in a down-to-earth ‘Northern’ way, his interplay and analysis the basis for clever, laugh-after-every-line comedy. He is not only a very funny accomplished comedian, but also one of the finest raconteurs around – your cultural correspondent cried with laughter on more than one occasion.

The audience also gave your correspondent pause for thought. The packed theatre was full of white, predominantly older couples – leaving the Grand is always a slow affair but this evening seemed an even more laborious business. While not conducting a rigorous survey, your correspondent was also of the opinion that he was the only member of the audience employed by the University. Please write in to prove him wrong but this is not the first time that he has been struck by the different socio-demographic groups that attend the Dukes and the Grand, two theatres a hundred yards apart from each other.

MARTIN WIDDEN: ‘THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN EARS’

Review: Kabantu at the Nuffield

Five young musicians in line across the stage of the Nuffield, one of them squatting over a bongo drum. This was Kabantu, the Manchester-based band that played in the Lancaster Arts Concert Series on 17 February.

As well as the drum, the line-up consisted of violin, cello, bass and guitar, all of whom played standing up – which for a cellist is a highly unusual thing to do. It’s achievable if, as here, the instrument is fitted with a long enough spike to raise it to a playable height. So: no chairs.

No music stands, either. The group plays from memory and/or by improvising, so they don’t need any copies.

Very little electronics on show either.

All this fits with the influence of busking on the group. Four of the five musicians met at the Royal Northern College of Music, where they were classically trained, but in this group they have extended their range into a much broader spectrum of styles. Their repertoire spans from Scottish traditional tunes, Bulgarian folk music, Israel, South Africa and beyond, performed with remarkable skill on their instruments, or by whistling, or in some cases by all five musicians singing excellently in close harmony.

It is unusual for the International Concert Series to feature what was in effect a fusion performance, but it made for a very enjoyable evening.

MARTIN WIDDEN: ‘THE MAN THE MUSICIANS FEAR’

Review: Xue Fei Yang plays classical guitar

In her solo recital in the Great Hall on 8 February, the Chinese guitar virtuoso Xue Fei Yang chose a programme that gave her ample scope to demonstrate a wide range of techniques of playing the instrument. The earliest composition on the programme was the Suite in G minor for lute BWV995, by J S Bach – transcribed by the composer from his suite no 5 for solo cello, written around 1723. Bach’s transcription of his own suite succeeds very well on the guitar, even though the technique of sound production on a guitar or a lute – plucking the string, essentially – is completely different from that of playing the cello, in which a bow is nearly always used and legato can be achieved. Xue Fei Yang drew a remarkable variety of tone from her instrument, plucking the strings sometimes with her finger nails, sometimes with the flesh of her fingertips, and sometimes with a combination. As well as a slow and contemplative sarabande, the suite includes several faster dance movements: two gavottes, and a gigue as the final movement, which were played most fluently. Although Bach’s cello suites are written mostly for a sequence of single notes, he manages to imply the harmony so clearly that the listener is not troubled by there being just one note at a time. These are marvellous compositions for the cello, never bettered by later composers – and Xue Fei Yang performed the transcribed music very well.

She further showed her mastery of guitar technique in the Sword Dance by the contemporary Chinese composer Xu Chang-Jun. This is based on a poem by the poet Du Fu (712-770), who according to the concert programme is acclaimed by many as the Chinese Shakespeare.

In the second half of the concert, Xue Fei Yang played a series of short pieces, all but one of them by Spanish and Brazilian composers. These were most skilfully played, but it is less satisfying to listen to a set of short, unrelated pieces than it is to hear an extended work such as the suite she had played in the first half of the concert.

It must have been a testing evening for the soloist, who sat in the centre of the stage with just one small microphone in front of her. She used a hand-held microphone to introduce some of the pieces, but she seemed to have a cold, and, with her Chinese accent, this made much of what she said hard if not impossible to understand. If she was unwell, to play a brilliant solo concert for two hours, much of it from memory, was a remarkable achievement.

Contributed by Martin Widden.

MARTIN WIDDEN: ‘BRITAIN’S FIERCEST MUSIC CRITIC’

Review: Ella Remembered

This was the title of a performance given in the Great Hall on 7 December as part of the University’s International Concert Series. Few people who know anything about singing would need to ask ‘Ella who?’ – Ella Fitzgerald died in 1996, but more than twenty years later her recordings are still selling very well, particularly those of songs from what became known as the Great American Songbook: standards by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and others. This is partly due to the high quality of the songs, but also to the fact that Ella was such a high-class performer. As her recordings demonstrate, her diction was very clear, her intonation absolutely perfect, and her ability to improvise and to sing scat second to none.

Clair Teal, who sang the Ella tribute in the Great Hall, measured up to this daunting track record very well. In fact, she has made a speciality of performing songs recorded by Ella. Although she only took up her singing career relatively late, in her twenties, she has been very successful, and has won many awards, most recently the vocals category at the British Jazz Awards 2017. An accomplished presenter, she compèred the whole evening in an attractively witty manner. She was supported by an excellent trio, of piano, drums and bass.

This was somewhat different from the usual run of Great Hall concerts, but nonetheless the evening attracted a good audience, of people who were clearly knowledgeable about the songs and the genre – they clapped in all the right places. It was a high-quality performance in all respects, rounding off the term’s concerts most appropriately.

Contributed by Martin Widden.

MARK THOMAS: A SHOW THAT GAMBLES ON THE FUTURE. A REVIEW

Mark Thomas was back at the Dukes on Wednesday 29th November. After last year’s poignant, moving and very funny theatre show ‘The Red Shed’ (see subtext 156) he returned to the Dukes with more traditional stand-up fare. This time it’s just him, a microphone, a few scraps of paper and some betting odds. We are here, Thomas tells us, to work together as a group. Our job is to vote (with our cheers) for the best prediction of the future proffered by our fellow audience members pre-show.

After Brexit and Trump (and UA92), who really knows what’s going to happen next? None of us, of course. Recent events have been so unexpected we cannot be any less accurate than the experts. Don’t look to Mark Thomas, either – he’s not offering any answers here, instead he is channeling our collective cluelessness into two hours of cathartic entertainment in which we laugh, not just at the world, but at our own divergent understandings of it.

The audience were canvassed in the bar with slips of paper which invited them to guess one thing that might happen in the future, be it outlandish or predictable, and Thomas spends most of the time simply reading through them and discussing the subjects they bring up, occasionally referring to contributions from past shows. The idea is that he and the audience single out their favourite prediction by a vaguely democratic ‘biggest cheer” process. At the end of the show donations are thrown in a bucket by the door, which we are told will be placed on the winner, and if it wins, the cash will be given to a worthwhile cause.

So it’s a simple enough idea to get a bit of banter going, ad-libbed as well as scripted, although there’s plenty that Thomas would have known to expect. ‘Trump will be assassinated/impeached’, ‘there will be a UK general election within the next year’ and (big cheer for this) ‘Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister’ are all hurried through. As ever at a Mark Thomas gig, the left-leaning converted are being preached to, even though Thomas himself seems keen to engage in discussion with all comers.

Compared to the heart-stopping suspension and heart-breaking tenderness of ‘The Red Shed’, this show might seem a little slight. But he’s still Mark Thomas, which means we’re treated to the best kind of hilarious political rantings, underscored by stories about his upbringing and, in particular, his father, whose rare mix of religious devotion and fiery temperament is another telling influence on the comic. Throughout these tales Thomas proves to be an energetic and compelling raconteur, weaving narratives which take the audience along with him, offering insights into the unorthodox upbringing of a man who retains a smouldering anger at injustice.

This Lancaster audience voted for the bet that ‘EU immigrants would ‘club together’ and buy the Daily Mail’. And people as they left the theatre dutifully threw their pound coins into the bucket – Mark did not tell us what odds we would get on this particular bet!

COMMEMORATING THE ‘BORIS DECLARATION’

Review – Robert Cohen on Balfour, May and the ‘wrong kind of Jew’, Cornerstone, Lancaster, Wednesday 15 November

The people who booked Robert Cohen to give a talk on 100 years since the Balfour Declaration probably thought that the small meeting room at the Cornerstone Café would be ideal – it can comfortably fit an audience of 40, after all. Well, by the time subtext arrived, the numbers had reached 70 and rising, so your correspondent squatted cross-legged on the floor. Several latecomers couldn’t get into the room at all, and experienced the talk in audio only.

So was he any good? Very. This was a well-observed political history talk, coupled with personal reflections on how Cohen has found himself labelled, as he calls it, ‘the wrong kind of Jew’. Cohen described the Jewish East End in 1917, whose political figures included Communists, Socialists and Anarchists as well as Zionists, and compared that time with now, when ‘political Zionism and Judaism have undergone a seamless merger.’ Cohen’s hero is the Jewish theologian Marc H Ellis, who like Cohen is fascinated by modern Jewish identities.

Cohen wondered whether political Zionism had truly brought Jewish safety, forecast that Jews and Arabs would both be part of the future landscape of the Middle East and unveiled, instead of the Balfour Declaration, his own ‘Boris Declaration’, in which he optimistically imagined our foreign secretary declaring one day that ‘Her Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine/Israel of a safe and secure home for all who live there.’

There was just one thing. Cohen was billed as outlining ‘the prospect of Jewish opposition to Zionism today,’ and he certainly mentioned Zionism dozens of times, telling us at one point that he was not a Zionist, ‘even of the moderate, liberal variety.’ But he declined to define Zionism, and at one point openly challenged those who regarded it as ‘just an expression of racism and colonialism,’ stressing that ‘if that’s all you see you are failing to understand its historical and political context.’ So what was it? During the Q&A afterwards, he finally offered a definition – a homeland for the Jewish people. Was that so different from his ‘Boris Declaration’?

At the start of the talk, Cohen wryly noted that he had ‘yet to receive a single invitation from a Jewish organisation to speak’ – not surprisingly, given the declared anti-Zionist theme. Cohen’s vision for the Holy Land is one which many in Israel’s peace camp would support, so why the focus on a single word? subtext hopes Cohen returns to Lancaster soon – he lives relatively nearby, in North Yorkshire – so we can try to find out.

LANCASTER LIT UP

Phantasmagorical. Brilliant. Captivating. Light Up Lancaster was a delight – two evenings of illumination, art, music, projection and performance in the city centre. Beg, borrow or hire a small child and witness the look of wonder on their faces. This year the theme was the natural world and the city was packed with lots of smiling faces thoroughly enjoying the winking, blinking light and colour accompanied by a cacophony of sound. The city was alive with rivers of people snaking their way around the street and lanes to find their favoured spot to ooh and aah at the whizzes and bangs. Friday night ended with a glass of mulled cider in the Printroom café and bar in the Storey. A truly memorable event topped by a splendid firework spectacular launched from the grounds of the castle on Saturday night. We were too late to get our wristbands to allow access to St George’s Quay Meadow or Giant Axe so we walked up from town to join hundreds of folk enjoying the stunning view from Williamson Park. Magical stuff.

QUEEN ALBERT

Your cultural correspondent squeezed into a packed Dukes on Monday (6th November) to watch a screening of ‘The Death of Stalin’ – a brilliant film, a creative mixture of grim and laugh out loud funny. This was followed by a question and answer session with one of the screenwriters on the film. Ian Martin is an English Emmy award-winning comedy writer who has lived in Lancaster since 1988. This was a fascinating and insightful window into the movie world. It was also an incredibly swear filled event. Ian was a writer for the BAFTA winning BBC series ‘The Thick of It’ and was famously hired as ‘swearing consultant’ by the show’s creator, Armando Iannucci. You could see why. The film itself was rich with some fruity language and the Q & A followed suit. This did not detract from what was a very interesting discussion. Your correspondent was reminded of an experience at a Mark Thomas gig at the Dukes 2/3 years ago. A few minutes into the show Mark made a derogatory remark about Hemel Hempstead. A woman in one of the front rows got up and walked out in front of the stage to the exit. Mark asked as she was leaving, ‘are you from Hemel Hempstead?’ ‘No’ the woman replied, ‘I abhor your filthy language’. About half an hour later another woman got up and walked out in front of the stage. Mark asked if there was anything wrong. ‘Yes’, the woman replied quick as a flash, ‘you’re not fucking swearing enough – I am off to the loo’.

MARTIN WIDDEN: ‘HE PULLS NO PUNCHES, AND TELLS IT LIKE IT IS’

Review: Scarlatti and Cage in the Great Hall

Domenico Scarlatti (born Naples in 1685, and so an exact contemporary of J S Bach) wrote over 500 sonatas for harpsichord, nearly all of them short and in just one movement of simple AABB form – two halves, each of them repeated. John Cage (1912-1992) also wrote short keyboard sonatas, also nearly all of AABB form, but only sixteen of them. They were all intended to be played on a ‘prepared’ piano, which entails placing screws and bolts between the strings, together with rubber rings, plastic strips and an eraser, all of whose positions are precisely specified. This produces some strange sonorities – in some cases a thud rather than a musical sound.

In the Great Hall on Thursday 26 October, the American pianist David Greilsammer performed an interesting programme in which eight Scarlatti sonatas were alternated with seven sonatas by Cage. The University’s two concert grand pianos were placed end to end on the Great Hall stage, with Greilsammer sitting on the piano stool between the two keyboards, so that when he had finished playing one sonata, he could swivel quickly round to the opposite keyboard and begin on the next sonata, by the other composer. The programme of fifteen sonatas was played without a break or an interval.

Scarlatti spent much of his active life in Portugal, where he was employed as the harpsichord teacher of Princess Maria Barbara. In spite of, or more likely because of, his musical isolation, his sonatas are fascinatingly quirky and distinctive. They would of course have been played on the harpsichord – the piano had not yet been invented. When Greilsammer entered and positioned himself on the stool, the lights were dimmed to the point where it was impossible to read the programme, which rather defeated the object of having it.

He opened the first Scarlatti sonata playing ppp – so quietly that some of the notes barely spoke at all. Then he suddenly switched to playing extremely loudly. What was the point of these extreme contrasts? It was unclear, but they were very unsettling. Of course, if the Scarlatti sonatas had been played on a harpsichord, in which the strings are plucked rather than struck by hammers as in a piano, such contrasts would not have been possible. This would have been more appropriate. It would also have been impossible to open so very quietly.

The Cage sonatas were a complete contrast. Although completely written out, they sounded quite free, and of course their genre is totally different from the sonatas by Scarlatti. Greilsammer seemed more at home in this modern American music than in the Scarlatti sonatas, where his idiosyncratic performance seemed to this critic too self-indulgent.

Having said this, it was an interesting recital, no doubt introducing many members of the audience to Cage’s music.

Contributed by Martin Widden.

MUSIC REVIEW: LANCASTER MUSIC FESTIVAL

The 9th Annual Lancaster Music Festival started just after our last subtext issue gently settled in readers’ inboxes. This year two of the sponsors were iLancaster (ISS) and Lancaster University Management School and the programme featured University of Lancaster Music Society (ULMS) Big Band, ULMS Brass band, ULMS Choir and the Haffner Orchestra – Lancaster’s very own symphony orchestra. They played in St. Nic’s arcade on Saturday afternoon, the crowds making it impossible to push a buggy through the shopping mall!

Running from late on Wednesday (12 October) to late on Monday (16 October) and featuring over 500 acts at nearly 50 different locations this was an ambitious project and for this correspondent the organisers dutifully delivered. Sprinkled with some international and national acts the programme featured predominately Lancaster bands/groups/artists. We have mentioned this previously but it is worth reiterating that it is something of a sociological phenomenon that a place as relatively small as Lancaster has over the years produced, and continues to produce, such an eclectic and talented bunch of musicians.

The festival brought together the various tribes of Lancaster and its hinterlands in the city centre. These are distinct groupings of folk who are rarely seen in the city together; they descended upon this temporary ‘tin pan alley’ because of their love of and/or curiosity about music in all its glorious forms. The actual range and variety of styles and genres of music was amazing – to use the old saying, there was something for everyone. Your correspondent was particularly entranced by the Lancaster band EZCP playing ‘video game music’, something I had not come across before, and from Graz, Austria the very entertaining trio Uptown Monotones who are best described as brilliantly odd. A strange, very entertaining mixture of folk, beatbox, pop and electronic weirdness – great fun.

As well as Lancaster residents it was obvious that people had travelled from far and near to enjoy the festival. We bumped into ex-residents who had come up from London, families from Yorkshire and folk from Manchester, hardly a place devoid of musical entertainment. Visitors could be spotted with their festival maps trying to work out where the various venues were. Some folk obviously, after consulting their programmes, moved on to enjoy a different act elsewhere whilst some festival goers found a venue and stayed put whatever acts were performing. This year there was a shuttle bus service helping people move around the city.

During the day it was a very family friendly affair with babes-in arms, toddlers, kids, teenagers, mums and dads and older folk mingling and enjoying what was a wonderful extended weekend of live music. Throughout the Festival the city centre had an entirely different vibe – it really did feel quite jolly. The weather was generally kind, despite Get Carter (who were, as usual, brilliant) teasing the audience about the threat of rain.

The organisers should be warmly congratulated on putting together such a fantastic event and Lancaster University should be proud to be so closely associated with such a widely appreciated extravaganza.

CONCERT REVIEW: THE BRODSKY QUARTET

By Martin Widden

It was once the convention that a concert would begin with a work by a composer from early times; the programme would then move chronologically through pieces by successively more recent composers. A concert by a string quartet might open with a quartet by Haydn (1732-1809), the composer who virtually invented the genre. Next might come a quartet by Beethoven (1770-1827), and the concert might perhaps close with a piece by Dvorak (1841-1904).

Not so the programmes put together by the Brodsky quartet: in their Great Hall concert on 19 October, they rejected the obvious chronological order, opening their performance with a new work they had commissioned from the Japanese composer Karen Tanaka, born in 1961. This was followed by the 4th quartet by Shostakovich. Written in 1949, while Stalin was still in power, the quartet takes a considerable risk by including Jewish themes, or at least music that is Jewish in character. Shostakovich’s music had recently been denounced, and he had been dismissed from his post as professor at the Moscow Conservatory, so he was extremely hard up. Despite this, the quartet evokes the horrors experienced by the Jewish people during the Second World War. The players gave it their all, to the extent that the leader broke a string during the performance. He returned to the stage after an absence of less than a minute; remarkably, the players carried on as if nothing had happened. The quartet was not performed until 1953, after Stalin’s death.

In the second half of the concert the players focused on a particular musical form: the fugue. (For those unfamiliar with this form, a fugue is based on a simple theme – the subject (a single line of notes), which is played at the outset. This subject theme then enters successively at different pitches, and all are developed together with further entries, so that the whole becomes a fascinating and complex work.)

Towards the end of his life, J S Bach composed The Art of Fugue, demonstrating the range of possibilities of composing in this form, and also his own skill at composing in the genre. This is pure music, which can be performed on any instrument or group of instruments, provided it lies within their range of pitch. The Brodsky quartet played two pieces from The Art of Fugue in their concert, showing convincingly that the string quartet is an excellent medium for performing this music.

They followed this with a fugue for string quartet by Mendelssohn, a brilliant demonstration of his skill as a composer for this group of instruments.

They concluded their concert with a performance of the Grosse Fuge opus 133 by Beethoven, originally composed as the finale of his opus 130 quartet. As its title suggests, it is a massive work, taking some 17 minutes to play. The publisher persuaded Beethoven to compose a shorter and less demanding movement as the conclusion of this quartet, which was published as opus 130. But the original fugal movement, now known as opus 133, remains a towering achievement.

This concluded a fascinating concert: excellently played by the Brodsky quartet, and a great start to the 2017-18 Great Hall concert season.

THEATRE REVIEW: THE SUITCASE

Lancaster University had yet another works outing at the Dukes on the 28th September. Your correspondent is sure there were some people at the show who were not Lancaster University employees but that particular evening it did feel that they were very much in the minority. They were gathered to watch a performance by the Market Theatre from Johannesburg, South Africa as part of a five city English Tour. The play was ‘The Suitcase’ as developed by the company’s artistic director Sibongeleni James Ngcobo from a short story by Es’kia Mpphahlele. Based on a true story, the play tells the story of a newly married young couple (Timi and Namhla) who leave their rural village in 1950s South Africa, for the bright lights of Durban. With few savings and scant possessions and no work to be had Timi, brilliantly played by Siyabonga Thwala, starts to lose his moral compass. Desperate to provide for his pregnant wife he steals a suitcase not knowing what might be inside; an act which has frightening consequences.

On a wooden pallet in the centre of the stage stands a table, chair and a shelf. To one side of the pallet is a small wooden bench; to the other, a dustbin. The sprawling, hostile city that surrounds this one-room hub is brought to people-filled life by two ‘storytellers’, Molatlhegi Dube and Nhlanhla Lata. Timi’s route through the city circles the little room where Masasa Mbangeni’s Namhla tries to keep hope alive.

Hugh Masekela provided the perfect soundtrack to the piece – bright, jazz shaded with blues and echoes of hymns (a stunning live vocal trio and guitarist), which amplified the story’s scope.

This was one of a three night run at the Dukes and was a wonderful experience, evocative, visual, moving and full of sharply detailed performances, humour and deep humanity. Of course the relationship between the University and the Dukes is a symbiotic one but on nights such as these we should be very pleased, living in our small provincial city perched on the North West corner of England, that we have access to such high quality international theatre.