BELOW you'll find ten of the best theatre and comedy shows in and around Manchester throughout January and February. Not your bag? Well then how about the Top 10 Exhibitions or Top 10 Gigs & Concerts?
PUSH FESTIVAL | HOME | 14-28 January
HOME’S annual celebration of regional film, theatre and visual art is back; with a typically miscellaneous selection of performance, workshops and discussions spanning Franz Kafka to Vogue, the refugee crisis to bureaucracy. Highlights include The Mill Theatre Company’s I’m Standing Next To You, Fly in Your Soup’s evocative puppet performance of Betty and Islington Mill's Temporary Custodians.
HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN (various; check the website).
EDUCATING RITA | Bolton Octagon | 19 January -11 February
Frank has almost given up completely. Having abandoned his ambition to be a poet, and tiring of teaching undergraduate English students, he reflects morosely on his lot. That is until Rita walks in: a 26-year-old, married hairdresser who has decided to take control of her life and earn herself an education. With Bolton Octagon and Derby Theatre’s adaption of Willy Russell’s comedic tale of self discovery, an uplifting winter warmer is guaranteed.
Bolton Octagon, Howell Croft South, Bolton, BL1 1SB (2pm & 7.30pm; tickets from £11 at octagonbolton.co.uk).
SWEET CHARITY | Royal Exchange | Until 28 January
With a staple of familiar hits - from Big Spender to Rhythm of Life - Sweet Charity is one of the most definitive musicals of all time. Following hapless protagonist Charity Hope Valentine in her tumultuous search for belonging, the Broadway classic tackles popular themes of love and success with ‘brilliant performances, stunning choreography - and brass. Lots of brass.’ Will Valentine find her happily ever after?
Royal Exchange, St Ann's Square, M2 7DH (2.30pm & 7.30pm; tickets from £16.50 at royalexchange.co.uk).
TAKE BACK: AMERICA | The Comedy Store | Monday 23 January
Formed by photographer Grant Archer and actors Rebekah Harrison and Julie Hesmondhalgh (Corrie’s Hayley, below), Take Back Take ‘uses script in hand performances as a springboard for debate.’ With small audiences and big questions, the grassroots theatre initiative explores some of the greatest social issues of our time - and the American election is no exception. This may be the only time you’ll get to discuss Mr Trump’s inauguration with a much-needed splash of comedy.
The Comedy Store, Arches 3 and 4 Deansgate Locks, Whitworth Street West, M1 5LH (8pm; tickets from £5 at thecomedystore.co.uk).
JOSH HOWIE | The Lowry | Sunday 29 January
Fresh from creating and starring in his own BBC Radio 4 sitcom, Josh Howie is embarking on his first UK tour with his painfully honest brand of stand up comedy. Renowned for his writing talent, the storyteller has performed with Eddie Izzard, sold out stand up shows across the globe and appeared on channels from Dave to Sky Movies. Howie will be at The Lowry with new tour Messed Up: expect more family antics and his signature dose of fearless wit.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ (8pm; tickets from £10 at tickets.thelowry.com).
NARVIK | HOME | 31 January - 4 February
Present day. Liverpool. All alone, an old man falls in a basement and loses consciousness. World War Two. Norway. A courageous young sailor falls in love. Beautifully adapted by Box of Tricks as part of their tenth anniversary season, Lizzie Nunnery’s Narvik is the story of one couple pulled together then torn apart by war, as the events of one summer cause ripples across an ocean of time.
HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN (7.45pm; tickets £12 at homemcr.org).
GASLIGHT | Oldham Coliseum | 3-8 February
As the gas lights flicker in the drawing room and the floorboards creak overhead, newlywed Bella Manningham becomes convinced that she’s losing her mind just as her mother - consigned to the asylum - did before her. Is the terror all in her mind or are there dark secrets dwelling in her home? The surprise arrival of retired detective Rough leads to a discovery that shakes her respectable marriage to the core, as Oldham Coliseum reawaken Patrick Hamilton’s Victorian mystery thriller. Directed by Robin Herford, who directed The Woman In Black, this isn't one for the faint-hearted...
Oldham Coliseum, Fairbottom Street, Oldham, OL1 3SW (2.30pm & 7.30pm; tickets from £14.50 at patronbase.com).
FUNNY GIRL | Palace Theatre | 18-25 February
Funny Girl brought global fame to Barbra Streisand 50 years ago, with iconic hits like People and Don’t Rain On My Parade. Now, following a record-breaking, critically-acclaimed West End run, Oliver award-winning protagonist Sheridan Smith heads up north with ‘the utterly irresistible’ tale of Fanny Brice - whose vocal talents and comedic ability see her rise from Brooklyn music hall singer to Broadway star.
Palace Theatre, 97 Oxford Street, M1 6FT (2.3pm & 7.30pm; tickets from £18 at atgtickets.com).
STU GOLDSMITH | XS Malarkey | 21 February
Not only is he a comedian himself, Stu Goldsmith presents the popular ‘Comedian’s Comedian’ podcast, which has seen him quiz everyone from Sarah Millican to Matt Lucas and Jimmy Carr - meaning, no doubt, he’s picked up a few tips on what constitutes a good chuckle from some of the UK’s leading laugh purveyors. Goldsmith himself has won awards internationally and The Times dubbed him an ‘expert stand-up.’
XS Malarkey, Pub/Zoo, 126 Grosvenor Street, M1 7HL (7pm; tickets £3.30 at wegottickets.com).
BEAUTIFUL MONSTER | Salford Arts Theatre | 28 February - 4 March
Another horror being revived this winter is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with Karlton Parris’ Beautiful Monster. Much like Frankenstein’s monster itself, the tale is a hybrid - fusing Shelley’s original tale with the misfortunes of her later life and modern-day fiction. Ghosts, secrets and insanity: expect skeletons of every persuasion to come out the closet in this darkly brooding penny dreadful.
Salford Arts Theatre, Kemsing Walk, Salford M5 4BS (7.30pm; tickets from £12 at ticketsource.co.uk).