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If you love the North, then Northern Soul is for you. Written in the North of England by Northern writers, Northern Soul is a celebration of culture and enterprise, from theatre, music, authors and art to heritage, small businesses, food and leading figures, as well as everything in-between.

Talking to people who work, rest and play in the North of England and scour the region for interesting stories, histories, ambitions and events. Want to read a carefully crafted article about an oddball museum or go behind the scenes of a leading institution? You can find that on Northern Soul.

Feasts from the Middle East: Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Lamb (Kataf Ghanam Meshwy)

Tony Kitous, founder of Lebanese restaurant Comptoir Libanais, shares delicious recipes from his new cookbook Feasts from the Middle East. Kitous says: “We’ve been serving this in our restaurant for more than 18 years now and it’s so good, so popular, that I don’t think we’ll ever take it off the menu. In our culture we don’t serve our […] The post Feasts from the Middle East: Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Lamb (Kataf Ghanam Meshwy) appeared first on Northern Soul.

Tony Kitous, founder of Lebanese restaurant Comptoir Libanais, shares delicious recipes from his new cookbook Feasts from the Middle East.

Kitous says: “We’ve been serving this in our restaurant for more than 18 years now and it’s so good, so popular, that I don’t think we’ll ever take it off the menu. In our culture we don’t serve our meat pink or medium; it’s always well done. So, in this recipe the joint is cooked until crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and soft enough to be shredded with a fork.

“This recipe really sums up what this book is all about – layers of flavour in one huge feast of a dish, brought to the table accompanied by a wonderful array of sides to complement it.” 

Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Lamb (Kataf Ghanam Meshwy)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Marinade 

½ onion, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves

½ bunch of coriander,

roughly chopped

20g root ginger, chopped

¼ tsp cumin

½ tsp ras-el-hanout

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp Lebanese sevenspice mix

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp white pepper

½ tsp black pepper

50ml vegetable oil

2–2.5kg shoulder of

lamb, bone in

For the sauce

25ml vegetable oil

25g butter

½ red onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4–5 sprigs of thyme

2 tbsp tomato purée

400g tin chopped tomatoes

small handful of coriander, chopped

small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

For the dried fruit 

4 each dried apricots, dried figs, dates and prunes

handful of golden raisins

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole star anise

1 tsp rose water

2 tbsp honey

For the rice

Slow Cooked Lamb1 tbsp vegetable oil

½ onion, finely chopped

150g lamb mince

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

good pinch of Lebanese

seven-spice mix

1 tsp ras-el-hanout

200g basmati rice

25g toasted mixed nuts

handful of fresh mint leaves

To serve: 

Greek yoghurt

harissa

toasted sesame seeds

Method: 

Up to two days before you serve the lamb, marinate the shoulder. Put the onion, garlic, coriander, root ginger, spices, salt, peppers and oil into a mini blender and whizz to make a paste. Put the shoulder into a large sealable container and rub the paste all over it. Cover and chill for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.

Take the lamb out of the fridge so that it comes up to room temperature – if it’s too cold, it will take longer to cook. When you’re ready to cook it, preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.

Put the lamb in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 20 minutes until it has coloured on all sides.

While the lamb is cooking in this short blast of heat, make the sauce. Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, carrot and garlic for 10 minutes over a medium heat until starting to soften and turn golden. Stir in the thyme sprigs, tomato purée and the tin of tomatoes, then fill the tin with hot water twice (making about 800ml of water in total) and pour that into the pan, too. Stir in the coriander and parsley, and bring to the boil. Simmer, half covered with a lid, for 15 minutes. Blend until smooth using a hand blender.

When the lamb has cooked for 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and pour the sauce over it. Cover the tin tightly with foil, reduce the temperature to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3 and return the lamb to the oven. Cook for about 3 hours until very tender. After each hour, remove the tin to check the meat and pour in 500ml boiling water, stirring it into the sauce. Turn the shoulder over, and spoon the sauce all over it. You’ll know it’s ready when you can push your finger through the side of the shoulder easily because the lamb has become very tender.

The next step is to prepare the fruit to go on top of this dish. Put all the dried fruit into a small saucepan, add the cinnamon, star anise, rose water and honey and enough cold water to just cover the

fruit. Cover the pan with a lid and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10–15 minutes to allow the fruit to plump up. Set aside to cool.

About 45 minutes before the lamb will be ready, cook the rice. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion for 5–8 minutes. Add the lamb mince, breaking it down with a spoon so it browns

evenly, then stir in the spices and seasoning. Cook for about 1 minute, then stir in the rice. Once the rice is coated with oil and mixed into the spiced onion and lamb mixture, cover with 500ml boiling water. Put a lid on the pan, bring the liquid to the boil, then turn the heat down low and simmer for 10–12 minutes. Turn off the heat under the pan and set aside.

When the lamb is ready, take the roasting tin out of the oven and strain off the sauce. Keep it warm.

Take a large platter and spoon the rice all the way round the edge. Lift the lamb into the middle. Arrange the dried fruit around it, then scatter the nuts and mint over the top. Serve with the warm sauce, yoghurt, harissa and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Tony’s Tip

The lamb will be at its best if you marinate it first for at least a day, and is even better if you marinate it for two days. As there’s quite a bit of work involved in putting this together, I also suggest that you make the sauce (which is poured over the lamb during roasting) at the same time, then seal it in a container and chill it. You can cook the dried fruit in advance, too, and set it aside at room temperature in a covered container.

 

Feasts from the Middle East is published by HQ and is now available to buy.

tonykitous.com

The post Feasts from the Middle East: Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Lamb (Kataf Ghanam Meshwy) appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Mon, 18 Jun 2018

Smiths drummer Mike Joyce talks to Northern Soul at Salford Lads Club

Archie Swift installed our oven when we came back to Manchester. Archie is a bloke who gets things done. My wife grew up on the same street as Archie, Rosemary and their kids – the ‘always welcome’ family. So when we needed something done urgently, and done well, she knew who to ask. Archie’s been […] The post Smiths drummer Mike Joyce talks to Northern Soul at Salford Lads Club appeared first on Northern Soul.

Archie Swift installed our oven when we came back to Manchester. Archie is a bloke who gets things done. My wife grew up on the same street as Archie, Rosemary and their kids – the ‘always welcome’ family. So when we needed something done urgently, and done well, she knew who to ask.

Archie’s been getting stuff done and inspiring other Salford lads and lasses to do the same for more than 50 years, not least at Salford Lads Club (he was awarded the MBE for services to young people in 2006). And so we were only too happy to let Archie take our old oven away for use at the club. It’s always been a little source of happiness for me, knowing that our oven played a small part in the history of this important building.

According to Mike Joyce, ex-drummer of The Smiths, it sounds as if some of the older volunteers engage in a bit of Top Trumps. “I saw some footage of some of the guys that were there [at the club] and they were saying ‘I’ve been here 30 years’ and ‘well, I’ve been here 50 years’, and it was some guy who must be in his 80s.” 

That’ll be Archie.

If you’ve been listening to XS Manchester recently or following Clint Boon (Inspiral Carpets) and Mike Joyce on social media, you might be aware of their ongoing mission to out-do each other in terms of achievements in their musical careers. As it stands, Joyce’s figures out-do Boon’s, and while that’s not to underplay the Inspirals’ impact on the UK music scene, it’s fair to say that The Smiths would be the card you’d prefer to hold in a high-stakes money game of Top Trumps. Far from being an effort to turn the high-achieving pair into the next Cannon & Ball, this double act came about more as an accident. 

“It came around as a joke really,” says Joyce. “Joe McGrath [fellow XS Manchester DJ] asked if he could film me and Clint just chatting about what we’d done in the past – a little skit – and make it a bit like Top Trumps.”

When the pair bragged about who played the bigger venue. Liam Fray (frontman of The Courteeners) was in the building at the time. “I just keep trying to trump Clint each time he says where he’s played and then at the end Liam comes in and mentions that he’s about to play Old Trafford, and asks if we’ve played there. We both say ‘no’ and he just says ’50,000’ and walks out. And that was it. There are no rehearsals for it, and we’ve never done more than one take. Clint’s a very clever, funny bloke – and because he is, it works quite well. I’m the stooge, really. He feeds me the lines and I’ll just go with it, go with the flow.”

It works so well because it’s a tried and tested set-up. Clint always loses. There’s an element of Abbott and Costello to their relationship here. “All comedy has to have a victim and there are varying degrees of victimisation, whether that’s a custard pie in the face or whatever. And because it wasn’t something that was planned, that’s why I like it.”

Now the pair have stepped outside the XS Manchester studios to trump each other in public, and what better place to do it than Salford Lads Club. The Smiths’ link to the club is well-documented, but Joyce had no links with the building before the famous 1985 image by Stephen Wright.

He explains: “Morrissey chose the place. It’s on Coronation Street and it’s in Salford. And Morrissey’s affinity with the city of Salford, Albert Finney, Rita Tushingham, Shelagh Delaney. So Salford and Manchester being two great working class Northern towns, cities, there’s also that sign. He thought it looked fantastic. And I think it’s to do with the lads club element that we had as a band, that solidarity and gang mentality. We were the lads and The Smiths was a lads club.”

Salford Lads Club has received funding from Sport Relief, Comic Relief and others – most famously from Channel 4’s ‘Secret Millionaire’ Chek Whyte in 2007 – and even from Morrissey himself. The club doesn’t get council funding or government funding so in terms of keeping it afloat, The Smiths’ link is one the main avenues of revenue. Would the club still be there had it not been for that photo?

“I’m not saying it’s because of that picture, I’m just saying it would’ve been more difficult. I know they do get some funding, Heritage Lottery and that sort of thing, but everyone wants that. They’re doing gigs now, and so because it’s become more of a public building, they need to think more about health and safety, disabled access – and of course that costs money. I remember when they had the roof done and it was a seven figure sum. Just to stop the rain coming in.”

Joyce hadn’t been back for years, until he started working on a project with Bonehead.

“The building still looked beautiful but it was in a pretty sorry state,” he says. “We started rehearsing there with Bonehead and Vinny Peculiar and did a bit of an auction, I think, just to get some funds to pay for the roof. Then a few years ago, Stephen Wright [the photographer on The Smiths’ photoshoot at the club] relinquished the rights to that photograph for a year so the club to do their own thing with it.”

The t-shirt produced in 2015 sold in the thousands, raising around £50,000 for the building. The following year, a t-shirt with a picture of Morrissey taken by Joyce was put on sale, in a similar way. The money raised by these t-shirts was enough to send a group of young people to New York. 

“I was at home, going through some of my old stuff, and I found a picture I’d taken of Morrissey in Boston. Probably around 1985-86. We saw a street sign that said Morrissey Boulevard, so I said to Morrissey ‘go and stand by that’. Now this wasn’t Pentax or Nikon. This was a point and shoot job, in fact it might have been one of these plastic cameras that you take the whole thing in to get developed. Now I had that photograph, and it was very grainy, very old and not a professionally taken photograph, but I wondered if they [Salford Lads Club] could use that picture, because I had the rights – I took it. So I got in touch with them and asked if they wanted the photograph to put it on t-shirts, similar to what they’d done the previous year. They did. I was down there for an event with Man City legend Paul Lake a few weeks later (again as a fundraiser for the club). As we were being introduced, Lesley, the curator, said ‘I just want to thank Mike because the t-shirts have just hit the £20,000 mark’. Well, how cool is that? I wasn’t as if I was on the streets with a bucket in the rain collecting money for Salford Lads Club. All I did was go down with this photograph, said ‘there you go’ and this money was generated from that small idea I had. Those kinds of things work really well for the club. They do great merchandise there anyway.”

They’ve got the dedicated Smiths room there now as well.

“Yes! It reminds me a little bit of that scene from Alan Partridge when he takes a guy round to his house and it turns out he’s got a tattoo of him. Overkill! I mean, obviously if you’re in the band it’s a little bit oppressive seeing thousands of pictures of yourself but it’s a brilliant dedication to us and a great little shrine for people to go and have a look. People travel there from all over the world to get their pictures taken outside.” 

Quite some feat, as there’s not a massive amount around that area, at least not on that side of Regent Road. There are no shopping areas (unless you count the massive supermarket across the street). Unlike the centre of Manchester, there’s no café culture in that part of town. Salford Lads Club is a bit of a tourist destination now, and it’s indicative of the importance of the building to the local community. Joyce agrees.

“Of course the people in there are all volunteers, so any monies raised are sorely needed. Not just in terms of preserving a wonderful building but also in terms of what it’s doing there, and its role in the community. It’s essential that it stays.”

Meanwhile, Boon and Joyce have known each other for more than 20 years, and they’ve known of each other for far longer. Obviously, all Manchester bands are intrinsically linked, and have lived in each other’s pockets since the early 80s. Like some Northern version of Stella Street. Or so I thought.

“I met Stephen Morris for the first time last year. I’d seen him loads and shook his hand a few times in passing but never sat down and chatted until last year.”

I’m stunned. That the drummer from Joy Division and New Order had never properly met the drummer from The Smiths until 2017 doesn’t even compute with me. How can that be?

“Well, The Smiths were very insular. We kept ourselves to ourselves. We did what we did and it was very much a closed shop. There was very little cross-pollination with other bands. We kept ourselves away from other bands, and Johnny kinda broke that mould towards the end by satellite-ing out with other bands, other people. I’m not too sure if Morrissey thought that was a great idea – maybe there was a little bit of jealousy there. And I kinda felt the same way, to be honest with you.”

That’s understandable, considering how the band kept themselves to themselves

“Well, it’s a bit like being in a relationship and they go out for dinner with someone else, come back and say they had a great time. ‘Oh did you?’.” 

After Johnny Marr left The Smiths, he worked with Paul McCartney, The Pretenders and The The, before forming Electronic with New Order’s Bernard Sumner. Joyce recalls what happened.

“When Johnny said he wanted to leave the band, we were in a meeting in London and I said ‘well, can’t we just do one last album?’.  I now realise that that was absolutely the last thing he wanted to hear. And that’s why me and Andy and Morrissey carried on, albeit for a short period. A quarter of what I loved had been taken away, but I still had three quarters left – so I wanted to cling on that. We should’ve jacked it in when he left, but we didn’t. I just thought, well I’ve got Morrissey and Andy and that’s ok, that kinda thing. But splitting up, and explaining how you felt, is difficult to put into words.” 

Joyce tends not to do interviews now. Magazines request interviews all the time, citing the 30th anniversary of a particular single being released or an album’s ‘special’ birthday. 

“I don’t need to go over stuff that’s already been done before and when some of the larger publications have asked me and said ‘oh this is gonna be really good, it’s gonna be different’ I’ll say ‘HOW is it going to be different?’ I know it’s not going to be any different. I know it won’t – and when I see the publication, it isn’t any different. It’s the same stock photos, same stock answers given and there’s nothing, really, which will make it interesting – unless there was a reformation. Then it would make an interesting read. Of course they want to sell copies, but I just find it a bit boring really.”

I wonder if there are any questions which really make his eyes roll back in his head. 

“No. I’m prepared to talk about anything. But the thing is, everything’s been said. When it’s the general public asking me questions then it’s fine, because I’m the general public. I was a massive Buzzcocks fan and I wanted to know everything about The Buzzcocks and when I spoke to them they were lovely. I know how important that is. I’ve never refused an autograph, I’ve never refused a photograph. Regardless of how much of a rush I’m in. The whole ‘Smiths Getting Back Together’ thing is a bit boring but, when people ask me, I don’t say ‘OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE, ASK ME ANOTHER QUESTION’ – I’ll just say ‘no, I don’t think so’. Because it takes just as long to say that.” 

Words and Pictures by Chris Payne

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Published on - Wed, 13 Jun 2018

Food Review: Blanchflower, Altrincham

The main drag in Altrincham has changed in a big way. Those who know the area of old may remember a time when the only culinary delight on offer in the vicinity was a vanilla slice from Spinks. Then suddenly, four years ago, the Market Hall was transformed into a haven for food fans and […] The post Food Review: Blanchflower, Altrincham appeared first on Northern Soul.

The main drag in Altrincham has changed in a big way. Those who know the area of old may remember a time when the only culinary delight on offer in the vicinity was a vanilla slice from Spinks. Then suddenly, four years ago, the Market Hall was transformed into a haven for food fans and to this day you’ll be lucky to find an empty seat. The knock-on effect is that Altrincham as a whole has been reborn as a dining destination, with many premises beyond on the market relaunched as characterful, appealing bars and restaurants. 

Blanchflower fits in nicely here, nestled right across the way from the market. Within it is a long, airy space which feels bright and welcoming, with cooks and bakers busy at work in plain sight. It has already established quite the reputation for its fine baking and fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Now it’s launched a Sunday lunch menu, and Northern Soul has the privilege of being the very first to try it, purely by dint of being greedy and turning up extra early.

We went for the bread oven roasted topside of beef with Yorkshire pudding and red wine gravy, the most obviously ‘Sunday lunch’ option. Mind you, the beef was moist and flavoursome, about as far away as you can get from the dry slab of many a Sunday lunch. The Yorkshire was perfect too and generous enough to be shared with those of us foolish diners who’d failed to order it. The gilt head bream with lentil and watercress salad and preserved lemon was another hit – publicly declared to be a ‘bream dream’, in fact – delicately done and contrasting wonderfully with the lentils.

There was also a fine snack dish, namely house cured salmon with capers, lemon and sourdough, which went down a treat and was very nearly up to the standard of the bream. Plus, the accompanying vegetables were plentiful, fresh as you like and cooked to perfection. The cheeseboard was also generous and varied and came with an array of sliced sourdough and crackers.

The only real weak spot here was the desserts. The white and dark chocolate cherry trifle was  overpowering in an 80s dinner party kind of way, all intense flavours and not enough subtlety. Similarly the warm chocolate brownie, complete with hot fudge sauce and caramel ice cream, was an undiluted cocoa and sugar rush. To be fair, though, the counter at Blanchflower is crammed with all manner of delicious sweet, baked treats and the pain au chocolate we squeezed in managed to beat the actual desserts into a cocked hat. 

Blanchflower is in a great spot and it evidently has plenty to offer. All told, the Sunday lunch menu might not always show it off at its very best, but that’s mostly just niggling. You’re bound to  appreciate it if you enjoy fine fish or meat or bread or vegetables or cakes. So basically, food, then. In short, give that chocolate cherry trifle the swerve and it’s well worth a visit.

By Andy Murray

Chef's Knife Chef's Knife Chef's Knife Chef's Knife

 

Blanchflower

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Published on - Tue, 12 Jun 2018

Big ideas, big jokes, big songs. Northern Soul talks to playwright Robert Farquhar about Peer Gynt

“I hate Peer Gynt. Why should we do it?” These aren’t my words. It’s the phrase that apparently sprang to the lips of Gemma Bodinetz, artistic director of Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, when it was suggested the venue might want to produce a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play. But although they’re not my words, […] The post Big ideas, big jokes, big songs. Northern Soul talks to playwright Robert Farquhar about Peer Gynt appeared first on Northern Soul.

“I hate Peer Gynt. Why should we do it?”

These aren’t my words. It’s the phrase that apparently sprang to the lips of Gemma Bodinetz, artistic director of Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, when it was suggested the venue might want to produce a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play.

But although they’re not my words, I have some sympathy. Peer Gynt, first performed in 1876, is notoriously tricky. It flits through time and space and in and out of consciousness as it follows the title character through a life of rebelliousness and anarchy. Loosely based on a Norwegian folk tale, its blend of surrealism and satire can feel pretty far removed from modern British life – although just like on Twitter, trolls feature heavily.

For Robert Farquhar, however, Peer Gynt is a theatrical enigma that has long toyed with his imagination. He’s a Liverpool-based playwright with a reputation for robust, rampaging comedy, and it was he who suggested the Everyman should consider adapting it for today’s audience. He was evidently persuasive, as his new Peer Gynt-inspired play, The Big I Am, opens at the Everyman on June 16.

“What I’ve set out to do is write a very accessible version of Peer Gynt,” explains Farquhar. Rather than traversing Ibsen’s original world of Scandinavian villages, troll kingdoms and North African landscapes, The Big I Am opens in mid-20th century England then heads off on a new journey.

# The Big I Am in rehearsal, Nathan McMullen & Zelina Rebeiro, photo by Brian Roberts -0422“I think it’s accepted that it’s quite a difficult read in its original form,” admits Farquhar. “But Peer Gynt is a fantastic character, and I made this connection between him and a young, pre-fame John Lennon. There’s something in his loudmouthness, his rebelliousness, his romanticism, his occasional violence.

“I had the idea of seeing him being born during the Blitz, and when I looked at the play’s episodic nature, I thought the big wedding scene at the beginning would fit nicely with an early 1960s northern English feel. Then when he goes to the countryside and builds a cottage, it feels a bit like 1970s hippy idealism. And when he becomes a corrupt businessman, that fits in with the 1980s ‘no such thing as society’ thing.

“I thought there were a lot of set pieces that would exploit the humour and anarchy of my writing, but I’d be able to get the heartbreak in at the same time. So that’s the idea I took to the Everyman about two and a half years ago.”

Since Farquhar’s initial pitch, the Everyman has been on a winding theatrical journey of its own. In 2017 it relaunched its own in-house repertory company and is now reaching the climax of its second company season. The Big I Am is the final show to be added to its hectic schedule, and with roles for the entire team, it aims to round things off with what its director Nick Bagnall calls “a massive, open-hearted romp”.

The Big I Am in rehearsal, photo by Brian Roberts Farquhar says: “The rep company was being planned when I pitched the show, and that was lucky for me. It means we have 14 actors, so the scale of the piece is do-able. The whole company is constantly busy in the show, and the actors absolutely love it.”

So, if The Big I Am is essentially a new Everyman play, how faithful has Farquhar been to the original?

“I’ve been faithful to the structure, but I’ve thrown a lot out, added new bits and mixed up loads of stuff.”

And how does he think audiences will react? Will they be laughing or crying?”

“All that, yeah. I want it to be a very entertaining night out. It’s comic, it’s full of music, and it’s full of heartbreak. But it pays attention to the deeper themes of Peer Gynt as well – the search for identity, the search for meaning. We close the first half with Identity by X-Ray Spex, which seems to me to be perfect. ‘Look in the mirror, do you see yourself? Do you see yourself on the TV screen?’”

The Big I Am in rehearsal, The Everyman Company, photo by Brian Roberts Farquhar describes himself as being “obsessed” by music, and he is choosy about the tunes used to underscore key moments in his script. “We use a song by Helen Shapiro and a version of Praise You, and X-Ray Spex and the Incredible String Band.”

The show’s composer is regular Everyman collaborator, James Fortune, and Farquhar is clearly impressed by what he brings to the production process. “When the Sylvie character first arrives – she’s called Solveig in the original – she sings a version of this Helen Shapiro song. I said to James I wanted it to sound like Billy Fury, and he just went away and did it. He’s given it a lovely David Lynch, Joe Meek echo-y quality. And we’ve got a scene with a load of geezers in a pub, all singing filthy lyrics for their cockney knees-up. It becomes like a mad scene from Oliver, just cockney gobbledegook. It’s brilliant.”

The Big I Am in rehearsal, Writer Robert Farquhar, photo by Brian RobertsFarquhar’s last big work for the Everyman was Dead Heavy Fantastic in 2011, a play that also doggedly pursued a single individual as he pinballed from one incident to another – though in that case it was through one messy Liverpool night out rather than the 70-odd years of Peer Gynt’s life.

The writer is clear about the common theme that connects not just these two works, but most of his plays.

“My constant theme is ‘what do we do in a world where God doesn’t exist?’” he says. “I’m essentially a comic playwright but it’s something I constantly return to. In plays like God’s Official, or Di is Dead or Dead Heavy Fantastic, there’s always this question: how do we replace God? How do we find meaning in life?”

Ah, the meaning of life. Given that Farquhar has namechecked both Ingmar Bergman and Monty Python as reference points for The Big I Am, the phrase seems particularly apt. It sounds like a show with an accessible, down-to-earth spirit, but one that isn’t afraid to tackle the biggest questions of all – an approach that sits firmly within the Everyman’s own theatre-making tradition.

The Big I Am in rehearsal, Nathan McMullen and the Everyman Company, photo by Brian Roberts“When I sent it to Gemma Bodinetz,” says Farquhar, “I said ‘I want to write another play for the Everyman please, and this is what I’m thinking about. I don’t want to do anything that’s ordinary. I’ve taken the most unordinary play in existence, Peer Gynt, and I want to have a go at that. I want to make it an Everyman play, because I think I pretty much know what that is.’”

With its big ideas, big jokes and big songs, it will be fascinating to find out whether The Big I Am succeeds in turning this life less ordinary into the stuff that Everyman memories are made of. Because mentioning no names, some people hate Peer Gynt. And it may turn out that this show is a great deal easier to love.

By Damon Fairclough

(Main image: The Big I Am in rehearsal, photo by Brian Roberts )

 

The Big I Am opens at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, on June 16, 2018. It runs in repertory until July 14, 2018. For more information, click here.

The post Big ideas, big jokes, big songs. Northern Soul talks to playwright Robert Farquhar about Peer Gynt appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Sun, 10 Jun 2018