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MICK RYAN’S HERE AT THE FAIR - Victoria Hall, Ripponden - 28 April 2019

The semi-staged format of this modern-day ballad opera lent an informal feel to what was actually a tightly organised and well-executed piece of musical theatre - one that portrayed an important aspect of the human condition: people must indeed be amused, especially when living in the shadow of something like the Peterloo Massacre.

The musicians/singers involved were Mick Ryan, Alice Jones, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, Pete Morton, Heather Bradford, Geoff Lakeman, George Sansome and Lewis Wood. They wove together a tapestry of sound with consummate musicianship but none of the ‘look-at-me’ virtuosic flourishes they could so easily have indulged in. Instead they placed their skills entirely at the service of the narrative.

The singing and acting were equally impressive and as for Alice Jones’ tap-dancing portrayal of a Peterloo soldier, this was nothing short of a miracle. Her impassive facial expression exuded all the grim menace of someone blindly following orders with neither conscience nor compassion. Sitting inches away from the tip of her sword, I can tell you she frightened the shit out of me.

Special mention must also go to Pete Morton. He was so convincing in his role as showman that he had us believing his performing fleas had materialised before our very eyes.

Mick Ryan should be a national treasure! I never fail to be impressed by the continuous flow of originality in his writing and it is my sincere belief his work should be seen in the wider world of theatre. He tackles some big subjects with universal relevance but only we habitués of folk music venues ever have a chance to see it.

Finally: thanks to Sue Coe and her colleague for welcoming people with an unwavering cheeriness as they answered endless questions. I could only fault them for one thing - those raffle tickets they sold me – they didn’t work!

Ray Black