TOUR DATES: 2004
Sunday 9th May
Manchester Opera House, Quay Street Manchester
Tuesday 11th May
The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon
Friday 14th May
Liverpool Playhouse, Williamson Square
Saturday 15th May
Liverpool Playhouse, Williamson Square
Sunday 23rd May
Theatr Clwyd, Mold
Friday 28th May
Grand Opera House, Cumberland Street
Hay On Wye - Festival
Saturday 29th May
Hay On Wye Festival
Tel: 0870 990 1299
Sunday 30th May
Royal Theatre, Guildhall Road, Northampton
Saturday 12th June
Sherman Theatre, Senghennydd Road
Saturday 19th June
Buxton Opera House, Water Street
In Other Words...
- The Reviews
SHERMAN THEATRE - CARDIFF
“They were the kind of kids who would make a paedophile eat his own sweets.”
If you want a short sharp lesson in Scouse humour go and listen to Willy Russell and Tim Firth, two writers from the North West, touring the country with a unique show of words and music.
Russell is famously the writer of Shirley Valentine and long-running stage musical Blood Brothers. Firth most recently wrote Calendar Girls but has also penned TV series such as “All Quiet on the Warrington Front” (not far off – Preston!!)
Both are brilliant songwriters combining satire, sentimentality and humour.
On the health food craze, for example. “Rice is so wild you need to keep it in a cage, yoghurt so active it should be on the stage.”
And on the subject of growing old. “Tell me when the get to know me at the doctor’s surgery.”
The audience was taken on a fantastic bitter-sweet journey.
Russell played a poignant semi-acoustic guitar with Firth on pop-tastic electric keyboards. A talented backing band enabled them to rock-out whenever they fancied it.
One of the highlights of the evening was a song called Bring back Hughie (Green). Russell used it cunningly to lampoon Rupert Murdoch (‘He made the Sun, he made the Sky”) implying that if he had his way the likes of Green would be the only kind of entertainment the British public would get.
Russell and Firth are evangelists for the theatre and other performing arts and their show is a brilliant advert for them.
Ashley Nield - Cardiff
- MANCHESTER OPERA HOUSE
Playwright, songwriter and best selling author, Willy Russell and Olivier award winning writer, Tim Firth share the stage in a series of shows that blend the spoken word from their films and plays with songs from their new albums. You get the rare chance to hear music and anecdotes from these two humorous writers and composers. The small but ‘perfectly formed’ audience seem keen to revisit songs from Blood Brothers but the joy of this highly entertaining evening is that this is much more than a rehash of old material.
Russell and Firth share the stage with an excellent band as they visit their new albums, "Hoovering The Moon" and "Harmless Flirting". The new material veers from the folk sound of "Shoe Shine" to the melodic toe-tapping anthem "My Little Sister." The hooks are immediate and mixed with moving and funny lyrics which remind you why Russell's Blood Brothers and Firth's Our House fill theatres. There is something unconventional about these two and this comes across in their songs. Themes of old age, lost loves and tupperware have a lovely sense of irony and self deprecating wit but most of all give the audience a slice of reality to chuckle at in recognition and clap along to.
Die-hard fans of the talented two will not be disappointed. Russell reads monologues from Shirley Valentine which have the audience in stitches. He also plays the role of the narrator from Blood Brothers as Firth sings his new album title track "Harmless Flirting." The juxtaposition here is ingenious as each song has been hand picked for its relevance to the readings it is framed by. Firth reads a scene from his hit TV show Preston Front. This reviewer would have loved to have heard material from Our House or a line or two from Calendar Girls featuring those "considerably bigger buns" but you can't have it all.
This is a unique evening that not only showcases two brand new albums, it also invites the audience to see and hear the talent behind the curtain of two West End hits. There is certainly more to musical theatre than the names of Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber and these two funny, humble and talented wordsmiths provide the proof.
Glenn Meads - whatsonstage.com
HEAVEN forbid that any artist should be pigeon-holed.
Almost a century ago, the pianist Jan Paderewski became Prime Minister of Poland; only two years ago, Paul McCartney made it to the The Walker with his paintings.
Willy Russell and Tim Firth may be best known as scribes, but both have written award-winning musicals, respectively Blood Brothers and Our House. So why shouldn't they mix it as musicians who can also play typewriters and IT keyboards? The result, a miscellany of selfpenned readings and songs is relaxed, pleasant and, as may be expected, often humorous.
Thankfully, there is nothing of the feeling of celebrity inflicting mere novelty on a curious audience.
If Firth (from Warrington) has the fairer, freer-ranging singing voice, Russell's readings from his play, Shirley Valentine, and his novel, The Wrong Boy, are superlative. He has the adenoidal resonance to take on any accent located at either end of the M62.
The 10-venue national tour helps to launch two individual CDs. It was poignant to see Russell reading excerpts from Blood Brothers from the very stage where it was premiered 21 years ago.
And it is the music which takes priority here - mostly refrain-like songs, not particularly complex, but with memorable melodies and largely simple harmonies.
There is however, a lyrical link. Both Russell and Firth (as Russell's one time pupil on a writing course) seemed concerned with getting older. There are ballads about youthful love and even warnings about the onset of senility, including Firth's cautionary title Tell Me If I say The Same Thing Twice.
Reality wins the day and here are two lads who insist they are still growing up. Hopefully they will be entertaining for a good few years to come.
Joe Riley - Liverpool Daily Post
An interview with Tim Firth in which he talks about aspects of IN OTHER WORDS
FRODSHAM playwright Tim Firth thought of calling his new show Indescribable. In the event, the show in which he and fellow writer Willy Russell appear has gone on tour under the title In Other Words.
Opening for a two-night run at the Liverpool Playhouse tonight, it features Firth and Russell singing their own songs, reading extracts from their own film and stage scripts and telling anecdotes.
"It's gone down really well with audiences but it is very hard to describe," Firth admits. "As soon as you get in the theatre the show is very obvious.
"But when you are trying to describe it to someone you get this feeling of people thinking, 'Okay, but why would we want to go and watch John Betjeman on a unicycle when we know him for one thing?'"
The simple truth, Firth explains, is that both be and Russell had been writing songs before they became playwrights.
Firth, one of Britain's most successful writers with television series like All Quiet on the Preston Front, stage comedies like Neville's Island and film scripts like Calendar Girls, first met Russell on a writing course where Russell was lecturing and Firth a student. They became firm friends.
A joint interest in songwriting led them to put this show together. They had a trial run last year at a restaurant in Oswestry but the new show is very much a theatrical event.
"There are more funny songs," says Firth. It is also more structured.
In Oswestry, Russell read an extract from his musical Blood Brothers over a Firth song. "That was the moment which inspired this show which is much more wrought, moving from one song to another, using bits of movies we have written and telling anecdotes."
Both Firth and Russell have recorded albums - titled Harmless Flirting and Hoovering the Moon respectively - although in some ways their styles are very different. Russell composes on guitar, Firth on piano.
"But you can hear that they are songs written by playwrights: they have stories and characters and very often the 'I' who is singing the song is not me.
"I admire songwriters who take another voice. I love Randy Newman who can write a song from the point of view of a racist and sing it as 'I' which makes it more powerful."
The two writers originally planned to make a song album together. "But side by side we have very different voices. Willy's voice both narratively and in timbre is completely different. But that's what makes the show so interesting: there are two different voices often with songs dealing with the same areas."
The show is not the start of a career as a performer but Firth certainly plans to keep up the songwriting. "That's something I want to keep doing but you need an outlet for it otherwise I would spend all my days writing plays and never finishing songs."
He provided the book for one recent West End musical Our House using the music by the group Madness. It won an Olivier Award and there are now plans for a tour.
But he would like to write his own musical as Russell did with Blood Brothers. "I would love to write the book and lyrics but whether I would be brave enough to write the music as well is another matter. I would probably end up having a hand in it, though!"
But Firth is keeping pretty busy. He has just written his first period comedy film script set in 1600 after several months research. As yet untitled, it is now in the hands of the film company Working Title. "I have a deal with them that they get a first look at anything I write but it is early days yet."
Of more immediate interest is a series of one hour plays for ITV under the title Trapped, due to be broadcast later this year. "I have written one and so have Simon Nye and Jonathan Harvey. Richard Wilson is in mine and Martin Clunes and Caroline Quentin in the others."
At present, however, he is having great fun on the road with Russell and a seven-piece band, three of them from the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts. "This is seen as part of their course assessment so not only are they great but they are getting marked!"
PHILIP KEY - Liverpool Daily Post