It’s Gay Pride night in the heart of Manchester’s Canal Street, bursting with people celebrating their sexuality. Only The Lionheart, the oldest gay pub in the village is…….empty. Landlady Wendy Hatley (Jane Hamlet) is worried. The health inspector is due in the morning. She knows her time at the pub will be coming to an end, with the help of the rats, and she is loathe to leave the pub to her son James (Sam Retford) who has the audacity to be straight, even after being raised by two mothers for the past 25 years. A straight man cannot run a gay establishment and with this in mind Wendy (Hamlet) has resigned herself to giving the old place up. James (Retford) and ditzy barmaid Sally (Emma McCullen) have other ideas. They invent a ghost to boost popularity and the play is surrounded by their hilarious antics in order to keep the farce going.

The Lionheart Phantom was written by award winning playwright Tess Humphrey, produced by the Grand Dame Theatre Company and under the direction of Sam Hart, the team explored issues such as acceptance and spirituality.
The reversal of stereotypes was refreshing and delivered in a comedic way. The show is written to be funny but perhaps the most poignant moment for me was the realisation that we all want to, and need to, believe that somehow our loved ones are always with us because it’s the only way we can accept that they are not.

The Salford Arts Theatre played host to this well written comedy. Although from the outside, the theatre is very modern, on the inside, at first glance, the foyer appeared to be decorated with a mish mash of furniture. In hindsight, it was actually very quaint and I felt comfortable prior to the show and during the interval. The auditorium itself seated around 200 people and it was unfortunate that only half of these seats were taken. The lighting was good but I was a little taken aback by the complete darkness the audience were engulfed in between scenes. I felt that it was unnecessary because the scenery never changed throughout. The removal of props etc could have perhaps been done more discreetly and therefore removing the need for the several blackouts.

I am glad that I was given the opportunity see The Lionheart Phantom. Having not known what to expect from this production and being unfamiliar with the work of Tess Humphrey and the recently established Grand Dame Theatre Company, I can certainly say that I have become a fan and will look forward to future shows. Sean Chriscole who played Jason Rathbound the medium is one to watch. He was my favourite actor of the night and had the audience in fits of laughter throughout his performance.

Reviewer: Annellen Fazackerley

Reviewed: 19th March 2016