St Annes Square was strangely foggy when Mr Monkey got there, so the lights of the Royal Exchange were particularly welcoming.
Scampering up the stairs he paused to look at the poster for the play, and was rather worried by the rather sinister looking entertainer shown.
Inside, Mr Monkey collected his tickets - he'd brought his humans along too, of course - and went for a wander around the building.
He scurried upstairs to the Mezzazine Gallery to look at The Half
, an exhibition of pictures taken by Simon Annand. All show actors at various theatres in the half hour before a play starts and are part of a larger exhibition at The Lowry.
Mr Monkey was fascinated by the theatre module which, since 1976, has been suspended beneath one of the domes of the Royal Exchange Building. He could understand why people keep mistaking it for a lunar module. As soon as he realised the doors were open, Mr Monkey scampered in to take his seat.
premiered in 1957, and is set during the 1956 Suez Crisis, when Britain and France had a go at invading Egypt to prevent Colonel Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal. The whole thing went moderately horribly wrong, with anti-war protests in Trafalgar Square, an ultimatum from America demanding withdrawal, a ceasefire and the fall of the British government.
The action centres mostly on a bad weekend in the life of the Rice family, all taking place in one not particularly well furnished room, with occassional visits to a seedy girlie-revue to see how Archie Rice (David Schofield) earns a sort of a living. Midway between the Blitz and the Beatles, his brand of end-of-pier cheeky-chappie music hall is going out of style and he's desperately trying to raise cash to keep going. Meanwhile one son is in the army, fighting in Egypt, his other son went to prison to avoid National Service, and his daughter went to the Trafalgar Square rally.
Mr Monkey had heard the play on the radio some time ago, and had found it rather depressing, so he was surprised to find himself laughing (at least during the first act). This was probably down to the retired music hall patriarch, Billy Rice (David Ryall) and his grand-daughter Jean (Laura Rees) who appears perpetually on the verge of running amock. David Schofield makes a sinister Archie, with an astoundingly insincere smile, and Mr Monkey rather envied his hat. Phoebe Rice (Roberta Taylor) is a bit too downtrodden. Frank Rice (Oliver Gomm) doesn't really get many good lines and is almost in danger of being upstaged by Brittania (Harriet Barrow), who is mainly there to demonstrate Archie's decline.
Mr Monkey thoroughly enjoyed the play, though occasionally a combination of the theatre in the round and a production that avoids shouting meant that he missed some of the lines. He particularly enjoyed the patriotic glitterball that descends from the roof, especially when he found it abandoned during the interval.
Mr Monkey thinks his humans should take him to the theatre more often.