Jubilee - Royal Exchange Theatre

BEING just 12 and with musical tastes I would now happily describe as "uncool", I missed the point of punk, first time around.

It was only in later years that I could appreciate the way it stuck two fingers up at the establishment, its DIY attitude to creativity and the way it paved the way for far better bands.

A real pity then, that the spirit of this very important movement remains in the background of this stage version of Derek Jarman's classic cult film. It's been updated to allow the characters to vent their spleen against the way 21st century society treats those at the bottom of the social ladder, or those who, like the punks it focusses upon, are labelled as outsiders.

Transgender performer Travis Alabanza gives the performance of the night as the sharp tongued and often hilarious Anmyl, one of a group of young people living on the edge of society. Travis also has a terrific rapport with the audience, managing to make the small amount of audience participation a pleasure rather than an ordeal.

In the programme he equates his own treatment with that suffered by the punks by a society unable to understand what they stood for and what they were ranting against. I found reading this quietly moving.

Pop star Toyah Wilcox, who appeared in the original Jarman flick, plays a time travelling Queen Elizabeth I and there's a treat in store for her fans in the second act of the play. But why the monarch is there, watching over the unbridled hedonism of the totally unsympathetic characters. is a mystery.

But I admire the RET for putting this on, even if those on stage largely look like fetishists rather than Johnny Rotten. Just when I thought theatre was too safe, along comes Jubilee to yank me out of my comfort zone. By the hair.

Warning - Jubilee contains explicit nudity and strong language.

* Until November 18. The box office is on 0161 833 9833. Star rating - ***

Haywire - Altrincham Little Theatre

HARRASSED bookshop owner Alec (Chris Burton) is living proof that you can, if proof were needed, wear cardigans and still be a sexual being.

He's also living proof that you should never judge a book by its cover - no pun intended. For the sly old dog is plotting a few days in the sun with his mistress.

But will his family scupper his plans? The first complication arrives in the shape of his elderly mother, who has absconded from the nursing home se lived in. My contact at ALT told me Janet Reidsma was never going to take to the stage again. Why? As Phoebe, Alec's mum, she delivers a superbly pitched piece of character acting and there are some memorable spats between her and Burton, a comedy natural, to enjoy.

This is, unfortunately, one of those occasions when the cast is actually better than the play. Some of the jokes in the firsttwo acts are as flat as a bowl of yesterday's punch. But the piece, from the pen of Eric "Rising Damp" Chappell, creator of one of the best ever British sitcoms, becomes far funnier and pacier after the interval.

Under the very capable direction of Garth Jones, Alec, Phoebe, Jamie and Mandy look a sound like a real family and there's a real authenticity to their sniping and bickering. Equally convincing is Lisa Barker as "the other woman" Liz.

There are elements of farce here. But without the usual frantic breathlessness you'd usually associate with the genre. While Haywire isn't classic comedy it is good fun and there are flashes of the comic brilliance that were a hallmark of Chppell's greatest work, that timeless sitcom Rising Damp.

* Until October 7. The box office is on 0161 928 1113. Star rating - ***