First MAC Theatre Commission Award goes to Erdington playwright for project looking at life on Lyndhurst Estate

Words & supporting images by Ed King / Profile pic by Kris Askey

The first ever MAC Theatre Commission Award has been given to Erdington playwright and author CJ Lloyd Webley, to develop a project titled Lyndhurst Memories – exploring the past and present of the Erdington estate.

Recently established to help support local creatives after the Covid pandemic, the MAC Theatre Commission Award will see Webley get a £10,000 grant and 15 days of free studio space at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) to help him develop his project.

Having grown up on the Lyndhurst, the Erdington writer and social entrepreneur aims to use “immersive storytelling” and even virtual reality to engage an audience and bring the story of the estate to life.

After being granted the award, CJ Lloyd Webley told: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have secured the MAC Theatre Commission for my Lyndhurst Memories project! This opportunity fills me with immense joy and inspiration.

“The project aims to explore and celebrate the rich history and stories of the formerly known Lyndhurst Estate in Erdington. Through immersive storytelling, VR and creative exploration, we’ll delve into the memories, experiences, and legacy of this cherished community.”

He added: “Together with MAC’s team, and the support of other Birmingham creatives, we’ll weave together a narrative that deeply resonates with audiences, capturing the essence of Lyndhurst’s past and present reality.

“I look forward to creating an unforgettable experience that celebrates the unique heritage of Birmingham, while engaging and inspiring our audience.”

Completed in 1960, the Lyndhust Estate was built by George Wimpey’s eponymous construction company for Birmingham City Council to provide quality civic housing after the Second World War.

Replacing a series of luxury Victorian villas, the original estate was comprised of seven tower blocks and a series of maisonettes – winning an award for its architectural qualities and the retention of existing trees and green spaces.

Since the 1980’s the estate became blighted by crime and anti-social behaviour, turning the once proud housing development into a renowned trouble hot spot. However, recent investment has seen new housing built on the estate with semi-detached family homes near the Chester Road.

The MAC Theatre Commission Award was created to support Birmingham creatives and invest in new works and projects.

Jo Carr, MAC Performing Arts Programmer, said: “MAC’s new Theatre Commission is a response to the limited opportunities for independent theatre-makers to make new work with adequate financial support – especially those with no regular funding.

“There is palpable concern in the sector about the future of new writing and contemporary theatre, as well as how to recapture audiences post-pandemic to see this work.”

Jo Carr added: “We are thrilled that the first recipient will be writer, director and performer CJ Lloyd Webley, who will start work on Lyndhurst Memories – a theatre piece about the Lyndhurst Estate in Erdington where he grew up, its eventual decline and re-gentrification.

“We look forward to working with CJ over the coming year and seeing where his story goes.”

For more on CJ Lloyd Webley visit

For more from Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) visit

Taking you from fear to frivolity, Mutes release new single ‘Barely Living Proof’

Words by Ed King / Photos by Sam Wood – artwork by Megan Henebury

“Dog-sick with the possibility of another failed escape.”

When you read the lyrics to Mutes’ latest single, ‘Barely Living Proof’, it does not bode well. Beginning with “Force fed eyes” and ending with “Young violence speaks our fall to ruin” you’d be justifiably left a little concerned.

It’s just Mutes, I say, as I contemplate Googling the Samaritans hotline and frontman James Brown’s Facebook profile. No, no. It’ll be fine… let’s just see when he posted last.

But the audio reality of ‘Barely Living Proof’, self-released by Mutes on Friday 29 March, is actually quite joyful. Seriously. Oddly. Joyful. Its message might be the blood-based scrawling of a tortured soul but the tune itself is considerably more blissful.

Sure it’s gritty, dark; a wounded animal in a corner, with vocals that appear to have been sung whilst being suffocated. But it hops, skips, punches, and jumps forward with an almost spring in its step. And as strange as it sounds, The Monkees and The Velvet Underground both crept into my head on the first listen.

Starting with a spangly indie saunter, to expand the metaphor, ‘Barely Living Proof’ builds into more of a determined march over the first half of the track.

Then – at the line at the start of this review – breaks clean in two, leaving fragments of the first half hanging in the air… only to be thrust back together for about a minute and a half of angsty noise rock with a ‘Starla’/Smashing Pumpkins elongated end. And there I go with comparisons again.

But it’s good, really good. Purple prose and clever tropes aside. And if words ‘aint your thing…

The third offering from Mutes’ upcoming album, …buried where you stand, scheduled for release on 17 May this year, ‘Barely Living Proof’ was also recorded at Megatone Studios – Mark Gittin’s musical play pen found lurking beyond the urban wasteland that was once Birmingham Wholesale Markets.

And whilst that may not be the official Google Maps list of directions for the birthplace of Mutes’ new baby, we felt it fits the tone.

Following singles ‘Televangelist’ and ‘Mere Slaughter’, released in Nov ’23 and Feb ’24 respectively, ‘Barely Living Proof’ is in our modest opinion the best yet – carrying with it the sound and scope of the two first releases, but coming in at a considerably longer 4mins 10sec and with an ineffable edge that just gives it the win.

Mutes are no stranger to building tension and, after quite a sharp introduction with ‘Mere Slaughter’, this may well have been the plan all along.

But all three singles are laying a very promising path to …buried where you stand. And if their nine brothers and sisters share even a bit of the family features then there’s going to be significantly impressive album out this May.

We’ve long said it, but Mutes are one of the more pertinent musical outfits to come from Brummagem – and this latest studio album is already looking dangerously promising.

Plus, always worth watching live, Mutes will be showcasing their new album at the Hare and Hounds (Venue 2) on 22 May – with Spits Milt and Stay In Nothing as support. Click here for more info and link to online ticket sales.

Mutes release …buried where you stand on 17 May. For more on Mutes visit

Alasdair Beckett-King kicks off Nevermore UK tour at The Old Rep on 27 March

Words by Ed King / Pics by Edward Moore

On Wednesday 27 March, Alasdair Beckett-King kicks off his new UK tour at The Old Rep Theatre on Station Street in Birmingham City Centre.

Playing shows from Belfast to Exeter, the comedian, writer, animator, occasional computer programmer, and self described ‘gentleman thief’, will be bringing his latest stand-up show, Nevermore, to Birmingham – before heading out to perform another 26 dates across the UK.

Tickets for Alasdair Beckett-King at The Old Rep Theatre cost £18.50, with the show set to start at 7:30pm. At the time of writing only selected seats in the stalls were available – for more direct information and links to online ticket sales, click here.

Hailing from Durham, with a mixed Scottish and English heritage, Alasdair Beckett-King is a multi award winning stand up comedian, who has been a firm fixture on the comedy circuit since 2012 – with several TV panel appearances also under his belt.

Author of the Bonnie Montgomery children’s book series, illustrated by Claire Powell, Beckett-King has built a strong more adult following with writing, performing, and producing an online portfolio of video shorts.

Published via his YouTube channel and social media, the thirty second spoofs take a pop a everything from The Simpsons to Blade Runner – and are, as far as a cursory Google search can identify, the only place on the Internet where you can watch ‘Maggie Thatcher climb a house’. Although we didn’t check the Dark Web.

In his new stand up show, Nevermore, Alasdair Beckett-King will be unravelling ‘life’s shallowest mysteries’.

And with previous questions raised on his YouTube skits including ‘who milks the milkman?’ and ‘do aliens walk among us, but we can’t see then because their standing behind us?’, the show is set to be both informative and funny. They do say every day is a school day.

Tickets are selling fast for Alasdair Beckett-King’s UK tour opener at The Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham, with a recommended age restriction of 14 years.

And if you need a bit more of a nudge…

Alasdair Beckett-Kings will be performing his new stand up show, Nevermore, at The Old Rep Theare in Birmingham on Wednesday 27 March. Click here for more information and links to online tickets sales.

For more on Alasdair Beckett-King visit:

For more from The Old Rep Theatre visit:

The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme returns to Midlands Arts Centre – running until 28 March

Words by Jimmy Dougan (follow him on Letterboxd @jimmydougan) / Production pics courtesy of the Japan Foundation

The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme (JFTFP) returns to the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), running until 28 March, and presents a week of carefully curated Japanese cinema to audiences outside of London.

The theme of this year’s JFTFP is ‘Unforgettable: Memories, Times and Reflections in Japanese Cinema’, and each of the films on offer explores the ways in which memories of the past influence the present, and how memories feature in the cinematic toolkits of leading Japanese filmmakers.

The festival promises memorably rich films and provocative ideas, and many of the films have never previously been exhibited in the UK.

Read on to find out our film critic’s three top picks from the JFTFP ’24 programme at MAC.

Ripples – Tuesday 26 March, 7pm

Naoko Ogigami’s Hamome Shokudo is one of the great fish out of water comedies, a low-key tale of a lonely Japanese woman attempting to establish a Japanese café in Helsinki. It was an unhurried, softly spoken comedy which established Ogigami as one of Japan’s most vital auteurs.

Her new film, Ripples, follows Yoriko (Mariko Tsutsui), a woman struggling to keep things together following the abrupt disappearance of her husband, who was terrified of radiation poisoning after the 2011 earthquake and the ensuing Fukushima disaster, and the departure of her son for university.

Ogigami’s forte, the film blends aching sadness with wryly surreal humour (feeling adrift, Yoriko joins a cult and regains a sense of belonging absent from her life) but the film also promises to highlight contemporary social issues unique to Japan. Ogigami points her camera at nuclear anxiety, urban isolation, and the suffering of women.

Ripples – official trailer


Egoist – Wednesday 27 March, 8.15pm

Daishi Matsunaga returns to the Japan Foundation Touring Programme with this delicate tale of repressed longing and gay intimacy. Kosuke (Ryohei Suzuki) was 14 years old when his mother died, and he spent his teens in the countryside hiding his feelings as a gay man. Now an editor for a fashion magazine, he meets Ryuta (Hio Miyazawa) and the two find themselves drawn towards each other.

Adapting Makato Takayama’s novel of the same name, Egoist sees Matsunaga employing a documentary approach to gesture towards the novel’s semi-biographical origins. Matsunaga estimates that almost a third of the film is improvised by a largely non-professional cast – though Suzuki is one of Japan’s most beloved actors – and shot it largely on handheld cameras.

Egoist – official trailer


A Man – Thursday 28 March, 7.30pm

A hit on the 2022 festival circuit and a big winner at the 2023 Japan Academy Awards, this brooding psychological thriller directed by Kei Ishikawa follows a divorcee Rie (Sakura Ando) who meets and remarries Daisuke (Masataka Kubota).

They lead a modest but content life, until Daisuke dies in an accident. After his death, Rie discovers that the man she knew and loved as Daisuke was in fact a wholly different person and hires a lawyer (Satoshi Tsumabuki) to discover the real identity of the man she shared four years of her life with.

From Keiichiro Hirano’s best-selling novel, Ishikawa spins a melancholic and slow-burn thriller that deftly interrogates potent themes of identity and national belonging, with two astonishing central performances. The film deservedly won eight prizes at the Japan Academy Awards, including for Best Film, and deserves to be seen in a cinema.

A Man – official trailer

What films are you excited to see at this year’s Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme at MAC? If you see catch our critic Jimmy at any of them, make sure to tell him.

Japan Foundation Touring Programme screenings run at MAC until 28 March. For full listings and links to online ticket sales visit:

To read more about the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme visit:
To read more about the Japan Foundation go to:

For more from Midlands Arts Centre visit:

To follow Birmingham Review’s film critic Jimmy Dougan on Letterboxed click here, or search @jimmydougan 

Night of the Moth: Kikimora returns to Moseley’s Babicabin on Saturday 23 March for facepainting and a special video premiere of Rosie Tee’s new single, ‘Night Creature’

Words by Ed King / Pics and artwork supplied by Kikimora

On Saturday 23 March, Kikimora will be holding their second event at The Yard in Moseley – the longstanding garden centre on Oxford Road that those crazy Kikimora kids have renamed Babicabin (which we think is possibly a smidge better name than The Yard… I mean, come on).

Tickets are priced at £8.50, not bad for a Saturday night out, and can be purchased here:

This time the event is called Night of the Moth – in part, because moths are a vibrant and mysterious creature that spreads their wings and declare their colours to the cosmos at night.

And in other parts, because their showing The Rebirth of Mothra – the 1996 Japanese kaiju film about a giant three-headed space dragon and a mother/son fighting family of super moths. Oh, and there will be facepainting. So, you know, something for all.

But the real reason is the premiere of Rosie Tee’s music video for her latest single, ‘Night Creature’, which is set for release on Monday 25 March – out on Kikimora Records, which was set up by Rosie Tee and Emily Doyle in 2023.

Kikimora are a new local imprint and collective of creatives who ‘are growing a fruitful community of artists and listeners’ and ‘produce enchanting events’. Which they are, and they do. They also really like mushrooms.

(Click here to read our interview with Rosie and Emily about Kikimora, conducted in Moseley Bog in October last year – and we apologise for the Exorcist-type photography… our DSLR had seen better days.)

We’ve had a sneak peak at the video for ‘Night Creature’ and it’s definitely worth checking out, and very much at home amongst avant garde arts and crafts and a battle to the death between mythical creatures. And as embarrassing as this is for people who write for a living, we’re struggling to properly describe it – although references to The Blair Witch Project, Daft Punk, Willy Wonka’s staff, and Peter Greenaway did appear in our draft copy.

But direct form the source, Kikimora describe the video for ‘Night Creature’ thus: “Filmed by our good friends Broaden in the grounds of an ex-garden centre, it’s equal parts Blair Witch and Mighty Boosh.

“Follow Rosie into a party in a remote forest. Creatures real and imagined scurry amongst the neon lights and pulsing synthesisers, all set to a bouncing bassline…”

So, we got the Blair Witch bit right. Probably a good idea to head over to The Yar… achem, Babicabin on Saturday to find a description for yourself. And if you get really stuck, there will be a Q&A with Rosie Tee, director George Webster, and producer Bryony Simcox after the screening.

Hyperbole and anecdotes aside, the last event at Babicabin, Moths of the Moon, was a real special treat – click here to see our coverage of it.

Kikimora pride themselves in creating events which are friendly, fun, and fantastically more creative than your standard night out. So, on our hearty recommendation, it would be a good idea to just go and embrace all that is (literally and figuratively) on the table. We are pretty sure you won’t regret it.

More to come on the releases from Kikimora too, as Rosie Tee’s album that features ‘Night Creature’ will be released in April.

In the meantime, because we’re not allowed to jump the gun and show you the video for ‘Night Creature’ – which you really should watch – here’s a clip of a giant moth tragically giving up her life to save her lava son… at least, we think that’s what’s going on. Enjoy.

Rebirth of Mothra (Mothra’s death)

Night of the Moth comes to the Babicabin/The Yard on Oxford Rd in Moseley on Saturday 23 March – with tickets priced at £8.50. For more information and link to online tickets visit:

For more on Kikimora visit or follow them on Instagram at