Duck! Z-arts, Manchester

Originally staged at London’s Unicorn Theatre six years ago, 2013 Writers Guild Award winner Philip Osment, has adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s much loved classic ‘The Ugly Duckling’ to suit Manchester audiences and shifted the action from Hampstead Heath to Manchester’s Heaton Park giving us Duck! A new and exciting production for Manchester audiences.


Upon entering the theatre it’s clear that Z-arts have really gone to town on this year’s Christmas offering. Sophia Lovell-Smith’s set is bright, bold and instantly grabs your attention; it fills the theatre and creates a buzz of excitement.

The show itself is slick and very well produced; we follow Ugly as he tries to find his way in a world where people, well not just people, his own brothers and sisters for a start just aren’t very nice! Even Ugly’s teachers and fellow pond folk treat him badly so unsurprisingly it doesn’t take much persuading from his pompous Aunt to encourage him to flee the duck pond and fly away.

Upon entering the theatre it’s clear that Z-arts have really gone to town on this year’s Christmas offering.

Running alongside Ugly’s tale of torment and rejection is that of Zach, a young boy who too is struggling with life, trying his best to deal with the breakdown of his parents’ relationship and struggling to deal with the embarrassment he feels over it. Luckily for them fate intervenes when their path’s cross and they gradually begin to realise life isn’t so bad after all.


The production is wonderfully witty, very well performed and a total crowd pleaser, director Julia Samuels and choreographer by Darren Pritchard make a great team. The portrayal of the various animals we meet by the talented cast is excellent, great observational skills from Tom Hogan have been used to recreate natural recognisable movements rather than relying on costumes to identify characters, so much so my niece spent the interval trying to walk like a duck! Nathan Morris plays the loveable outcast Ugly, beautifully; his performance is complimented by a seriously hard working ensemble cast who each take on several characters and perform each and every one brilliantly. Special mention goes to Jim Pope who plays an Irish drifter who’s made his home in the park and poetically takes us through the seasons, tin whistle in hand.

With exerts from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake mixed in with beat boxing, dub-step and hip-hop, Jason Singh has created a seriously unique and funky score this sits perfectly with the urban edge writer Philip Osment has given this special production. This is a show to be proud of and one which will hopefully raise awareness of the truly unique theatre experience this wonderful arts centre just a walk away from Manchester City Centre can offer.

Showing until Monday 23rd December tickets can be booked via the Box Office on 0161 232 6089 or online at



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