Mack and Mabel is the love story between Hollywood director Mack Sennett and actress Mabel Normand, who was one of the biggest stars in his silent films.

Michael Ball and Rebecca LaChance as Mack and Mabel

Michael Ball and Rebecca LaChance as Mack and Mabel

The story stretches from Sennett's discovery of Mabel in 1911 through to 1930, when the glory days of his Keystone Studios were in rapid decline and slapstick comedy was being replaced by bigger and brighter things.

I cannot speak highly enough of the performances by Michael Ball as Mack and Rebecca LaChance as Mabel. Their on stage chemistry made me believe in their relationship through all of its ups and downs and their sharp and unromantic exchanges were a breath of fresh air.

Many of the musical numbers were intertwined with clips from black and white movie reels to capture the atmosphere and rawness of the early 1900s movie scene, which was reflected in the monochrome backdrops and costumes.

I was particularly impressed by the number 'Hundreds of Girls' which coordinated both on screen and on stage choreography- a colourful and energetic gateway to the second act that helped it to set the pace for what was to come.

The story follows two cinematic icons however the characters were reminiscent of other symbolic names who suffered the same fate when fame and fortune took its toll during that era. I think a lot of people will be able to identify the synonymy between this and tales of other Hollywood starlets who graced our screens all too fleetingly.

The production is certainly a reminder of how seductive the Hollywood scene was to those who were not prepared for it.

The musical is one of lost loves and missed opportunities- although it has some very sad undertones, the sharp script and sarcastic exchanges between Mack and Mabel gave us plenty of laughs last night in the Manchester Palace Theatre.

I was pleasantly surprised by Mack and Mabel's story because it wasn't predictable, nor did it have a happy ending. I thought Michael Ball's narration was a clever device to reveal his inner regrets and what he would have done differently with Mabel.

I felt Sennett was so absorbed by his movies- he failed to realise that he couldn't say 'cut' and reshoot a scene from his life, which was all too apparent in the end scene.

I enjoyed the production far more than I thought I would. It was fascinating to go back in time and behind the scenes to learn more of the infamous 'King of Comedy' and his tumultuous relationship with Normand. Mack and Mabel features two of the best acting performances I have seen in a long time- you must witness it for yourself.

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