Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Parking Your Sleigh

Just some information that I thought it would be useful to share if you are visiting the theatre over the festive period.

The Theatre is closed Tues 25 December and Tues 1 January.

Trains will not operating from Bolton to Manchester between Wednesday 26th December and Saturday 29th December.

The APCOA car park (adjacent to the Octagon Theatre) is only open for limited hours and is CLOSED on some days :

Monday 24th December – open until 5pm
Tuesday 25th December – CLOSED
Wednesday 26th December – CLOSED
Thursday 27th – Sunday 30th December – open as usual
Monday 31st December – open until 5pm
Tuesday 1st January – CLOSED
Wednesday 2nd January onwards – open as usual

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

STOP PRESS - Theatre Awards News Just In

For those of you that are at home or work and on the edge of your seats awaiting the results of the MEN Theatre Awards, then wait no more. Thanks to my insider at the event I can confirm the news as it breaks.

I have just heard that Octagon nominee And Did Those Feet has won 'Best New Play' and James and the Giant Peach have walked away with 'Family Show'!!

So there we have it! Two awards for the Octagon this year and a big congratulations to all concerned! I have asked my roving reporter to try and get a few pictures of the goings on, award acceptances and general frivolity and will hopefully post them in due course!

Update: here's a run down of all the winners and the panels thoughts. And you can read more and see some photos of the event here.

Monday, 3 December 2007

A Christmas Carol - The Movie

I am not talking about the Christmas Carol movie featuring the voice of Kate Winslet, the one featuring Alastair Sim or the one with Michael Caine and the Muppets (my personal favourite) but the video promo for our current production of A Christmas Carol.

If this trailer isn't enough to tempt you, you can see production shots here and here or read the reviews here.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Behind the scenes of Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets

You may have read about activ8's production of Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets here or one of the performers diaries here but if that wasn't enough you can watch the movie of the making of this ambitious production below. Caz Brader (Producer and Head of activ8) and Ellie While (Director and Children and Youth Drama Facilitator) talk about how the production came into being, you can see the cast in rehearsals and hear what some of the talented, young people involved had to say. Thanks once again must go to Donna Gidman and her expertise with all things film.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Pink Medicine Project - Volunteers Required

Is Emily Pankhurst one of your heroes?
Do you think the Suffragettes had real girl power?
Do you believe that women are equal in today's society?
Do you have an interest in acting, drama and theatre?

On March 8 2008, a conference that looks back at the local women's liberation movement in Bolton and ask where the feminist movement is now. It will take place as part of International Women's Week.

activ8 have been asked to re-create a piece of street theatre called The Pink Medicine Show' from the 1960's that aimed to highlight women's issues.

activ8 will also attempt to create a new contemporary piece of theatre exploring how women feel about their position in today's world.

activ8 are looking for a small group of creative young women who wish to take part in this project.

You will have the opportunity to:

  • Work with activ8's drama workers in a professional theatre
  • Learn more about how to create a new piece of theatre from scratch
  • Improve or develop new acting skills
  • Have the opportunity to perform to local audiences
  • Explore issues surrounding 'women's liberation'
  • Play a part in this exciting lottery funded conference

The project will begin in January 2008 and is likely to take the form of once weekly, evening rehearsals. To become part of this project, or to find out more, call activ8 on 01204 556501 or email

Festive Christmas Slideshow

Some more of the lovely festive production photos by Ian Tilton - this time in Slideshow format! Enjoy.

Monday, 26 November 2007

A Christmas Carol - What's Being Said....

Grisling, grouching, picking, pinching, scrimping, skulking Scrooge (Rob Pickavance) in all his sourpuss glory.

Seems those of you that have seen it are enjoying our production of A Christmas Carol. Here's a few comments from you, our audience:
'The show is really well done and the set is amazing'

'One of the best shows I've ever seen'

'Loved it'

Here's a review by one of the young people who came to see our show. She has even posted it on her school website. Thanks Frances.
And it seems it's not only the audience that is enjoying themselves:

'This is a show which the whole family can enjoy as it is timeless, funny and poignant. The Octagon has done it again: this could be the show to beat this Christmas.' Read the rest of the review here.
What's On Stage

I will add links to other reviews as I find them. Here's one from The Bolton News. One from The Stage here and Manchester Evening News here.

And another review from the Metro. Unfortunately I can't find a link to the online one so take a look at the article below:

It's always difficult to present such a timeless story while finding ways to make it feel fresh and interesting, but the Octagon has pulled it off with style here.'d have to have a heart of stone not to be filled with Christmas spirit by this. The Metro (5 stars)

And here's another review from there Lancashire Evening Post.

If you are finding it hard to get into the festive spirit, then you must come and see the show. If you are anything like me you will leave the theatre with a rosy glow, humming Christmas Carols (despite it still being November) , hankering after Turkey, Christmas trees and even snow!

The cast of A Christmas Carol (with Team Marley)

Friday, 23 November 2007

A Christmas Carol - Lithography!

A Christmas Carol opens tonight preceded by the Lantern Parade. Here are some of the production shots to get you feeling festive and to see what you are missing if you haven't yet bought your tickets.
Scrooge doing his miserly thing - Robert Pickavance as Scrooge and Thomas Frere as Bob Cratchit

The Cratchit Family making merry - Clockwise: Robert Pickavance (Scrooge), Katie Ball (Tiny Tim), Thomas Frere (Bob Cratchit) and Sarah Groarke (Mrs Crachit)

Even Scrooge gets into the party spirit at the Fezziwigs. The cast and Team Scrooge.

The festive makeover is complete. Merry Christmas! Robert Pickavance as the new and improved Scrooge!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Once Upon a Time.....

Just to update those of you that haven't been informed or read it in the press we are changing the final show of the season! Just a Gigolo will now be replaced by Once Upon A Time in Wigan - LIVE! You can expect our usual high energy, end of season celebration but instead of jazz and New Orleans you can enjoy a night of Northern Soul all the way from Wigan!

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Once Upon A Time in Wigan here's some information:

Be Young, Be Foolish… But Be Happy! Once Upon a Time in Wigan – Live! is a full-on celebration of Wigan Casino and its legendary Northern Soul all-nighters when kids from blue collar lives all across the country could escape 70’s tedium and get Out on the Floor and Dance Dance Dance!

It’s September 1981, the very last night of the Casino. Britain is changing. For Danny, Maxine, Suzanne and Bolton boy Eugene, Northern Soul has been their way out – a weekly escape hatch!

The Wigan all-nighter delivered Soul Galore, the highlight of the week – eight hours of classic soul, sweat and passion, to a soulful soundtrack of Detroit and Philly, east and west coast winners.

But Time Will Pass You By, and as the club opens its doors for one last time, Eugene takes us back on an emotional journey to his very first heady night at Wigan, when he fell in love with Maxine. And how a potent mix of drugs, sex, love and classic 60’s and 70’s American soul music changed his life … as the song says It’ll Never Be Over For Me

Specially commissioned to help celebrate the end of the Octagon’s hugely-successful 40th Anniversary Season, ONCE UPON A TIME IN WIGAN - LIVE! re-unites the team that created the full-on and funky Eight Miles High, the smash hits Blonde Bombshells of 1943, and Oh What A Lovely War - Director Mark Babych, Musical Director Howard Gray, and Designer Richard Foxton.

Featuring a live band of brilliant actor musicians pumping out classic Northern Soul tracks in the Octagon Theatre’s signature style, Mick Martin’s high octane script is brought vividly to life in this unmissable homage to the very heart Of Soul – Wigan Casino 1973 -1981!

If you're not familiar with Northern Soul or even if you are here's a nice little documentary style piece about Wigan Casino.

There is some great dancing in here why not try a few moves ready for when you come to see the production.

Friday, 16 November 2007

An Interview with Dawn Allsopp (Designer)

Dawn Allsopp has worked with us, as a Designer, on a few productions over the years including Shining City and Kindertransport for which she was nominated for a Manchester Evening News award in 2004. I managed to grab a few minutes with her to ask a few questions and have included some of her rather lovely designs for A Christmas Carol.

If you could produce designs for any production, what would that production be?

I am not someone who has a great yearning to do something that has so far eluded me. I accept projects which fire up my imagination and instinctively I know will be fun and challenging to work on.

Can you describe a bit about the process you went through to design the set and costumes for A Christmas Carol.

Conrad Nelson (Director) and I met and discussed various ideas before beginning the design process. We talked in general terms about the pile of cash boxes leading from stage level and up to the shelf and specifically about the various locations we would need to include.

I then went away, gathered visual reference material and put together a rough model (see finished model below) and costume thoughts. At our next meeting with this model, we solidified some ideas, chucked out others and introduced new ones.

Photo of the set model of A Christmas Carol.
Designed by Dawn Allsopp

The process continued in that way, with each meeting the design becoming more refined until it arrived at what you see on the stage.

What were the biggest challenges of designing A Christmas Carol and what was most enjoyable about working on the production?

The biggest challenge within the play is to create a sense of flying, without anyone actually leaving the floor.

During the design process, the pile of cash boxes grew out of the stage floor and as they reached the shelf had become a jumble of small houses. These houses hem in Scrooge's bedroom area and help create a sense of an overcrowded city in which he works and lives.

In addition Scrooge's four poster bed moves when the down stage bed post is pushed. This sets the canopy swaying and creates a great sense of movement. With the bed swaying and specific lighting effects we get a fantastic sense of Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present soaring high over a cityscape. All without ever leaving the ground!

It has been a great challenge and hugely enjoyable to work on an adaptation of a Dickens classic here at the Octagon.

Tell us about how you got into theatre design and do you have any advice you would offer to those interested in this type of career?

I trained in fashion and textile design and then did a post graduate year at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School on The Wardrobe course. I realised by the end of that year I wanted to design scenery as well as costumes, so spent two years working on small fringe projects in London, while earning a living working as a dresser on West End Musicals.

I was then lucky enough to get an assistant design job at The Palace Theatre in Westcliff on Sea, where I designed various main house shows and painted on all the shows. This job gave me a fantastic foundation on which to build.

Clearly my degree choice was in a different design discipline and I had to learn aspects of my job as I went through my career. I think now, if you want to go into theatre design then theatre design training is advisable as it is a very competitive market. There are a lot of courses to chose from and with most things you will need to do some research and pick the course that most suits your needs and expectations.

Which project have you undertaken that you are most proud of?

I designed a show in August 2005 for the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich called Sugar. This is a fantastic musical version of the film Some Like It Hot.

You've got a great period setting of the late 1920's and a terrific comic story of boys dressing as female musicians to escape the mob and a girl running away with the same band to find a millionaire husband in Miami.

With its great score and performed by a hugely talented company of actor/musicians this was an exceptional show and one I am really proud to have worked on.

Scripts for Sale

Cover: courtesy of Aurora Metro Press. Image: Joel Chester-Fildes and William Chitham

About the author's previous work

"...simple, unaffected theatrical magic..."
The Sunday Times

It felt a bit like Christmas yesterday as two big packages arrived. Unfortunately not a gift for me,as such, but it could be a gift for you! You can now buy the published script for A Christmas Carol. There's the cover above. So if you fancy re-creating a bit of the festive magic with your friends or family, using it as a study text at your school, fancy reading along in the performance (quietly!!) or are simply looking for a nice Christmas gift for someone theatrically minded why not buy a copy?

And even better news, you can buy them for just £5 - a price so good I am sure even Scrooge himself would see fit to part with his cash. They will be selling in the shops for £8.99, that means we are selling them almost half price!! Just ask one of our ushers or at Ticket Office for a copy.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Channel M visits the Octagon

Channel M recently did some recording here in Bolton and at the Octagon. This episode celebrates 40 years of Bolton's Octagon Theatre. Steph Elmore chats to Matthew Kelly about Oh What A Lovely War and Robert Hudson talks to John Blackmore about his 40 years in theatre.

The Octagon segment begins about half way through but why not watch it all as we share the bill with Hall I'Th' Wood, Samuel Crompton and McFly plus you can see a number from last season's Song of Singapore. Eclectic eh? Click here to have a look.

Friday, 9 November 2007

History is about winners....

There is a definite feeling of celebration at the Octagon at the moment. Last night was the Gala night held to thank the University of Bolton for all their support during our 40th Anniversary Season.

It was a good night and a good time was had by all. One of the highlights for me was when Matthew Kelly introduced George Holmes, Vice Chancellor at the University. I am a little jealous as he took to the stage with the words 'Tonight Matthew, I am going to be....'. Brilliant!

And the celebrations continue for us, and the University, today with the announcement of the nominees for this years MEN Theatre Awards. The Octagon has got a fair few nominations so in true award ceremony style, the nominees (for the Octagon Theatre) are:

Best Actor

George Irving in Shining City

Best Actress

Becky Hindley in Lisa's Sex Strike

Best Design

James and the Giant Peach

Family Show

James and the Giant Peach

Best New Play

And Did Those Feet

Best Performance in a Supporting Role

Martin Barrass, And Did Those Feet
Knight Mantell, What The Butler Saw

Best Production

And Did Those Feet

For the full list of nominations click here. So a nomination hat trick for And Did Those Feet. Hurrah! Let's hope that we walk away with the cup!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

A Christmas Carol - Casting News

Conrad Nelson (Director) has announced the cast for ths year's festive show, A Christmas Carol, so let me introduce you!

Robert Pickavance returns to the Octagon, having previously appeared in Broken Glass, Anna Karenina and Neville’s Island amongst others.

Robert Pickavance and Barbara Marten in Broken Glass

Another Octagon Theatre regular, Simeon Truby, currently wowing audiences in the smash-hit Oh What A Lovely War will also feature. What with rehearsing A Christmas Carol and performing in Oh What A Lovely War he is a busy man! He's obviously enjoying himself though - here he is in rehearsals for the current production.

We are also pleased to welcome back, one of the stars of the Octagon Theatre and Hampstead Theatre award-winning co-production of Blonde Bombshells of 1943, Sarah Groarke (Vera) and also Pam Jolley who toured with the production.

Left to right: Sarah Groarke, Ruth Alexander Rubin and Elizabeth Marsh in Blonde Bombshells of 1943

As well as the familiar faces I have already mentioned, we are pleased to introduce Thomas Frere and Dan Willis who will be making their Octagon Theatre debut as well as more fresh faces in the form of local, young people from activ8, Urban Stage (the Theatre School run by Simeon - told you he was a busy man!) and Bolton Stage School.

The young members of A Christmas Carol cast work on the famous festive scarecrow scene!

So that just leaves me to say welcome to the Octagon chaps and in the words of Tiny Tim 'God bless you, every one!'.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Oh What A Lovely War - The Movie

Donna Gidman has been doing the business again. You can have a look at the results of her efforts and a glimpse of the current production Oh What A Lovely War below.

News just in! Unfortunately one of the cast has fallen ill and will not be performing in the show today. In the truest sense of theatre the show must go on and our Artistic Director, Mark Babych, has gamely stepped up to the breach and will be appearing in the performance! Talk about bravery. Break a leg Mark, metaphorically speaking of course, as in the words of one of the show songs 'We Don't Want To Lose You' too!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Oh What A Lovely War - What's Being Said....

Left to right: Matthew Kelly, Matt Rixon, John McArdle and Christopher Fry

Friday night was press night for Oh What A Lovely War. Not only that but there was also a surprise gathering for the Executive Director, John Blackmore, who has spent 40 years working in theatre so it was a double celebration.

It is a challenging piece and requires a cast of 13 that can sing, dance, play instruments as well as act and that is all while juggling a series of instruments, hats and characters at impressive speed which is an achievement in itself! We're getting some good reviews:

'In terms of sheer all-round achievement this is the best show I’ve ever seen at Bolton. The Octagon is very proud of its reputation as a regional theatre, but there is nothing provincial about this first-class production which would be a credit to a theatre anywhere in the country.'
UK Theatre Net

You can read the rest of the review from UK Theatre Net here. Other reviews I have found so far are:
  • The Bolton News here
  • The Stage here
  • Manchester Evening News here
  • The Guardian here
  • Lancashire Evening Post here

Friday, 26 October 2007

War photography

If you didn't come to see the production last night and can't wait until you do then have a look at some of Ian's lovely production images below!

Matthew Kelly as Field Marshall Haig

Men in uniform alert! Left to right: Jeff Hordley, Matt Rixon and John McArdle

If only army recruitment was still this glamourous. Left to right: Siena Lloyd, Ruth Alexander Rubin and Helen Power.

There are a few more on the website. Looks fantastic doesn't it? And if the pictures aren't enough you can read an interview with John McArdle here or watch him avoiding questions about his worst habits here....

War, huh, what is it good for?

Left to right: Jeff Hordley, Matthew Kelly and Matt Rixon.

In the words of the fabulous Joan Littlewood when asked why she wouldn't allow any of our main theatres to stage the show she replied 'I say to everyone: go and invent your own bloody show'.

Well, this time we didn't invent our own show, and Oh what A Lovely War opened last night to great success. You can read an article about Oh What A Lovely War in The Spectator (ooh get us!) here plus you can also read about what some of the cast have to say in the Bolton News article here.

More production images and reviews to follow as we receive them. But if you haven't already bought your ticket, and a lot of people have, you might want to ring Ticket Office (01204 520661) sharpish as they are selling like hot cakes - you have been warned!

Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets

Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets is a new musical production, commissioned by activ8 and Bolton Lads and Girls Club, and written by Mike Crowley.

Before the summer, over 100 young people took part in a range of idea-generating workshops led by writers and drama workers. Thirty of these participants were selected to form a company for the new play. This company of energetic young people worked intensively ovre two weeks of the summer to kick start the most ambitious piece of youth theatre ever created by the Octagon. You can read the diary of one of the participants here.

Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets will be a multimedia musical journey through past, present and future of Youth Culture in Bolton. There will be two performances (3.00pm and 7.30pm) that will take place on 17 November at the Bolton Lads and Girls Club and they promsie to be a spectacular celebration of, not only local talent but also the rich culture of Bolton.

Please support the young people of Bolton and book your tickets at the Octagon Ticket Office on 01204 520661.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

How do? How do? And how's that cup?

It seems due to this story in The Bolton News and its appearance in the final scenes of And Did Those Feet, the FA Cup we used in the show has become a celebrity in its own right.

The cast of And Did Those Feet with Gina Blackey and that cup! Image: The Bolton News

You can read the words associated with the image above here. During the run of the performance we have had people wanting to buy the cup; people climbing onto the stage at the end of the performance to touch the cup; in the true spirit of one of the themes of the play, a man has asked if he can hire it for his daughter's football themed wedding plus many wanting their photo taken with the cup including Dave Spikey. The cup asked if it could have its picture taken with the And Did Those Feet cast and the cast were very happy to oblige......

The Octagon's newly formed seven-a-side team proudly show off their trophy!

I am not sure yet what the future holds for the cup. What with celebrity appearances, all the press attention and photocalls, the last I heard it was thinking about whether to try and break Hollywood....and I guess if the cup doesn't make it then there is always Ebay!

Oh, oh oh, its a lovely Draw!

Illustration: Richard Foxton

So many apologies for the pun in the title for this post, I couldn't resist, but let me explain. Way back when we launched the Anniversary Season and put our fantastically good value (even if I do say so myself) Ruby Season Tickets on sale we included a Prize Draw for Season Ticket purchasers. Basically, all of those people that bought a Season Ticket between the end of April and mid-October were entered into the draw to win a pair of tickets to one of the Gala Nights we are hosting during the run of Oh What A Lovely War.

Last week, all the names of Season Ticket holders were put in a hat (it was a big hat as we have sold a fair few Season Tickets) and 5 lucky winners were drawn who will each receive 2 tickets.

And the winners are (drum roll please!) :

Mrs Judith Redfern (Bolton)
Mrs J Bunton (Warrington)
Mr P Fowles (Bolton)
Mr D Jackson (Bolton)
Mr P Coon (Warrington)

Congratulations to our winners - their invites have gone out in the post. If you know one of the above and fancy coming to our Gala night, then you might want to ask them nicely what they are doing with their 'guest' ticket.....

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Reviewer of the Month

Over at the Manchester Evening News website, a review of And Did Those Feet is one of the entrants for October's Reviewer of the Month. This was spotted and kindly posted by Joanna over the the Pleased Sheep Forum (Thanks Joanna!).

And Did Those Feet @ Bolton Octagon
Dyan Colclough

THE audience is taken back to a time before footballers became a brand and the game united a community not profit driven entrepreneurs. Bolton Wanderers inclusion in the 1923 FA Cup Final is central to this uplifting play, however its message extends to parallel other unifiers of community.

A few years earlier WWI saw the community waving off their ‘team’ of men folk to fight for King and Country. James Quinn and Susan Twist (Hilda & Alf) brilliantly evoke the full consequences for those left behind when family members paid the ultimate price for victory.

Chris Finch convincingly portrays the spirit of their son whose presence shows the futility of a lost generation.

The Government's failure to deliver its promise of, ‘A land fit for heroes,’ saw soldiers returning to unemployment and social problems.

Here unity is again explored through the energetic and optimistic Jim, (wonderfully characterised by Paul Simpson), who with fellow comrades, believes that Revolution is the way forward. While the likes of Jim are seeking political change others put their faith in the Lord.

Hayley Jane Standing is perfectly cast as Martha a steadfast member of a dwindling congregation whose church is gradually losing its unifying influence.

This is highlighted through the wedding of Martha and Ted (superbly played by Jeff Hordley) which coincides with the cup final and even the vicar, would prefer to spend the day at Wembley.

Bob's enlightening narrative of the team's history throughout the play (captivatingly revealed by Martin Barrass) provides the thread which binds the community to football and Bob's 200 mile walk to Wembley encapsulates the depth of commitment its players exacted from those they represented.

There is no doubting that the audience has its emotions thoroughly exercised throughout this play and leave the theatre as equally united as those Wanderers supporters of 1923.

This is achieved through the collaboration of excellent writing, and directing and faultless casting.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

And Did Those Feet - the reviews keep coming

If you haven't already seen these here are a few more reviews for And Did Those Feet:

This one over at Manchester Confidential

And another from UK Theatre Network

But isn't only the professional reviewers that seem to like this production. Over at Pleased Sheep Forum attenders have also been writing good things about the play. Thanks Fran!

I went to see the play today and wasn't surprised to discover all the brilliant reviews were spot on. It was a wonderful play, full of humour, pathos and Bolton pride and the audience were obviously loving it all the way through.

Quite a lot of the audience were pensioners and I could hear various comments being made around me in hushed whispers when something in the play had brought back memories of some kind. There were several things that stood out for me:

The humour, which was really well written and equally well acted. Jeff Hordley especially made me laugh, he has great comic timing and can raise a giggle just from an expression on his face, which can't be all that easy when your on a stage and not in front of a t.v. camera.

The feeling of family. Individual familes and the 'family' of football fans. They were all clearly defined, so that although you'd only just been introduced to them, in minutes, you felt you knew them, you could imagine their histories even though you never saw them played out. Although there were only five or six football fans visible on stage at the matches, surprisingly, it was easy to imagine them being surrounded by thousands more like them.

The pathos. Well, there were three characters who painted that picture for us, one of which of course, was Chris. I think one of the reviewers mentioned that words weren't really needed for you to feel that pathos coming from the stage, (or words to that effect), and how right they were. The first time we see Billy's ghost, (Chris) he is simply sat watching and listening to his mum as she 'talks to him', knowing in her heart that he's 'somewhere' listening to her and ( I think...) because she knows he's listening, she's trying hard to sound cheerful and hide her tears. It's very obvious that Billy is hurting 'for her' as he watches her, without a word being spoken.

Later, Billy has a scene with his dad, who is finding it harder to hide the loss he feels for his son and Billy tries to find a way to get through to his dad and help him cope. Played brilliantly by both Chris and James Quinn, it was one that made you hold your breath. (It's the one we get a tiny glimpse of on the Octagon site. I knew when I saw
that vid, I was going to love that scene and I wasn't wrong.)

So in just under two hours, they managed to make two families and their hopes, dreams and problems come to life, they made you laugh, made you feel guilty for laughing as they reminded you of how Billy should have been there to share it all, made you want to cry and made you damned glad Bolton won the cup that year!

Plus it seems readers of The Bolton News enjoyed the performance so much that they just to write in! You can see what they said here and here.

If you haven't seen it yet, then I must warn you that tickets have almost sold out. I am informed that there are a few seats left for the Wednesday matinee so call the ticket office now on 01204 520661.

Monday, 15 October 2007

An Evening With Adrian Mitchell

Doyen of performance poets, Adrian Mitchell has been delighting audiences with his work for over 50 years - he celebrated his 75th birthday recently. His pacifist politics are infused into his work, which despite deep political content, combines humour with pathos and warmth. You can listen to / read an interview with Adrian where he talks about his work here.

Mitchell is an active anti-war campaigner who has written about conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq. He famously said 'most people ignore poetry because poetry ignores most people' and has always therefore made his work accessible and relevant to people of all ages.

This exhilarating evening features some old favourites like Tell Me Lies About Vietnam, and some new works in which Mitchell rails against war, and celebrates peace. Weird, wonderful, sad and angry, the poems show that he has lost none of his political fire and humour. Here's a great piece of video footage of Adrian in action reading 'Tell Me Lies About Vietnam' at the International Poetry Incarnation at the Royal Albert Hall, London (1965). Enjoy!

Adrian will be performing at the Octagon on Thursday 1 November. Click here for more information or to book tickets.

Friday, 12 October 2007

A Real Crowd Pleaser

And Did Those Feet and The Octagon has received so much positive feedback that I am sure if the theatre was a person it would be blushing and/or puffing its chest out in a proud fashion. Not only have we had great reviews, and this recent acknowledgement but some lovely comments from our audience.

Here's a really nice email we have received from two very kind ladies:

From: Jill Brown

Sent: 08 October 2007

Subject: And did those feet

What a privilege to be at the Bolton Octagon tonight. We were gripped from beginning to end by the remarkable production and moving performances from the cast.

When we finally pulled ourselves together and left our seats, we both agreed that it was one of the best plays we had ever seen. For many years we have had Season Tickets for both Bolton and the Exchange, and also travelled to other venues - so we have seen quite a lot! This was very special.

I would be grateful if you could pass on our congratulations and thanks to the cast and company for such an excellent evening.

With best wishes

Jill Brown and Sue Cozens

It's always nice to get good reviews but for audiences to be so delighted with the performance is lovely. So thank you Jill and Sue for your very kind words.

David Jack (centre). Image supplied by: Bolton Archive Service

And in other more football focused news, I have had wind that the daughter of Mr David Jack himself (pictured above) may be coming to see a performance on the recommendation of her cousin who recently attended a performance. I wonder if I can ask her to count the mentions of her talented father during the production?

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Rehearsals - Oh What A Lovely War

Oh What A Lovely War rehearsals are now in full swing. It's a big cast for us - you can see the full list here. Jason (the Lighting Designer on this show) has proved himself a bit nifty with a camera and managed to get a few photos of the cast in rehearsals.

' I don't want to be a soldier' I'd rather do the hokey cokey instead! The boys being put through their paces
(left -right: Shane Gould (assistant choreographer) David Westbrook, Christopher Fry, John McArdle, Simeon Truby and Matt Connor)

'Gassed last night'. All that dancing is obviously taking its toll. Either that or they are working on playing dead!
(clockwise from top: Nicola Bolton, Helen Power and Shane Gould (background), Matthew Kelly, John McArdle and Matt Rixon)

'Your king and country want you' and so does your Director. Mark and Conrad discuss military strategem and tactics!
(left - right: Mark Babych (Artistic Director) and Conrad Nelson (Director of A Christmas Carol and Lisa's Sex Strike)

'They were only playing leapfrog' Team bonding...with scripts!
(clockwise from top: Mark Babych (Artistic Director), Matthew Kelly, Jeff Hordley, Simeon Truby, Matt Rixon, David Westbrook and John McArdle)

'Hold your hand out you naughty boy'
(left - right: Beverley Edmunds (choreographer), Matt Connor and Simeon Truby)

Altogether now 'Oh it's a lovely war'
(Siena Lloyd (left) and Helen Power)

'Are we downhearted?' Obviously Mr Truby isn't!
(Simeon Truby)

Creative Partnerships

I have been sent a link to this blog. Daniel Bye, who writes about how he 'makes theatre, watches football and runs by the canal' has written this article about arts funding and he mentions partnership between the University of Bolton and the Octagon. Below is a snippet from the article:

I predict that companies working in intelligent partnerships with larger institutions, and with one another, is going to be the future. Witness the wonderful things being done between the Bolton Octagon and Bolton University. Masses of students are gaining experience in all departments of the theatre, the theatre has become an increasing part of its community, and audiences are up. Thanks to a generous initial investment from the University, the Octagon has been able to upscale its ambitions, and thanks to the spirit of friendship between the two the University has been able to trumpet all sorts of successes.

Read the full article here

Aww shucks its always nice to get a compliment but as he rightly points out none of this would have been possible without the support of the University. Okay this is beginning to stray into award acceptance speech material so I'll finish here.....

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The making of Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets

One of our Youth Theatre attenders, Jaymi Sulley (Thank you Jaymi!), has been keeping a diary on her involvement with their current project, the multi-media theatrical journey that is Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets. It gives future and wannabe activ8-ers a chance to see what goes on at the Youth Theatre, so if you would like to know what's involved, please read on.

Day One
Today was the first day at drama school. The main focus of the day was to get to know the cast and staff involved in our production.
When we arrived we all stood in a circle and had a ball which we threw and had to say the name of the recipient of the ball. We played a few more games and then sat down and got serious. We discussed the basic storyline of the performance and were split into groups to perform a little piece of the script.
I enjoyed making new friends and I also learnt how co-operation is a key role in your part of a production.

Day Two
I arrived at drama today with the fabulous news that I was going to be dancing for about four hours of my afternoon. I was more disappointed when I found out that half of my fellow production / cast team members were singing all morning. I suppose I have to make sacrifices to be a reliable member of the team. Although the dancing was a low point, I had a morning of acting ahead of me which was good ;) !

We all went off into groups and went over parts of the script and then acted it out in front of the rest of the group. After lunch we were greeted by a dance teacher (choreographer) who taught us all a dance. I didn't enjoy it much as I am naturally unable to dance, but after a long session it was worth the embarrassment as the dance was awesome.
Today I enjoyed working with new people and I learned that patience really is a virtue.

Day Three
Our turn to sing today and I was so glad! During our morning we were with Pete (the music producer alongside me) and we did basic vocal warm-ups, to get our voices ready, such as number chords. We basically said numbers as a chord with 1 being low and 8 being high but to confuse matters we had to go back down in chords e.g. 1,1,2,1,1,2,3,2,1....
After the warm up we got our song words for 'Let the great big world keep turning', learnt the chorus and when Pete thought we were good enough he made us sing solo. After all the fun of singing, we were placed with the group to continue with script reading.
Today I enjoyed the singing as I love singing. I learnt how I can use my voice to suit the basic style of the song. I also learnt a new song and vocal exercises.

Day Four
Today we arrived and played a few games and then we decided to do the Mill scenes, creating machinery and workers we put together a little routine that emphasises the mood / feel of the scene.
After we had produced the scene we performed it and it turned out great. Our afternoon was just a recap of what we had done during the week so far. We went through the dance and sang our songs. With any spare time we had to went through the script.

Day Five
We found out our parts today. I am a Millhand, Musical Dancer, a futuristic museum exhibit and a talent show performer! Because we didn't have a script for the talent show, we improvised a talent show. I was grouped and we decided to do a Spice Girl mick take! It was so much fun. Later on Ellie and Caz decided what type of music / talent they wanted to involve. This became my chance to out ideas down for what music and lyrics we need for each performance.

Day Six
Today was when we got down to the real business of rehearsals. As I am not a lead placement, I was given a large opportunity to rethink my ideas for the music and lyrics needed for the show. So far my ideas are quite blunt and amateur but as an amateur it is all that is expected of me!
So far though we have a heavy metal band, Exit Shikiri (which is a rip off of a current rock band named Enter Shikari), performing Sorry You're Not A Winner. I also have to do music and lyrics to the song that Wicked (an all girl pop combo so I am told - Ed) dance to. It's quite difficult as I can see them using a cheesy pop style song.

Day Seven
Today we went through the Mill scene and perfected it. We then watched everybody else do their scenes and all put forward ideas but Ellie did most of it.
During the time I had, I tried again to put some music beats together but it didn't work.

Day Eight
Today we did the same as yesterday...rehearsals, putting ideas forward and went through the dances, song and the talent show.

Day Nine
Again a whole day of run throughs with the main characters.....

I think that gives us a nice insight into the elements that make up a production and I am sure there is many an actor out there that feels the same as Jaymi about having to dance. I know Barrie Rutter does!
Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets will be performed at Bolton Lads and Girls Club on Saturday 17 November with performances at 2.30pm and 7.30pm (performance times are subject to change).

Monday, 8 October 2007

Mundo Jazz - Audience Review

Seems that the recent performance by Mundo Jazz went down a storm. I have
received the following review from a member of the audience:

Mundo Jazz are a Marxist, Feminist Anti Capitalist, (well Anti everything really) collective, who through the power of music fight injustice wherever its ugly head appears. Unfortunately they know nothing about any of the subjects they campaign against.

The show consists of a collection of well written and astute songs and some improvised songs which were about members of the audience, so be warned don’t sit at the front! And ramblings from the leader of Mundo Jazz, Juan a Panamanian peace campaigner, who is backed up ably by Sergei a Russian ex alcoholic, Haris Habib a French Algerian and a mysterious drummer/violinist who no one is sure were he actually comes from, including himself!

The audience in the Studio theatre were treated to a fantastic night of comedy, music and even unicycle riding (!) by this very imaginative and original comedy band who deserve to be playing on a bigger stage.

Definitely the best comedy act I have ever seen and “one size does fit all” - you've got to see them to get that!

Mundo Jazz are on tour and you can find details of their tour dates here. If you would like to write a review of an event you have seen at the Octagon, then you can email me at