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.


  1. This is a sham of the original stage play, and in my opinnion is nothing more than a blatant cash-in on the original excellent production! One of the main people behind the original doesn't even endorse this production!

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts on Once Upon a Time in Wigan – Live!

    We strongly disagree with your comments and criticisms as we believe they are borne out of factual inaccuracy rather than any objective analysis of what we are trying to do.

    There will be live music, but we would like to make it clear that it is not a musical.

    The chatrooms and forums have been deriding the fact that ‘white actors sing the songs to a houseband’, which is inaccurate. The source of this ‘information’ has not got their facts right before leaping into an attack on the production, as neither the cast nor the band have been announced yet, and neither has anyone outside of the Octagon seen the re-write of the script.

    The actors and the band are a diverse group of people, with many different ethnic groups being represented and accusations of our production being “a panto” are wildly off the mark.

    We believe it is an integral strength of our creative industries for artists to be able to artistically interpret material. In this instance we have re-commissioned a play by a writer because we believed there was a different way to tell the story and have reflected this in the fact that the title is Once Upon a Time in Wigan – LIVE! Had we merely wanted to cash in on the original we would have done it as it was. It is no surprise that we will choose to interpret and present the story in a different way to how it has been presented previously. We are making no apology for this nor do we wish to make comparative judgements about the previous production which was, as the chatrooms rightly point out, much loved.

    The play still deals with a love of vinyl and clearly acknowledges its importance and impact on the scene. But the play is also about a group of young people struggling to find meaning, love and fulfilment in their lives at a time of great social change, and if our particular take on this is to have a group of the finest soul musicians create a live rather than a recorded soundtrack then that is our right to do so. You may disagree with this but you are not at liberty to suggest there can only be one way of doing things and one version of events. In the end, theatre is the art of representation not reality.

    We understand this is a controversial subject, but it would be a poor world indeed if controversy stopped artistic process. Art is by its very nature subjective and regardless of what we put on stage some people will love it and some will hate it. We hope that people will come and see the show and make up their own minds based on what they have seen on the stage, rather than on preconceptions being flouted in the chatrooms, which are wildly misleading, offensive to individuals, unnecessarily vitriolic and grossly inaccurate.

  3. Whilst Im sure all the arty farty types will back you to the hilt with your statement regarding artistic interpretation blah, blah, the bottom line is, that this play was a labour of love by its writer, an absolute from the heart, gut wrenching piece of work that is far, far more than just a play. You have to be part of it, to even come close to understanding it, anyone that was actually there & lived thier lives thru the music, as the characters do in the play, knows & understands this, this is why WUATI was originally a success, the target audience, 'us' could see, that the play was written by one of thier own who 'Got It", its a very, very poiniant piece of work in its original format. Even then it was very hit miss whether this would be accepted by the still thriving Rare Soul Community, as we can be very fickle when people mess with what is a way of life for some & has been for many years & I for one did not expect much, in fact I thought it would be yet another attempt by the media to hijack & ponce off the back of the longest running under ground music scene that has ever been in the UK. I would also suggest that largely we have avoided any attempts by the media, over many years to make money from our beloved music, that after all on the whole would never have had any recocnition at all, if it wasnt for the Northern Soul Scene. This is not just about Wigan Casino in 1981, there are still many people who dedicate thier lives to bringing greater recognition to black American artists who received little, if any recognition in their own country when the records were released.

    This is more than just a play, you are messing with some ones life time in the making work & memories, to not use the original sound track would be totally obscene & would miss the point by a country mile, but hey, then your not really into this for the music are you, its about the $$$$$$ as usual & I expect attracting a different audience, than the Soulies who generally made this a success in its original fact to put it into the language that would befit the play, you are pretty much, reissuing or bootlegging the original in an attempt to make money & please do not use the smoke screen 'of in the name of art' you may kid your local theatre types, but we know what your game is & if you are honest, so do you. DO THE RIGHT THING.

    Russ Vickers

  4. Thanks for your comments Russ.

    We understand that this is an emotive subject for many, and we are aware that not everyone will like what we’re doing. I think we answered a lot of questions in our previous post, and I won’t repeat those here. However you have made a few points to which we’d like to respond:

    We are a registered charity, and a not for profit organisation. However, we do need to produce successful shows in order to continue to survive. 8 years ago the Octagon Theatre nearly had to be shut down and we want to ensure we do not reach that stage again. The money from ticket sales goes straight back into producing shows and ensuring the quality of productions remains high – for example being able to produce shows such as The Crucible with 18 actors, or a show with 4 actors and a live band, as opposed to being limited to range productions with only 2 or 3 actors, which would have a huge impact on our artistic possibilities. Our artistic policy clearly states that we aim to make theatre accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. This tends to happen over the course of several shows. For example this season we have produced The Crucible, which clearly appealed to a very different audience to our production of Road. A varied and interesting programme is exactly what we aim to put on stage.

    For this production, we have the support and involvement of the writer of the piece, the founder of Wigan Casino and also Northern Soul dance champion, Sandy Holt.

    We entirely respect your decision not to come and see this production, but of course hope that others will decide to come along and make up their own minds. We will not apologise for having an artistic policy, to which the production of this show adheres, nor will we apologise for interpreting and retelling material. Theatre shows are by their nature subjective and we’d love to hear what people think.

  5. Hi,

    I have already expressed my horror at your end of season’ celebratory musical party’ approach to the play. The play that was devised from my own experiences as well as that of many others.

    People who gave us access to their memories, based this on my Northern Soul credentials, not those of Mick Martin. Mick gained access to those ‘true souls’ via myself and their trust in me.

    It seems strange that I had to ask you to remove reviews that were on your site, that were based on my production of the play…if you are indeed trying to do a new interpretation?

    Also you seem to be using a lot of the same iconography and poster images. An image that my production actually turned into an icon!

    Could it be that you are trying to fool the potentially large audiences who went to see the Urban Expansions production into thinking this is one and the same piece? There are many, many thousands of pictures that you could have used but you seem to be, dare I say it, trying to confuse the two very different productions.

    It doesn’t matter if you have the worlds greatest house band singers, the fact that you use that as a defence merely adds to the truth, that you have missed the whole point and should not be allowed to stomp on people’s hard-earned memories.

    The scene was, and is, about the original artists and vinyl, not some dodgy cover artists. We have Amy Winehouse and Duffy to do that. It seems that you do not and never will get it.

    You for instance, forgive me if I’m mistaken, are not from the scene, but represent The Octagon’s interests in terms of image and publicity? I feel like I am debating with a person of no knowledgeable point of view. When you sign ‘Keep The Faith’ at the end of the ‘blurb’, do you actually know what that means?

    Artistic policy? I don’t think so. I could quote boring old examples as you do (my background being theatre for the last 25 years), but it would seem and is, irrelevant.

    The fact that Bolton is one of the centres of the scene and that you are trying to stage this piece in such a ‘West End’ frivolous way, points to the fact that, as a venue, you are way out of touch with your surrounding community’s history and soul.

    Artistic freedom cannot be used to justify ignorance so please not do use it as an excuse for your approach.

    I do not need to see your production, as the fact that you are using a band to represent vinyl, is the only evidence needed, to certify the fact that you know nothing about the subject with which you are dealing.

    Also, it seems you are using some of the actors from my original production?
    Could you not even be bothered to audition and find new ones? Richard Oldham seems a little long in the tooth now to be portraying a 19-year-old!

    Anyway, we will see if this gets edited or posted on your (We want your views) forum.

    If not it will certainly be posted on ALL the ‘SOUL’ sites to announce that you censor responses on your forum.

    Many thanks

    Paul Sadot

    Devisor, producer and director of the original ‘Once Upon A Time In Wigan’ by

    Urban Expansions Limited.

    Keep The Faith…ha!

  6. Hi, me again.
    Sally, you dont seem to have replied to my comments. I thought that, given your extensive knowledge and experience of the subject matter, you would be straight back addressing the issues that i have discussed?
    Perhaps a few non-related examples pertaining to artistic freedom etc? Or maybe you could throw in a few references to theatrical luminaries...Brecht, Artaud, Stanislavski, to further attempt to divert the discussion. Im here for you if you want to go down that path (my B.A and M.A. being in Theatre Arts), it might be a fun ride?
    Also, why have you not posted the comments that Joan Livesey sent to you?

    I wait with eager anticipation for your reply!

    Keep The Faith

    Paul Sadot

  7. I am so glad you “love to hear what people think”, so with that in mind I would like to comment on some points you raised in your posts.

    “For this production, we have the support and involvement of… also Northern Soul dance champion, Sandy Holt.”

    What has Sandy Holt got to do with anything?

    “But the play is also about a group of young people struggling to find meaning, love and fulfilment in their lives at a time of great social change…”

    Do you think there was only four people going through that? Get a grip. Wigan Casino was packed to the rafters with people going through the exact same experience, and those four on stage could be any one of those people.

    Wigan Casino was just a venue, no more no less. People didn’t go to Wigan Casino because of the d├ęcor and the plush surroundings; jeez the place was a dump. They went to Wigan Casino for one thing, the MUSIC.

    When people talk about Wigan Casino, it is the music they remember, not the fact that there was “a group of young people struggling to find meaning, love and fulfilment in their lives at a time of great social change…”

    “…the band are a diverse group of people, with many different ethnic groups being represented…”

    Again, what has this got to do with anything when the music we are talking about was made by predominantly black American artists?

    “You may disagree with this but you are not at liberty to suggest there can only be one way of doing things and one version of events.”

    Why am I not at liberty to suggest that there is only one version of events?

    There WAS only one version of events. People went to Wigan Casino and danced to records, not to some ‘in house’ band performing their ‘take’ on those records.

    The original music is THE most essential part of the play and the thought of having some tribute band singing the songs instead is sacrilege!

    The best musicians in the world could never recreate the memories those songs hold for each and every one of us.

    Can I ask whose brainwave it was to replace the original soundtrack with a live band?

  8. Dear all,

    At the tender age of twenty eight I am unfortunately too young to have 'lived through' the experience of wigan casino and I find the views expressed here more than a little offensive, not to mention patronising. One blogger (Russ) seems to suggest that the play is only for northern soulies who were 'there'. This excludes the majority of the population myself included. By this logic presumably I shouldn't be permitted to watch any film, listen to any music or enjoy any play which pre dates the brit pop era. It seems a shame to miss out on a few thousand years of human history simply because I wasn't there.

    Here's where it becomes patronising. I'm not stupid. I do realise that there wasn't a live band playing at wigan casino and that it was all about the the same way that I understand when people break into long monologues to the audience, THAT didn't happen either. This isn't a documentary.

    I am a big fan of Once upon a Time in Wigan having thouroughly enjoyed the original production.If you don't want to see this production then that's absolutely fine but it seems grossly unfair to unleash a hate campaign against something that hasn't even started yet.

    There are two possible outcomes. This could be a fantastic production and recieve critical acclaim or it could be rubbish and universally panned. Does it really matter? If Alan Bennett or Harold Pinter got this stressed every time one of their plays was put on they would never write again! Sometimes you've just got to know when to let it go.

  9. Excuse me - hate campaign?

    Talk about dramatic - ever thought about a career on the stage Emma? Or is that Sally?

    The play itself might be fictitious , but the setting wasn't and neither was the music.

    "Sometimes you've just got to know when to let it go."

    Why is that then Emma?

    Surely you're not suggesting that only people in agreement should post there views?

    Tut tut, I wonder what Alan Bennett or Harold Pinter would think to that?

    Joan Livesey

  10. Hurrah for Emma adding some sense to this debate. I too saw the original production of 'Once Upon a Time in Wigan'and loved it, however I too find some of the comments expressed here incredibly patronising.

    Being an 'Arty Farty type' (definition - someone who either watches TV, films, theatre, reads books, looks at paintings, photographs or... listens to music...)I care about the cultural development of this country. I support any theatre which seeks to reach new audiences and showcase new writing. I am saddened and a little puzzled when a Director and Actor (BA and MA being in Theatre Arts) appears to be actively attempting to damage this process.

    Joan Livesey mentioned that 'The original music is THE most essential part of the play' which devalues the contributions of the stage crew, designers, writer, director and actors - if this was indeed the case I am suprised that the company didn't instead just pop on stage with a Vestax and some 7 inches...

    However having seen the play (more than once) I recall not just the music but some incredible writing, powerful and moving performances and some cracking writing. Unless the Octagon has got it very wrong with the writing, casting and dancing (Mick Martin, one of the original cast members in a new role and Sandy Holt as dance advisor all on board) I see no reasons why any of the elements should disappear.
    Break a leg to all involved!

  11. Thanks to all of you who have posted your views and joined the debate here.

    We hoped that this blog would provide a site for a genuine debate to take place and we are more than happy to post views that do not agree with our production, as we believe that discussion and controversy are an integral part of the arts. The debate has thrown up some interesting points on both sides. However, some further posts we have received have now descended into unnecessary personal attacks on bloggers, and Octagon staff, and we have taken the decision not to publish these.

    We will publish further comments and posts if we receive them, both from people who like what we are doing and from those who don’t. However we can not allow the site to become an arena for comments of an abusive nature.

    We have stated our position clearly and this will not change. We know some people don’t like what we’re doing, and it is absolutely someone’s right to dislike it. We however are very excited about the play, and about the production. The music sounds great, the story is moving, and we’re very proud to be ending our 40th anniversary season on such a high. We look forward to welcoming the large numbers of you who will join us for the production to the Octagon, and would like to hear your thoughts after you’ve seen it.

  12. Hello again,

    Sorry to Joan for misunderstanding my comments:

    'Surely you're not suggesting that only people in agreement should post there views?'

    Of course not, but I am suggesting that it is unwise to judge something which has yet to see the light of day. Maybe I will end up agreeing with you, maybe not - it's impossible to say yet as I haven't seen it.

    I have no problem with people expressing doubts or debating whether something will or will not work but comments such as, "This is a sham of the original stage play" seem infantile when no one has seen it yet.

    Again, why the patronising tone? If you read my original post carefully you'll find that at no point did I say that the setting or the music was fictitious.

    With any luck, Once Upon a Time in Wigan may become a classic that is revived many many times over. Different directors will always have their own way of interpreting things - sometimes with good and sometimes with bad results. My point is that in this case the jury of soulies on this forum seem to have tried and charged this production before seeing any evidence.

    Lastly, my name is not Sally. It seems a real shame to have resorted to accusations of that kind.

    That having been said, I just want to echo Sheila's sentiments in wishing those people involved in the current production good luck. With all this controversy I'm even more interested to see how it all pans out.

  13. Sally, may i congratulate you on a piece of total mediocrity. Well done.This is from the Manchester Evening news!

    "IN this revamped story of love, sex and rock 'n' roll,"

    "We meet Danny, played by Richard Oldham, who gives a totally believable performance and captures exactly the Casino's individual style of dance,"

    The only one to get a mention and I taught him to dance,over a very long period of time! Even though you have a 'Wigan champion' teaching them.

    "with Bolton butcher's boy Eugene, played by Rupert Hill from Coronation Street. He really should get rid of his designer stubble, which is at variance with the times."

    No designer or historical research involved in this version then? Lazy and patronising beyond belief. No respect for the experiences of those who went and lived through it?!

    This world premiere has been re-commissioned by the Octagon and playwright, Mick Martin, was asked to rework his original piece, which I've already seen twice before. Sadly, it's at the expense of the meatier material.

    As i said, before you decided to edit my comments and eventually only put up those of people who agreed with you! This is a shallow, vacuous Pantomime! But, we all knew it would be didn't we Sally?!

    Although there's still references to the drug scene, which ultimately caused the closure of the Casino, the original addiction scenes and the deterioration of the relationship, which gave the show a harder edge, have been lost.

    Whoops, missed the whole visceral nature of the experience, even the relationships!

    Directed by Mark Babych, it's all great fun, even with the irritating anachronisms, although for me, the very slickness of this happy/clappy production, distilled the raw energy of the original and I missed the wonderful tinny sound of the music.

    A great fun 'clappy Happy production! And wow, look, she missed the wonderful, tinny sound!? Well Sally, at least Bolton Octagon and Mick Martin haven't trivialised this whole socio-historic episode of British urban history. You dont need to bother putting this on your Mickey Mouse comments site. You, your director and your venue are purile in the extreme. Pap, trite, vacuous, inane, thick and inarticulate are words that come to mind. But, I wouldn't be so rude as to say it.

    Once again, congratulations on such a sterling production sally. You certainly area groundbreaking venue.

    Keep the Faith

    Your in Awe

    Paul Sadot

  14. Hi, I saw the play last night and thouroughly enjoyed it, i thought the cast were superb and the band were excellent. I attended the Casino regularly from Jan 1975 to it's closure in 1981, so it was a superb nostalgic trip down memory lane for me! I also thought it was a nice touch to have a DJ in the bar playing some good old quality music (nice to see Russ Winstanely again,plus a few faces who were also on the scene years ago!)
    I went with my partner, who is too young to remember Wigan Casino - and she really enjoyed it too. I will definitely return to the Octagon before the end of the plays run, this time i will take along a few friends who will no doubt see the play for what it is, ie - lots of fun, and a really enjoyable night out. Cheers