Monday, 22 December 2008

Family Friendly Reviews...

Some very nice people from Family Friendly came to review Danny the Champion of the World. They had a lovely time. Thank you for your kind words...

We went along to see Danny, Champion of the world last night. I have to say we all had a great time! It was very well thought out and put together, with a great story and production. The actors were fantastic too. Danny himself was superb, but my favourite was the head teacher, she just reminded me of my head teacher years ago! I also loved the way that the actors provided all the sound effects, babies, cars, chickens etc.
Great night out for anyone, regardless of age. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and the cast had everyone standing up, clapping, stamping their feet and whooping like police cars!
I really enjoyed Danny, it was so funny. I liked Mr Hazel. I also liked Gemma in the school part she joined the audience and went because she got detention
The actors were really dressed well, but my favourite part is in the Hazell's Wood also when Danny made up the plan about the sleeping pills. IT WAS HILARIOUS !!!!!!!


I am still laughing my head off, Danny the Champion of the World was hilarious. My favorite character was the headteacher . I really enjoyed myself and want to watch it again until I know all the words.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Do you have an award-winning play in you? (Or know someone who does?)

16 plays were premièred at the 24:7 Theatre Festival, Manchester, July 2008

4 were featured in the December MEN Theatre Awards:
A Dog Called Redemption, Fourteen, Grass and Ways To Look At Fish

2 of them won MEN Theatre awards:
A Dog Called Redemption (Best New Play) and Ways To Look At Fish (Best Fringe Performance)

The call for scripts is now open!

24:7 Theatre Festival 2009 will take place from 20th - 26th July at non-theatre locations in Manchester city centre.

Applications will be taken from now until 31st January 2009. For more details, CLICK HERE to go to the website, from where you can get more information and download the Application Form and Notes.

The script must be original, unpublished and no longer than 60 minutes.
It must not have formed part of a theatre season or have been on an advertised tour.
If it has already been performed – perhaps at a festival – it can participate, but may not qualify for a 24:7 Award.

The 24:7 Theatre Festival aims to showcase talent: it makes no difference whether the writer is new or established. We base our decisions purely on the quality of each play.

“I think the biggest difference between this festival and others is that these people actually care about you and your work”
Matthew Landers, writer of award-winning play A Dog Called Redemption

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

David and the Octagon

You may remember me announcing the new artistic director recently. Here he is!

You can read more about him here and if you want to know more then there are articles in The Stage and the British Theatre Guide.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Audience Reviews - Danny the Champion of the World

Some of our lovely audiences have sent in their own reviews of the show. And they have even submitted pictures to go with them.

It was fantastic, I really liked Danny I thought it was very funny. I liked it when the frog man burped and all the chickens fell from the roof. It was a bit scary at the beginning with the men with guns but it was much better than watching TV, (even CITV). I also liked the ice cream and I thought my dads friend Voodoo was funny. I would like to go again and take my friend Ellie.


Click on the picture above to enlarge.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Heaven forbid I be late with a genuine reason this time. I have learnt my lesson Sally. Do you hear me Sally? Do you hear me? No. No Sally, not the face, please not the face, I didn’t mean….

A far-fetched scenario? Maybe a little. But let me tell you, she did give me a few withering looks going past the box office, like the criminally obese look at celery on a cracker. With contempt. Moving on, gather ye round I’ve a tale to tell.

Life in the Office of Box
Christmas is bearing down upon us, it’s the annual Octagon Xmas production and the theatre is revisiting the amazing Roald Dahl. Previous productions for those who are unaware/ ignorant/ illiterate (please circle one on your computer screen) were George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Twits and James and the Giant Peach. This time it’s the enchanting (enchanting? Please don’t picture me with shiny buckles on my shoes, cap in hand, wooing fair maidens. I really don’t speak like this in real life, but the word really seems appropriate on the page) Danny the Champion of the World.

From early word it’s going to be full blooded, plenty of drama, humour, fun, excitement! Can’t wait. Pantomimes are all well and good, but if you can have all the laughs and enjoyment, but with a solid story and more emotional investment, I know which I would pick. What child ever walked out of the theatre hoping to grow up and be in pantomimes?

“Really madam? Your little boy did? Excuse me, I just need to make a quick call to social services”.

But productions like this always fire up the imagination, the stories to tell, the characters you identify with, will they over come their challenges; this is the stuff that will ignite their minds.
Well who’s buying the tickets? Everyone and anyone it seems. December is chocca block with families and schools scrambling for seats. I picture children trading their cherished chocolate hobnobs for a matinee ticket. Anyone else picturing that? No, just me.

The Lights Go Down
One of the things I love about the Christmas shows are the sets. Last years was amazing, this year’s is even better. Look at it! The sepia colours that evoke nostalgia, all warm and autumny (yes I’ve decided that’s a word), it’s as close as you can get to a colour hugging you. There are several levels to the layout, and call me a big kid but I like an interesting stage that keeps your eyes stimulated and presents a variety of action.

Wham! We’re right into it from the start. ‘Danny’ is one of Roald Dahl’s stories I’m not familiar with, I suppose when you’ve written so many children’s classics some get lost in the mix. But what an opening scene, the music swell, prickles your senses, then search lights spread across the auditorium as the men hunt for something….. I can’t tell you how giddy I was watching this. Now, and as a child I didn’t like silly things, and I’m glad this show is not silly just because it’s supposed to appeal to children as well as mum, dad and gramps. What it is though is quirky, inventive, funny without resorting to comedy wigs and stupid noises. It is proper funny, as in cracking delivery from the cast, magical staging of props, animals and action, and just wait for the moment Danny gets in the car and drives to the wood to find his dad. You’ll feel like you’re bouncing on the back seat along with him, such an inspired bit.

Usually with shows, the only way to fully enjoy and immerse yourself in the experience is if the audience is totally quiet and observing the unspoken social etiquette of NOT SPEAKING. If not, then you’ll probably be sharing a similar experience to mine. During a performance of Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE I had the sheer pleasure of sitting in front of a woman, the type who’s knicker elastic has long since slackened, who suffered from a conversational tourettes, barely a moment could pass without comment. The deadly atmosphere assassin I’ll call her (now there’s a play title in the making).

Anyway, back to the point, the opposite is true of this show. It’s the type of show where you can hear the kids say ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaaarh’ and you want to say it along with them. But the true stroke of genius is getting the audience involved in the climax, it makes the end seem so much more important, I imagine as a child you’ll feel right at the heart of the story. That’s why I like the end so much, it’s inclusive and that can only be a good thing.

Standouts include Helen Kay as the head teacher; I won’t tell you why, just see it for yourself. Also….heck, they’re all good. And the chickens, and the baby….there is just too much to mention, I’ll be at this for days.

I implore you, grab a child, and go, go now, don’t think, just enjoy.

No word of a lie, as I type this a lady - I’ll call her highly valued and alluring, she’s just booked tickets – has imparted unto me that her children LOVED ‘Danny’ as they had just watched it this past weekend. No word of a lie, the truth I speak. I’d call that a sign.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Octagon appoints a new artistic director....

Exciting news indeed. We are delighted to announce the appointment of David Thacker as the new Artistic Director; a director of national and international renown.

David Thacker will work alongside Executive Director John Blackmore, as Artistic Director of the Octagon, succeeding Mark Babych, who will be leaving the Theatre in July 2009 after ten years.

Over to David for a few words:

“The Octagon offers the perfect challenge for me at this point in my career. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with John Blackmore and the Octagon’s dedicated staff to help build on the remarkable success they have had. With Mark Babych they have laid the foundations for the Octagon to become a theatre of local, regional and national significance. I look forward to becoming part of the family of outstanding producing theatre in the North West.”

John Blackmore had this to say:

“It is a measure of how far the Octagon has travelled over the last eight years in terms of ambition, status and profile that we have attracted someone of David’s calibre and reputation. His impressive theatre record includes: running the Young Vic to great acclaim; directing for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre; and establishing professional relationships with artists of national and international standing including working closely with the late Arthur Miller. We believe this appointment marks a watershed in the Octagon’s progress to becoming a major player in British Theatre.”

Here's a bit more information about the man himself:

“Not I alone but theatre itself owes very much to David Thacker Arthur Miller on David Thacker leaving the Young Vic.

David has directed over 100 theatre productions including plays by Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, Tennessee Williams and Tom Stoppard.

Notable productions include; The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (RSC and national tour and West End), Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (RSC and international tour), The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (RSC), Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (RSC), The Last Yankee by Arthur Miller (The Young Vic and West End), Broken Glass by Arthur Miller (National Theatre and national tour and West End) - Evening Standard Award for Play of the Year, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (National Theatre, BBC) A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller (Bristol Old Vic, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and West End) An Enemy of the People (The Arthur Miller version) (The Young Vic and West End) – nominated for an Olivier Award as Director of the Year' Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen (The Young Vic and West End), Some Kind of Hero by Les Smith (The Young Vic) A Touch of the Poet by Eugene O’Neil (The Young Vic and West End) – nominated for the Kenneth Tynan Award for Outstanding Achievement' Comedians by Trevor Griffiths (The Young Vic) Cabaret by Joe Masteroff, Fred Ebb and John Kander (The Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster)

Theatres: He has worked at eight producing theatres including the Royal Shakespeare Company (Director-in Residence), The Young Vic (Director), The Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster (Theatre Director), and The National Theatre. Seven of his productions have transferred to the West End.

Awards: Olivier Awards for Best Director (Pericles) and Best Revival (Pericles) and London Fringe Awards for Best Director (Ghosts) and Best Production (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

Television: David is also prolific television director having directed more than 30 TV productions such as The Vice, Silent Witness, Foyle’s War and Waking the Dead as well as films such as Measure for Measure, A Doll’s House, Broken Glass, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Faith.

Actors: David has directed many outstanding actors, including: Samantha Bond, David Bradley, Piers Brosnan Hugh Bonneville, Connie Booth, Josette Bushell-Mingo, David Calder, Cheryl Campbell, Warren Clarke, Timothy Dalton, Penny Downie, Trevor Eve, Pam Ferris, Joe Fiennes, Tara Fitzgerald, Jason Flemyng, James Fox, Iain Glen, Richard Harris, Bernard Hill, Douglas Hodge, Ian Hogg, Ewan Hooper, Geraldine James, Michael Kitchen, Estelle Kohler, Margot Leicester, Anton Lesser, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Patrick Malahide, Helen Mirren, Warren Mitchell, Virginia McKenna, John Nettles, Clive Owen, Michael Pennington, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Tennant, John Thaw and Zoe Wannamaker.
DirectorsDavid has worked alongside directors such as Michael Attenborough, Sir Trevor Nunn, Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Peter Hall, Katie Mitchel, Sam Mendes, Adrian Noble, Philidda Lloyd and Max Stafford-Clark.

Writers: David has worked with writers including David Edgar, Ted Hughes, Arthur Miller, David Lodge, Ted Whitehead and Trevor Griffiths.
Phew I am exhausted just reading it and those are just the highlights!

'Winner' as Marie would say....

Well we had some success at the recent MEN Theatre awards. There was a nice article in the MEN on Weds (you can read it here) with some great shots of some familiar Octagon faces including Mr Mark Babych and his lovely lady wife. You can see a few pictures from the event here.

And to the winners.

Best Actor

The magnificent David Fielder for The Merchant of Venice (Octagon)/ Waiting for Godot (Library) - they don't say which production specifically

Best Actor in a supporting role

The very lovely Paul Simpson (for the Octagon's production of Road / Spring and Port Wine)

Best Design

The extravaganza that was the Octagon's production of Oh What a Lovely War. Thanks you to the whole production team but particular credit to the designer Mr Richard Foxton.

You can read what the judges have to say in more detail here but a very well done to one and all.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Moore acts announced for musical showcase...

Eclectic North West musical showcase night Cityscape Presents returns to Bolton’s Octagon Theatre on Friday 12 December to unwrap some pre-Christmas treats.

Headliners are Moore Marriott who will be showcasing their perfect pop including tracks from forthcoming EP The Catcher which will be released on Cityscape early next year.They boast soulful songs with infectious arrangements - Elliot Smith, Neil Finn and Badly Drawn Boy are recited among their influences - and will be playing as a five-piece featuring banjo, guitars, flugelhorn, cello and double bass.

Next up are the intriguing Kirsty McGee & Mat Martin whose songs of vagrancy and restlessness have been described variously as reminiscent of a Coen Brothers film and as “Simon and Garfunkel - the TimBurton version.” If it’s musical rather than cinematic references you’re after, think folk noir, Tom Waits, John Martyn, Boo Hewerdine…and go on, you can have an author - Jack Kerouac - as well. Click here for a video for their song 'Bonecrusher'...

Opening up proceedings will be brother and sister duo Liam Carter and Lauren Carter-Bridges who perform as Get Carter. The Bolton born-and-bred siblings’ talents developed when they were thousands of miles apart, Lauren in England writing songs while Liam was on the other side of the world in Queensland, Australia. They credit a 24-hour flight, many arguments and magic ‘Mozart’ voice-saving liqueur with the alchemy that resulted in their infectious lo-fi pop.

Comedian Lou Conran, a feature on what she calls the “Manchesterford” comedy scene since 2005, will be compere for the evening. Brad B Wood, founder of Cityscape Records, said:

“Once again we’re delighted to have some talented and varied acts grace the stage. Moore Marriott are a great band who I love so much I signed them! Seeing them live is always great so I’m looking forward to the night very much. I first met Kirsty when my band Merchandise supported her friends’ band Truckstop Honeymoon in Bolton. They’d recorded her music in Kansas and, with Mat Martin, she’ll be a real treat! Get Carter first came to my attention when Kat Dibbits of The Bolton News sent me an early demo. I heard the potential straight away and knew I had to get them on.”

The show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £9 for adults (£7 concessions), are available from the Octagon Ticket Office. Call 01204 520661 or buy online at

For more information about the acts, and a taste of their songs, visit their My Space sites at,,,

Future Cityscape Presents nights will take place on 12 December, 7 February, 14 March, 18 April, 9 May and 20 June.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Danny the Champion of the World - The Movie

If the productions shots and the reviews weren't enough to wet your whistle or if they were and you want to see Danny the Champion of the World again then take a look at our latest video...

If you are a fan of Dahl, I thought you might be interested in reading this article in the Guardian. I found it on the ArtsList blog (thanks ArtsList!).

INTERESTING FACTOID: You might also like to know his name is pronounced Roo-ahl (to rhyme with Dahl) rather than 'Rolled'. So now you know.....

Monday, 24 November 2008

Danny the Champion of the World - the reviews are in!

Well the reviews are in for Danny and they are looking good! This is the first Christmas show that Mark has directed in a while and he seems to have loved it. His love of it has come across as we are getting some really nice reviews. You can read The Bolton News review above (click to enlarge).

Here's what is being said:

The acting is good, too. Des O'Malley has a bright presence as Danny, and the bond of affection between him and his father (Stephen Chapman) is genuinely affecting. Morgan George makes a delightfully dastardly Mr Hazell, and Martin Miller is great value as a cheerful Bobby prepared to turn a blind eye. THE GUARDIAN. Read more....

'There's a torch-lit chase reminiscent of ET, a breath-taking car-ride with thrills and spills and some audience participation....An enjoyable alternative to panto which will appeal to all ages.' MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. Read more...

'So, say "Bah! Humbug!" to the credit crunch doom-mongers! This is a golden-hued family treat; fairly priced, and the perfect Christmas show for young and old to enjoy. Go on - treat yourselves, as no-one does Dahl better than the Octagon!' WHAT'S ON STAGE Read more...

'A clever script, lots of knockabout humour....combine to make this great entertainment for the whole family. ' THE STAGE Read more...

'Just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it. It was charming, inventive, with just the right amount of audience participation! Please pass on my appreciation and congratulations to everyone involved. Hope its a runaway success, as it deserves to be.' AUDIENCE MEMBER

'An enjoyable alternative to panto which will appeal to all ages.'

'It says a great deal about the quality of this production that, in spite of the wordiness of the script, it is still able to hold its relatively young audience spell-bound for over two hours.' THEATRE WORLD INTERNET MAGAZINE. Read more...

Here's the one from CLITHEROE ADVERTISER. Sorry I can't find a link so have transcribed it here.

'David Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World gives the Bolton Octagon another excellent Christmas show. Director Mark Babych and his creative team of designer Helen Goddard, lighting designer Tom Dexter Scott, sound designer Andy Smith and composer Howard Gray have combined to produce some clever and witty effects.

A small cast of seven actors play a wide variety of parts and demonstrate impressive puppet skills. How else are you going to be able to put a host of chickens and countless pheasants on stage? Des O’Malley is a touching Danny, worrying about his father Stephen Chapman and trying to prevent eviction by the wicked Mr Hazell, Morgan George. Thomas Aldersley, Elianne Byrne, Helen Kay and Martin Miller play, policeman, taxi driver, head-teacher, doctor, gamekeepers and more as well as controlling all those fowl and creating the sound effects of cars, a baby, a bull frog and all kinds of odd things.

I was unable to attend the press evening so that gave me the chance to go to a morning performance with the auditorium packed with primary school children and I think I enjoyed it all the more. The children chuckled and giggled in all the right places and participated with noisy enthusiasm when required. Their enjoyment was infectious and really cheered me. This production is well worth seeing, with much to please four-year-old children and upwards, including two young at heart pensioners.'
You may have seen recently that we have put a call out for young reviewers in The Bolton News. As this show is aimed at young people, we thought it made sense for those same young people to review it.

If you are aged between 5 and 13 and think you can write a review of the show we would love to talk to you. To become one of our young reviewers you need to write to us and explain why you'd like to review Danny the Champion of the World for the Octagon Theatre.

Send your letters to Parvati Gorsia, Communications Department, The Octagon Theatre, Howell Croft South, Bolton, BL1 1SB or email

Three successful applicants will be selected and will receive two tickets to see the production of Danny the Champion of the World and their reviews will be featured in The Bolton News and on this very blog.

Danny the Champion of the World - photos

Well it seems our festive show has come around very quickly as I found myself this morning going against a tide of young people as the schools descend on the theatre to see the show. Makes for a nice atmosphere of a morning with all the excited chatter.

Danny opened on Friday night and seemed to have gone down very well. The adults seemed to enjoy it as much as the children. As I predicted the chickens and pheasants were particularly well received, by one of my fellow audiences members particularly (you know who you are). The cast did a great job and although this Dahl story doesn't have as much of the fantasy that his others do, I still think it was magical on stage. Des O'Malley, despite being a little older than than the character he was playing, captures an innocence and wide eyed exuberance that makes him thoroughly convincing as the young hero and is a real link between the audience and the cast of larger than life characters that share the stage. Highlights for me were the late night car journey (nice choreography Mr Babych!), pheasants aplenty falling from the sky and the kids enthusiasm (and some adults) when volunteering to be beaten, sorry, I mean beaters. Anyway, here are a few of the production photos. The photographer, Ian Tilton, has redesigned his website and I am pleased to say a fair few Octagon production shots are featured. You can see them here.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A sneak preview....

The countdown to curtain up. Set design: Helen Goddard

I managed to grab a few pictures of the Danny set today. Now, if you are anything like me you would rather wait to see it yourself. In it's entirety, the set is really impressive and because I don't ruin it for you I have taken a few close ups....

Drum roll please.... Set design: Helen Goddard

It's tech week and the heat is on! Set design: Helen Goddard

Okay I have run out of photo related puns. Set design: Helen Goddard

Although these snippets might make it look a bit industrial (Danny and his dad run a garage but already I have said too much!) when you see it all together it looks magic.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Danny the Champion of the World - countdown

As you may or may not be aware our festive production of Danny the Champion of the World opens on Friday. I know I can't believe it has come around so quickly either.

Rehearsals are in full swing and at the run through on Friday it already looked in really good shape. Even without all the jiggery-pokery of lights, costumes, make-up and the amazing set it was still exciting and magical so I can't wait to see it as a whole. There are some great and larger than life characters in the production but even so I fear that the chickens may well steal the show! There are laughs, suspense, fantastic and ingenious plans and even the odd tear (or that might just be me, despite being under the brights and unforgiving lights of the reheasal room with a whole load of colleagues I still welled up at a couple of points).

The set is now up and looks well up to our usual standard. What with three Octagon productions, including last years Christmas production, being nominated in the upcoming MEN awards that standard is a high one but we expect nothing less of Linbury Prize Winning designer, Helen Goddard. (Aside: Tom Scutt, another Linbury prize winner, has had his beautiful set for The Merchant of Venice nominated for the MEN award).

I may try and post a few photos of the set but that might ruin the surprise for some. Talking of surprises, if you don't like them and would rather try before you buy then you might be interested to know that the cast will be performing a short segment on the show at the lights switch on on Sunday 23 Nov at 5pm? If you like what you see, why not book yourself a ticket....

Friday, 7 November 2008

A brand new blog feature....

As you are probably aware I am the main contributor (for 'main' perhaps read 'only') which is a shame. Not only because even I get tired of my own voice (that, my colleagues will find hard to believe) but also because I have a whole bunch of witty, amusng creative types here at the Octagon that I am sure can knock up a word or two. Oh and then there's Fraser!

When he is not influencing the minds of young people as a classroom assistant the lovely Fraser gallantly mans our Ticket Office. He is not short of a thing or two to say, has little in the way of fancy airs and graces or ideas above his station and usually has an interesting viewpoint on what happens on stage! Oh and he thinks he's funny. I actually think he is funny too but I would never tell him that. So at our last press night as he told me what he thought of the show, I asked him if he could be our man on the inside and whether he would write his thoughts on the shows for the blog - an alternative review if you will.

Well Fraser is obviously a better teacher than he is student. I received numerous excuses as to why he hadn't done his first review. Having now recovered from the national paper shortage that he tells me is in full swing and and then rescuing his words from the jaws of a dog, I am delighted to present to you his first review.....okay his first review with a fair bit of editing as Fraser is also a little, let's say, risque with his analogies (think Russell Brand prior to Manuel-gate). So here is the 'universal' graded review. If you want the PG rated one then you need to speak to him yourself....

Pre (Show) Amble
The anticipation before a show is always exciting. Will it be a modern masterpiece that leaves you more than a little excited? Or will it have all the allure of watching paint dry? Who knows, but that’s the beauty.

Working on the Box Office you’re privy to a glimpse behind the scenes, feel the buzz of the show, and witness the variety of customers that buy tickets.

Take for example the kindly elderly lady who was a bit unsure of the production. You have to be able to read the people, feel what their needs are. Well, one mention of old fashioned underwear, bouncing and high spirited comedy galore, the twinkle in her eye flashed SOLD to the saucy madam! It’s going to be a mischievous show me thinks.

The Lights Go Down
Ah, the first thing you catch sight of is the set. Bit sparse. They’ve stripped this one down, but look trampolines, anything that has trampolines in must be worth a look, surely? Think how much better your office would be with trampolines, I bet there’s a stirring in your gut. Could it be a masterpiece!

The actors are already milling around, this sets up a relaxed atmosphere, feels less formal, good, good. They’re an assorted bunch of odd-bods, I mean that in a nice way! It becomes clear why the set has been stripped back, to frame these larger than life people, crafty that is. I think a gaudy set would be like too much sugar for a diabetic and send you into shock.

There’s highlight a-plenty through out. The physical comedy works a treat, there as stupendous sword fights. It involves the actors miming whilst the sound effects are made for them by the other cast members. It is ten times better than if they had just actually used swords and fought, the action works on several planes, stuffing the stage full of movement, t’was a hoot.

Plus there is perhaps the greatest sex scene ever seen at the Octagon, between the character Columbina (Joanna Holden) and Arlecchino (Dudley Rees), no need to avert those sensitive eyes though, there isn’t copious amounts of flesh on offer, just manic energy, loud music and a trampoline workout (no really).

The cast keep it bobbing along, as you can always tell when it looks labored, luckily there’s no weak link in this cast. There’s usually one lurking amongst them, dragging them down (the Liz Hurley effect I think it’s called). Nick Haverson plays the twins of the title, and it’s his boundless enthusiasm and energy that forms the solid centre. He plays it big, bold and funny, just right. Anything less and it would have been like a truck struggling to get up the hill with too small a motor.

Before you know it lights up and 2 hours has passed, no time for the clock watchers here my friend, oh no.

Time to get other people’s impressions of the show. Most of the people on ticket office go on the opening Friday, they are always like unofficial staff do’s i.e. can get a bit messy! There’s young Gools, actually called Julia, but they’re ten-a-penny in the Octagon, common as muck you could say. The name, not the person, she’s a corker!

Gools in her world-wisely astuteness reckons it’s great to come buzzing out of a show on a Friday night. There have been one or two shows that, while great, make you want to introduce Mr Head to Mrs Oven. But not this one...

Other comments come rolling in, “I love Florindo’s accent”, “His entrance was amazing”, “I’m dragging my friend along to come again”. People are talking about it. Always a good sign.
All in all a mighty fine night. Shortly after came the alcohol induced blackouts….

So I heartily recommend it!

Bolton's Big Switch On 2008

So much to do but so much festive excitement! The girls in my office are getting carried along with Christmas excitement and festive show giddiness (hence the picture above!)

We are excited to announce that some of you may be able to see a sneak preview of our Christmas production of Danny the Champion of the World at the Christmas Light Switch On on Sunday 23 November. There will be entertainment, music, parades and some well known faces including Frosty the Snowman and a special guest appearance from the big man himself.... Father Christmas, oh and some chap called Vernon Kay!

Here's a run down of the afternoon.

Warm up time!

3pm Tower FM

3.05pm Teresa Harpers Dance School

3.10pm Tower FM

3.15pm AJ’s Dance School

3.20pm Tower FM

3.25pm Tommy Govan’s Band

3.30pm Tower FM

3.35pm A Foreign Town x 5mins

3.40pm Tower FM to announce break until kick off at 4pm

Bolton’s Big Switch On!

4pm Tower FM

4.05pm Alison Powers Saturday Club Kids

4.10pm Tower FM

4.15pm Dance Crazy and Infamous RDC

4.25pm Tower FM

4.30pm Bolton’s Sporting Heroes including Jason Kenny and Paraolympians: Tony Griffin, Sophie Hancock, Rachel Latham.

4.40pm Tower FM

4.45pm Albert Halls Panto Cast

4.55pm Tower FM

5pm Octagon Theatre cast from “Danny the Champion of the World”

5.10pm Tower FM introduce parade onto Victoria Square

5.15pm Surprise performer

5.25pm Big Switch On with Vernon Kay, M&M & Father Christmas

5.30pm Firework Finale from the roof of the Town Hall

Monday, 3 November 2008

Special Announcement

Members of the cast from Danny the Champion of the World will be reading excerpts from the book as part of the regular Waterstones Storytime Saturdays events.

The event will take place at Waterstones in Bolton Town Centre on Saturday 8 November.

There will be two sessions. At 11am Des O’Malley, who plays Danny, will be reading and at 3pm you will be joined by Martin Miller who plays Sergeant Samways and Rabbetts. Each reading will last about 15 - 20 mins.

It is free but space is limited so first come, first seated!!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Drum roll please!

Well, those lovely people at Manchester Evening News have announced the nominees for the 2008 MEN Theatre awards.

In true X-factor/Strictly Come Dancing fashion, I will announce the names of those through to the final in no particular order. Those (Octagon shows) through to the next round are:

Best Production

Oh What a Lovely War

Best Design
A Christmas Carol

Merchant Of Venice

Oh What a Lovely War

Best Fringe Performance
Ruth Evans in Ways To Look At Fish (24:7)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Catherine Kinsella in The Merchant Of Venice

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Paul Simpson in Road & Spring And Port Wine

Best Actor

David Fielder in Merchant Of Venice

The winners will be announced at a rather fancy ceremony at the Midland Hotel, Manchester on 2 December. Good luck all, sorry, I mean break a leg!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Venetian Twins - Movie Madness

Sorry the video has been a bit later this time than usual. Well done to Donna for managing to capture the craziness that is The Venetian Twins. She must have been light on her feet when she was shooting it!

But not only can I bring you video footage of the show thanks to the awesome power of the internet, we have also had a fair few offline goings on too. Today the cast seranaded the rather startled patrons of our cafe (and not just seranaded there was also kissing - you know who you were you lucky ladies!)...see them in action here...

Not only that we decided to take a small slice of the show out onto Victoria Square. As you are probably aware the temperatures have plummeted so it was vey brave of the cast to come out in their under garments. Yes, you heard me correctly, if you were not around Bolton Town Centre on Tuesday lunchtime you missed seeing grown men in their under crackers!

I know, no underpants shown. I guess if you want to see them you might just have to get yourself a ticket!

Oh yeah and then there was also this! Yes, your eyes do not deceive you that is me in a promotional sandwich board with the lovely Paul Hunter, the director of the show!

See the things I have to do when promoting a show. What dedication!

Forgotten Things - What's Being Said...

Stef from Red Ladder has sent me through a few reviews for Forgotten Things (30 Oct). Thanks Stef.

Reaction & reviews from audience so far:

"A play that swings around your head, not always gently – Forgotten Things is funny, provocative, sad and strange all at the same time. The set and puppetry are clever without being clever-clever and the whole thing is tight and concise. And it's funny, did I mention that before? Very funny.”

“A real innovative piece that questions not only our society, but how we interact with one another, and how we deal with authority. A dramatic piece that leaves you thinking long after you have left the theatre.” Quotes taken from Red Ladder’s Facebook group

"A weird and wonderful production.”

“Thinking theatre.......”
THE STAGE.

“Just seen the show, absolutely stunning, actors were fab, set spot on and I was impressed with Rod in the after show chat. Loved the interface of comedy and tragedy, I found the psychiatrist particularly evocative!

Too much praise for the use of the "trapdoor" thingies and the pace and surprise elements, really loved the eggs. All the actors were brill but have to say I was entranced by the little outbursts of suppressed emotion in the mother. The ending was shocking and because I was so involved with the show, I was floored by it, felt those feelings like the end of Romeo and Juliet when you want to rush in and say no, don't!

In the feedback I asked Rod about his confidence in support for young people who may be affected or even involved in some of the feelings in the show, I am without a doubt one of the protective ones! Once a youth worker, always a youth worker. Rod's response was what we know and love about Red Ladder, that the company will continue to provoke discussion about issues affecting young people however painful. He had quite a pessimistic view of society which I understand but don't neccessarily share. Society and young people in particular are forever changing and forever the same. I continue to be amazed at their humour and resilience.

Please pass on my congratulations to everyone involved and I'm sure the guy from The Stage will have been as impressed as everyone else at the show.” AUDIENCE MEMBER

For behind the scenes youtube footage about the creative process of making the show & rehearsals visit onto

The Venetian Twins - Behind the Scenes

Antony Jardine. Image: Olivia Wardle

One of the very lovely cast from The Venetian Twins brought me some great photos of them in rehearsal. They were taken by a photography student called Olivia Wardle. Thanks Olivia! Anyway, see more of them below...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Thump, thump, thump...

You may have noticed that something that looks rather like the above has appeared on your doormat! The new brochure has landed / is landing....

Although, we are still in the midst of the Autumn Winter Season, we were so excited about the new season I couldn't wait to let you have the details. It's not all good news though. As you may have heard we will be saying goodbye to Mark Babych, our artistic director for the last ten years. So make the most of him while you can and come and join us to celebrate his exceptional last season.

He’s ensuring that he’ll be a tough act to follow with his choice of plays, which range from classic Pinter in The Caretaker to Looking for Buddy, a world premiere from celebrated author and Octagon favourite Alan Plater, and from David Mamet’s controversial Oleanna to hilarious Irish fun in Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer.

Our brand spanking new brochure (or the website for the click happy amongst you) gives you all the information you need about these Main House productions, and details our exceptional Season Ticket offer. Although, shows won't be on public sale until 10 November, you can buy a bargainous Season Ticket right now. So make sure you get the best seats in the house, talk to our lovely Ticket Office staff today on 01204 520661.

Please also look out for the range of special events that accompany our main programme, including:

Plus: I am very pleased to let you know that Paul Webster who plays Davies in The Caretaker in March, is bringing his one man show, Hitler Alone, to our Bill Naughton Studio Theatre on 12 February. Please see for more details.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Cityscape Review

A nice piece on our Cityscape Presents music nights in the Bolton News. Click to enlarge...

The Venetian Twins - The Reviews

The Venetian Twins (Peter Peverley). Image: Ian Tilton

Okay, from the off I have to be honest. Farce ain't my thing. Therefore, the thought of a riotous anarchic one did little to excite me. I also get excited about how the addition of costumes and lights makes the theatre a magical place to be so the stripped back set made me feel it just looked unfinished. Due to popping in and out of the dress, I couldn't differentiate between the twins (they are played by the same actor). Turns out every time I popped back in to the auditorium it was the same twin I was seeing and when you see the whole thing they are really quite different despite being dressed identically. In fact, one audience member was overheard asking why the other twin didn't take a bow! Willing suspension of disbelief eh?

But the sheer energy of this production totally won me over. I laughed far more at press night than I thought I would and the sheer physicality and commitment of the cast was impressive, engaging and thoroughly exhausting (but in a good way). If you are a fan of traditional theatre or like your productions understated then this probably won't be for you. If you want a whole load of fun, to see something highly energetic, physical and entertaining then come see it.

Okay and over to those that do proper reviews, the press (and the public too as we were pleased to welcome the guys from The Public Reviews - thanks for coming guys!):

'Paul Hunter, says he hopes to unleash a "joyful sense of anarchy" on the Octagon. With help from his designer, Michael Vale, he has succeeded.' THE BOLTON NEWS Read more

'The comedy is broad, fast-paced, physical and slapstick, so those people who believe themselves to be too sophisticated to enjoy such things should probably stay away. For the rest of us, this is exhausting but hilarious...' THE BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE Read more...

'It’s a delight to watch this masterclass in comic timing.' THE STAGE Read more...

'A triumph, then! Take the kids, take the grand-parents, take the sulky teenage nieces and nephews who “don’t like theatre.” This is joyous, fizzy, accessible comedy that we’re lucky to have in the Northwest right now.Within the current doom and gloom of the credit crunch, this play is a real tonic. So if you love to laugh, The Venetian Twins is unmissable!' WHAT'S ON STAGE Read more...

'Hunters direction of this play is superb this production flows with sheer speed and pace and at times found myself having to hold back the laughter so I could breathe.' THE PUBLIC REVIEWS Read more...

Friday, 24 October 2008

The Venetian Twins - production photos

The Venetian Twins opened last night and Ian was here talking pictures of the dress. You can see them below. I managed to stick my head in for 10 minutesand there was all kinds of crazyness going on some of which is pictured below.

The trampolines look like far too much fun and the sound effects are very entertaining. You'll see what I mean when you come to see it!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Friends of the Octagon

We're delighted to tell you that Artistic Director Barrie Rutter (above) will direct Lenny Henry in the title role of Othello. Barrie appeared here right back at the beginning of the Anniversary Season in Lisa's Sex Strike. And another Anniversay alumni, A Christmas Carol Director, Conrad Nelson, will play Iago. Conrad must be a strong actor (I have not seen him perform) as he is such a nice fella I can't imagine him as the baddie.

I hear from Northern Broadsides that there has been unprecendented interest in this production so expect demand for tickets to be extremely high. I am informing you now to give you the best possible chance of securing tickets for what promises to be an outstanding production.

Northern Broadsides’ Othello will, as always, be propelled by the dramatic voltage of a company of actors renowned for their grit, vigour and believability. We strongly advise advance booking in order to avoid disappointment as there has already been unprecedented interest in this production.

Produced in partnership with the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the production will open in Leeds followed by a short UK tour then return home to Halifax for the final performances.

Tour dates:

14 Feb-14 Mar – West Yorkshire Playhouse – Tickets on sale 17 Oct 08 (0113 213 7700)
17-21 Mar – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough –Tickets on sale 19 Jan 09 (01723 370 541)
7-11 April – Belgrade, Coventry – Tickets on sale end Oct 08 (024 7655 3055)
14-18 April – Theatre Royal, Bath – Tickets on sale 1 Dec 08 (01225 448 844)
21-25 April – The Rose, Kingston – Tickets on sale TBA (0871 230 1552)
28 Apr-2 May – The New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme – Tickets on sale 1 Dec 08 (01782 717 962)
5-9 May – The Viaduct, Halifax – Tickets on sale 20 Oct 08 (01422 255 266) book online from 21st Oct

Please note – tickets can only be purchased at the relevant box offices, they are unable to take bookings at the Broadsides office.


I went to see the Apples and Snakes event on Tuesday night. I have never been to see any performance poets before so this was a whole new experience for me.

In the afternoon members of Write Out Loud, had been on a masterclass workshop on performance poetry led by Steve Tasane. Seems that the workshop had had the desired effect and encouraged a few of the attenders got up to read some of their work! I think being able to express yourself eloquently is challenge enough without having to read aloud to a crowd and not just read, perform. There was some good stuff from the Write Out Louders and I particularly liked Gemma O'Neill's poem about her bed. Lovely how she can make a relatively small subject matter so involving and romantic. Not only is Gemma a poet, she is also a teacher, festival organiser, singer and children's writer.....You can read a bit more about her including some of her work here (unfortunately the bed one isn't there!)

I was also totally enthralled by Andy Craven-Griffiths' poems about his family. If you have never seen performance poetry, I would definitely recommend him for first-timers. His performance has a great balance; accessible subject (family in this case - hear some of them here), his observations sharp, his choice of words mesmerising and not due to their complexity but due to their exactitude and you get carried along in the rhythm of his words. Magnetic...

As soon as he had finished I wanted to hear him again and, what do you know, he is performing in the Manchester Literatute Festivals Poetry Slam tonight (8pm) at the Northern pub. Oh and he also sings.....

Friday, 17 October 2008

Win free tickets for The Venetian Twins!

Many, many apologies for neglecting the blog for the last week. Is it really a week since I posted? I can't believe it has gone by so quickly. Then again, I can't believe it's not still July! Where does the time go?

It has been a busy week this week for the Comms department. We are gearing up for the launch of our Spring Summer 2009 season. No wonder I can't keep track of time when we have spent the last few weeks thinking about Spring next year.

The brochure has been printed, delivered and stored away ready for its unveiling. I would love to give you a sneaky peak but that would ruin the surprise when it lands on your doorstep in the near future. I am frantically trying to get the website up to the same point as the brochure - hence the lack of posting on the blog! All that and we are also still working on promoting our next production The Venetian Twins, as well as our special events programme! So feels a little busy. But busy is good.....

Talking of The Venetian Twins, last Friday I posted a spot the difference competition with a grand prize of a couple of free tickets! Despite a few responses, as judge and juror, I am not yet satisfied that I have received the correct answers. As far as I can see there are five differences betwen the two images . Once again, first one to email me at can still claim them! Please title your email Spot the Difference. Good luck!

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Merchant - audiences reactions

As you may have read we have got some fine press reviews for Merchant of Venice. But audiences also really enjoyed it. I saw the show last Wednesday evening and there were a fair few young people in the audience who really seemed to be loving the show and gave the cast a great cheer at the end. If you were in the audience that night, thanks guys!

Image: Tom Scutt

We have also had a lot of comments from press and audiences alike about Portia's dress (see above). Perhaps we should put it on ebay? If we do I promise to let you know....

A few of our audience members have also written to us to tell us how much they enjoyed themselves. Here's some of the feedback we have received:


Sent: 10 October 2008 05:55


Just to congratulate all on the FAB production of the Merchant of Venice ...

Saw a production by the RSC in Stratford earlier this year, absolutely no comparison...cost and cast of thousands (!) yet the Octagon topped it in every aspect...

Many thanks

From: Philip Lombard
Sent: 07 October 2008 10:59
Subject: Merchant of Venice Production

Please pass on my thanks to all involved in the production of Merchant of Venice. I attended on Saturday afternoon with my 10 year old granddaughter and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. I have seen the play on six previous occasions and can honestly say this was by far the best interpretation.

Verse speaking and clarity were excellent. What could have proved difficult for my granddaughter (even though I had told her the story etc) provoked a very thoughtful discussion on the way home.

Thanks again

Philip Lombard (and Eleanor)
PS Eleanor would like the theatre to do "Macbeth" in the near future

High praise indeed. Thanks so much....

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Octagon faces doing screen time

A couple of little snippets that you might find of interest. John Doughty has appeared a few times at the Octagon over the last couple of seasons with his talk about The Pendle Witches. Well it seems that Octagon isn't the only place he is appearing, he will also be on BBC's One Show on 27th October (it starts at 7pm) so if you are fan of Pendle Witches or of John D then why not give yourself a Hallowe'en treat? Grab a cuppa and some cinder toffee, light the fire and give him some screen time.

On a screen of a different type, I was also sent a link to the following video round-up of the wonder that is the 24:7 Theatre Festival (thanks David!). Not only does it feature some of the shows that featured here at the Octagon as part of Four of the Best, one of our my previous colleagues, Marketing Marvel and ex-Communications Director (and 24:7 Theatre Festival 2007 writer and entrant!), Lesa Dryburgh and her partner in crime Michael Trainor also have a little chat....she tells me she reads the blog so Hi Lesa! Here's the vid...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

I...just wanna be....anarchy....

Yup the song lyric as post titles are back but not without reason. The cast for The Venetian Twins arrived in the building yesterday (they have been rehearsing in that big London) and we met them at the Meet and Greet.

There is a great energy with the cast and from looking at the various props and other bits and pieces that are lying around the rehearsal room including cowbells, washboards, an ex Cirque du Soleil performer and all kind of other random items plus a small trampoline (trampet?) they are going to need that energy in spades. It seems that Paul is pulling out all the stops in order to achieve his dream of a fast-paced, riotous, anarchic (title makes sense now doesn't it) farce.....I just want to have a go on one of the trampolines and live in hope it will be donated to the Comms department after the show!

Anyway, I can't tell you too much more about it as then I will be giving the game away. I guess if you want to know more then you just have to book your ticket.

Talking of tickets, I thought it might be nice to run a little competition for my lovely blog readers. If you can correctly 'Spot the Difference' (shouldn't be too hard) between the two Venetian Twins images below and are the first to email me ( with the correct answers you can win a pair of free tickets to see the show. Click on the images to enlarge for a better look!

The competition small print! Terms and conditions: Winners tickets are available for Mon - Thurs evening performances only (exc Bargain Nights) and are subject to availability. Winners names may be used for marketing or publicity purposes.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Happy and Married?

We have been sent a video for the upcoming produciton of Happy and Married? If you want to learn a little more about the production and Freedom Studios why not take a look?

Here it is....

The BIG Bridges festival project: Disability Arts Festival in Bolton

An explosion of theatre, art and music.

A youth theatre company based at the Octagon Theatre, activ8 Bridges, has organised a festival aiming to help young people with disabilities to discover, develop or celebrate their creative talents. It takes place at Rumworth School in Bolton on Saturday 18 October between 10am and 6pm where various activities will take place.

The day includes; two performances by local disabled youth theatre companies; a gallery showcasing young people’s work along with an interactive visual art workshop; a multi-sensory theatre experience described as a living storybook; an opportunity to meet and ask questions to adult actors with disabilities; chill out room for parent and carers with refreshments; a workshop for young people on how to devise original pieces of theatre and information on how to get work experience.

Special guests include; the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Warren Smith; the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester, Edith Conn; the Mayor of Bolton, Councillor Anthony Connell; members of Bolton council, and the Octagon Theatre’s Principal Patron, Sue Hodgkiss, DL.

The event is suitable for young people of all abilities accompanied by families or support workers. If you are interested in attending the event please call activ8 on 01204 556501 to book your place.

Friday, 26 September 2008

I am sad to say the rumours are true and Mark Babych, our Artistic Director, will be leaving in the summer next year.

Mark joined the theatre as resident director in 1999; the first production that he directed was Perfect Pitch, which was nominated for Best Production MEN Awards in 2000. He has since then been nominated for and won several Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards, including And Did Those Feet (Best Production MEN 2007); Blonde Bombshells of 1943 (Best Production MEN 2006); Blue / Orange (Nominated for Best Production MEN 2006); Four Nights in Knaresborough (Nominated for Best Production MEN 2004), and Anna Karenina (Nominated for Best Production MEN 2000).

Mark says:

“After 10 years with the company, I will be stepping down as artistic director at the end of June 2009.This has been a very rewarding time for me but I now feel that the time is right for me to move on, and for the Octagon to take another exciting step in its remarkable journey.
I feel very proud and privileged to have been the artistic director here. It has taught me so much and I am glad to have been able to contribute to the success of the theatre over this time.”

John Blackmore, our Executive Director says
“Mark has been with the Theatre for 10 years and has directed a wide range of high quality, distinguished and award-winning productions. We bid him a fond farewell. We are now embarking on a search for a new artistic director with talent, passion and flair to take us forward from September 2009 to new heights and achievements.”

If you fancy submitting an application here are the details. For an informal discussion and to arrange a possible visit please telephone John Blackmore, Executive Director, on 01204 556509.

For full details and an application form telephone 01204 529407 or email

The Merchant of Venice - more reviews

Here's another couple of pieces on Merchant of Venice. An interview with the marvellous David Fielder. Not only a great Shylock but also a very lovely man. Click to enlarge the image....

And here's another review.....