Monday, 25 February 2008

When the Chips are Down!

You'll have to excuse the terrible pun above but all will become clear. The good thing about having the blog is that not only we can update you on how things are going, what's happening and all sorts of other things but it gives us the opportunity to thank just some of those people that are willing to help the Theatre.

A big thank you must go out to Olympus Fish & Chip Restaurant (37-39 Great Moor Street, Bolton BL1 1SW) who have been kind enough to help us out with the chips that will be featured on stage during the run of Road. If all this talk of chips is making you hungry why not pop on over there and grab some - not only are their chips stage trained (!) they are also delicious. Thanks again Olympus....

activ8 update

Thought it was about time I gave you an update on some of the things activ8 have been up to of late.

Play in a Week
Half Term, which I am sure for many teachers and pupils now feels like a distant memory, brings with it activ8's Play in a Week project. This project is an opportunity for young people to not only make friends but also teaches them new skills as they get to grips with crafting a complete performance. Working with a team of professionals the performance brings together various disciplines including acting, story-telling, music, movement, costume, props and even face paints!

21 young people from all over Bolton came together for 5 days to work on Roald Dahl's revolting rhyme Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This modern adaptation of the classic fairytale featured funky music, hip-hop moves, a 'wicked' queen, magic mirror and seven gangster dwarfs with a mild gambling addiction! Here's a snippet from the script:

While all of this was going on
Oh where, oh where had Snow White gone?
She'd found it easy, being pretty,
To hitch a ride into the city....

Sounds great doesn't it and I hope to post some pictures soon too. Certainly seems that some of the parents and their offspring enjoyed it. Here are a few of their comments:

'My daughter really enjoyed it and I was overwhelmed with the performance given by the children. You obviously all worked very hard.'

'I just wanted to say how much [my son] enjoyed the Play in a Week last week. He had such a good time and can't wait to come back in May. Do you know when I can book places for the May play in a week? He can't wait to come back!'

If you or your child wants to get involved in the next Play in a Week in May then bookings open early April. You can contact activ8 on 01204 556501 or email

UPDATE: as promised you can see some of the photos from Play in a Week below

Youth Theatre - Stage 3
activ8's Youth Theatre encourages young people to learn skills in improvisation, character building and play writing, and gives participants the opportunity to learn more about what happens 'behind-the-scenes' of a theatre. The sessions also aim to build participants' confidence, encourage self-awareness and provide an opportunity to meet new people and have fun, as well as the chance to perform in front of a live audience at the Octagon Theatre.

Their next performance will take place on Friday 14 March. This group have devised a piece of theatre that focuses on the themes of place, community, mystery and hysteria. Here's a synopsis:

Welcome to Blackwood, a sleepy town in the back of beyond. You'll meet all the usual folk, a barman, a teacher and even a preacher. Nothing out of the ordinary then, or so you might think. There's also something else, something different about this place, a something that can't be explained.....

Why not come along and witness the townsfolk as they unravel the forgotten secret of Blackwood? You can book tickets via the Ticket Office on 01204 520661 or book online.

And finally....
You may remember us talking about activ8's production of Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets. If not, you can read about the rehearsal process and see a short video about the making of this ambitious project here.
We have received some production photos of Millboys now which you can see below. These have been taken by Paul Cliff. Nice work Paul, your shots have made me regret missing this show.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Manners cost nothing..... my Mum always told me. She was big on manners and particularly 'Thank You 'letters for those that ever showed kindness or gave me presents. I was delighted to see that some still take the 'Thank You' letter seriously when a whole batch of these landed on my desk from both Salesbury CE Primary School and Lord Street Primary School thanking us for their enjoyable visits to see our festive show. I have scanned in a few of the letters below and as you can see the children have been very generous with their compliments and kind words and we've had some fantastic pictures. You should be able to click on the images and enlarge them if you are having trouble reading them - it's worth it. They're great!

Molly's Muddle - Special Offer for Schools

Big Adventure is a dynamic performing arts company based in Manchester, in its first year of production. Its members, when combined, have over thirty years of professional experience in the creative arts. Its first original production, Molly's Muddle, will premiere in the Bill Naughton Theatre, here at the Octagon on Saturday 23rd February 2008.

Let me introduce you to some of the marvellous characters you might expect to meet on Molly's adventure! Here's Molly....

This is Jack, Jumping Jack to give her her full name. She likes jumping.....

And this is Professor Knowall. Great name and even better hair!

Big Adventure's Director, Matt Lawley-Brown said; "The play has been written specifically to be a positive influence in the lives of the kids who see it. It has been lots of fun to create and produce. We're really looking forward to its premiere at The Octagon before taking it into schools and other venues around the country."


As Matt mentions above, Molly's Muddle is going on tour. The Molly's Muddle team will come to your school, perform and put together a series of related activities including workshops, assemblies, lessons and other exercises relating the the themes of the play.

If you are a teacher and interested in finding out more about Molly's Muddle for your school, then this might be of interest. Book tickets for the premiere of Molly's Muddle on Saturday 23 February, here at the Octagon, and you can get £50 off a school booking. Just let the Big Adventures Team know at the end of the performance.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Road - Casting News

As part of its record-breaking 40th Anniversary Season, the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, celebrates its long and successful relationship with acclaimed playwright Jim Cartwright by presenting his seminal work Road from 6 to 29 March.

This is our road! But tonight it’s your Road an’ all! Let me help you get your bearings. There’s the town, there’s this Road, then there’s the slag heap. This is the last stop. All of life is chucked here.

Road tells the story of life on one road in a depressed northern town in Thatcher’s Britain. Scullery, our drunken guide, wanders aimlessly up and down his derelict road, pointing out the grim features of the landscape and setting the scene for the glimpses to come of its inhabitants’ lives.

Noreen Kershaw, a prominent director of both television and the stage and a well-known actress in her own right, returns to the Octagon to direct Road. Noreen has worked as a successful actor and director for many years. Most recently, she directed the December 2007 Liverpool Nativity. For television she has directed Shameless, Emmerdale, Heartbeat and Coronation Street. As an actress, she is recognised for her recent role as WPC Phyllis Dobbs in the BBC smash hit Life on Mars. She also directs Spring and Port Wine, which follows the production of Road, and features many of the Road company. As I am feeling indulgent (and I love it!) you can see footage from Life on Mars below - Noreen features about 1 min 40 in...

Her cast ranges from established favourites to Octagon newcomers. Well-known and much-loved John Henshaw takes the lead as Scullery. John starred in Steve Coogan’s Parole Officer and has had starring roles theatre’s across the country. He is also the face of The Post Office adverts! Here he is in action....

Paul Simpson makes a welcome return to the Octagon after appearing in the MEN Theatre Awards Best New Play 2007 winner And Did Those Feet and Jim Cartwright’s son James Cartwright makes his Octagon Theatre debut. Julie Riley, Tony Bessick, Joanna Higson and Eve Robertson complete the cast.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Crucible - The Movie

For your viewing pleasure, another of our short promo films.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The Crucible - What's Being Said.....

The cast of The Crucible. Image: Ian Tilton

I have gathered a few reviews so far from current production of The Crucible. First up a quote from a member of the audience:

The show was amazing. I was honestly blown away by it and have heartily recommended it to...well, anyone who will listen to me rave about it really!

There have also been reviews in The Bolton News (read it here), Manchester Evening News (see here), The Stage (here), Lancashire Evening Post (here), another at Reviewsgate (here), Manchester Confidential (here) and last, but by no means least, The Guardian.

We also got a nice review from The Metro (4 stars). I can never find their reviews online so I have included a transcript below. It appeared in the Metro Life section on Monday (yesterday) if you have a copy!

Having successfully staged other Arthur Miller classics A View From The Bridge and Death Of A Salesman, Octagon Artistic Director Mark Babych has now turned his head to The Crucible with stirring results.

Utilising an 18-strong cast, but fairly simple staging, Babych lets Miller's acute allegory of political witch-hunts speak for itself, trading smoke and mirrors trickery for powerful, measured performances.

First staged in 1953, at the height of senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist crusade, it ostensibly focuses on the 17th-century Salem witch-hunt, when the fabrications of a group of young girls, led to the death of 20 people. Miller, who was himself targeted by McCarthy, uses this set-up to explore questions of faith, community, the fallibility of our leaders and the importance of personal truth.

Though this is definitely an ensemble piece, there are several stand-out turns, including Catherine Kinsella's eerie performance as malevolent teen Abigail Williams, Mairead Conneely's superbly stoic Elizabeth Proctor, Sean O'Callaghan's snivelling Reverend Parris and the beautiful, brooding Chook Sibtain as flawed hero John Proctor.

Babych may be doing nothing new or particularly daring with this straightforward staging, but this classy production of a classic play has real contemporary resonance: its core message of loyalty to one's principles and peers is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

Online Ticketing Upgrade

Just to let you all know that on Friday 8 February we will be having an upgrade to our online ticketing system. Therefore, unfortunately you won't be able to buy your ticket online on Friday morning. We anticipate it will be business as usual from around 2pm Friday afternoon.

Our Ticket Office phone lines and the office itself will be still be functioning normally, so if you want tickets, rather than clicking a button and making a virtual purchase why not call the very lovely real people at our Ticket Office on 01204 520661. They're a friendly bunch.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Bewitching Photography

The Crucible opened on Thursday. Having had a sneak preview of the dress rehearsal, I couldn't wait to see this with an audience. The piece has a cinematic feel to it which I am sure is something to do with the amazing music, composed for us by Chris Madin. And, if ever a production is suited to the round, it is this one. Being in the round gives the piece a realism (or is it naturalism??), as the actors interact with each other and 'look in' on proceedings rather than 'talking to the audience' as they might in a more conventional stage set up.

I found the seating layout particularly effective during the court scenes. I must admit to squirming in my seat on numerous occasions, not due to that fact I wasn't enjoying the show but I felt, as an audience member, I was also part of the court. A silent witness to the events taking place on stage, and powerless to prevent the tragic outcome or expose the accusers! Anyway I think that's enough from me. Why not take a look at some of the production photos? Ian had his work cut out on this one, what with a cast of 18 to focus on and a round stage, but he has pulled it off with some fantastic images. Thanks Ian.