Friday, 27 June 2008

Wigan - a word form the cast...

First up an apology. Largely as I haven't kept up to date with posting the Octagon columns that appear every few week in The Bolton News. And I can't find the articles to link to so I have included a couple of recent ones below.

Remember to click on the images to enlarge them. This first one is by Richard Oldham who appears as Danny in Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE!

And this week was the turn of Mark Babych, Artistic Director extraordinaire. He has written a really nice round-up of the season and talks of some of his personal highlights.

I just want to reiterate Mark's comments. Having been here from just before the launch of the season to the end it has been a very exciting year, especially for my first one at the Octagon and I feel honoured to have joined the theatre at such an exciting time. It's been a blast!

Bolton Backstage (management)

Did you see what I did there? With the title.... If it's not obvious I will explain. After posting about various roles here at the theatre that are not directly involved with what happens on the stage I thought it was time to post something about someone who was involved with on stage workings. You might have seen her. She tends to sneak on, wraith-like, every so often during the show when the lights are down to update props, move things around and make changes to the set. Her name is Danni and she is part of our intrepid and rather smashing production crew.

Also, a big hello to the teachers that we met this morning at the Bolton Backstage event. Welcome the the blog. I have to say as teachers they make excellent students. They listened, put their hands up and asked lots of interesting questions and even those on the back row behaved themselves.....right anyway, better get back to work.


Danni Fearnley

Born in Bolton, now living in Lancaster but still working in Bolton

What do you do?
Assistant Stage Manager for the Octagon Theatre.

How long have you been at it?
I have worked at the Octagon Theatre for seven years altogether but only 18 months in my current, full time role.

What was your very first role in the theatre?
I worked Front of House and on Stage Door part time whilst studying, then did a bit of work experience in the Stage Management department before starting in my current role.

Have you got qualifications?
GCSEs, A Levels & History degree.

What did you do before you worked in theatre?
I worked part time at the theatre and in a pub whilst studying. I then had a temping job straight after University in a Solicitors office for 6 months.

How did you make the move to working in theatre?
I asked if I could do some work experience in the Stage Management department during my second year at University. I then asked if I could return the following year and it so happened that they needed an extra person backstage to crew the show that was on at this time, which I did. I then got asked to crew another show a few months later which was when I heard that a job vacancy was coming up for an Assistant Stage I applied.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was tiny I wanted to be a paleontologist of all things!!!! I soon grew out of this and decided I wanted to be a pianist, music teacher or Stage Manager.

What do you do all day?
The day times tend to be spent preparing for the next production and supporting the rehearsals. This involves getting props and furniture, sometimes making things and making sure everything satisfies the designer’s requirements. We also make sure that everything needed for rehearsals is there ready by reading rehearsal notes provided by the Deputy Stage Manager everyday and doing anything else that he/she may require for the rehearsal room.

The most hectic days of my role are in ‘tech week’ when the artistic and technical preparations for the play come together for the first time all in one week. This involves a lot of hours, often lots of changes and getting to grips with how the show is going to run. My main responsibility is compiling the setting list, which tells us where everything is set for the production and the running list which is the order that everything backstage happens during the show. I also run the backstage side of the technical rehearsal.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I love the fact that you can go into work and never predict what you will be day you could be in the van driving to Coventry to pick up a table for the set because the only one the designer likes is miles away!!, the next day you could be trying to cheekily get free chips for every production of a three week run, then another day you could be attempting to make a prop look 500 yrs old. It is also great that you get to work with new people every month.

And the worst?
You have to work a lot of evenings and weekends and sometimes quite long days.

What’s your dream job in theatre?
I’m not completely sure yet, something involving music and maybe a little more creative than my role at the moment would be fantastic.

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
Work experience is fantastic, not just for getting to know the people who may want to employ you but also learning if the job you think you want to do is actually as fantastic as you imagine. Also, always be enthusiastic and willing to try new things as you have nothing to lose and ask lots of questions of those who are already where you would like to be!

Once Upon a Time in Wigan and the Happy Ever Afters....

Another lovely email from a patron.

From: Mark

Sent: 26 June 2008 21:21

Subject: Once Upon a time in Wigan


Me and my partner attended “Once upon a time in Wigan” on Monday and would just like to say what a great time we had.

We had never been to the Octagon before (or any theatre for that matter!). The show was fantastic!!!!!! Great songs, great dancing, great cast and a great production. The staff of the theatre were all friendly and helpful and we will definitely be attending your theatre again. Some time soon.

We would recommend your theatre and this show to anyone. Please pass on our congratulations to everyone involved, we had a truly wonderful night.

Kind Regards

Mark and Taina

I love it when we hear that new people have come to the theatre (of course it is my job to be interested in new audiences being the Audience Development Manager and all) but it gives me a warm feeling inside. So thank you both, you are welcome and come again at any time.

Audiences have really take this show to heart and you can feel the passion in the theatre. A mate of mine that came to see the show said one of the things he loved was that there were quite a few laughs for everyone but there were obviously a few 'in' jokes and subtle nuances (yes he used those words, in a coversation, willy nilly - he's clever like that) that really resonated with those that were actually at the Casino. I also read on the Front of House report that one audience member had to leave the auditorium early. Not I hasten to add because he wasn't enjoying the show but because if he stayed to the end he would cry again!
So thank you for your feedback as Vinnie Jones once said 'It's been emotional!'

Thursday, 26 June 2008

activ8 Awards and Showcase

Over the last twelve months, over 5,000 people and community groups of all ages from in and around Bolton have worked with activ8, utilising various art forms to make outstanding contributions to their communities and their own lives.

activ8 presents the third annual activ8 Showcase where the evening will feature some of the exceptional theatre, film, art and music projects created by participants of activ8’s workshops, projects and youth theatre over the course of the past year.

The evening culminates with an awards ceremony, which will honour deserving individuals. The awards are sponsored by The co-operative and the categories are:
  • Outstanding Personal Achievement and Development through Creative Arts
  • Outstanding Contribution to Bolton’s Communities through Creative Arts
  • Most Supportive Team Member
  • Most Memorable Individual Performance and Most Promising Newcomer
Winners will be published on the blog in due course.

Caz Brader, Head of activ8, comments:
“There are many achievements and success stories that often go unrecognised, such as a young person overcoming a confidence issue; we want to make sure these amazing people get the acknowledgment that they deserve.”

The Showcase takes place at the Octagon Theatre in the Main Auditorium on Saturday 5 July, 7.30pm. Tickets are available from £4 at the Ticket Office on 01204 520661.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Bolton Backstage - Ticket Office

Further to recent posts about Bolton Backstage and Theatre careers (you can read more here) next up is the department that represents the face of the Octagon - Ticket Office. Although there is many a friendly and welcoming face at Ticket Office, I can't think of a face that fits better than our Ticket Office and Customer Service Manager. Ladies and gentiles, may I present (drum roll please) Mrs Marie Irving-Murphy.


Marie Irving-Murphy


What do you do?
I am the Head of the Ticket Office and Customer Service at The Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

How long have you been at it?
I have worked at the Octagon for 16 years.. I am hoping for a large gift as sign of appreciation if I make it to twenty. I started in the Box Office then became Front of House Manager. I have been a member of the Senior Management Team in my current position for around the last 6 years.

Ed: after 20 years service they should give you the theatre!!

What was your very first role in the theatre?
I started as a part-time Box Office assistant, 11 hours per week, someone’s maternity leave… I don’t think she’s coming back.

Have you got qualifications?
A degree in English Literature and Psychology. A weird combo but I quite liked the sound of BA/BSc (Hons)!

What did you do before you worked in theatre?
Part-time jobs whilst studying, bar-work, waitress, jewellers and Athena. Joy!

How did you make the move to working in theatre?
Completely by chance – was looking for a second a part-time job to fit in around my degree and bar-work. But once I started here that was it – hooked! Cheesy but true.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I never knew, I did toy with the idea of being an antique dealer or an estate agent!

What do you do all day?
I oversee the running of the Ticket Office, Stage Door and Front of House teams so it’s a lot of staff to rota, motivate and keep an eye on! Most of my day is spent dealing with ticket sales (I am even on the Ticket Office counter selling tickets for a number of hours a week!), the computerised ticketing system and on-line sales, generating reports for finance, dealing with customer enquiries and complaints, liaising with the Communications department re mailing extractions and direct mail letters, and ensuring the smooth running (whilst delivering with the highest standards of customer care!) of the ‘public face’ of the Octagon!

We recently went on sale with our new season so the shows I have put on the system take us to the middle of next year!

What’s the best thing about your job?
The people and the energy at the Octagon. If people are in it for the money they go elsewhere! The people who work here do so because they enjoy it – they are passionate about what they do and are fiercely loyal to the Octagon and what it produces.The majority of shows we produce ourselves, so you see the rehearsal process, the set construction and then the 3.5 week run, and then just as that show opens, the next one starts rehearsing. It’s full-on but it means work is never ever dull!

It’s relentless and the bar is constantly raised higher and higher. Audiences are at their highest ever, with more and more bookers attending for the first time. We have to ensure they will want to come back again!

And the worst?
There genuinely isn’t much of a downside. I’m lucky in that I love my job and don’t ever wake up thinking I don’t want to go to work today!But funding cuts are always a worry and it’s hard to know to what extent current economic issues such as the crashing housing market, fuel crisis and escalating energy costs, will impact upon audiences theatre attendance – nights out are the first thing we cut back on when times are hard! So it makes for an uncertain future professionally.

What’s your dream job in theatre?
I think I’m doing it. I get to spend my days selling tickets to see make-believe, often to someone that has lived in Bolton for 30 years but has, until now, never stepped foot inside their local theatre!

They then want to come back, again and again and can’t believe what they have been missing all these years.You can’t ask for better than that!

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
I doubt it’s a role that someone claims they want to do when they grow up, but they should because it’s great! Get involved in theatre as soon as you can, either on placement or as a volunteer or as an usher. You won’t look back…

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

More Wigan reactions....

We've had some more nice (and amusing) comments about Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE! This lovely lady wrote to The Bolton News to tell them what a lovely time she had. Thank you very much Mary Jones - your words are really spoiling us.

We also received this (rather amusing) email from another audience member.


Sent: 22 June 2008 13:05

Subject: Once Upon A Time in Wigan - LIVE!

Hail to the new Rice and Lloyd Webber combo.......Mick Martin and Mark Babych.

Layering the original play with the musical segments from the era was a master stroke that supercharges the original narrative to another level.

Fantastic, magical and a stellar experience that merits another run and at the very least a Television or Film treatment to capture!

Best regards and please pass on our sincere thanks to the cast, crew and Mick and Mark for making the 40th anniversary event such an awesome experience :-)

Steve & Marie

The thought of Mick and Mark as Sir Lloyd Webber and Time Rice really tickles me....

Picture: Mark Babych and Mick Martin (or is it?!)

A Bewitching Article

Due to how quickly our talks on the Pendle Witches have sold out (there is already a waiting list for the next one that takes place in January 2009!), I assume there are a few of you out there that are interested in this period of history. Therefore I thought you might be interested in this article I saw. To read, please click on the image.

You can read the full article on Pendle in this month's (July) Lancashire Magazine.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Bolton Backstage - Press

Further to the post about Bolton Backstage event and job profile for activ8 administrator here and the job profile of our Finance Director here, next up is turn of the Communications Department and in particular Press.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Parvati Gorsia. You may recognise her from her recent front page cover shot as the face of Bolton (click here to have a look). Parvati, as you will see, has worked all over the theatre, so knows the Octagon inside out. It seems that her talents are endless being able to turn her hand from ushering to front of house manager, from dynamite photoshop skills to being hostess with the most-ess on sponsors nights. Here's a bit more about what she does:


Parvati Gorsia

Born in Bolton

What do you do?
I am the Press and Communications Officer. As well doing the press and publicity for the Octagon my other duties include, sponsorship, working on the show programmes, coordinating mailouts and general displays and appearance around the building.

How long have you been at it?
I have been at the Octagon Theatre for nine years, I have worked in the Communications Department for 4 years and I have recently started working on Press.

What was your very first role in the theatre?
Usher for the Octagon Theatre.

Have you got qualifications?
BSc Hons in Business Information Technology

What did you do before you worked in theatre?
After graduating I carried on working as an Usher at the Octagon in the evenings. I was looking for a job when Head of Marketing approached me to work with them on a part-time basis.

How did you make the move to working in theatre?
Whilst at college, one of my friends started working at the Octagon as an Usher. As the Christmas production was approaching the Front of House department were looking to employ more Ushers. My friend recommended me to the Front of House Manager, I was then asked to come in to complete a starter form, and it all started from there.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Air Stewardess, Artist or Criminal Lawyer.

What do you do all day?
My role as Press and Communications Officer includes many day to day jobs. My role includes reading the papers and online publications, writing press releases and planning press strategies for all future productions (researching specific newspaper/online or radio publicity depending on target audiences and the nature of the production). I am involved in the process of choosing production images for press and for displaying Front of House. I also arrange interviews for cast and creative team members to help publicise the production.

At the end of each production I put together a press pack for all creative and cast members; this includes all press coverage along with a flyer, poster and show programme. Other roles include producing and editing show programmes (collating all necessary information biogs, articles, adverts, notes etc to include into the programme and sending it through to the designers), proofing print, and in-house artwork for flyers/posters/displays, sending out invitations for opening nights.

I also coordinate all mailouts; keep an audit of all the print we receive, arrange the Front of House displays and ensure that they are updated on a regular basis. I also work on the Theatre’s Corporate Sponsorship Programme - looking after our Gold, Silver and Bronze members. I arrange hospitality and tickets for their Sponsors Nights and act as their host for the evening.

Finally, I ensure all documents are filed, archive all production print at the end of the season, take care of the departmental petty cash and other general office duties.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The people I work with. Working on different shows and meeting new people (cast/directors/writers or designers), and finally seeing the final publication/print of the work you have produced whether it is in the paper or the show programmes that get delivered at the Octagon (although I never look through it in case I spot a mistake!).

And the worst?
The pay isn’t brilliant and I work a few late nights. I have to work 2 or 3 every month – it can be very tiring!

What’s your dream job in theatre?
I would love to become really good at what I do, hopefully leading to being involved in other big arts projects in the North West.

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
My advice would be to get as much experience in a working environment, even if it’s a job lower down in the hierarchy of your chosen career. The chances are that this is where you need to start to gain the knowledge to build your confidence, skills and show what you can offer to the organisation.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Bolton Backstage - Finance

You may remember me talking a bit about the Bolton Backstage event we have coming up next week. As I mentioned then, I thought it would be nice to tell you more about some of the jobs the rather smashing people at the Octagon do.

Next up is Mr Keith Jones. Keith sits next to me (albeit with a partition divide) and is a thoroughly nice chap. Of course, I have to say this as he holds the Octagon's purse strings but I am glad to say it is also true. He also reads the blog (hi Keith). You can read more about our rocking Head of Finance (and mate of Johnny Ball!) below......


Keith 'The Axeman' Jones.

Ed - really it is just Keith Jones, I added Axeman myself due to his skills on the guitar of which I am very jealous!


What do you do?
Head of Finance. I have recently been involved with booking special events for the Bar and Studio

How long have you been at it?
I have been here 2 1/2 years, as the Head of Finance.

What was your very first role in the theatre?
Head of Finance

Have you got qualifications?
Business Studies, Accountancy and IT

What did you do before you worked in theatre?
I worked throughout the North West for multi-national textiles companies as a Management, Cost and Financial Accountant.

How did you make the move to working in theatre?
I was contacted by a job agency and put forward for interview.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I never really knew, only thought of accountancy when I went to College, and it seemed like a good way to earn money. I suspect I was born an accountant, either that or a lion tamer (old Monty Python joke).

What do you do all day?
The Octagon Theatre is of a size were I must be involved with the day to day running and managing of the Finance department, monthly accounts HMRC and funding returns etc, as well as looking after the financial state of the charity at senior and board level.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Too many to mention! For me being involved with a creative process that can give benefit and pleasure to many different communities is so rewarding. I have met so many different and interesting people and feel I personally have gained so much from my short time at the Octagon. The people can make an organisation and my colleagues here help make this Theatre an enjoyable place to be for staff and attendees alike. From my background of commerce and light industry, the not for profit sector is a breath of fresh air and opened my eyes to a way of working I knew little about and I think makes me appreciate my role much more.

And the worst?
I really can’t think of a downside to my job, being an accountant is pretty much the same wherever you are and isn’t affected by being in the theatre, the basic rules are the same. I get the same amount of ribbing here for being an accountant as anywhere else, nothing changes.

What’s your dream job in theatre?
A musician, but that really is a dream and probably doesn’t pay that well, I think I will stick to Finance.

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
Get experience of other industries and sectors, this isn’t the job to do straight from University or College and is unrealistic to think you might get it. Larger companies or accountancy firms will help you pass exams and gain experience, due to the cost the theatre sector may not be able to help fund your studies. As well as that, I have benefited from seeing the harsh world of commercial life and made me appreciate this role and company.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Wigan Casino - the Best Disco in the World

For those of you that are interested in all things Wigan Casino, apparently Radio 2 are doing a series of programmes entitled The Definitive History of UK Dance Music, presented by Zoe Ball. The first one is called From Casinos to Warehouses - 1970 - 1987 and the blurb reads thus:

We start with the seventies and US Billboard magazine naming the Wigan Casino Best Disco in the World, ahead of New York's infamous Studio 54. Then the story moves on to the eighties and its emerging soul scene.The programme explores and contextualises Jazz Funk, Hip Hop and early house, and highlights how these forms were the pre-cursor to 1988's dance music explosion.

If you fancy a listen then tune in at 7pm this Saturday. Apparently Russ Winstanley will be contributing.

Octagon factoid:
Did you know that Zoe Ball's dad, Mr Johnny 'Think of a Number' Ball, is from Bolton. Apparently, he went to school with Keith, our Head of Finance. They were in the same class!

Correction: didn't got to school with, Johnny went to the same school as.....sorry Keith!

Awwww shucks....your compliments are really spoiling us

Although I had picked up that audiences for Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE! were really enjoying the show (our Front of House manager sends us a show report for each performance and it seems the atmosphere in the auditorium is so tangible it is often worth a comment in the report) it is really extra nice when a show prompts our audiences to write to us and thanks us.

Here are a couple of emails we have received.

From: Marianne
Sent: 16 June 2008 05:19
Subject: Once upon a time in Wigan - LIVE!

Could you please pass on these comments.

I have just seen this production and had to let you know how fantastic we thought the band were. You should produce a cd! I would definitely buy a copy. I didn't think a band would work but they really made the production and the vocals were terrific. They are so talented, and I believe they aren't even a band.

Having seen the production at the Contact Theatre, and having bought the cd, I really prefer the choice of songs that were used in this production and felt they told the story so much better, particularly in the second half.

Would it be possible to having a running order of the songs as they appeared?

And, even better, a cd!

Unfortunately, I am going on holiday this week, otherwise I would have definitely returned to see it again!

Thanks for an excellent afternoon.


From: Sonia
Sent: 16 June 2008 15:09
Subject: Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE!


On behalf of my friend and I, heres a BIG THANK YOU to all involved withthe production of Once upon a time in Wigan which we saw on Friday13th.......!

Thought it was GREAT and the band were BRILLIANT.

Well done to the actors/actresses for the dancing and bringing back memories of good times, sad times but most of all live for today times.

We went off to the Brasshouse on Churchgate for further memories of soul, along with bending peoples ears about what a SUPER play we had just seen.


Sonia and Leigh.

From: Bill
Sent: 17 June 2008 06:06
Subject: Once upon a time in Wigan- LIVE!

Dear Mark Babych

I was lucky enough to attend the first night of your production of Once Upon A Time in Wigan -LIVE! last week and I must say I was blown away by the sheer power of the music, having been a regular attendee to Wigan Casino and also seeing the play the first time around I was unsure what to expect, as I know how hard it is to replicate a lot of the northern soul songs.

The combined earthy gritty soulful voice of Paul Kissoun sent shivers down my spine every time he sang, he also had the movement of some of the old soul performers from the great days of the Casino, the band were note perfect and looked really cool in the charcoal grey suits. I have mentioned to all my friends to attend and see the play, they will be blown away as I was.

Keep the faith


What a polite bunch. I must say a big thank you to those that have not only taken the time to come and see the show but also to write to us. It means a lot. Having read these I can't wait to see the show again myself.....

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Bolton Backstage - Calling Teachers!

On Friday 27 July we are holding Bolton Backstage, a practical training and vocational insight day for small groups of secondary school Drama, English and Media Studies teachers to learn more about career opportunities in theatre.

These one-day events will include a tour, an introduction to the working practices of the Octagon Theatre and a series of workshops led by professionals in the field. Workshops cover the following disciplines: Directing, Devising, Set Design, Lighting Design, Producing and Theatre Administration, and Marketing.

If you are a Drama, English or Media Studies Teacher based in the North West and are interested in attending the event, please contact Zoe Little at Specialist Schools and Academies Trust to find out if you are eligible to take part. Her number is 01772 730240.

In the run up to the event, we thought it might be of interest to publish a series of job profiles of real-life, bonafide Octagon staff. First up is one of our activ8-ers.....


Lynsey Merrick

Horwich, Bolton

What do you do?
I am the administrator for activ8; the participatory department of the Octagon Theatre.

How long have you been at it?
I have been working at The Octagon Theatre for 1 ½ years, and been in this role for a year.

What was your very first role in the theatre?
Stage door receptionist.

Have you got qualifications?
BA (Hons) degree Music Theatre
MA Applied Theatre (pending)

What did you do before you worked in theatre?
I have always been involved in theatre through study; but have worked in many administration, volunteer and leisure/tourism roles within other industries.

How did you make the move to working in theatre?
Theatre is my area of academic study; and so I applied to all the relevant and local theatres after graduating from University. The Octagon has always been my local theatre; it’s where I did my work experience when I was at school.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a writer or a poet- if I’d have been any good I would have tried it.

What do you do all day?
As an administrator, I act as the communication and liaison link between the department and the rest of the Theatre, clients, agencies and key stakeholders whilst liaising with freelance artists contracted to work with activ8. I am required to be proficient in word processing, audio typing and other IT services for the activ8 team.

Other admin duties include mail distribution, minute taking, responsibility and administration of the activ8 petty cash and the efficient keeping of records of income and expenditure; this involves regular communication with the finance manager of the theatre regarding invoicing, contracts etc.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I get to work with a diverse group of people that the activ8 department access through their work. It enables me to learn so much and have a much richer experience.

And the worst?
Pay in the arts is not the best, but it’s worth it or no one would do it.

What’s your dream job in theatre?
Having recently completed training to become a workshop leader I am now beginning to become more practically involved in community, youth and education work. I would like to continue and develop this further.

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
Watch lots and lots of theatre, always ask questions and get involved as much as you can with your local organisation.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Once Upon a Time in Wigan - the story continues...

A few more bits and pieces on Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE!. You can read an interview with Rupert Hill (pictured above) here. Plus a piece on Sandy Holt who helped the cast with the choreography. Speaking of choreography here's a nice piece in the Manchester Evening News. I can't for the life of me find a link so you can see it below. Click on it to enlarge.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE! What's Being Said....

'A great night out' What's On Stage

'entertaining, funny, energetic and superbly performed by all the actors and musicians.' British Theatre Guide

'If you could take the essence of the evening and bottle it, you would make a fortune - ****' The Guardian

It was Press Night on Friday. As you can imagine, there is always a fizz in the atmosphere on press night - a mix of anticipation and excitement and I don't know if it's the weather or due to it being the end of our Anniversary season the night had a unique ambiance and party spirit.

Welcoming guests at the door, I was delighted to see that along with the familiar faces of press, guests and supporters there were also a good turn out of Northern Soulies - the Wigan patches gave a few of them away, but unfortunately not a pair of baggies in sight! It was great to hear stories of real experiences of the Casino. One audience member told me about the night her sister (aged only 14) decided to sneak out and go to the Casino. Unfortunately she was discovered and grounded as a consequence. I bet it was worth it! Another told me about his brother whose Northern Soul record collection was so precious to him, he never played them!

Although, of course, it is important what the press think of the show but I couldn't help watching the reaction of those that lived through those heady times at the Casino. As Audience Development Manager it is my job to see what audiences think and they seemed to be having a fantastic time.

With the band elevated above the stage it is almost like seeing two shows for the price of one - a play and a great soul gig. You have the amazing energy of the cast on stage that put everything they can into these characters and the moves and then you have the band. The music almost is a character in itself with the lyrics taking on the role of the narrator and how much do I love that band! I heart them. Seems by the reaction at the end from those soulies on the front row, I wasn't the only one. There were cries for more and it was all I could do not to join in. We had a lady that was dancing and clapping so enthusiastically in the gallery I was worried she wasn't going to keep her footing.

Anyway, enough of what I think. Here are some of the press reviews we have received so far:

What's On Stage
Manchester Evening News
The Bolton News
British Theatre Guide

Update: a few more reviews
Manchester Music
Lancashire Evening Post
The Guardian

And another one from Clitheroe Advertiser. No link to be had so here's a transcript:

'Mark Babych’s production of Once Upon A Time In Wigan – Live was an education for me. Hitherto I knew nothing about the Northern Soul movement, and the all night dancing at places like Wigan’s Casino Club. In the mid seventies and early eighties I was in the throes of nappy washing and toddlers. An all-nighter for me meant sleeping through undisturbed! Clearly, however, the music had, and still has a huge and devoted following.
This show is a re-commission of Mick Martin’s acclaimed play with live music, which adds a great deal to the performances. Under Howard Gray’s direction, the seven musicians belt out songs that reflect the actions and emotions of the cast of four. Paul Kissaun as lead vocal is very good. The plot concerns the relationships of four youngsters, who spend every Saturday at the all-nighter as an escape from their boring and frustrated lives. Eugene (Rupert Hill) fancies Maxine (Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi). Danny (Richard Oldham) exists only to dance and Suzanne (Laura Bonnah) can pretend she is cool and try to find a boyfriend better than staid Graham back in Burnley.
There is some lively dancing, particularly from Richard Oldham, choreographed by Sandy Holt. But the music is the thing! If you like your music loud and ‘soulful’ then this is for you. It brings to an end the Octagon’s highly successful fortieth anniversary season that included five world premieres. They deserve great praise for taking on so many challenges and continuing to be one of the most popular theatres of the North West. Next Season starts with The Merchant of Venice in September.' (Pippa Munro)

Friday, 6 June 2008

Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE! - The Album

Wigan opened last night. Although, I didn't see it myself apparently it were reet good! Even got a text from a Northern Soul fan friend of ours this morning and I quote 'It was really good. The band works really well. Even the vocals sounded close on most songs.' High praise indeed!

I saw the 2nd half of the dress yesterday and it looked and sounded brilliant so I am more than a little excited about seeing it tonight. My enthusiasm was such that when I bumped into Sandy Holt later in the day and persuaded him to show me a few Northern Soul moves in preparation, one of them being a back bend type thingy (you can see Richard Oldham doing a much better job in the photos below), Sandy was kind enough to say it was good. My hips and knees today seem to largely disagree with that but it was worth it for a small compliment from Mr Northen Soul Dance Champion. Anyway, here are the photos I mentioned for your enjoyment.

If you fancy dusting off some of your own moves, then you might be interested to know that Russ Winstanley, Wigan founder, will be dj-ing in the bar here at the Theatre during the interval and after the show. You can catch him on 10 June, 17 June and 24 June. Now where did I put my talc and baggies!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Cityscape presents...The Loungs and a new single

I have had a chat today with the lovely Brad from Cityscape Records (Hi Brad). Brad is the organiser of our new music nights, Cityscape presents, that take place in the Bill Naughton Studio Theatre. The evenings focuses on showcasing the local music scene and the range of new music and talent from all over the North West.

The next event will be The Loungs (pronounced The Lungs not The Lounges apparently - so you can look like you are in the know - I wasn't!) on 21 June. Tickets are selling nicely but you can still buy one if you fancy some 'foot-tapping, heart stonking trippy folk' - they will get you bopping and waving your arms!

They are being ably and suitably supported by the ever popular acoustic six piece, Moore Marriott, and the home-grown talents of Merchandise. You can read some of the reviews of Merchandise's new single here. Music Week has picked it as a tip and you get your copy from HMV Bolton and Manchester or if CD's are just to passe then, of course, you can do some computer jiggery pokery and download it from iTunes! If you want to have a quick listen and see them in action, have a look at the video below: