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)


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