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.....

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Merchant of Venice - the film (not the one starring Al Pacino!)

The lovely Donna has been in again to capture some of the wonder that it the Merchant of Venice. If the magnificent reviews haven't been enough to tempt you, perhaps take a look at this and see what you think?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Shameless 'nominate us for an art08 award' plug!

Arts council England, North West is running the art08 awards to celebrate the creativity and innovation of arts in the North West and you could help us win £10,000 for the work that we do.

The categories for nominations are:

Individual Artist Award 2008 - to celebrate and recognise the achievements of an individual regional artist

Inside, Outside and Online – celebrating where great art has found its way into people’s lives in new and exciting ways

Putting the North West on the Map - recognising where an individual or organisation has made a significant impact in helping raise the region’s profile and creative reputation

Creative Sparks! - celebrating an arts partnership with business that has captured the hearts and minds of those involved

Unsung Heroes – recognising those ‘back room’ players who have been critical to bringing success to an arts project. The overall winner will walk away with the £10,000 prize for The Arts Council outstanding Achievement Award.

Deadline for nominations: 5pm 26 September 2008. You can download the nomination forms from the website

Help us win. Nominate us today!

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Merchant of Venice - MEN review

Apologies I have to post this separately but it is some weird glitch in the blog software that if you post more than one image you can't enlarge them! So here is the MEN review. Click on it to enlarge!

The Merchant of Venice - the press hath spake!

The Merchant of Venice (David Fielder as Shylock and Catherine Kinsella as Jessica). Image: Ian Tilton

The Merchant of Venice opened on Friday night. If this first production of the season sets the tone for Autumn Winter 2008 then I am really excited about seeing the rest. I had high hopes for the look of this show as having heard the designer, Tom Scutt, talk about it in design meets I thought it could be something really special. And it is. The metallic, largely monochromatic, design is stunning. The set looks amazing and really quite beautiful, even with the muted colour palette and a back drop reminiscent of a tired, redundant office block. A visual comment, no doubt, on the current state of what's going on in the city and on the stock market. You can see more of the set here

Set design: Tom Scutt

There are some mesmerising performances. Despite being the villain (or that's how I remember the character when I studied the text back in my college days) David Fielder (Shylock) set my bottom lip trembling in the final stages as he is well and truly broken. Portia (Emily Pithon) is also fantastic, charismatic and has beautiful comic timing. Her on stage partnership with Jenny Platt (Nerissa) works well. And despite the difficult themes and the hard edge to Merchant there are also some laughs provided mainly by Paul Simpson's Launcelot Gobbo and Dan Poyser as the Prince of Morocco. Great stuff!

Anyway, enough of what I think. Here's what the press are saying:

'Theatrical perfection' WHAT'S ON STAGE. Read the rest of the review here

'a very accessible production of this controversial play with some very strong performances' BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE. Read more here

'A terrific start to the Octagon’s new season.' THE STAGE. Read more here

'It is a triumph of Mark Babych’s directing skills to have so upturned comedy into near tragedy, and a credit to the actors that, even in its toughest moments, the play never loses its sparkle.' THE BOLTON NEWS. Read more here

'This first-rate production is a great start to the Octagon's new season and judging by the response at the end the audience agreed.'

' a relevant, thrilling, and deeply moving impression of the play it would be difficult to beat this particular Merchant.'

'a rewarding experience'
REVIEWS GATE. Read more here

'This is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare for anyone who hasn’t seen one of his plays; for those who know The Merchant well, it bears comparison with the very best of productions.' UK THEATRE NET. Read more here

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Merchant of Venice - production images

So The Merchant of Venice opened last night and the feedback so far seems to be very positive. I sneaked into the dress yesterday to get a glimpse of how it is shaping up and it looks great. Tom Scutt's design works really well in portraying this rather murky, tarnished world.

It wasn't too murky though allowing super snapper Ian Tilton to capture some great moments from the play:

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Friday Fun, Freebies and Five Reasons to see the Merchant of Venice...

As they say in Sesame Street, today's post is brought to you by the letter 'F' (Friday Fun Freebies Five (Reasons to see The Merchant of Venice))!

Okay, there is no real excuse for the video below apart from it's Friday and I love all things muppet. Plus, there is a tenuous link as this little piece is called the Monsters of Venice (see what they did there?). Although, it does little to unravel the plot of Shakespeare's original, Grover-Shylock's 'If you tickle us...' speech amused me muchly!

Anyway, that was the fun bit and here's the freebie bit....over at What's On Stage there is a competition to win free tickets to the Octagon's upcoming production of the Merchant of Venice. Unfortunately, Grover will not be performing in our production but I am sure the great cast we have will more than make up for it! You can see a full cast list here.

Click here for more competition details. You'll have to make it snappy though. The competition closes on Tuesday 16 September......good luck!

And not only that, there will also be another special offer on Saturday in The Bolton News. I am not going to ruin the fun and give away the details, so you just might have to buy a copy!

UPDATE: There's also a nice piece on What's On Stage where our very own Mr Babych lists five reasons why you shouldn't miss The Merchant of Venice. If anyone wants to post their own 'five reasons to see' why not leave yours in the comments section......

Scrumdiddlyumptious Fun and a Great Offer

For those of you Dahl fans out there, and we know there are a few, we thought you might like to know that Roald Dahl Day is this week. Find more information, downloads, and events over at the website.

Special Offer EXTENDED - £5 off a Family Ticket

And with Dahl in mind it seems timely for me to remind you that we’re extending the Early Bird Saver for families to come and see our festive show, Danny the Champion of the World. We appreciate that the current economic climate means people have to tighten their belts and so we’re extending our special offer.

You can now enjoy Danny the Champion of the World for just £41 peak (usual price £46) or £36 off-peak (usual price £41) for a Family Ticket (2 full price and 2 concessions), if you book before the 30 September. That's £5 off a Family Ticket price!

To book, call the Ticket Office today on 01204 520661.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Afternoon Delight

Although still a bit risque, I had to try really hard to reign in the smut factor for this title of this post. Apparently, our audiences can't get enough of the Vagina Monologues (see this is why the post title could have been much worse!) and performances are nearly sold out so we are delighted to announce that we will be putting on an additional performance.

Date: Wednesday 15 October 2008
Time: 2pm
Where: Here at the Octagon Theatre
Tickets: £16 (£14 concessions)

You can order your tickets via those marvellous people at Ticket Office on 01204 520661 or click here to order them online.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Well Swung Shots

Apologies that this is a bit after the fact but this time last week there was a buzz in the theatre roud about htis time as a group of young people prepared for their stage debut with the preview night of Well Swung.

I really enjoyed the show. The music was great (the swing version of the Scissor Sisters Filthy Gorgeous was my fave). The energy of the cast and their obvious talent was impressive. It makes me wonder how many other young people in the Bolton area are hiding their acting and singing lights under a bushel. I am sure they would be delighted to know that the audience seemed as equally enthralled with their performance as I.

William Hare Bar whispers: not only was the performance on Friday night enough to bring a grown man to tears (your secret is safe with me) , some heavyweight acting talent, who watched the show, were overheard saying how much they enjoyed it also. Who needs X-factor when you have got young people out there that are willing to take their chance on the stage and deliver so wonderfully?

A high five to activ8 for a good job, well done.....

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

To blog or not to blog.....

Image taken from:

I'd like to think if Shakespeare was still alive then he would definitely have been a blogger. I have been having been surfing the net...ahem ...I mean doing some research on Shakespeare, as The Merchant of Venice kicks off the season soon, and it seems that there are fair few blogs dedicated to the Bard. I thought for those of you with an interest in all things Shakespeare, these might be worth a read...

Here's how this Bardolator (!) describes the site:

I love Shakespeare, I want to share that love, and I got bored. That’s how this website was born. I don’t consider myself an expert, I don’t have a PhD in Shakespeare. I read about and watch Shakespeare, I act Shakespeare, and might start eating Shakespeare.

I really like his Word of the Day where he explains Shakespearean language. Nice...

The Shakespeare Geek talks about inspiring a love of Shakespeare in his kids (even if it means changing the ending so Romeo and Juliet live), re-telling and adaptations of Shakespeare’s tales (Gnomeo and Juliet anyone?), his love of Diet Pepsi and pro-wrestling.

Here's the skinny:

A Shakespearean glance at the people and issues of the day. Bardseye is intended for all who are interested, but I feel a specific desire to make it accessible to students and to those adult readers - including non-native English speakers - who may have missed their first opportunity to connect themselves to Shakespeare.

If you are such a reader, you may now find a daily dose of plot explanation, excerpted poetry, historical background and thoughtful meditation on Shakespeare's meaning a pleasant and gentle way to cozy up to the Bard.

Shakespeare Cartoons at Savage Chickens who has obviously had similar thoughts to me about the Bard's blogging potential.
Over at Savage Chickens, Doug draws amusing chicken-focused cartoons on post-it notes. He has done a Shakespeare series which made me giggle. Click on the image above for more....
There's also some useful and interesting stuff over at Shakespeare Teacher. He has some nice daily features including Shakespeare anagram on a Saturday. There is also The Shakespeare Blog that provides educational resources and some interesting discussions like who would be the modern day Shakespeare. There's some good stuff on The Merchant of Venice too. And last but not least there are blogs by both the British Shakespeare Company and the RSC.

I am a little disappointed that I haven't found a blogger that writes about modern day issues in a Shakespearean style, rather like someone did for Samuel Pepys. If anyone out there knows of such a site, leave me a link in the comments section....

Monday, 1 September 2008

Four of the Best from 24:7

We are delighted to welcome the 24:7 Theatre festival back to the Octagon this week. This year we are showing four of the best shows from this year's festival (2 shows per night in relay). You can read the MEN round-up fo the Theatre festival here and you can find reviews for all the shows featured in Four of the Best on the 24:7 website. I can't link directly to the press section but if you click on the link to the website there is a 'Press' button at the top of the page.

You can read more about the shows here or on the 24:7 Theatre Festival home page. Four of the Best also featured in this weekend's Guardian Guide!