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.