Monday, 22 December 2008

Family Friendly Reviews...

Some very nice people from Family Friendly came to review Danny the Champion of the World. They had a lovely time. Thank you for your kind words...

We went along to see Danny, Champion of the world last night. I have to say we all had a great time! It was very well thought out and put together, with a great story and production. The actors were fantastic too. Danny himself was superb, but my favourite was the head teacher, she just reminded me of my head teacher years ago! I also loved the way that the actors provided all the sound effects, babies, cars, chickens etc.
Great night out for anyone, regardless of age. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and the cast had everyone standing up, clapping, stamping their feet and whooping like police cars!
I really enjoyed Danny, it was so funny. I liked Mr Hazel. I also liked Gemma in the school part she joined the audience and went because she got detention
The actors were really dressed well, but my favourite part is in the Hazell's Wood also when Danny made up the plan about the sleeping pills. IT WAS HILARIOUS !!!!!!!


I am still laughing my head off, Danny the Champion of the World was hilarious. My favorite character was the headteacher . I really enjoyed myself and want to watch it again until I know all the words.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Do you have an award-winning play in you? (Or know someone who does?)

16 plays were premièred at the 24:7 Theatre Festival, Manchester, July 2008

4 were featured in the December MEN Theatre Awards:
A Dog Called Redemption, Fourteen, Grass and Ways To Look At Fish

2 of them won MEN Theatre awards:
A Dog Called Redemption (Best New Play) and Ways To Look At Fish (Best Fringe Performance)

The call for scripts is now open!

24:7 Theatre Festival 2009 will take place from 20th - 26th July at non-theatre locations in Manchester city centre.

Applications will be taken from now until 31st January 2009. For more details, CLICK HERE to go to the website, from where you can get more information and download the Application Form and Notes.

The script must be original, unpublished and no longer than 60 minutes.
It must not have formed part of a theatre season or have been on an advertised tour.
If it has already been performed – perhaps at a festival – it can participate, but may not qualify for a 24:7 Award.

The 24:7 Theatre Festival aims to showcase talent: it makes no difference whether the writer is new or established. We base our decisions purely on the quality of each play.

“I think the biggest difference between this festival and others is that these people actually care about you and your work”
Matthew Landers, writer of award-winning play A Dog Called Redemption

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

David and the Octagon

You may remember me announcing the new artistic director recently. Here he is!

You can read more about him here and if you want to know more then there are articles in The Stage and the British Theatre Guide.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Audience Reviews - Danny the Champion of the World

Some of our lovely audiences have sent in their own reviews of the show. And they have even submitted pictures to go with them.

It was fantastic, I really liked Danny I thought it was very funny. I liked it when the frog man burped and all the chickens fell from the roof. It was a bit scary at the beginning with the men with guns but it was much better than watching TV, (even CITV). I also liked the ice cream and I thought my dads friend Voodoo was funny. I would like to go again and take my friend Ellie.


Click on the picture above to enlarge.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Heaven forbid I be late with a genuine reason this time. I have learnt my lesson Sally. Do you hear me Sally? Do you hear me? No. No Sally, not the face, please not the face, I didn’t mean….

A far-fetched scenario? Maybe a little. But let me tell you, she did give me a few withering looks going past the box office, like the criminally obese look at celery on a cracker. With contempt. Moving on, gather ye round I’ve a tale to tell.

Life in the Office of Box
Christmas is bearing down upon us, it’s the annual Octagon Xmas production and the theatre is revisiting the amazing Roald Dahl. Previous productions for those who are unaware/ ignorant/ illiterate (please circle one on your computer screen) were George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Twits and James and the Giant Peach. This time it’s the enchanting (enchanting? Please don’t picture me with shiny buckles on my shoes, cap in hand, wooing fair maidens. I really don’t speak like this in real life, but the word really seems appropriate on the page) Danny the Champion of the World.

From early word it’s going to be full blooded, plenty of drama, humour, fun, excitement! Can’t wait. Pantomimes are all well and good, but if you can have all the laughs and enjoyment, but with a solid story and more emotional investment, I know which I would pick. What child ever walked out of the theatre hoping to grow up and be in pantomimes?

“Really madam? Your little boy did? Excuse me, I just need to make a quick call to social services”.

But productions like this always fire up the imagination, the stories to tell, the characters you identify with, will they over come their challenges; this is the stuff that will ignite their minds.
Well who’s buying the tickets? Everyone and anyone it seems. December is chocca block with families and schools scrambling for seats. I picture children trading their cherished chocolate hobnobs for a matinee ticket. Anyone else picturing that? No, just me.

The Lights Go Down
One of the things I love about the Christmas shows are the sets. Last years was amazing, this year’s is even better. Look at it! The sepia colours that evoke nostalgia, all warm and autumny (yes I’ve decided that’s a word), it’s as close as you can get to a colour hugging you. There are several levels to the layout, and call me a big kid but I like an interesting stage that keeps your eyes stimulated and presents a variety of action.

Wham! We’re right into it from the start. ‘Danny’ is one of Roald Dahl’s stories I’m not familiar with, I suppose when you’ve written so many children’s classics some get lost in the mix. But what an opening scene, the music swell, prickles your senses, then search lights spread across the auditorium as the men hunt for something….. I can’t tell you how giddy I was watching this. Now, and as a child I didn’t like silly things, and I’m glad this show is not silly just because it’s supposed to appeal to children as well as mum, dad and gramps. What it is though is quirky, inventive, funny without resorting to comedy wigs and stupid noises. It is proper funny, as in cracking delivery from the cast, magical staging of props, animals and action, and just wait for the moment Danny gets in the car and drives to the wood to find his dad. You’ll feel like you’re bouncing on the back seat along with him, such an inspired bit.

Usually with shows, the only way to fully enjoy and immerse yourself in the experience is if the audience is totally quiet and observing the unspoken social etiquette of NOT SPEAKING. If not, then you’ll probably be sharing a similar experience to mine. During a performance of Once Upon a Time in Wigan - LIVE I had the sheer pleasure of sitting in front of a woman, the type who’s knicker elastic has long since slackened, who suffered from a conversational tourettes, barely a moment could pass without comment. The deadly atmosphere assassin I’ll call her (now there’s a play title in the making).

Anyway, back to the point, the opposite is true of this show. It’s the type of show where you can hear the kids say ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaaarh’ and you want to say it along with them. But the true stroke of genius is getting the audience involved in the climax, it makes the end seem so much more important, I imagine as a child you’ll feel right at the heart of the story. That’s why I like the end so much, it’s inclusive and that can only be a good thing.

Standouts include Helen Kay as the head teacher; I won’t tell you why, just see it for yourself. Also….heck, they’re all good. And the chickens, and the baby….there is just too much to mention, I’ll be at this for days.

I implore you, grab a child, and go, go now, don’t think, just enjoy.

No word of a lie, as I type this a lady - I’ll call her highly valued and alluring, she’s just booked tickets – has imparted unto me that her children LOVED ‘Danny’ as they had just watched it this past weekend. No word of a lie, the truth I speak. I’d call that a sign.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Octagon appoints a new artistic director....

Exciting news indeed. We are delighted to announce the appointment of David Thacker as the new Artistic Director; a director of national and international renown.

David Thacker will work alongside Executive Director John Blackmore, as Artistic Director of the Octagon, succeeding Mark Babych, who will be leaving the Theatre in July 2009 after ten years.

Over to David for a few words:

“The Octagon offers the perfect challenge for me at this point in my career. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with John Blackmore and the Octagon’s dedicated staff to help build on the remarkable success they have had. With Mark Babych they have laid the foundations for the Octagon to become a theatre of local, regional and national significance. I look forward to becoming part of the family of outstanding producing theatre in the North West.”

John Blackmore had this to say:

“It is a measure of how far the Octagon has travelled over the last eight years in terms of ambition, status and profile that we have attracted someone of David’s calibre and reputation. His impressive theatre record includes: running the Young Vic to great acclaim; directing for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre; and establishing professional relationships with artists of national and international standing including working closely with the late Arthur Miller. We believe this appointment marks a watershed in the Octagon’s progress to becoming a major player in British Theatre.”

Here's a bit more information about the man himself:

“Not I alone but theatre itself owes very much to David Thacker Arthur Miller on David Thacker leaving the Young Vic.

David has directed over 100 theatre productions including plays by Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, Tennessee Williams and Tom Stoppard.

Notable productions include; The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (RSC and national tour and West End), Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (RSC and international tour), The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (RSC), Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (RSC), The Last Yankee by Arthur Miller (The Young Vic and West End), Broken Glass by Arthur Miller (National Theatre and national tour and West End) - Evening Standard Award for Play of the Year, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (National Theatre, BBC) A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller (Bristol Old Vic, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and West End) An Enemy of the People (The Arthur Miller version) (The Young Vic and West End) – nominated for an Olivier Award as Director of the Year' Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen (The Young Vic and West End), Some Kind of Hero by Les Smith (The Young Vic) A Touch of the Poet by Eugene O’Neil (The Young Vic and West End) – nominated for the Kenneth Tynan Award for Outstanding Achievement' Comedians by Trevor Griffiths (The Young Vic) Cabaret by Joe Masteroff, Fred Ebb and John Kander (The Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster)

Theatres: He has worked at eight producing theatres including the Royal Shakespeare Company (Director-in Residence), The Young Vic (Director), The Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster (Theatre Director), and The National Theatre. Seven of his productions have transferred to the West End.

Awards: Olivier Awards for Best Director (Pericles) and Best Revival (Pericles) and London Fringe Awards for Best Director (Ghosts) and Best Production (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

Television: David is also prolific television director having directed more than 30 TV productions such as The Vice, Silent Witness, Foyle’s War and Waking the Dead as well as films such as Measure for Measure, A Doll’s House, Broken Glass, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Faith.

Actors: David has directed many outstanding actors, including: Samantha Bond, David Bradley, Piers Brosnan Hugh Bonneville, Connie Booth, Josette Bushell-Mingo, David Calder, Cheryl Campbell, Warren Clarke, Timothy Dalton, Penny Downie, Trevor Eve, Pam Ferris, Joe Fiennes, Tara Fitzgerald, Jason Flemyng, James Fox, Iain Glen, Richard Harris, Bernard Hill, Douglas Hodge, Ian Hogg, Ewan Hooper, Geraldine James, Michael Kitchen, Estelle Kohler, Margot Leicester, Anton Lesser, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Patrick Malahide, Helen Mirren, Warren Mitchell, Virginia McKenna, John Nettles, Clive Owen, Michael Pennington, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Tennant, John Thaw and Zoe Wannamaker.
DirectorsDavid has worked alongside directors such as Michael Attenborough, Sir Trevor Nunn, Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Peter Hall, Katie Mitchel, Sam Mendes, Adrian Noble, Philidda Lloyd and Max Stafford-Clark.

Writers: David has worked with writers including David Edgar, Ted Hughes, Arthur Miller, David Lodge, Ted Whitehead and Trevor Griffiths.
Phew I am exhausted just reading it and those are just the highlights!

'Winner' as Marie would say....

Well we had some success at the recent MEN Theatre awards. There was a nice article in the MEN on Weds (you can read it here) with some great shots of some familiar Octagon faces including Mr Mark Babych and his lovely lady wife. You can see a few pictures from the event here.

And to the winners.

Best Actor

The magnificent David Fielder for The Merchant of Venice (Octagon)/ Waiting for Godot (Library) - they don't say which production specifically

Best Actor in a supporting role

The very lovely Paul Simpson (for the Octagon's production of Road / Spring and Port Wine)

Best Design

The extravaganza that was the Octagon's production of Oh What a Lovely War. Thanks you to the whole production team but particular credit to the designer Mr Richard Foxton.

You can read what the judges have to say in more detail here but a very well done to one and all.