Friday, 30 January 2009

Up Against the Wall - shutter-style

Up Against the Wall opened last night. The auditorium was packed and from what I've heard so far the audience were definitely getting in the groove. Here's a few shots of the cast doing their funky thang....

Looks great doesn't it? They don't sound too shabby either but of course the photos don't do the music any justice so you'll have to wait until next week when I can post the video.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

An Interview With Libby Watson - Designer

It's all go in the auditorium at the moment as Up Against the Wall opens tonight. It's looking smashing and once again the space has been transformed. I have included a few sneak Add Imagepreview shots of the set but only enough to keep you guessing. (Set photography once again courtesy of Ian Tilton). The lady responsible for creating this funky 70s look is Libby Watson. Despite her overseeing many a costume (and believe me there are a fair few), towering platforms and afros a-gogo she took the time to answer a few questions for your reading pleasure...

How did you get into Theatre Design? And what advice would you have for people looking to work in this field?

I started as a student at the Bristol Old Vic theatre where I concentrated on carpentry and lighting design. I worked as a carpenter for a couple of years and then did a degree in theatre and film design at Wimbledon School of Art. I then assisted some big name designers on West End, Opera and Broadway. My first professional work was at Theatre Royal Stratford East and I have now designed over 80 shows.

My advice for people looking to work in this field is to get as much first hand experience as possible in all departments, from stage management to wardrobe etc.. A degree is the most formal way to train and gives you access to directors and designers. It is then a good idea to assist. At first you may be expected to work for free but if you have good skills in CAD (computer aided design) or technical drawing and high quality model making, it is possible to be in constant work and to be paid well. The other route is to try and work in fringe theatre, this can be challenging as the budgets tend to be tiny and designers are paid very little if at all.

Which project, that you have undertaken, are you most proud of?

I have worked many times with Paulette Randall (Director of Up Against the Wall). A couple of productions that stand out are Three Sisters for Birmingham Rep and Eclipse tour and Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson at the Tricycle. Both relied heavily on good visual research and a static set that was instantly evocative. Three Sisters was set in 1940’s Trinidad and Gem of the Ocean late 19th century Pittsburgh.

If you could produce designs for any production, what would that production be?

I like to work in all fields, but in the future I would like the challenge of designing more opera.

Can you describe a bit about the process you went through to design the set and costumes for Up Against the Wall and what you used for inspiration?

The process for this show is pretty much like any other. There are elements that need to be there, ie space for a band, enough floor space for choreography etc.. I worked with the Director, the MD and the choreographer and showed them ideas and possible solutions along with visual elements that I thought would contribute to a visual style.

A lot of the research came from blaxploitation films and books of the period. I used this material for both the set and for the costumes. I worked with a 1:25 model and produced a rough sketch model and then refined this to a completed model, which is identical to what you see on stage. I sketched costume ideas, which were then completed into full colour drawings after consultation with the choreographer and the Director.

What were the biggest challenges of designing for Up Against the Wall and what was most enjoyable about working on this production?

One of the biggest challenges for this show is to design something that is dynamic, but can accommodate the complications of the piece. The thrust space of the Octagon makes it more difficult to design a set that has moving parts, as there is little backstage space, no wings and no flying.

The play is very fast moving and we felt that a static set would be more appropriate. The costume changes were also a challenge, as with only 5 actors it leaves little time for anyone to go offstage and change. The most enjoyable part of the design process has been the hours of research and of course the music.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Paul Webster’s one man show Hitler Alone at the Octagon Theatre

Paul Webster as Adolf Hitler ....

Paul Webster’s one man show, Hitler Alone, explores the man behind the myth and more disturbingly, the psychology of one of the most infamous and reviled characters in history.

From the regrets of his youth, through his hopes and aspiration as a man, to his failure as the Führer, Hitler Alone gives an insight into the life of one of the darkest figures of the 20th century.

Paul Webster’s chilling one man show on Adolf Hitler was last performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008, and made it onto the Best of the Fest list. In Hitler Alone, Webster completely inhabits his character and delivers a tour-de-force performance which has been widely praised by critics.

Paul worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company for 16 years where his major credit included Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew. He has also worked for the Library Theatre where he played the parts of Hamlet in Hamlet and Teddy in The Homecoming directed by our very own John Blackmore, Richard III and Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons.

Paul Webster returns to the Octagon in March appearing in Harold Pinter’s post-war masterpiece The Caretaker in the role of Davies.

Hitler Alone takes place on Thursday 12 February, 7.30pm, tickets are £9 (£7 concessions) and are available from the Octagon Ticket Office on 01204 520661 or online at

Friday, 16 January 2009

A Champion Review

Although, I have featured press reviews and a few from the general public, it seems the schools are too getting in on the act.

St Brendan's Primary school in Harwood have written a lovely review of their visit comeplete with photos. To read the review in full you can click here.

Thanks St Brendan's!

And here's another review from Whimsy Way, a fellow blogger (thanks Michelle)....

There are still a few seats left for tonight's and Saturdays performance, so why not come and see it for yourself.

Up Against the Wall - An interview with Felix Cross

A Shaft (courtesy of Special Auto) - see what I did there?

Imagine my delight this morning when paying a visit to Stage Door, I heard the strains of Shaft coming from the BNT. So exciting and it is sounding marvellous. Our old office used to be next the the rehearsal room so you could listen to them rehearse the musical numbers which was great if you loved the music and if you didn't know the songs beforehand you sure did after hearing them on loop for a few weeks. The only time when this was a little odd was when they were rehearsing Absurd Person Singular which, of course, is based around Christmas so hearing Christmas carols throughout the Spring was a little disorientating!

Anyway, I digress. So I was walking down the corridor towards Stage Door and once I heard the first few notes of Shaft, I don't know what happened to me. Seemingly without me even being conscious of it I was soon strutting, nay dancing, down the corridor. My 'moves' attracted bemused looks from a couple of colleagues and even that didn't stop me.

It was like being taken over by mind (or body) controlling funk often happens, after the fact I felt a little foolish (when I dance I look like a baby giraffe taking its first steps... on ice), but having read this lovely interview with writer and Nitro Artistic Director Felix Cross, I can now tell those that saw me acting oddly that it is due to, and I quote, 'songs simply so funky you physically couldn’t sit still when listening – you had to dance – it was scientifically and medically proved; those twitches in your legs were chemical reactions to the interconnected contrapuntal rhythms of funk.'

So as you can see, it wasn't just Friday exurberance (or my own complete lack of self-awareness) driving this behaviour but science that made me act that way. can read Felix's interview in full by clicking here.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Cityscape Presents

A very belated Happy New Year! I thought is appropriate that the first post of the new year features a whole load of new music. Cityscape Presents returns once again to the Octagon next month (Saturday 7 Feb) with some bright, shiny, new musicians. Well new to the Octagon anyway.
First up is Micky P Kerr. Here's the skinny...

Five things your should know

1. Micky is friends with The Pigeon Detectives.
2. Apparently he is a legend in his home town of Leeds.
3. He has supported such names as Reverend & The Makers, Girls Aloud, The Ordinary Boys, and Kate Nash.
4. Feb 07 'Jet2' TV ad hits the airwaves featuring Micky's track Dreamers Club.
5. He has played for Huw Stephens’ famous ‘Introducing Christmas Party’ show (from Maida Vale) which was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 on 18th Dec 08

Not only have his singles garnered huge support from a host of the most influential DJs around, including Huw Stephens, Colin Murray, Rob da Bank, Steve Lamacq and Lauren Laverne, the press seem to ahve a lot of nice things to say about him.
Here's what the press are saying:

‘Absolutely brilliant!’ - Rob Da Bank, Radio 1
‘Very, very good - an Indie Ronnie Lane!’ - Gideon Coe, BBC 6 Music
A catchy Christmas single which is already proving a YouTube hit!’ - The Telegraph
‘Amazing!’ - Jim Gellatly , Xfm/BBC Scotland

If the above isn't proof enough you ought to give him a go, then you can hear him via his MySpace page or watch a video for this timely ditty Credit Crunch Christmas below

Ably supporting Micky will be the delights of Andrea Glass, who describes her sound as Americana soaked in Bolton rain....if you don't know what that sounds like then have a listen here. She might hail from Bolton but her debut album was recorded in arguably her spiritual home – Nashville,Tennessee.

Completing the line-up is 17-year-old singer-songwriter Alex Hulme whose unique acoustic sound is full of sweet melodies and intricate guitar work. Think Nick Drake-style guitar with more commercial vocal melodies reminiscent of the likes of Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly. You can hear him here. Promises to be a fun night.

Click here to book online or call our Ticket Office on 01204 520661. Hope to see you there....