Friday, 30 November 2007

Behind the scenes of Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets

You may have read about activ8's production of Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets here or one of the performers diaries here but if that wasn't enough you can watch the movie of the making of this ambitious production below. Caz Brader (Producer and Head of activ8) and Ellie While (Director and Children and Youth Drama Facilitator) talk about how the production came into being, you can see the cast in rehearsals and hear what some of the talented, young people involved had to say. Thanks once again must go to Donna Gidman and her expertise with all things film.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Pink Medicine Project - Volunteers Required

Is Emily Pankhurst one of your heroes?
Do you think the Suffragettes had real girl power?
Do you believe that women are equal in today's society?
Do you have an interest in acting, drama and theatre?

On March 8 2008, a conference that looks back at the local women's liberation movement in Bolton and ask where the feminist movement is now. It will take place as part of International Women's Week.

activ8 have been asked to re-create a piece of street theatre called The Pink Medicine Show' from the 1960's that aimed to highlight women's issues.

activ8 will also attempt to create a new contemporary piece of theatre exploring how women feel about their position in today's world.

activ8 are looking for a small group of creative young women who wish to take part in this project.

You will have the opportunity to:

  • Work with activ8's drama workers in a professional theatre
  • Learn more about how to create a new piece of theatre from scratch
  • Improve or develop new acting skills
  • Have the opportunity to perform to local audiences
  • Explore issues surrounding 'women's liberation'
  • Play a part in this exciting lottery funded conference

The project will begin in January 2008 and is likely to take the form of once weekly, evening rehearsals. To become part of this project, or to find out more, call activ8 on 01204 556501 or email

Festive Christmas Slideshow

Some more of the lovely festive production photos by Ian Tilton - this time in Slideshow format! Enjoy.

Monday, 26 November 2007

A Christmas Carol - What's Being Said....

Grisling, grouching, picking, pinching, scrimping, skulking Scrooge (Rob Pickavance) in all his sourpuss glory.

Seems those of you that have seen it are enjoying our production of A Christmas Carol. Here's a few comments from you, our audience:
'The show is really well done and the set is amazing'

'One of the best shows I've ever seen'

'Loved it'

Here's a review by one of the young people who came to see our show. She has even posted it on her school website. Thanks Frances.
And it seems it's not only the audience that is enjoying themselves:

'This is a show which the whole family can enjoy as it is timeless, funny and poignant. The Octagon has done it again: this could be the show to beat this Christmas.' Read the rest of the review here.
What's On Stage

I will add links to other reviews as I find them. Here's one from The Bolton News. One from The Stage here and Manchester Evening News here.

And another review from the Metro. Unfortunately I can't find a link to the online one so take a look at the article below:

It's always difficult to present such a timeless story while finding ways to make it feel fresh and interesting, but the Octagon has pulled it off with style here.'d have to have a heart of stone not to be filled with Christmas spirit by this. The Metro (5 stars)

And here's another review from there Lancashire Evening Post.

If you are finding it hard to get into the festive spirit, then you must come and see the show. If you are anything like me you will leave the theatre with a rosy glow, humming Christmas Carols (despite it still being November) , hankering after Turkey, Christmas trees and even snow!

The cast of A Christmas Carol (with Team Marley)

Friday, 23 November 2007

A Christmas Carol - Lithography!

A Christmas Carol opens tonight preceded by the Lantern Parade. Here are some of the production shots to get you feeling festive and to see what you are missing if you haven't yet bought your tickets.
Scrooge doing his miserly thing - Robert Pickavance as Scrooge and Thomas Frere as Bob Cratchit

The Cratchit Family making merry - Clockwise: Robert Pickavance (Scrooge), Katie Ball (Tiny Tim), Thomas Frere (Bob Cratchit) and Sarah Groarke (Mrs Crachit)

Even Scrooge gets into the party spirit at the Fezziwigs. The cast and Team Scrooge.

The festive makeover is complete. Merry Christmas! Robert Pickavance as the new and improved Scrooge!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Once Upon a Time.....

Just to update those of you that haven't been informed or read it in the press we are changing the final show of the season! Just a Gigolo will now be replaced by Once Upon A Time in Wigan - LIVE! You can expect our usual high energy, end of season celebration but instead of jazz and New Orleans you can enjoy a night of Northern Soul all the way from Wigan!

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Once Upon A Time in Wigan here's some information:

Be Young, Be Foolish… But Be Happy! Once Upon a Time in Wigan – Live! is a full-on celebration of Wigan Casino and its legendary Northern Soul all-nighters when kids from blue collar lives all across the country could escape 70’s tedium and get Out on the Floor and Dance Dance Dance!

It’s September 1981, the very last night of the Casino. Britain is changing. For Danny, Maxine, Suzanne and Bolton boy Eugene, Northern Soul has been their way out – a weekly escape hatch!

The Wigan all-nighter delivered Soul Galore, the highlight of the week – eight hours of classic soul, sweat and passion, to a soulful soundtrack of Detroit and Philly, east and west coast winners.

But Time Will Pass You By, and as the club opens its doors for one last time, Eugene takes us back on an emotional journey to his very first heady night at Wigan, when he fell in love with Maxine. And how a potent mix of drugs, sex, love and classic 60’s and 70’s American soul music changed his life … as the song says It’ll Never Be Over For Me

Specially commissioned to help celebrate the end of the Octagon’s hugely-successful 40th Anniversary Season, ONCE UPON A TIME IN WIGAN - LIVE! re-unites the team that created the full-on and funky Eight Miles High, the smash hits Blonde Bombshells of 1943, and Oh What A Lovely War - Director Mark Babych, Musical Director Howard Gray, and Designer Richard Foxton.

Featuring a live band of brilliant actor musicians pumping out classic Northern Soul tracks in the Octagon Theatre’s signature style, Mick Martin’s high octane script is brought vividly to life in this unmissable homage to the very heart Of Soul – Wigan Casino 1973 -1981!

If you're not familiar with Northern Soul or even if you are here's a nice little documentary style piece about Wigan Casino.

There is some great dancing in here why not try a few moves ready for when you come to see the production.

Friday, 16 November 2007

An Interview with Dawn Allsopp (Designer)

Dawn Allsopp has worked with us, as a Designer, on a few productions over the years including Shining City and Kindertransport for which she was nominated for a Manchester Evening News award in 2004. I managed to grab a few minutes with her to ask a few questions and have included some of her rather lovely designs for A Christmas Carol.

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

I am not someone who has a great yearning to do something that has so far eluded me. I accept projects which fire up my imagination and instinctively I know will be fun and challenging to work on.

Can you describe a bit about the process you went through to design the set and costumes for A Christmas Carol.

Conrad Nelson (Director) and I met and discussed various ideas before beginning the design process. We talked in general terms about the pile of cash boxes leading from stage level and up to the shelf and specifically about the various locations we would need to include.

I then went away, gathered visual reference material and put together a rough model (see finished model below) and costume thoughts. At our next meeting with this model, we solidified some ideas, chucked out others and introduced new ones.

Photo of the set model of A Christmas Carol.
Designed by Dawn Allsopp

The process continued in that way, with each meeting the design becoming more refined until it arrived at what you see on the stage.

What were the biggest challenges of designing A Christmas Carol and what was most enjoyable about working on the production?

The biggest challenge within the play is to create a sense of flying, without anyone actually leaving the floor.

During the design process, the pile of cash boxes grew out of the stage floor and as they reached the shelf had become a jumble of small houses. These houses hem in Scrooge's bedroom area and help create a sense of an overcrowded city in which he works and lives.

In addition Scrooge's four poster bed moves when the down stage bed post is pushed. This sets the canopy swaying and creates a great sense of movement. With the bed swaying and specific lighting effects we get a fantastic sense of Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present soaring high over a cityscape. All without ever leaving the ground!

It has been a great challenge and hugely enjoyable to work on an adaptation of a Dickens classic here at the Octagon.

Tell us about how you got into theatre design and do you have any advice you would offer to those interested in this type of career?

I trained in fashion and textile design and then did a post graduate year at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School on The Wardrobe course. I realised by the end of that year I wanted to design scenery as well as costumes, so spent two years working on small fringe projects in London, while earning a living working as a dresser on West End Musicals.

I was then lucky enough to get an assistant design job at The Palace Theatre in Westcliff on Sea, where I designed various main house shows and painted on all the shows. This job gave me a fantastic foundation on which to build.

Clearly my degree choice was in a different design discipline and I had to learn aspects of my job as I went through my career. I think now, if you want to go into theatre design then theatre design training is advisable as it is a very competitive market. There are a lot of courses to chose from and with most things you will need to do some research and pick the course that most suits your needs and expectations.

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

I designed a show in August 2005 for the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich called Sugar. This is a fantastic musical version of the film Some Like It Hot.

You've got a great period setting of the late 1920's and a terrific comic story of boys dressing as female musicians to escape the mob and a girl running away with the same band to find a millionaire husband in Miami.

With its great score and performed by a hugely talented company of actor/musicians this was an exceptional show and one I am really proud to have worked on.

Scripts for Sale

Cover: courtesy of Aurora Metro Press. Image: Joel Chester-Fildes and William Chitham

About the author's previous work

"...simple, unaffected theatrical magic..."
The Sunday Times

It felt a bit like Christmas yesterday as two big packages arrived. Unfortunately not a gift for me,as such, but it could be a gift for you! You can now buy the published script for A Christmas Carol. There's the cover above. So if you fancy re-creating a bit of the festive magic with your friends or family, using it as a study text at your school, fancy reading along in the performance (quietly!!) or are simply looking for a nice Christmas gift for someone theatrically minded why not buy a copy?

And even better news, you can buy them for just £5 - a price so good I am sure even Scrooge himself would see fit to part with his cash. They will be selling in the shops for £8.99, that means we are selling them almost half price!! Just ask one of our ushers or at Ticket Office for a copy.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Channel M visits the Octagon

Channel M recently did some recording here in Bolton and at the Octagon. This episode celebrates 40 years of Bolton's Octagon Theatre. Steph Elmore chats to Matthew Kelly about Oh What A Lovely War and Robert Hudson talks to John Blackmore about his 40 years in theatre.

The Octagon segment begins about half way through but why not watch it all as we share the bill with Hall I'Th' Wood, Samuel Crompton and McFly plus you can see a number from last season's Song of Singapore. Eclectic eh? Click here to have a look.

Friday, 9 November 2007

History is about winners....

There is a definite feeling of celebration at the Octagon at the moment. Last night was the Gala night held to thank the University of Bolton for all their support during our 40th Anniversary Season.

It was a good night and a good time was had by all. One of the highlights for me was when Matthew Kelly introduced George Holmes, Vice Chancellor at the University. I am a little jealous as he took to the stage with the words 'Tonight Matthew, I am going to be....'. Brilliant!

And the celebrations continue for us, and the University, today with the announcement of the nominees for this years MEN Theatre Awards. The Octagon has got a fair few nominations so in true award ceremony style, the nominees (for the Octagon Theatre) are:

Best Actor

George Irving in Shining City

Best Actress

Becky Hindley in Lisa's Sex Strike

Best Design

James and the Giant Peach

Family Show

James and the Giant Peach

Best New Play

And Did Those Feet

Best Performance in a Supporting Role

Martin Barrass, And Did Those Feet
Knight Mantell, What The Butler Saw

Best Production

And Did Those Feet

For the full list of nominations click here. So a nomination hat trick for And Did Those Feet. Hurrah! Let's hope that we walk away with the cup!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

A Christmas Carol - Casting News

Conrad Nelson (Director) has announced the cast for ths year's festive show, A Christmas Carol, so let me introduce you!

Robert Pickavance returns to the Octagon, having previously appeared in Broken Glass, Anna Karenina and Neville’s Island amongst others.

Robert Pickavance and Barbara Marten in Broken Glass

Another Octagon Theatre regular, Simeon Truby, currently wowing audiences in the smash-hit Oh What A Lovely War will also feature. What with rehearsing A Christmas Carol and performing in Oh What A Lovely War he is a busy man! He's obviously enjoying himself though - here he is in rehearsals for the current production.

We are also pleased to welcome back, one of the stars of the Octagon Theatre and Hampstead Theatre award-winning co-production of Blonde Bombshells of 1943, Sarah Groarke (Vera) and also Pam Jolley who toured with the production.

Left to right: Sarah Groarke, Ruth Alexander Rubin and Elizabeth Marsh in Blonde Bombshells of 1943

As well as the familiar faces I have already mentioned, we are pleased to introduce Thomas Frere and Dan Willis who will be making their Octagon Theatre debut as well as more fresh faces in the form of local, young people from activ8, Urban Stage (the Theatre School run by Simeon - told you he was a busy man!) and Bolton Stage School.

The young members of A Christmas Carol cast work on the famous festive scarecrow scene!

So that just leaves me to say welcome to the Octagon chaps and in the words of Tiny Tim 'God bless you, every one!'.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Oh What A Lovely War - The Movie

Donna Gidman has been doing the business again. You can have a look at the results of her efforts and a glimpse of the current production Oh What A Lovely War below.

News just in! Unfortunately one of the cast has fallen ill and will not be performing in the show today. In the truest sense of theatre the show must go on and our Artistic Director, Mark Babych, has gamely stepped up to the breach and will be appearing in the performance! Talk about bravery. Break a leg Mark, metaphorically speaking of course, as in the words of one of the show songs 'We Don't Want To Lose You' too!