Friday, 30 May 2008

Wigan Run Through

Have just got back from watching a run through of Once Upon a Time in Wigan. Although we still have Tech Week to go it's looking in good shape. Howard has worked his usual musical magic with the band and they sound fantastic. Despite the run through being in our rather functional rehearsal room on a grey day, the music takes you somewhere else and there were more than a few goosebump moments.

The cast are also getting to grips with the moves. The smell of Deep Heat and other lotions and potions, including some mysterious green gunk, plus a few knee supports lying around tells me that it ain't easy and I admire their immense energy, dedication (they haven't had long to learn) and flexibility. With it being a Friday and in order to help you understand how difficult some of the moves are, have a look at the video below:

I feel exhausted just watching it....

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Bright Sparks Wanted

Our award winning, unique Theatre, currently celebrating its fortieth year of producing regional theatre, is seeking a Deputy Electrician to become part of a department of three reporting to the Chief Electrician.

Applicants should be enthusiastic, committed and have experience in a similar working environment. For further details and an application form telephone 01204 529407 or email

Closing date for applications 18/06/08
Interviews will be held w/c 23/06/08
Starting date 18/08/08

The Octagon Theatre positively welcomes applications from all sections of the community.

Friday, 23 May 2008

The Touring Wardrobe

The title of this post might sound like the name of a 70s prog rock band but it is actually a project created by one of our outreach groups, art-beat, which is based at the Age Concern and Learning Resources Centre in Farnworth. The project is part of a wider programme of work for the over 50's.

Our participatory and education department, activ8, employed writers and artists to work with a small group of Farnworth residents to explore their memories creatively. This involved an old wardrobe filled with reminiscences of growing up and living in the local area. Here it is....

The wardrobe conveys a collection of touching accounts and witty stories presented inside the wardrobe in a variety of ways. Some stories are recorded on CD and can be played through the headphones displayed on one of the shelves, some are hand written and hidden in shoe boxes within the wardrobe.

There are photos exhibited on the inner walls of the wardrobe and on the shoe boxes, and there are also some items relating to particular stories that are found hanging inside, including a red dress and a pink wig!

The wardrobe is currently touring Bolton visiting Age Concern centres and sheltered housing centres etc so that more people can have a look at this unusual piece of art! Here are the tour dates and venues. I will post further dates as and when they are confirmed:

Date Venue
Now Alderbank
3 - 16 June Rivington House, Horwich
17 - 30 June Aspinall Court, Horwich
1 - 7 July The Octagon Theatre, Bolton

So why not pop to a venue near you and have a look. We'd love to inspire more people over 50 to get involved and hopefully set up a few more outreach groups around Bolton. If you are interested in getting involved in art-beat activities, contact activ8 on 01204 556501 for more information.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Want to appear on stage at the Octagon?

Calling all 8 - 11 year olds: Come and make a Play in a Week at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

activ8, the participatory department of the Octagon Theatre, is looking for 8-10 year olds with keen interest in drama and performing to take part in this half-term’s Play in a Week project which runs from Tuesday 27 to Saturday 31 May 2008.

Play in a Week is a fantastic opportunity to have fun and be involved in workshops to learn new skills and help build your confidence in creating a short production in the space of five days. The performance will take place in the Bill Naughton Studio Theatre at the Octagon on Saturday 31 May at 4pm, to which friends and family are invited.

Ellie While, activ8’s Children and Youth Drama Facilitator comments,

“Previous Play in a Week projects have proven to be great success, performance skills are developed, new friends are made and the performances are a spectacular culmination of acting, story-telling, music, movement, costumes, props and facepaints! All produced and performed by the participants.”

No previous acting or performance experience is required to take part. You can read more about Play in a Week here.

Play in a Week takes place at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton from Tuesday 27 May – Saturday 31 May, 10.30am – 4pm. Places are still available and cost £55; they can be booked by contacting Lynsey Merrick, activ8 Administrator on 01204 556501 (If you are experiencing financial difficulty please do not hesitate to contact activ8 and they will able to discuss further options in regards to financial assistance). All information for parents, children and young people will be sent out in the post when places are booked.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Once Upon a Time in Wigan - casting news

The Octagon Theatre’s award-winning and critically acclaimed 40th Anniversary Season culminates with the World Premiere of the specially re-commissioned Once Upon a Time in Wigan – Live! Featuring a live band of seven finest soul musicians, Mick Martin’s high octane script is bought vividly to life in this unmissable tribute to the very heart of Soul – Wigan Casino 1973 – 1981. You can read more about the production here

“Come on then!! Smile!! Don’t sit down!! What’s the song say? Dance, Dance, Dance!”

Mick Martin comments:

“I'm very excited about this fresh approach to Once Upon a Time in Wigan. It's been an exhilarating process to envisage the play with a live soul band on stage, while remaining a truthful and heartfelt celebration of the late great Wigan Casino. It’s every bit as drenched in Northern Soul, and I feel quite honoured to have been able to do this play and really look forward to seeing the re-commissioned show build on its past achievements.”

The cast includes Rupert Hill, Coronation Street’s much-loved Jamie Baldwin, Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi, fresh from Meet the Mukherjees at the Octagon and who also appeared in Rafta, Rafta in the recent National Theatre tour, Richard Oldham last appeared at the Octagon in Early One Morning and The Daughter-in-law, and Laura Bonnah appears at the Octagon for the first time.

Musicians for the production include Adam Keast and Francis Tucker, both of whom have appeared in Eight Miles High at the Octagon, Rebekha Hughes who last appeared in Lisa’s Sex Strike at the Octagon. Paul Mannion, Paul Kissaun, and Shirley Darroch complete the line-up.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Thump, Thump, Thump

Over the next few days our brand, spanking new Autumn Winter Season brochure (see above) should start landing on a doorstep near you. If you haven't received a brochure in the post yet, it may come next week but you can also pick one up from the foyer here at the Theatre or from various outlets and leaflet racks in the Bolton and Greater Manchester can read more about our season here or take a look at the complete What's On listing on our website. I am sure you will find something, if not several things, to tempt you.
Please note: we are taking priority bookings for our fantastic value Season Ticket (4 shows for the bargain price of just £48!) only until 23 May!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Face of Bolton

If you have picked up the recent copy of Bolton Life! you might be interested in knowing that not only does the Octagon Theatre feature on the cover but also one of our staff! Here she is in all her beautiful glory....

Parvati (our Press and Communications Officer) is not the only member of Octagon staff to appear in Bolton Life! publications so does her sister. Here she is:

What a photogenic pair....

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Meet the Mukherjees - The Movie...

For your delight and delectation, a short promo video for Meet the Mukherjees. Despite what I said here about there being male nudity in the production we have kept it clean for the film so it is suitable viewing for all! If you are disappointed about this then all I can say is book a ticket - you won't be sorry.....

Meet the Mukherjees - What's Being Said....

[An] intelligent comedy that raises plenty of issues to keep you thinking while keeping you laughing. BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE.

We've had some reviews in for Meet the Mukherjees. You can read the full review from the British Theatre Guide here, The Bolton News review here and also what Manchester Evening News has to say here. Clitheroe Advertiser have also reviewed the show. Here's what they have to say:

Mark Babych’s production of Tanika Gupta’s new play, Meet the Mukherjees, at the Octagon, Bolton, is a must-see gem. She has managed to take a fraught subject like racism and make it hilariously funny without ever letting us lose sight of the underlying seriousness.

Thirty-year-old Hindu, Anita, (Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi) is a successful solicitor, sharing a flat with friend Fran (Keeley Forsyth) but her widowed mother Chitra (Pooja Ghai) is desperate to see her married. Then Afro-Caribbean Aaron, (Mark Springer) falls head over heels for her. She is suspicious as he has a reputation as a commitment-phobic philanderer. The course of their complicated relationship forms one strand of the plot.

However, everything is made much much worse by the prejudices of their relatives, Chitra, and her bigoted brother-in-law, Raj, (Nicholas Khan) and Aaron’s parents Leticia (Anni Domingo) and Neville (Wyllie Longmore) plus India (Ayesha Gwilt) Aaron’s teenage daughter by an English woman. Only the spirit of Anita’s father Montu (Nicholas Khan) seems to want the couple to be happy. The elders throw every kind of insult in the way.

How can this be funny, one might ask? But it is. Gupta mocks the shallow prejudices. She gives a clever twist to the elements of farce, with a particularly funny take on the man in the wardrobe. Her dialogue is witty and her characters are lively and, each in their own way, sympathetic, apart from the revolting Uncle Raj. Pooja Ghai is endearing, struggling to cope with loss and modern morals. Anni Domingo has a range of comically outraged facial expressions as she tries to control her wayward but ultimately compassionate husband, Neville. Wyllie Longmore veteran of so many excellent North West productions revels in the opportunities for comedy as the roguish father, fond of a drink but the most understanding of them all.

The Octagon should be justly proud of their ground-breaking 40th Anniversary season that continues to attract such a diverse audience.

UPDATE: And a lovely review here from UK Theatre Net. 'It's a real treat to have the first chance to to catch this excellent comedy, definitely one of the best new plays I have seen in the north-west'. And The Stage have also been very complimentary here 'A remarkable comedy making serious points about the moral relativism that divides and unites the races, it may well become a classic'.

You can also read more about the author, Tanika, here and here's an interview with Pooja who plays Chitra in the production. See her in the centre of the image above.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

New Season Annoucement - Priority Booking NOW OPEN!

To maintain the momentum of a year in which Box Office records were smashed and re-smashed, we are delighted to announce a new programme of depth, quality and fun.

We are coming to the end of the celebration that has been the 40th anniversary season, with audiences and critics alike loving the productions: And Did Those Feet won the MEN award for Best New Play and audience figures were up 25%.

The four plays that make up the new season, include Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Carlo Goldoni’s commedia dell’arte classic The Venetian Twins, a return to the much-loved, award-winning Roald Dahl adaptations with Danny the Champion of the World, and Up Against the Wall, a co-production with Britain’s leading black musical theatre company, Nitro. A look forward to the spring / summer 09 season sees Harold Pinter’s masterpiece The Caretaker on the Octagon stage.

SEASON TICKET OFFER - 4 shows* and a FREE Bonus Card for just £48!
For those wishing to purchase a Season Ticket, there is a priority booking period until 23rd May to obtain your new Season Ticket for the Autumn Winter shows (see details below). Book now and get the best seats in the house at the cheapest rates. You can save over £50!

Call 01204 520661 today to make sensational savings and book your Season Ticket.

*Please note: Season Ticket shows include: The Merchant of Venice, The Venetian Twins, Up Against the Wall and The Caretaker. The Caretaker is only available for booking exclusively as part of our Season Ticket offer (on general sale November 2008). The Season Ticket excludes Danny the Champion of the World.

Meet the Mukherjees

I am delighted to introduce you to the delightful Mukherjees and the Jackson family the stars of our current production! You can see images from the production below. Thanks to Mr Tilton for once again delivering the goods. The photos are as vibrant as the production itself - thanks in large part to the impact of the set designed by Patrick Connellan. Reviews will be posted in due course!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

New Music Night!

Apologies for my neglect of the blog over the last couple of weeks. There is good reason for my absence. We are due to launch our Autumn Winter 2008 Season very soon and I have been updating the website furiously in preparation. More information on the new season to follow. Just thought I'd keep you in suspense for a little longer.

However, here's something I can tell you. We are pleased to announce (or at least remind those who already know) a new regular music night.

Cityscape Presents is a live music night, taking place here at the Octagon Theatre. Showcasing the best acts from Bolton’s lively music scene and bands from across the North West, some of the brightest emerging music talent will take to the stage in a series of evenings hosted by Bolton-based record label Cityscape Records.

The first Cityscape Presents night takes place on Saturday 10th May with Merchandise headlining the gig. BBC Manchester commented that Merchandise has ‘a touch of genius’. You can listen to some of their stuff here. Special guests, singer-songwriters Sara Lowes and Chris Evans are supporting the band.

Brad B Wood, Cityscape founder and one half of Merchandise, comments:

“As a label, Cityscape is all about independence and imagination. I’m delighted that we’ve managed to entice acts to join Merchandise for the inaugural Cityscape Presents. These are acts that are creating a buzz among people listening for up-and-coming talent.”

The second Cityscape Presents event takes place on Saturday 21 June. Critically acclaimed The Loungs will be headlining the event. The group of six from St. Helens has been praised by the NME, Q, and Uncut.

The Cityscape Presents events will be taking place in intimate surroundings of the Octagon’s Bill Naughton Studio Theatre. With cabaret-style seating and table service, the evenings promise an entertaining introduction to up and coming musical talent.

For more information on Cityscape Records or the acts involved, visit

Tickets from £9 / £7 concessions on 01204 520661, or at