Friday, 28 November 2008

Moore acts announced for musical showcase...

Eclectic North West musical showcase night Cityscape Presents returns to Bolton’s Octagon Theatre on Friday 12 December to unwrap some pre-Christmas treats.

Headliners are Moore Marriott who will be showcasing their perfect pop including tracks from forthcoming EP The Catcher which will be released on Cityscape early next year.They boast soulful songs with infectious arrangements - Elliot Smith, Neil Finn and Badly Drawn Boy are recited among their influences - and will be playing as a five-piece featuring banjo, guitars, flugelhorn, cello and double bass.

Next up are the intriguing Kirsty McGee & Mat Martin whose songs of vagrancy and restlessness have been described variously as reminiscent of a Coen Brothers film and as “Simon and Garfunkel - the TimBurton version.” If it’s musical rather than cinematic references you’re after, think folk noir, Tom Waits, John Martyn, Boo Hewerdine…and go on, you can have an author - Jack Kerouac - as well. Click here for a video for their song 'Bonecrusher'...

Opening up proceedings will be brother and sister duo Liam Carter and Lauren Carter-Bridges who perform as Get Carter. The Bolton born-and-bred siblings’ talents developed when they were thousands of miles apart, Lauren in England writing songs while Liam was on the other side of the world in Queensland, Australia. They credit a 24-hour flight, many arguments and magic ‘Mozart’ voice-saving liqueur with the alchemy that resulted in their infectious lo-fi pop.

Comedian Lou Conran, a feature on what she calls the “Manchesterford” comedy scene since 2005, will be compere for the evening. Brad B Wood, founder of Cityscape Records, said:

“Once again we’re delighted to have some talented and varied acts grace the stage. Moore Marriott are a great band who I love so much I signed them! Seeing them live is always great so I’m looking forward to the night very much. I first met Kirsty when my band Merchandise supported her friends’ band Truckstop Honeymoon in Bolton. They’d recorded her music in Kansas and, with Mat Martin, she’ll be a real treat! Get Carter first came to my attention when Kat Dibbits of The Bolton News sent me an early demo. I heard the potential straight away and knew I had to get them on.”

The show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £9 for adults (£7 concessions), are available from the Octagon Ticket Office. Call 01204 520661 or buy online at

For more information about the acts, and a taste of their songs, visit their My Space sites at,,,

Future Cityscape Presents nights will take place on 12 December, 7 February, 14 March, 18 April, 9 May and 20 June.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Danny the Champion of the World - The Movie

If the productions shots and the reviews weren't enough to wet your whistle or if they were and you want to see Danny the Champion of the World again then take a look at our latest video...

If you are a fan of Dahl, I thought you might be interested in reading this article in the Guardian. I found it on the ArtsList blog (thanks ArtsList!).

INTERESTING FACTOID: You might also like to know his name is pronounced Roo-ahl (to rhyme with Dahl) rather than 'Rolled'. So now you know.....

Monday, 24 November 2008

Danny the Champion of the World - the reviews are in!

Well the reviews are in for Danny and they are looking good! This is the first Christmas show that Mark has directed in a while and he seems to have loved it. His love of it has come across as we are getting some really nice reviews. You can read The Bolton News review above (click to enlarge).

Here's what is being said:

The acting is good, too. Des O'Malley has a bright presence as Danny, and the bond of affection between him and his father (Stephen Chapman) is genuinely affecting. Morgan George makes a delightfully dastardly Mr Hazell, and Martin Miller is great value as a cheerful Bobby prepared to turn a blind eye. THE GUARDIAN. Read more....

'There's a torch-lit chase reminiscent of ET, a breath-taking car-ride with thrills and spills and some audience participation....An enjoyable alternative to panto which will appeal to all ages.' MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. Read more...

'So, say "Bah! Humbug!" to the credit crunch doom-mongers! This is a golden-hued family treat; fairly priced, and the perfect Christmas show for young and old to enjoy. Go on - treat yourselves, as no-one does Dahl better than the Octagon!' WHAT'S ON STAGE Read more...

'A clever script, lots of knockabout humour....combine to make this great entertainment for the whole family. ' THE STAGE Read more...

'Just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it. It was charming, inventive, with just the right amount of audience participation! Please pass on my appreciation and congratulations to everyone involved. Hope its a runaway success, as it deserves to be.' AUDIENCE MEMBER

'An enjoyable alternative to panto which will appeal to all ages.'

'It says a great deal about the quality of this production that, in spite of the wordiness of the script, it is still able to hold its relatively young audience spell-bound for over two hours.' THEATRE WORLD INTERNET MAGAZINE. Read more...

Here's the one from CLITHEROE ADVERTISER. Sorry I can't find a link so have transcribed it here.

'David Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World gives the Bolton Octagon another excellent Christmas show. Director Mark Babych and his creative team of designer Helen Goddard, lighting designer Tom Dexter Scott, sound designer Andy Smith and composer Howard Gray have combined to produce some clever and witty effects.

A small cast of seven actors play a wide variety of parts and demonstrate impressive puppet skills. How else are you going to be able to put a host of chickens and countless pheasants on stage? Des O’Malley is a touching Danny, worrying about his father Stephen Chapman and trying to prevent eviction by the wicked Mr Hazell, Morgan George. Thomas Aldersley, Elianne Byrne, Helen Kay and Martin Miller play, policeman, taxi driver, head-teacher, doctor, gamekeepers and more as well as controlling all those fowl and creating the sound effects of cars, a baby, a bull frog and all kinds of odd things.

I was unable to attend the press evening so that gave me the chance to go to a morning performance with the auditorium packed with primary school children and I think I enjoyed it all the more. The children chuckled and giggled in all the right places and participated with noisy enthusiasm when required. Their enjoyment was infectious and really cheered me. This production is well worth seeing, with much to please four-year-old children and upwards, including two young at heart pensioners.'
You may have seen recently that we have put a call out for young reviewers in The Bolton News. As this show is aimed at young people, we thought it made sense for those same young people to review it.

If you are aged between 5 and 13 and think you can write a review of the show we would love to talk to you. To become one of our young reviewers you need to write to us and explain why you'd like to review Danny the Champion of the World for the Octagon Theatre.

Send your letters to Parvati Gorsia, Communications Department, The Octagon Theatre, Howell Croft South, Bolton, BL1 1SB or email

Three successful applicants will be selected and will receive two tickets to see the production of Danny the Champion of the World and their reviews will be featured in The Bolton News and on this very blog.

Danny the Champion of the World - photos

Well it seems our festive show has come around very quickly as I found myself this morning going against a tide of young people as the schools descend on the theatre to see the show. Makes for a nice atmosphere of a morning with all the excited chatter.

Danny opened on Friday night and seemed to have gone down very well. The adults seemed to enjoy it as much as the children. As I predicted the chickens and pheasants were particularly well received, by one of my fellow audiences members particularly (you know who you are). The cast did a great job and although this Dahl story doesn't have as much of the fantasy that his others do, I still think it was magical on stage. Des O'Malley, despite being a little older than than the character he was playing, captures an innocence and wide eyed exuberance that makes him thoroughly convincing as the young hero and is a real link between the audience and the cast of larger than life characters that share the stage. Highlights for me were the late night car journey (nice choreography Mr Babych!), pheasants aplenty falling from the sky and the kids enthusiasm (and some adults) when volunteering to be beaten, sorry, I mean beaters. Anyway, here are a few of the production photos. The photographer, Ian Tilton, has redesigned his website and I am pleased to say a fair few Octagon production shots are featured. You can see them here.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A sneak preview....

The countdown to curtain up. Set design: Helen Goddard

I managed to grab a few pictures of the Danny set today. Now, if you are anything like me you would rather wait to see it yourself. In it's entirety, the set is really impressive and because I don't ruin it for you I have taken a few close ups....

Drum roll please.... Set design: Helen Goddard

It's tech week and the heat is on! Set design: Helen Goddard

Okay I have run out of photo related puns. Set design: Helen Goddard

Although these snippets might make it look a bit industrial (Danny and his dad run a garage but already I have said too much!) when you see it all together it looks magic.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Danny the Champion of the World - countdown

As you may or may not be aware our festive production of Danny the Champion of the World opens on Friday. I know I can't believe it has come around so quickly either.

Rehearsals are in full swing and at the run through on Friday it already looked in really good shape. Even without all the jiggery-pokery of lights, costumes, make-up and the amazing set it was still exciting and magical so I can't wait to see it as a whole. There are some great and larger than life characters in the production but even so I fear that the chickens may well steal the show! There are laughs, suspense, fantastic and ingenious plans and even the odd tear (or that might just be me, despite being under the brights and unforgiving lights of the reheasal room with a whole load of colleagues I still welled up at a couple of points).

The set is now up and looks well up to our usual standard. What with three Octagon productions, including last years Christmas production, being nominated in the upcoming MEN awards that standard is a high one but we expect nothing less of Linbury Prize Winning designer, Helen Goddard. (Aside: Tom Scutt, another Linbury prize winner, has had his beautiful set for The Merchant of Venice nominated for the MEN award).

I may try and post a few photos of the set but that might ruin the surprise for some. Talking of surprises, if you don't like them and would rather try before you buy then you might be interested to know that the cast will be performing a short segment on the show at the lights switch on on Sunday 23 Nov at 5pm? If you like what you see, why not book yourself a ticket....

Friday, 7 November 2008

A brand new blog feature....

As you are probably aware I am the main contributor (for 'main' perhaps read 'only') which is a shame. Not only because even I get tired of my own voice (that, my colleagues will find hard to believe) but also because I have a whole bunch of witty, amusng creative types here at the Octagon that I am sure can knock up a word or two. Oh and then there's Fraser!

When he is not influencing the minds of young people as a classroom assistant the lovely Fraser gallantly mans our Ticket Office. He is not short of a thing or two to say, has little in the way of fancy airs and graces or ideas above his station and usually has an interesting viewpoint on what happens on stage! Oh and he thinks he's funny. I actually think he is funny too but I would never tell him that. So at our last press night as he told me what he thought of the show, I asked him if he could be our man on the inside and whether he would write his thoughts on the shows for the blog - an alternative review if you will.

Well Fraser is obviously a better teacher than he is student. I received numerous excuses as to why he hadn't done his first review. Having now recovered from the national paper shortage that he tells me is in full swing and and then rescuing his words from the jaws of a dog, I am delighted to present to you his first review.....okay his first review with a fair bit of editing as Fraser is also a little, let's say, risque with his analogies (think Russell Brand prior to Manuel-gate). So here is the 'universal' graded review. If you want the PG rated one then you need to speak to him yourself....

Pre (Show) Amble
The anticipation before a show is always exciting. Will it be a modern masterpiece that leaves you more than a little excited? Or will it have all the allure of watching paint dry? Who knows, but that’s the beauty.

Working on the Box Office you’re privy to a glimpse behind the scenes, feel the buzz of the show, and witness the variety of customers that buy tickets.

Take for example the kindly elderly lady who was a bit unsure of the production. You have to be able to read the people, feel what their needs are. Well, one mention of old fashioned underwear, bouncing and high spirited comedy galore, the twinkle in her eye flashed SOLD to the saucy madam! It’s going to be a mischievous show me thinks.

The Lights Go Down
Ah, the first thing you catch sight of is the set. Bit sparse. They’ve stripped this one down, but look trampolines, anything that has trampolines in must be worth a look, surely? Think how much better your office would be with trampolines, I bet there’s a stirring in your gut. Could it be a masterpiece!

The actors are already milling around, this sets up a relaxed atmosphere, feels less formal, good, good. They’re an assorted bunch of odd-bods, I mean that in a nice way! It becomes clear why the set has been stripped back, to frame these larger than life people, crafty that is. I think a gaudy set would be like too much sugar for a diabetic and send you into shock.

There’s highlight a-plenty through out. The physical comedy works a treat, there as stupendous sword fights. It involves the actors miming whilst the sound effects are made for them by the other cast members. It is ten times better than if they had just actually used swords and fought, the action works on several planes, stuffing the stage full of movement, t’was a hoot.

Plus there is perhaps the greatest sex scene ever seen at the Octagon, between the character Columbina (Joanna Holden) and Arlecchino (Dudley Rees), no need to avert those sensitive eyes though, there isn’t copious amounts of flesh on offer, just manic energy, loud music and a trampoline workout (no really).

The cast keep it bobbing along, as you can always tell when it looks labored, luckily there’s no weak link in this cast. There’s usually one lurking amongst them, dragging them down (the Liz Hurley effect I think it’s called). Nick Haverson plays the twins of the title, and it’s his boundless enthusiasm and energy that forms the solid centre. He plays it big, bold and funny, just right. Anything less and it would have been like a truck struggling to get up the hill with too small a motor.

Before you know it lights up and 2 hours has passed, no time for the clock watchers here my friend, oh no.

Time to get other people’s impressions of the show. Most of the people on ticket office go on the opening Friday, they are always like unofficial staff do’s i.e. can get a bit messy! There’s young Gools, actually called Julia, but they’re ten-a-penny in the Octagon, common as muck you could say. The name, not the person, she’s a corker!

Gools in her world-wisely astuteness reckons it’s great to come buzzing out of a show on a Friday night. There have been one or two shows that, while great, make you want to introduce Mr Head to Mrs Oven. But not this one...

Other comments come rolling in, “I love Florindo’s accent”, “His entrance was amazing”, “I’m dragging my friend along to come again”. People are talking about it. Always a good sign.
All in all a mighty fine night. Shortly after came the alcohol induced blackouts….

So I heartily recommend it!

Bolton's Big Switch On 2008

So much to do but so much festive excitement! The girls in my office are getting carried along with Christmas excitement and festive show giddiness (hence the picture above!)

We are excited to announce that some of you may be able to see a sneak preview of our Christmas production of Danny the Champion of the World at the Christmas Light Switch On on Sunday 23 November. There will be entertainment, music, parades and some well known faces including Frosty the Snowman and a special guest appearance from the big man himself.... Father Christmas, oh and some chap called Vernon Kay!

Here's a run down of the afternoon.

Warm up time!

3pm Tower FM

3.05pm Teresa Harpers Dance School

3.10pm Tower FM

3.15pm AJ’s Dance School

3.20pm Tower FM

3.25pm Tommy Govan’s Band

3.30pm Tower FM

3.35pm A Foreign Town x 5mins

3.40pm Tower FM to announce break until kick off at 4pm

Bolton’s Big Switch On!

4pm Tower FM

4.05pm Alison Powers Saturday Club Kids

4.10pm Tower FM

4.15pm Dance Crazy and Infamous RDC

4.25pm Tower FM

4.30pm Bolton’s Sporting Heroes including Jason Kenny and Paraolympians: Tony Griffin, Sophie Hancock, Rachel Latham.

4.40pm Tower FM

4.45pm Albert Halls Panto Cast

4.55pm Tower FM

5pm Octagon Theatre cast from “Danny the Champion of the World”

5.10pm Tower FM introduce parade onto Victoria Square

5.15pm Surprise performer

5.25pm Big Switch On with Vernon Kay, M&M & Father Christmas

5.30pm Firework Finale from the roof of the Town Hall

Monday, 3 November 2008

Special Announcement

Members of the cast from Danny the Champion of the World will be reading excerpts from the book as part of the regular Waterstones Storytime Saturdays events.

The event will take place at Waterstones in Bolton Town Centre on Saturday 8 November.

There will be two sessions. At 11am Des O’Malley, who plays Danny, will be reading and at 3pm you will be joined by Martin Miller who plays Sergeant Samways and Rabbetts. Each reading will last about 15 - 20 mins.

It is free but space is limited so first come, first seated!!