Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Thumpity thump...

Well your letterboxes should be ringing and your doormats feeling the full force of our brand new Season brochure delivery. This season is pretty special as not only is it the first season for our new Artisitc Director, David Thacker, but also because we are announcing nine quality productions all in one go!

I don't know about you but I love new things so a new season and a new Artistic Director means new things happening aplenty. All very exciting...

You can read what David had to say about the new season here or see a full listing of all our current productions here. If you haven't had your brochure yet then you can get all the info online, or call our Ticket Office (01204 520661) and request one or even better come in and pick one up. You can then find a quiet corner of our cafe with a cup of coffee (or a smoothie - on sale now!) and have a good read. There are a fair few articles about the productions so plenty to get your teeth stuck into.

Just to let you know we are currently taking bookings for Season Tickets only - 8 shows for only £88 don't you know - and the season will be on general sale from 1 June.

Octagon Theatre Bolton announces its 2009-10 season with nine productions

David Thacker, our new Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre Bolton, today announced his first season of nine plays.

Introducing David Thacker in the Octagon’s new programme in our spangly new brochure for the 2009 -10 season is no less than Mr Make It So, Patrick Stewart himself, who writes:

‘I know of no other theatre in the country that is producing an eleven month season like this’

Building on the success of the Octagon’s 40th anniversary season David has planned a year long programme of work. The wide-ranging repertoire of productions includes plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen and Miller, a world premiere, a co-production, a revival of one of Mark Babych’s most successful productions, contemporary classics and a musical. David brings experience of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the Young Vic, the Dukes Playhouse Lancaster and many other leading regional theatres as well as ten years of outstanding television productions.

David said today, ‘It is an honour to follow in Mark Babych’s footsteps. He will be a very hard act to follow. John Blackmore, Executive Director, and Mark have made the Octagon one of the leading producing theatres in the UK and I hope to build on their impressive achievements’.

The season opens with the World Premiere of Mixed Up North (10 – 26 September 2009). This new play by Robin Soans, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, is a co-production with Out of Joint. Based on verbatim accounts of real events, the play explores, with wit and humour, the difficulties of uniting divided racial communities in the Lancashire mill town of Burnley.

The Octagon has established a reputation for its productions of plays by Arthur Miller and All My Sons (1 – 24 October 2009) will be the first play that David Thacker will direct. All My Sons is the work that launched Arthur Miller’s long and distinguished career in theatre. David has directed many of Miller’s plays and had a close working relationship with him. All My Sons is an unbearably moving and powerful family drama, about truth and denial, integrity and corruption, and personal responsibility during the extremes of war.

It was partly through the influence of Henrik Ibsen that Arthur Miller developed as a playwright and Ghosts by Ibsen (29 October – 21 November 2009) is the second play that David will direct at the Octagon. David has paired All My Sons and Ghosts to bring out the thematic connections between the two plays. Explaining this David said, “All My Sons and Ghosts are both plays in which, as Arthur Miller put it, ‘The chickens come home to roost’”.

The festive production will be a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (27 November 2009 – 23 January 2010). This specially commissioned version by Deborah McAndrew delves into the heart of Victorian London and features original music and songs. The cast for Dickens’ masterpiece again includes local children, which was a winning element in the success of the hugely popular A Christmas Carol.

Known for his accessible and dynamic productions of Shakespeare, David starts the New Year with a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream set in 1968 (4 February – 6 March 2010). David’s many modern dress productions of Shakespeare include Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet for the Young Vic, Measure for Measure for the BBC and The Two Gentleman of Verona, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He received Olivier Awards for Best Director and Best Revival for his RSC production of Shakespeare’s Pericles.

The Bolton Wanderers’ 1923 Cup Final triumph against West Ham United is often remembered because the match could only begin once the spectators were cleared from the new Wembley Stadium pitch by a policeman on a white horse. And Did Those Feet (11 March – 10 April 2010), by Les Smith and Martin Thomasson, which won the Manchester Evening News Award for Best New Play in 2007, is the story as told through the lives of the team’s supporters.

In the context of the current heated public debate about humour, censorship and the freedom of expression David has decided to revive Trevor Griffiths Comedians, which is widely believed to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th Century (15 April – 8 May 2010). Very funny and very challenging, Comedians deals with comedy, politics and the responsibilities of an artist in society.
To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Bolton playwright, Bill Naughton, David has chosen to present the regional premiere of Ayub Khan-Din’s warm-hearted and often hilarious play Rafta Rafta based on Bill Naughton’s play All in Good Time. Set in a terraced street in Bolton, Rafta Rafta tells the story of a newlywed couple in an Asian family. Sibling rivalry and tension between the father and son wreak comedic havoc with the start of their marriage (13 May – 5 June 2010).

David ends his season with the musical The Hired Man, which tells the moving story of an emotional love triangle that takes us right to the heart of Cumbrian life during the cataclysmic events that took place at the turn of the last century (10 June - 3 July 2010). The Hired Man is acclaimed for its epic, nostalgic and beautiful score. Based on the novel by Melvyn Bragg it became an award-winning musical when he collaborated with composer Howard Goodall.

A full programme of special events will be announced to the media soon. For more information aon any of these show click on the pictures or click here to visit our website.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Seafarer - casting news and one last hurrah!

The Seafarer by Conor McPherson will be the last in a remarkable line of productions that Mark Babych, our Artistic Director, will direct before he leaves to become a freelance director.

Since joining the Octagon in 1999 Mark has directed 44 productions; including three Arthur Miller plays; five Irish plays including The Seafarer; four world premieres and his award-winning production of Blonde Bombshells of 1943 which, toured to packed houses throughout 2007 and 2008 and is currently on tour again this year. Mark Babych had this to say:

“As I approach the end of my time as Artistic Director of the Octagon, I’m thankful for the many great opportunities and experiences I have had, and in particular, having worked with so many gifted people who have helped me achieve everything I have done here. I’m excited by the future, not just for myself, but for the Octagon too, which has a very talented new Artistic Director in David Thacker. David’s work will, I’m sure, inspire and delight audiences and I’m extremely pleased that a director of his calibre has taken up the reins and will take the Octagon forward into what will be an impressive future.

The Octagon is a unique theatre and, of course, I will miss being here. However, I’m delighted to be directing The Seafarer as my final production as Artistic Director. It’s a fantastically funny play by a writer whose work I really admire and rounds off a great love affair I have had with Irish writing here. I’m delighted that some of my old sparring partners Patrick Connellan, Peter Dineen and Mick O’Connor will be joining me for the last hurrah, as we waltz round the ballroom one more time with a play of great comic and dramatic invention”

What is it about?

The Seafarer takes places on Christmas Eve in Dublin. Sharky has returned to the town to look after his brother who has recently gone blind. Sharky is desperately attempting a Christmas off the booze, but his aim becomes impossible when faced with his hard-drinking brother, two old drinking buddies, and an enigmatic stranger; all of whom are determined to get him back on the whiskey. The drink starts flowing, the card games begin and as the evening wears on the stakes are raised dangerously high.

Who's in it?

The cast features Peter Dineen as Richard Harkin, Michael O’Connor as Sharky, Fintan McKeown as Mr. Lockhart, Brendan Charleson as Ivan and Leigh Symonds as Nicky.

Oleanna - the film

Have a look at the video promo for Oleanna. I think it packs quite a punch if you'll pardon the expression.

You can see previous video promos for Octagon shows on our new YouTube channel. Simply click here!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Oleanna - Press reviews....

Well it seems so far that Oleanna is getting some grade A reviews. In my humble opinion both the cast worked their socks off and drew you in to the performance, despite the fact you can't really sympathise with either of them. Reading the dialogue in the script feels difficult as, written, it is all pauses and dots and disjointed unfinished thoughts and the characters constantly interrupt each other, or get interrupted by the phone, but watching it is a completely different matter. When it is performed you just want to bang you hands on the desk and just say 'For good's sake let them finish....'.

The set is stark and the changes between the 'mood' lighting inbetween scenes and the sudden brilliant lights during the action leaves you feeling as on edge as the dialogue and the subject matter. If you are with your other half, beware, you might not end up leaving on speaking terms, especially if you are the one that said 'You bl**dy manipulative women, you’re all the same' but if you want a night of quality drama that will leave you thinking then see it.....now!

Here's what the press have ot say....

Conclusively, this is an evening that’s pretty much faultless. Yes, it’s controversial, harrowing, and disturbing and it’s meant to be. But it’s also gripping, fast-paced and thought-provoking and would appeal to anyone in search of a good night out.

Quite simply, Khan’s Oleanna is the best play currently playing in repertory in the region, and you must see it before the end of its run.WHAT'S ON STAGE. Read more here...

a production that still shows itself capable of promoting irritation and debate in an audience seventeen years after its first production.BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE. Read more here...

Oleanna only lasts an hour and a half and keeps true to the maxim - always leave your audience wanting more. That means there's still plenty of time to argue about it on the way home! MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. Read more here...

Broadway and West End actor Colin Stinton is awesome as John, whose desire to impress Carol and his willingness to let her into his life becomes more desperate as the play develops.

Kosha Engler is equally excellent as the eager-to-learn student, whose views of her teacher change as she tries to convince him to up her grade, leading to the ultimate conflict.
THE BOLTON NEWS. Read more here...
This is a play worth seeing. There are moments of beautifully executed performances and direction. THE PUBLIC REVIEWS. Read more here...
Khan includes that necessary factor in any self-respecting English Mamet production: Colin Stinton, the American actor thoroughly experienced in the writer’s style. And Kosha Engler finds both Carol’s vulnerability and later protective shield of certainty. REVIEWSGATE. Read more here...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Oleanna - production photography

Oleanna opened last night. I haven't seen the show yet as I will be seeing it at press night tonight. Although quite minimal the set is very striking. I love the mirrored bookshelves and the focus the large steel 'cage' gives the stage which I imagine adds to the intensity of the play and provides an arena for the sexually political conflict that takes place within its confines.

Here are the photos. If you don't want any inkling of how the drama unfolds or the outcome of this battle of the sexes then turn away now....