Monday, 29 June 2009

Bolton Wanderers in The Stage

There was a really nice double page spread in the recent edition of The Stage about Mark's leaving and David taking up his post. I have tried to find the article on the website with no luck but a lady called Joanna has scanned and emailed me the page about Mark. It was his leaving party on Saturday so I thought in light of that you might want to read what he had to say about his time here. Click to enlarge it.



David's bit to follow...

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Octagon Patron receives Queen's honours

Our Principal Patron, Sue Hodgkiss DL, has received a CBE for her contribution to community and services to industry. Well Sue has helped our little theatre community here no end and so we are delighted that her generosity and support has been recognised. It couldn't have happended to a nicer lady. Thank you Sue for all your support and congratulations. You can read more about it in this article from Bury Times.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Taking a final bow....

...this week sees the end of the road for Mark here at the Octagon after ten years sterling service. There is a nice interview with him here that looks back over his Octagon career from boy to man.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Audience Review - My Mate Fancies You


Activ8 ran a ‘reviewing theatre’ session with two of our new youth theatre reps ( Molly Stevenson and Matt Gorton). They visited three of our studio shows and then we looked at how to put together a review. Here it is...
My Mate Fancies You
The Bill Naughton Studio Theatre, 11 June 3009

My Mate Fancies You was a comical piece of theatre by ‘Loudmouth’, an educational theatre company based in Birmingham.

It aimed to inform children in year 6 about puberty, growing up, friendships, and going to secondary school.

The story gave a realistic idea of changing friendships as you go up to secondary school and helped children feel like they were not alone.

We were pretty surprised to hear them talk about ‘sticky dreams’ and ‘periods’, we didn’t learn that stuff until year 8! We think it’s great that this aims to teach them earlier.

Technically, the set involved no more than 2 hat-stands, 2 tables and four chairs. There were no lighting effects and simple costumes. It didn’t have the wow factor however, but it did make us wonder what was going to happen, and in that way, it was interesting. They used the space very effectively. The same 3sq metres became a bedroom, a bus-stop, a school, a street and the school disco.

The actors were hilarious. They portrayed children really well. Our favourite moments included a childhood game we’d never heard of called ‘sumo’ and an 11 year old boy falling flat on his face as he attempted to learn a ‘girl’s’ dance routine. Eventually you forgot they were adults.

The forum workshop at the end added an opportunity for direct involvement from the audience, giving them confidence to open up and express their ideas. It also gave the actors a second chance to think about things from the audiences point of view.

Even though it was schools piece, it worked well in the theatre. Adults enjoyed it too. The old couple in front of us loved it …they were nodding along in recognition throughout the whole thing. I reckon the Octagon should do more of this kind of thing but maybe advertise in schools with posters. The free tickets made a big difference, loads of my mates are put off coming to the theatre by having to pay.
Thanks for your comments guys and glad you enjoyed it.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Would sir like his pop video thin and crispy or deep pan....

You may remember me posting a Merchandise video featuring Mr Cityscape Presents Mr Brad B Wood. Well, it seems that that local media have also got wind of it and decided to do a tasty little story on Brad's video shoot in a Salford takeaway. Click on the picture below to enlarge...

When sending me the article Brad described the shot as 'the fat Jesus pose with pizza box and ipod'. Now if that's not a hit song title or a modern art masterpiece then I don't know what is....

Thanks Brad!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Line for the Comedy Mela

We have now had the line-up confirmed for the Comedy Mela on 19 June. Looks like it is going to be a really good night. Here's the skinny on the line-up....

Shazia Mirza



"Her laconic one-liners represent something quite unique in modern comedy."
William Cook, The Guardian

Shazia is a very funny award winning British Asian stand up Comedian from Birmingham England.

She works all over the world and has toured the US, Sweden, Denmark, France Holland and Germany. She has appeared on CBS 60 Minutes, NBC's Last Comic Standing, and Have I Got News for You (BBC) and not only that she has won various awards including: semi-finalist NBC's Last Comic Standing 2008; Winner of the GG2 Young Achiever of the Year Award 2003 andWinner of Metro Magazines in association with Jongleurs Comedy Clubs People's Choice Best Comic Award 2002

Shazia could have married a rich man and lived in a mansion on The Bishops Avenue, with servants, bidets, and horses. But instead she chose to drive up and down the country for as little as ten pounds, staying in dirty lurid bed and breakfasts trying to make people laugh. You can read more about her here.

Ryan Gough
Apparently Ryan he is on a famous advert on Asian TV network for chapatti flour as a wrestler and his face can be seen on lots of posters and bill boards in Indian food shops! I don't know why I say apparently because here he is...



Ryan performed his first gig in December 2000, jumping up on a comedy club stage to deputise for his mate who 'bottled it' at the last minute. As the compere introduced his nervous friends name, he bolted into the Gents and Ryan took the mike and treated the small Birmingham crowd to an improvised routine about the boredom of his job at the time.

Over three years and two hundred gigs later, Ryan has now graduated to a regular circuit act, performing at every comedy club from Newcastle to Plymouth. Being 6 foot 5 inches tall and touching on nineteen stone with a shaved head, a lazy eye and his trademark black leather coat, Ryan can look scary, intimidating and aggressive. But nothing can be further from the truth, Ryan's friendly banter with the audience makes him an ideal compere.

Imran Yusuf
Imran is an up and coming comic. Click here to have a look at him in action. I tried to embed it here for ease but it is not to be. Don't try and say that I don't do anything for you!

And here's what's being said:

“Imran is something I’ve never ever seen before… he almost rapped his gig… it had the rhythm of a rap. I’ve never ever, ever seen anyone’s delivery like that.” Adam Bloom, BBC Radio 7

“Whippet-thin Imran Yusuf is almost cartoon-like in his physicality, prancing nimbly round the stage, striking clownish poses and gurning comically when it’s called for. It’s a tour-de-force delivery, full of infectious vigour and life.”
Chortle 2008

“It's difficult to describe our middle act, Imran Yusuf, who is, in the reviewer's opinion, the most exciting and original act to grace the Big Jack's stage in a while. His lightning quick patter was mind boggling, veering crazily between different subjects and accents and demanding pop-eyed attention from start to finish. Definitely one to watch.”
Big Jack’s Laughter Club

“Gangling around the stage, all elbows and knees, ripping into himself in street slang. We were helpless with laughter - so many great gags in such a short time. We've never seen anything like it. He's a proper original who could really go places”.
Roar With Laughter


To book your tickets to the Comedy Mela call the Ticket Office on 01204 520661 or click here to book online.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Another mention...

Not only did we get a mention on The Guardian's Theatre blog we are also featured on The Manchizzle. I believe it is blog etiquette (see I am getting to grips with this social media malarky that The Manchizzle mentions) to link them back so go and read The Manchizzle. It rocks....

Now, I just need to find time to Twitter..er..Tweet...umm...Twit?? You know what I mean...

As mentioned on The Guardian blog!

The Guardian have written a piece on the wonder that is Alan Plater. We also get a few mentions with regard producing the work of Mr Plater including the recent Looking for Buddy but the piece also mentions both John and David - there they are above. You can read the full piece here.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Merchandise Go Viral

Along with contacting me about the line-up for the next event it seems Brad has not only been organising the Cityscape nights but has been making videos for his band Merchandise in his spare time. Not that he has a lot of spare time but the time he has he uses to the max. This video shoot took place whilst Mr Wood was waiting for a pizza. Brad explains a bit more about it here...

This video was shot at Unconvention in Salford on Friday night after a conversation (over a few beers and then a pizza) about video costs. Andrew Dubber from New Music Strategies.com decided we should make one then and there in the pizza shop. He got out a small digital camera and I quickly told my “co-star” Tracy Dempsey what the song was about and we synched to my ipod.

Afterwards, Dubber ripped the track from the ipod to his mac and in a few minutes we had this vid. It’s had tons of hits really quickly and loads of comments on the newmusicstrategies site. Have a look and let us know what you think of the budgetless (well Dubber got half a kebab pizza out of it) video as Merchandise go viral . . .

Lies Like These - Merchandise from Andrew Dubber on Vimeo.

Cityscape line-up - 20 June...


The artistic mélange that is Cityscape Presents returns to the BNT on Saturday 20th June with two welcome returns - and a radical departure.

The welcome returns are headliner Kirsty McGee and opening act Alex Hulme, both back by popular demand after wowing audiences at the Cityscape nights in December and February respectively.

The radical departure isn’t a music act at all but a short play for voices written in homage to Bolton comedian and poet Richard McFarlane, aka Hovis Presley, and performed to mark the fourth anniversary of his untimely death.

This is what Brad had to say abou the next event “We’ve had some great evenings and this one promises to be something special. Kirsty and Alex both went down incredibly well when they performed here before and I’m looking forward to hearing them again. The addition of Hovis in Wonderland will add an extra element to the night and be a great tribute to a very funny poet.”

Cityscape Presents has brought an array of intriguing acts to the Octagon - perhaps none more so than Kirsty McGee. McGee’s original songwriting, with its tender yet dark textures, has won her a considerable following including Radio Two DJ Bob Harris who describes her as “absolutely superb.”

An inveterate traveller and “human scrapbook”, her songs of vagrancy and restlessness are so difficult to categorise that people have been forced to coin new terms to describe them. Her style has been described as folk noir, ‘hobopop’ (the name of her record label) and even vaudebilly. In short, you have to hear it for yourself.

Sandwiched between the two musical acts is, appropriately enough, Hovis. Hovis In Wonderland is a play for voices written by Dave Morgan incorporating the words of Richard McFarlane’s alter ego Hovis Presley. Hovis filled the space between stand-up, performance poetry and alternative cabaret. Interest in his work and sales of his collection Poetic Off Licence were both stimulated when he was the subject of a Radio Four documentary presented by Mark Radcliffe. Since then the play has been widely toured and was evenperformed at last year’s Latitude festival in Suffolk.

Dave Morgan said: “This will be the first time we’ve appeared at the Octagon which makes the event extra special. The cast are determined as ever to do justice to the wit and wisdom of a wordsmith who is sorely missed.”

Opening up proceedings is precocious talent Alex Hulme (see him in all his glory here). Recently signed to Cityscape, the 18-year-old’s songwriting is pitched somewhere between the folk of Nick Drake and the poppier stylings of Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. He’s on the road this summer performing at local festivals such as Riversway Festival in Preston and Cockermouth Rock Festival amongst others.

We are pleased to welcome back Katie Mulgrew as compere for the night.

You can download tracks from all the artists here.

The Seafarer - the reviews...

Press night for The Seafarer was on Friday. There has usually been a musical play in this slot which gave a celebratory feel to the end of the season before we break for summer but Mark's love of, and success with, Irish drama meant that his final show took a different tack. I loved the show and the mix of comedy and darker elements. Here's what the press are saying about the production and about Mark....

Babych has chosen to go out on a high note with this raucous and thoughtful comedy from one of Ireland's leading young writers even with McPherson's own wonderful production for the National Theatre – which toured to The Lowry just two years ago – still clearly in memory. It was a good choice, as this mostly great cast has come together to create a powerful and very entertaining piece of adult theatre to end the season. BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE. Read more here...

The second half, mostly revolving around the card game, is tighter and the performances are better focused, with Peter Dineen, as the angry and sour blind brother, particularly convincing. Not fair to compare the Octagon with the National?

Well, you wouldn’t say that if you’d seen Oleanna here a couple of weeks ago and while Seafarer is a three star rather than a four, it is still an adventurous choice of play and well worth a punt. CITY LIFE. Read more here...

Nit-picking aside, this remains a truly great play, and this a solid production that’s sure to go down a storm with audiences. On the night I attended, audience members roared their approval at the curtain call.

All told, this is a fitting farewell to Mr Babych after ten years of service. He has headed a team that has turned a venue on the brink of closure into the best producing theatre in the region. Make sure you catch The Seafarer before it, and Mark Babych, sail away into the sunset. WHAT'S ON STAGE. Read more here...

This is a really funny night at the theatre for lovers of black Irish humour with a sting in the tail. After this magnificent swan-song we can only hope that Mark Babych’s work will continue to be seen in the north-west. UK THEATRE NET Read more here...

Mark Babych’s final production for the Octagon as artistic director is a fitting way for him to bow out. Over the years his hugely inventive vision, combined with a craftsman-like technique, have been seen at their best in plays whose roots are deep in the Irish tradition - and this one by Conor McPherson is, of course, no exception...It is an intriguing, edgy, powerful play with a completeness of its own. THE STAGE. Read more here...

Finding optimism and humour at the bottom of a pint glass is a difficult task, but Irish writer Conor McPherson does it masterfully in The Seafarer.

It's a tale of four aging, whiskey-soaked men celebrating Christmas by gambling and drinking in a desolate seaside town. The play initially feels like a comedy as brothers Sharky (Michael O'Connor) and Richard (Peter Dineen) bicker endlessly. But it takes a darker turn with the arrival of the sinister Mr Lockhart, who is keen to claim a significant debt from Sharky. This could be a jarring move, but director Mark Babych handles the action assuredly in his final production at The Octagon, balancing the rising tension with bursts of dark humour.

A surprisingly soulful piece from a committed non-believer, The Seafarer is also one of the finest productions to grace Greater Manchester so far this year. THE METRO

Friday, 5 June 2009

A bit of sparkle...

Due to us recently launching our new season, the first from the new Artistic Director we thought that warranted an extra bit of sparkle and who doesn't like a bit of sparkle? Well I'll tell you who does, the lovely Tracey of the Tada's that's who. Here she is in all her glittery glory, kindly modelling our new brochure...

Tracey braved the hottest day of the recent spell of good weather to dress up for us and walk the streets of Bolton spreading the word about out new season. Doesn't she look fab?


Apparently the good people of Bolton are not at all phased by people dressing as glitter balls and she was swamped with people wanting a copy of our brochure. Not sure if it was the brochure they wanted (it is pretty special even if I do say so myself), the need to chat with Tracey or perhaps the opportunity to check their reflection in her sparkly suit.


Unfortunately a couple hours was quite enough of wandering round in the hot, hot sun when you are effectively dressed in something that I suspect acts like tin foil so she returned looking a little pink and feeling a little thirsty but was still smiling a great big smile. Thanks Tracey, you certainly brightened my day.

The Seafarer - the pictures...

The dress has been and gone, the stage is set, the costumes are ready, the lights are rigged, and The Seafarer opened last night. Press night happens tonight, the last one of the season. Can't quite believe how quickly it has come around. Time may not stand still but that is why we are lucky to have Ian capturing those moments in time for us when he shoots the production. You might have already seen the film footage of The Seafarer in rehearsal but the magical fairy dust of light, costume and set has been sprinkled and here is how the show looks now....

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Seafarer - Behind the scenes...

Usually when I film the shows it tends to happen at the dress rehearsal so what you see is pretty close to what you see when you come to see the show proper. However, we decided to shoot this video of the Seafarer during rehearsals in the slightly less glamorous space of the rehearsal room. Thought it might be nice for you too see the show without grease paint (do they use that anymore?) set and costumes so there is still an element of the unknown when you come to see the show proper.

As Mark says on the video The Seafarer is a very funny show, it is also his last one as Artistic Director (sniff!) so double reason to come and see it. There is also rather a lot of 'choice' language by that I mean there is rather a lot of swearing, a loh hoh hot of swearing. So if swearing isn't your thing then do not, I repeat DO NOT click on the video below. However, if you are up for the craic click away....

video

Remember you can see past films of our previous shows by clcking the video promo link in the side bar or watch them on our YouTube channel.