Monday, 28 September 2009

Guardian mentions...

We have had a couple of mentions in the Guardian Theatre blog which is nice.

There is one of Mixed Up North, All My Sons and Ghosts here and All My Sons is tipped again here. Thanks Lyn!

Some news from our friends at 24:7 Theatre Festival

I have just had some exciting bits of news in my Inbox from the 24:7-ers. Here are some of the highlights..

Three of the Best from 24:7 to land in London!
For six years now our annual 24:7 Theatre Festival has been a springboard for new writing and acting talent in the North West. Just last week we at the Octagon Theatre Bolton, hosted Three of the Best from 24:7 to appreciative audiences. Now, supported by The Co-operative (and for one day only: Thursday, 15 October!), the Three will transfer to London’s Young Vic as part of our drive to put regional work on a national stage.

These shows are guaranteed to delight, excite, entertain and provoke. Written by Alistair McDowall, the compelling, sometimes terrifying 5:30 is set on a train and charts the unlikely friendship between aggressive, manic Rob and the quiet, reserved Tim. In Lub You, writer Eve Steele inhabits the mind and body of a two year old, as Charlie’s world is turned upside down by the birth of his baby brother.Rounding off the Three is Richard Vergette’s memorable and moving As We Forgive Them. The writer himself plays an American Congressman who controversially saves his daughter’s murderer from the death penalty in order to educate the man on his wrongdoings. A bit of background...

This showcase is the latest exciting development of an initiative that began in January 2004 as an unfunded showcase for undiscovered, under-resourced or under-utilised theatre-related talent. We persuaded bars, nightclubs and other non-traditional theatre venues to let us stage 17 premières of new one-hour plays. Just six years later – having received industry awards and now supported by the Arts Council, Manchester City Council and The Co-operative – the Festival has showcased 113 plays by 89 writers, and around 20,000 people have seen a performance.

Scripts for 24:7 are selected by a panel of industry professionals and each writer invited to participate is regarded as executive producer – a system which has built the Festival’s reputation as a showcase for the highest levels of new talent. A number of productions have gone on to perform at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, Manchester’s Library Theatre and on tour across the country. Writers have won awards in the UK and Ireland and commissions from national and regional producing companies.

Showcase details:
Date: Thursday, 15 October 2009
Venue: Young Vic, 66 The Cut, London SE1 8LZ (near the Old Vic and Waterloo Station)
Running order:
1pm 5:30,
2:15pm Lub You,
3:30pm As We Forgive Them;
6:30pm 5:30,
7:45pm Lub You,
9pm As We Forgive Them
Tickets: £5 per performance from the Young Vic box office on 020 7922 2922 or book online at

If you fancy writing something yourself you might also want to have a read of this...

Action Transport Theatre will present Four (brand new amazing plays) For The Port

Are you a young or emerging writer who'd like to write a play?Are you passionate about writing for young people?Do you want to get involved with one of the UK's leading new-writing theatre companies?

Four For The Port is a new-writing project that will take four writers through a professionally-guided play-writing process.

If you are 14 or over, contact:
Tel: 0151 357 2120

Friday, 25 September 2009

Dancing in my Dreams - production photos...

As the nights are drawing in I am starting to think about autumn and with autumn comes a host of great events at the Octagon for October. One of which is Dancing in my Dreams (13 - 17 October).

In the 70th anniversary of the start of WWII, Oxfordshire Theatre Company brings a musical play to venues across the country inspired by the many children whose lives were changed forever by the experience of wartime Britain.

With songs from the 1930s including Top Hat and Dancing Cheek to Cheek and movement inspired by Hollywood, Dancing in my Dreams tells the story of Kathleen, an evacuee who loves dancing and Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but when the bombs fall she must swap her life in London for the fields and farms of the countryside.

Artistic Director, Karen Simpson says: "This is an enchanting production and we have a strong cast and creative team."

Here are some of the images from the show for your delectation...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

All My Sons - behind the scenes

We are working with a new young photographer called Joel Pammenter. Seems we have a thing about photographers called Joel as Joel Chester Fildes took some of the lovely show images for our Season brochure. Anyway Joel Jr, as it were, is doing some work experience with us to build his portfolio.

His first mission - to take photos of the rehearsals of All My Sons. Here are some of my favourites...

Oh and whilst on the subject of Miller there was a nice piece in What's On Stage recently. You can read it here.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Corin Redgrave at the Octagon Theatre

One of the nation’s most experienced stage and screen stars is coming to Bolton as Corin Redgrave makes his Octagon Theatre debut on 23 September in the Studio.

Corin Redgrave is the son of Michael Redgrave, brother of Vanessa and Lyn and father of Jemma. He has appeared in a host of successful films in a long and varied career. These include starring alongside Orson Welles and John Hurt in A Man for All Seasons, playing Bertie Smith in the film adaptation of Oh! What a Lovely War, and appearing in the Richard Curtis-penned comedies Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Girl in the Café. He is also a Tony and Oliver Award-winning stage actor and he has performed for the National Theatre and the RSC, in a theatre career spanning over forty years.

De Profundis brings to life one of the most moving love letters ever written in a compelling one-man show. It was written by Oscar Wilde during his time in prison to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie). The letter has been adapted and edited for performance by Oscar Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, and was first performed by Corin at the National Theatre in 2000.

De Profundis is presented as part of the Octagon Theatre’s BoltON season of events, aimed at bringing audiences a more diverse theatregoing experience. There are only two performances of the show, on 23 and 24 September at 7.30pm, and tickets are £12 (£10 concessions). You can book tickets online here or call the Octagon Ticket Office on 01204 520661.

Octagon Patron appearing in Strictly Come Dancing

Like millions of other people I tuned into Stricly Come Dancing on Saturday night. I love the glitz and the glamour and of course the dancing both good and not so good. However, iIt seems I am not really up to speed this year as it had completely passed me by that one of our lovely patrons is appearing. The wonderful Lynda Bellingham. You can read more about her involvement here.

I think we should start a The Octagon votes Lynda campaign. Who is with me?

Friday, 18 September 2009

24:7 feedback

We got some really nice feedback on Three of the Best via email.

Sent: 18 September 2009 16:49
To: Info
Subject: Three of the Best 24/7

Dear Octagon Theatre

I attended the Three of the Best from 24/7 last night and just wanted to say how fantastic all 3 plays were. I’ve been planning for the past four or five years to go to see the Festival in July and never made it so it was great to have the opportunity to see 3 of the plays on one evening.

Kind regards,

Final call to Investigate "Three of the Best from 24:7"

Got an email from the 24:7 peeps that I thought I would post...
Tomorrow (Saturday) from 10am - 6pm, there will be a special Investigate event, chaired by Martin Thomasson – co-writer (with Les Smith) of MEN award-winning And Did Those Feet and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Bolton.

5:30, Lub You and As We Forgive Them will be performed in a day-long event that gives time for analysis and discussion between each play with the writers, directors and cast. Where do the playwrights go from here and how would the audience like to see them move forward?
You'll also have the opportunity to meet the artistic staff at the Octagon Theatre, headed up by Artistic Director David Thacker. If you're a writer, you can can bring a script; you can meet Lizzie Newman, the new co-ordinator of new writing; and also find out about Incubate, the writers' group that's just being set up by the Octagon and North West Playwrights. And if you're an actor, you can bring a CV and headshot.

Remember, it's always good to meet key people face to face when you can. Here's your chance!
Tickets for this event are £16/£14 (including tickets for all three plays) and are available from the Octagon Theatre box office on 01204 520661. CLICK HERE for full details on the Octagon Theatre website or to buy tickets.

Under 26s Free Theatre Tickets update...

After meeting a fair few young people at the Bolton Community College's Freshers Fayre, I thought I ought to post some info on the blog about how to claim your Free Tickets so here we go.

What is A Night Less Ordinary?
A Night Less Ordinary is an Arts Council England scheme in association with Metro, which will provide 618,000 free theatre tickets to anyone under 26 in more than 200 venues across England. For more information about the scheme visit
We'll be giving away 4000 free tickets to those under 26 over the next two years, as part of a groundbreaking national scheme to increase cultural opportunities for young people.

How do I get free tickets?
We have a limited amount of tickets available on each Monday night of the run in our Main Auditorium and we also have a limited amount of tickets for for our special events, including Children's Theatre Saturdays and theatre for young people. Tickets are allocated on a first come, first served basis and need to be booked via the Ticket Office on 01204 520661.

You will need to provide the name, address, postcode, email and date of birth of all ticket holders. You will also need to provide proof of age for each ticket holder when you collect your tickets. As you need to provide proof of age to claim your tickets, they will not be sent out in the post.

Can I come any other night of the week?
From September, if you are under 26 and a student of the University of Bolton, Bolton Community College or hold an NUS card you are entitled to a 'Student FTI' which allows you to watch our main auditorium shows on any weekday evening. Tickets are limited and subject to availability so early booking is advised.

To book your Student FTI contact Marie Irving-Murphy on 01204 529407 or email and quote 'Student FTI'. You will need to bring your student ID with you when you collect your tickets. PLEASE NOTE: Student free tickets are not available on our normal Ticket Office number or online.

You can read more about the scheme here.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Press review: Three of the Best from 24:7

DURING this July’s marvellous 24:7 theatre festival, a week of new theatre staged in unusual spaces, audiences were asked for the first time to rate each performance they saw.
Backed up by the opinions of professional reviewers (ahem!) and experts, that gave rise to this showcase.

For anyone who didn’t get a chance to experience 24:7, it’s a fantastic introduction to the sheer talent on display, year after year, at 24:7. CITYLIFE. Read more here...

If you haven't seen the shows or want a sneak preview you can watch the videos here or read more about the Investigate Day where as audiences you get to watch each production and feedback their views to the writers and director's here

BBC Blast is coming to Bolton from 8-10 October

Blast is the BBC's youth creativity service. From first-timers to emerging artists, Blast is a powerful and free resource which inspires and supports creative journeys for 13-19's.

Blast on Tour takes its mobile media village to around 30 locations each year. In 2008 it traveled the UK to provide free creative arts workshops and showcases for 150,000 participants. With purpose-built digital workshop spaces and a performance area, young people can book into activity led by BBC mentors and industry professionals or drop in to taster sessions, Q&A's with celebrity talent or just chat to one of the team in the Discovery Space.

Young people can book themselves onto workshops as individuals by going to the Blast website at: or by emailing

In addition to the main event on the 8-10th October, we will also be bringing the Blast Advance Tour to Bolton from 30th September to 3rd October. The Blast Advance reaches out to young people by travelling around the Bolton area, going to schools, parks and youth clubs offering drop-in taster sessions which will hopefully encourage young people to attend the main event. The Blast Advance will be at the following locations outside of school times:

* Wednesday 30th September, 6.30pm-8.30pm - Farnworth Youth Centre
* Friday 2nd October, 6pm-8pm - Leverhulme Park (in the car park by the Children's Centre)
* Saturday 3rd October, 10am-4pm - Town Centre, Victoria Square

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Freshers and Free Tickets

Parv and I went to the Fresher's Fayre at Bolton Community College today to talk to the young people there about the Free Theatre Tickets initiative. It was great to see the reaction amongst young people (on the spot research if you will) towards theatre which from some was overwhelmingly positive (hi Performing Arts Students and well done for your performances today - good chatting to you and come and see us soon) and others that were completely disinterested even with the offer of Free Tickets (you know who you are!).

Anyway, here's Parv on the phone trying to get some more brochures which nearly all disappeared in the first hour...

..a selection of the print. Ghosts and Oliver Twist seemed to be the most looked at...

The thing that amused me most was we were between stands for STI testing and the beauty students offering free manicures, hairstyling and other glamourising treatments. Hmmm, I think there is some moral comment about sexuality and sexual diseases that I could make here but I won't....! But it was fitting that the Ghosts print resided in the middle of these two.

Thanks to everyone that came to talk to us.

Cake Mixed Up North...

A fair few of us have been out and about today. The very lovely cast of Mixed Up North took to the streets of Bolton today armed with show leaflets...

..and cake...yes we are bribing audiences with cake...

...oh and good looks...

...and a well-known face....

...and general charm...

...but it was mainly the cake that seemed to work... lovely people, leaflet hand out, cake bribery, disruptive marketing....done!

Thanks team cake - we love you!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sing When You're Winning...

You may remember me posting some of my rather amateur photos of activ8's Summer School project Sing When You're Winning here. Well, Caz has dropped me a line to say that we have had some rather more professional production images through from Zoe Keenan.Here they are...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Mixed Up North - the reviews...

"This high quality production proves that verbatim theatre can be engaging, intelligent, even-handed and really good fun if it is done as well as this." BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE. Read more here...

"Where this production stands strong is in its actors, producing a real chemistry on stage and often highly charged and truthful performances. Stephanie Street’s performance as youth worker Aneesa is superb and probably the stand out performance of the night." THE PUBLIC REVIEWS. Read more here...

"Overall, though, this is a brilliant evening’s entertainment, and a triumph for both the Octagon and Out of Joint. If you fancy being challenged and uplifted, as well as being asked to think about problems that exist on all of our doorsteps, then a visit to this gem of play is a must." WHAT'S ON STAGE. Read more here...

"this is a brave piece which doesn’t back away from any dark corners, and few of the characters emerge unscathed. The Octagon can be proud to be holding the world premiere of plays like this." THE BOLTON NEWS. Read more here...

"A large number of the original LAMDA students who worked on the piece are in the current cast and give very convincing performances as street-wise northern working-class teens with shocking tales to tell. Max Stafford-Clark directs the 13-strong ensemble with his customary verve and energy, making for an entertaining and thought provoking evening of theatre." UK THEATRE NET. Read more here...

"the issues raised are not confined to Burnley and this play is an honest, constructive and well-intentioned portrayal of the social, emotional and educational cost to be paid by communities that are abandoned by capitalism." BURNLEY EXPRESS. Read more here...

"While most people tend to choose their words carefully, when discussing the concerns facing modern Burnley, this intelligent and well-crafted drama boldly confronts them head on...[Max Stafford-Clark] has fashioned community theatre at its best here, but Mixed Up North has much more to say to a wider audience than the average theatre's white, middle-class, middle-aged customers" LANCASHIRE EVENING POST. Read more here...

"It's common for plays to come with some form of post-show discussion between cast and audience. But Robin Soans's documentary-drama turns this format on its head." THE GUARDIAN. Read more here...

Transcript of the review from CLITHEROE ADVERTISER:
Mixed Up North is a clever title for this play written by Robin Soans and directed by Max Stafford Clark, a joint production from Bolton’s Octagon Theatre and Out of Joint. The plot concerns several Burnley teenagers, part of a youth theatre group. These young people are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and we follow their experiences and those of the social and community workers who help them. The stories they tell are based on real testimonies given by people who went through the troubles that tore Burnley apart in 2001 and the attempts to foster conciliation and understanding since then.

As someone who came to live in the Burnley area in 1972 I identified with many of the references and I have known many who have felt anguish at the loss of a sense of community and employment opportunities. However, this play speaks of problems that extend far beyond one northern town. There are many others that share the same history and contemporary difficulties. If this gives the impression that the play is gloomy, then I must stress that is not the case. Much of it is laugh-out-loud funny. I won’t ever forget the comment from one character about how the word brainstorming might be politically incorrect for epileptics and has to be replaced with thought-showering.

There are many poignant moments as each of the characters reveal personal stories of abuse, pain and anguish, leavened with humour and real concern. The youthful cast are lively and their warmth is engaging. The production is well paced, although the second act is, perhaps just a little too long. I came out of the theatre having laughed, learned and empathised. That is what good drama should do. If you can’t catch it at the Octagon, it’s coming to Stoneyhurst on 19 October. The Octagon’s next production is Miller’s All My Sons.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Banksy in the bar?

Well it's not quite Banksy (I would be making more of a fuss if it was) but in keeping with the print for the current show of Mixed Up North (see one of the images from the shoot above), the lovely people at Phoenix Centre have provided us with some great graffitti for the bar. They look really bright and vibrant and I would love to take one to hang on my wall at home...

Random Friday Round Up...

There is a nice piece on the Citylife website about Three of the Best as well as a nice picture of Mr, 24:7 himself, David Slack. You can read the article here

There is also a piece on the first of our brand, new spangly BoltON Investigate Days - Who Needs Writers? You can read the Citylife piece here and read the run down of the event in full on our website here.

Mixed Up North has also had a nice mention on The Manchizzle. Thank you Kate - I feel honoured! Hope to see you in the audience sometime soon...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Mixed Up North - production images

A bit earlier than usual I have managed to get my hands on a few production shots for Mixed Up North. As a loyal blog reader you heard or rather saw it here first...

Arthur Miller classic comes to the Octagon

When David Thacker, our Artistic Director, chose to stage Arthur Miller’s All My Sons as his first production this October, there was a personal reason behind his decision.

David struck up a close relationship with Arthur Miller while he was Artistic Director at the Young Vic in London. Miller frequently traveled to Britain to see his work, and selected David to work with him on developing many of his later plays. He once commented “Not I alone, but theatre itself owes much to David Thacker” and this respect was clearly mutual.

David said:

“I had spoken to Arthur on the phone on a number of occasions before he came to see my production of Two Way Mirror. I was terrified at first, but we struck up a firm working relationship and friendship. He was witty, intelligent and, most of all, a man who loves human beings. It was a real privilege when he asked me to direct the British premiere of The Last Yankee, then to work with him on his new play Broken Glass, which we eventually made into a film together. Arthur was incredibly proud of All My Sons, it was a landmark in his career and his first major success as a playwright. I am delighted that this production will be the last of Arthur’s most famous plays to be staged at the Octagon in recent years, following on from the wonderful productions of A View From the Bridge, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible.”

All My Sons is an unbearably moving and powerful American family drama set in the aftermath of the Second World War. Joe Keller is accused, then cleared, of having supplied fighter planes with defective engines, leading to the deaths of innocent pilots. One of Keller’s own sons, himself a pilot, is missing in action and his mother is desperately clinging to the hope he is alive. But the family is thrown into turmoil by the unexpected arrival of Joe’s old business partner’s son, whose revelations send the play hurtling towards a devastating conclusion.

The role of Joe Keller will be played by George Irving, who appeared as Anton Meyer in BBC’s Holby City and in the Octagon’s 2007 production of Shining City. He is joined by Huw Higginson, who played the part of George Garfield in The Bill for more than ten years, as well as Oscar Pearce, Tammy Joelle, Vanessa Kirby,Mark Letheren, Patrick Poletti and Francesca Ryan.

The role of Kate Keller will be played by Margot Leicester, a celebrated stage and screen actress who has appeared in recent television dramas such as Families and Sky One’s The Take. She is also married to David Thacker, and will be working with him on an Arthur Miller play for the first time since 1994, when she was nominated for a prestigious Olivier Award for Broken Glass at the National Theatre.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Mixed Up North - the movie..

Unfortunately, our usual video lady, Donna, was unavaillable to film Mixed Up North as she was busy with a very important project. Namely, giving birth to her new baby girl. Congratulations Donna! However, the lovely Jon at Out of Joint sent me this video yesterday. It gives a really nice insight into the show and how the cast and director felt about working on this piece. anyway, have a look...

As Celia might say it's 'groovy'....