Friday, 26 February 2010

Wanderers’ Glory Days at the Octagon

Next month the Octagon Theatre is giving you the chance to relive one of the greatest FA Cup moments in the history of the football club.

From Thursday 11 March, the Octagon is turning the clock back to the Trotters’ finest hour with And Did Those Feet. It’s a play tracking the lives of two families on the build up to the club’s appearance at the first FA Cup final to be played at Wembley Stadium. And Did Those Feet was written by Wanderers fans and University of Bolton lecturers Les Smith and Martin Thomasson in celebration of the way the famous cup run captured the imagination of the whole town. And a replica of the FA Cup that Wanderers’ captain, Joe Smith, lifted on that memorable day in 1923 has arrived at the Octagon to star in the show.

And to coincide with this memorable production, Wanderers are contributing to an exhibition celebrating the wonderful heritage of the football club. A collection of memorabilia, photographs and paintings will be displayed as part of an exhibition at the theatre before shows.

Mike Needham, Marketing Manager at Bolton Wanderers, comments “We were delighted to find out that the Octagon Theatre had decided to undertake another run of the highly successful play And Did Those Feet. We are proud of our rich heritage and that this story celebrates one of the Club’s greatest achievements. The play was hugely popular with Wanderers fans, young and old, last time and we would urge any supporters who haven’t yet seen it to go and see it.”

For more information or to book visit the website or call the Ticket Office on 01204 520661.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

A very nice email...

We have been sent a very nice email from someone that came to see A Midsummer Night's Dream. We are also getting some really great comments on our new ' customer feedback wall' downstairs. the meial was so nice I thoought I would re-produce it here.

Dear Marie,

You went to such trouble to ensure that my children and I would enjoy the performance of
A Midsummer Night's Dream today that I thought I would let you know that we really did!

A sensuous and seductive Titania (oh to be able to move like that!), a beautiful and truly sympathetic portrayal of Helena, a Lysander and a Demetrius in whom we actually believed, an absolutely side-splitting play within a play (wherein Bottom and Wall particularly surpassed themselves), a fiery and determined Hermia, wonderful music, great setting, divine costumes (I want Oberon's coat). It was just marvellous from start to finish.
My 10 and 8 year olds loved it and followed the script easily because it was so exquisitely delivered (isn't it incredible that the language is still so alive after all these years?). My 8 year old had tears rolling down his cheeks by the final act and my 10-year-old didn't interrupt once - rare indeed!

I have never yet been disappointed by the Octagon, but today was a real theatre-going climax for us. Thankyou so much, and please pass on our congratulations to players and producer.

Best wishes,


PS there was but one moment of potential embarrassment when both children whispered simultaneously "what IS going on?" as Titania leapt upon the all-too-accommodating Bottom in the elevated bed and the lid was closed upon the bizarre lovers - I deftly sidestepped the issue with a "she is tickling him" and escaped unscathed (phew).

Thanks for taking the time to write in. So what do the rest of you think? How about making a comment below...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Free tickets to And Did Those Feet

If you are a Wanderers fan you will already know that they are playing at home this weekend against Wolves. We have been given the opportunity by the kind people at BWFC to place an ad for the production (see above) on the video screen at the stadium during the match and I would like a photo of our ad in situ in the stadium.

If you are going to the match this weekend and you are willing to take your camera along you could win yourself a pair of tickets to see the Wanderers in their finest hour, lifting the 1923 FA cup, in our upcoming prodution of And Did Those Feet.

The sender of the first five photos I receive of our ad on the screen at the Reebok stadium will get a pair of free tickets* to see And Did Thsoe Feet which runs from 11 March - 10 April. Send you photos to *One pair of tickets per sender.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Hired Man Community Chorus - get your application in...

Just a reminder that you need to get your applications in by Thursday if you are thinking of taking part in the Community Chorus for The Hired Man. You can read more information here.

You can request an application form by emailing or calling 01204 529407.

Faces and figures

A couple of recent articles in The Bolton News. One here about the very lovely Vanessa Kirby and another one about something completely different here.

Job Vacancy - Head of Production

This award winning, unique, producing Theatre is seeking a creative, knowledgeable and experienced Production Manager to lead its production team in a new phase of the Theatre’s development. Working closely with our Artistic Director, David Thacker, the post holder will be responsible for all aspects of production planning, creation and implementation of a season of at least eight plays together with a range of complementary events.

An in-depth experience of producing theatre is essential along with commitment, drive and outstanding leadership and management skills. For further details and an application form telephone 01204 529407 or email

Closing date for applications 22/03/10
Interviews will be held on 29 or 30/03/10

Monday, 22 February 2010

Actors Guide to Survival @ Nexus Cafe

When: Friday March 5th, 7pm
Tickets: £5 ADVANCE ONLY

Come join us for the DVD launch on of the latest future artists film, the ‘Actors guide to survival’ with a screening and Q+A by director Mark Ashmore
Can’t make the event? Get the DVD here:

Everything an Actor in the NW of England could want to know about work, fringe, and networks to kick the year off and the career!

Come network with actors/writers/directors and casting directors in our 'Actors Lab',
24/7 theatre festival will be letting you know about acting opportunities at this years festival, will be on hand to let you know about training opportunities,

Hartshorn productions will talk about their West End debut and running venues at Edinburgh Fringe festival,

A must for the serious actor who wants to know about what creative and acting opportunities there will be in the NW this year. More info and links here

‘Actors Guide’ facebook group


Friday, 19 February 2010

Random Friday...

Have just noticed that on the homepage of the National Theatre is an archive feature of David Thacker talking about Arthur Miller. Worth a watch. You can see it here...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Hired Man Community Chorus Auditions

I put a call out a short while ago for people interested in taking part in a Community Chorus. You can read the original post here.

The details below outline what is required if you wish to take part in the production and audition for one of the roles and the commitment you will need to make if you are successful at your audition.

We are looking for people aged 18 years and over for this community production and these roles will be unpaid. No professional acting experience is required just enthusiasm, total commitment and lots of hard work! Also, you will be required to sing.

Workshop audition sessions will be held on Sunday 28 February and Sunday 7th March. Once your application form has been received you will be invited to attend at an allotted time on a first come, first served basis. Recall auditions will be held at on Sunday 14th March.

If you are successful in your audition:
  • You must be able to attend all rehearsals in the schedule
  • You will be required to appear in the production from Thursday 10 June 2010 – Saturday 3 July 2010, appearing in all shows throughout the run from Monday to Saturday each week
  • The performances will commence at either 2 pm or 7.30 pm and are likely to last approximately two and a half hours (actual length of each performance will be confirmed nearer the time).
  • You will be required to be at the Theatre one hour before each performance in which you are appearing for a warm up.
  • A release form will need to be completed by you to confirm that you are able to be interviewed and photographed/filmed for publicity purposes.
    Please be aware that these roles are unpaid.

For an information pack (including rehearsal and performance schedules) and an application form please email or call 01204 529407.

If you would like to apply for one of the places in the audition workshops please complete the enclosed application and release forms and to be considered you MUST return them by Thursday 25th February to the following address:

Lesley Etherington
Head of Administration
Octagon Theatre
Howell Croft South

Auditions will be arranged via telephone on Friday 26th February so please provide us with a daytime telephone number.

Good luck with your audition!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Calling all Shakespeare Students

We are delighted to offer students that are studying Shakespeare tickets to see The Rape of Lucrece for just £5. Here are the details

Monday 22 February 2010

The Rape of Lucrece

Directed by Gareth Armstrong

“Shakespearean acting at its absolute finest” Three Weeks

“Powerful and horrifying...beautifully and excellently delivered by a master of his craft...You will rarely have the chance to experience great poetry brought to life this well” Fringe Review

"Sensational" Sir Trevor Nunn

Fresh from a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival.Olivier award-nominee and RSC actor Gerard Logan presents his tour-de-force solo performance of Shakespeare's great narrative poem in our Studio.

This is a brilliant, brutal narrative poem giving an account of the terrible crime of rape and its dreadful consequences. for victim and perpetrator.

Time: 7.30pm

To claim your £5 ticket simply call the Octagon Theatre Ticket Office on 01204 520661 and quote ‘Shakespeare Student offer’. Tickets are subject to availability.

Reminder: You can also get under 26s free tickets every night this week for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Read more here. Call 01204 520661 to book yours.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Octagon Seeks Community Chorus

Some exciting news for anyone that has ever fancied gracing the Octagon stage.

The Octagon Theatre Bolton is looking for local people to take part of an exciting and major community project as part of its production of The Hired Man. This epic production, taking place in June this year, was adapted for the stage by Melvyn Bragg and features a stunning musical score by the award-winning Howard Goodall.

Elizabeth Newman, Assistant Director of The Hired Man said:

“The Octagon has always aimed to play a significant part in the community, getting people of all ages engaged in the arts and realising their creative potential. This ranges from the fantastic work done by activ8, our community and education department, to the involvement of nearly 30 young people from throughout the region in our festive production of Oliver Twist. The Hired Man will see the Octagon take on its most ambitious community event in recent years. It will climax with the chorus of local people performing alongside our professional company in our production of The Hired Man. We are looking for people who are passionate about theatre and, of course, love acting and singing!”

Auditions will take place at the Octagon Theatre on Sunday 28th February and Sunday 7th March, and recalls will happen on Sunday 14th March. For an information pack and an application form please email or call 01204 529407.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

And Did Those Feet - The Replay!

We are excited to soon welcome back one of our most popular plays in recent years: And Did Those Feet by Les Smith and Martin Thomasson. The show played to sell out audiences when it was first performed as part of the theatre’s fortieth anniversary season just over two years ago, and went on to win the Best New Play Award at the MEN Theatre Awards for 2007.

And Did Those Feet tracks the lives of two families in the build up to one of the most monumental days in Bolton’s history: Wanderers’ appearance in the 1923 FA Cup Final, the first to be held at the newly built Wembley Stadium. There’s the couple whose wedding plans are threatened when everyone else, including the Vicar, have their sights set on an even “bigger day” at the final. Then there’s the father mourning his footballer son who died in the Great War. And not to forget Bob Stott, who decides to walk 200 miles to London for the final. But can he really make it there in six days… especially as he has to make the perilous journey through Yorkshire?

Mark Babych, the former Artistic Director of the Octagon, directed And Did Those Feet when it received its world premiere in 2007. He is returning the Octagon for the first time to direct this revival of the play. He said:

“And Did Those Feet was one of the happiest memories I have during my time as Artistic Director of the Octagon and I am extremely honoured to have been invited back to revive the production. The play was an extraordinary success in 2007, touching hearts and connecting deeply with the fabulous Bolton audience. I always knew the play would be popular when we first commissioned it, but I was not prepared for the overwhelming wave of love for it once it had opened and throughout its run. Looking back it’s easy to see why the play touched so many people – memorable characters, emotional storylines, joyous theatricality, and a wicked Lancashire sense of humour all combine to make this a truly Bolton play that celebrates this wonderful town and its strength of community.”

Martin Barrass returns as Bob Stott, a performance which earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards. He is joined by original And Did Those Feet cast members Susan Twist and Chris Finch. The other cast members include Naomi Radcliffe, who played Alison Wakefield in Coronation Street. Huw Higginson, best know for his ten-year spell as PC George Garfield in The Bill, also returns to the Octagon following his performance All My Sons.

And Did Those Feet is at the Octagon from Thursday 11 March to Saturday 10 April 2010. Tickets are from £9. To book call 01204 520661 or visit

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Free Tickets during A Week Less Ordinary

We are celebrating a year of the A Night Less Ordinary scheme with an extra special week of events this half term. This landmark scheme, launched by the Arts Council in February 2009, gives young people under the age of 26 the chance to see a range of theatre in venues across the country for free.

So far, the Octagon has welcomed more than 1,500 young people to the theatre as part of the scheme, many of them attending the theatre for the first time. Overall the Arts Council aims to give more than 600,000 free theatre tickets to under 26 year olds across the UK over the next two years.

To celebrate the first year anniversary of the scheme, theatres around the country will be taking part in A Week Less Ordinary this half term holiday. For every evening performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Monday 15 Feburary - Friday 19 February) the Octagon will be giving away a limited number of free tickets for anyone under 26. The Octagon’s Artistic Director, David Thacker, believes this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the perfect show to mark a year of this free theatre ticket scheme. He said:

“The A Night Less Ordinary scheme has been a huge success for the Octagon and we have been delighted to welcome a new wave of young people to the theatre and see what they think of the work we produce. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been designed with young people in mind, and the young cast bring the play to life with energy and humour. By giving away free tickets for every evening performance this week, we hope even more under 26s will be able to experience this hilarious and passionate play.”

What’s more, for one week only, theatres around the country will be giving you the chance to see famous faces in unusual places, with actors taking some time away from the stage to serve behind the bar or sell you some tickets. Come to the Octagon in A Week Less Ordinary and you may well be surprised by who is serving you an interval ice cream.

The free tickets for under 26s are strictly limited. For more details call the Octagon Ticket Office on 01204 520661 to claim yours.

Monday, 8 February 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream - the reviews...

It seems that the reviews of A Midsummer Night's Dream are a mixed bag. The critics can't seem to agree whether staging the production against the psychedelic backdrop of the late 1960s is inspired or incomprehensible. I have to say it worked for me. The woodland fairy world seems to represent an altered state of consciousness. And an altered state of consciousness is obviously the state that many of the characters reside in, having been drugged by the mischievous fairies so the parallels with 1960s hippy trippy subculture, for me, seem extremely clear. Plus, the set, lighting, use of space and costumes add up to a fantastical visual spectacle. There seems to be a divide over pace also with some saying it rattles along and others that it is on go slow.

There are some stunning performances. For me, Kieran Hill as Bottom, was wonderful. Charming and charismatic but also willing to also make a bit of an ass of himself to hilarious effect. Paula Jennings is captivating as the sensuous, nay, sexy Titania (am rethinking whether to bring my husband to this one as I think he is more than likely to fall under her spell!). According to a lot of the gentlemen I spoke to her white mini dress played a mesmerising supporting role!! I also loved Russell Dixon as Peter Quince who managed to have the audience in stitches without uttering a word and the very watchable Kiruna Stamell...

Judging by the laughter and resounding applause coming from the very young audience on Friday afternoon, it seems that they enjoyed it immensely, despite the running time of over 3 hours. So perhaps, and dare I say it for risk of offending, this one will enjoyed by the young or the young at heart....

"THE debate as to whether or not time and place should be tampered with in Shakespeare’s plays will rage for as long as his work is staged, but if the Bard was to witness this mesmerising production he would surely send a sonnet of approval in the direction of the Octagon." THE BOLTON NEWS Read more here...

"All in all, this is a passionate, gripping and humorous version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with standout performances from Kieran Hill (as Bottom), Russell Dixon (as Peter Quince) and, of course, the multi-talented music fairy, Carol Sloman. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, find the romance within you and head towards the intimate Bolton Octagon- as this Dream is well worth going to see!" WHAT'S ON STAGE Read more here...

"Despite being a little too long for comfort this is an excellent production of Midsummer Night’s Dream and a fine addition to The Octagon’s programme."
THE PUBLIC REVIEWS Read more here...

"David Thacker’s award-winning experience as resident director of the RSC proves invaluable in this potentially exhilarating, accessible, although overlong, production of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays."
THE STAGE Read more here...

"Designer Ashley Shairp’s acid-coloured playground of a forest, teeming with bouncing balls and magic lanterns, seems to unleash the potential in every character... Vanessa Kirby’s heart-broken Helena sets the stage alight... Rob Edwards’ magisterial Oberon... Kieran Hill makes an unusually good-looking Bottom... Russell Dixon’s Peter Quince runs off with the comedy honours... The handling of the verse is uniformly excellent, and David Thacker’s inspired use of the entire auditorium really brings the show alive..."
UK THEATRE NET Read more here...

And a transcript of Clitheroe Advertiser's review here...

Director David Thacker and designer Ashley Shairp have had a ball in creating the Octagon’s production of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – both literally and metaphorically!

This is a wonderful psychedelic interpretation set in 1967, the summer of love in San Francisco, the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper, Cardin and Courregges, and also anti-Vietnam war protests and the coup that put the Colonels in charge of a repressive regime in Greece. Theseus’ court is militaristic and his bride-to-be Hippolyta is unhappy. But when the young lovers and the Athenian workmen escape to the woods they find themselves in a surreal world of multi-coloured, multi-sized plastic balls that roll around the stage giving a sense of fun and anarchy, which eventually envelopes everyone.

The diverse cast are terrific. Rob Edwards is both Theseus and a thoughtful, complex Oberon. Paula Jennings is Hippolyta and a wonderfully sexy sixties ‘bird’ as Titania. Rosie Jones, Vanessa Kirby Jake Norton and Nick Underwoood are delightfully charming and confused as the lovers. However, special praise must go to the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ who double as Palace Guards and weirdly costumed fairies. Kieran Hill is an appealing Bottom. Russell Dixon gives another of his superb performances as Peter Quince. His interpretation of Quince delivering the prologue in the play within a play is masterful. They are well supported by some wonderfully comic performances from Laurence Clark, Brendan Quinn, Russell Richardson and Kiruna Stamell. The whole is masterminded by Puck, an unusual but clever interpretation by Leo Atkin. The final act is hilarious.

As I left, I followed several members of the audience who were still giggling, complaining of stomach ache with laughing so much! I was in a similar state plus having the unattainable desire to be able to wear mini-skirts and high-heeled, white PVC boots again!

"Thacker’s biggest success is with most productions’ weak-link, the young lovers caught in their elders’ world...Every line is well-crafted to give meaning...a production where the human spirit replaces external order as the foundation for society." REVIEWSGATE. Read more here...

"the military junta is ­magically transformed into Sergeant Pepper and his band, and a quartet of young people conduct an experiment in free love aided by mind-altering ­substances. It's a metaphor so obvious it seems surprising no one has thought of it before, but Thacker's concept fits the play like a velvet glove over an iron fist." THE GUARDIAN Read more...

More reviews

Read British Theatre Guide here
Read Citylife review here
Read Lancashire Evening Post here
A mention in The Observer review here

Friday, 5 February 2010

I had a weird dream last night....

A Midsummer Night's Dream opened last night and I am more than a little excited. Ever since seeing the set model for this one, I have been looking forward to it with eager anticipation. The actual set more than lives up to it's model but even better as it is life-sized and the auditorium looks like a mixture of something out of Willy Wonka's factory, crossed with a ball crawl and the type of hallucinations you might have seen if you embraced the 1960s a bit too wholeheartedly!

And looking at the production images today has only heightened my desire to see this show. Although, I am a big fan of his work, Ian Tilton has outdone himself this time round as he has caught some fabulous moments despite the sheer number of cast and frenetic, crazy pace of the production. Take a look....

My admiration also goes to the wonders of wardrobe for the spectacular range of costumes and Ashley for his awesome design. It's going to be a good night....

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Bar Assistant Required

The William Hare Bar at the Octagon Theatre requires a committed, reliable, Bar Assistant to serve customers in a quick, efficient and pleasant manner. The Bar is open from 6.00 pm –11.00 pm Monday to Saturday each week and from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm on matinee performance days. Hours for this post are approximately 12 - 15 per week over 3 days.

Every four weeks during the production season the bar is closed from Monday to Wednesday, this is called Tech week. The bar is also closed during the summer maintenance period usually between July and August, when there is no work, and on some evening dates during December when hours will be reduced accordingly.

For further details and an application form please ask at The Spotlight Café, telephone 01204 529407 or email

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

Schools invited to free Dream event

An important note from our friends at the University of Bolton. They have contacted me to let you know that schools, colleges and youth groups with a passion for The Bard have an opportunity to investigate A Midsummer Night's Dream with academics from across the country.

The University of Bolton, in partnership with us here at the Octagon Theatre, are running an Investigate Day to explore the fascinating world of Shakespeare, with particular reference to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Places are free, but must be booked before Friday 5 February, due to popularity. The event, for 14 year olds and over, is on Saturday 27 February, from 9.30am at the University, and concludes with a matinee performance of the play at the Octagon Theatre.

Key speakers will take those attending on a whistle-stop tour of Shakespeare and will explore how his work has transcended across many genres and mediums.

There will be a range of presentations by professionals, who will put Shakespeare under scrutiny. These include:

  • Dr Mel Gibson from the University of Northumbria and EmmaVieceli a Graphic Artist at Self Made Hero Publishers, who will be discussing the graphic novel versions of Shakespeare's work;

  • Brid Andrews, from the University of Bolton who will bediscussing the filmic adaptations of the play and

  • Professor Richard Wilson, from Cardiff University who is an expert in the field of Shakespeare's work.

Said organiser, Rebecca Albrow, Creative Industries Project Manager at the University:

'This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone aged 14 yrs or over that has a passion for Shakespeare's plays.'

For further information please contact Rebecca Albrow (e) (t) 01204 903332. You can read more about the event on our website.

You can read an interview with Vanessa Kirby who play Helena in the production here and another in Citylife with Kiruna Stamell here.