Following the success of James and the Giant Peach, Director Sarah Esdaile returns to Bolton Octagon to direct another Roald Dahl classic. In this adaptation by David Wood, The BFG tells the magical story of a little girl called Sophie who lives in the village orphanage. One night, Sophie spies a huge cloaked figure blowing something into the bedroom window further down the street and before she can hide from this mysterious creature, she is picked up and taken to his home in Giant Country.
Luckily for Sophie this giant is the BFG, one of the good guys – friendly, entertaining and most importantly kind hearted. He goes around at night when people are asleep to make sure that they have good dreams.
Obviously, one of the most challenging demands of producing a stage show of The BFG is managing to create the illusion of scale and height between the giants and little Sophie. Clever puppetry directed and designed by Michael Fowkes works perfectly – a delicately animated smaller version of Sophie and a trio of three huge bone-crunching ogres certainly does the trick.
Janet Bird’s design sees the Octagon main stage set on two levels allowing swift movement between scenes and different settings from the orphanage where Sophie lives to the formidable Giant Country. The design has a wonderfully home crafted quality to it – the giants with their huge papier-mâché heads and the use of cardboard and newsprint throughout. With comical dream sequences and a visit to Buckingham Palace, the story is told effectively and in a way that children can follow with ease. From the BFG’s head appearing at the Queen’s bedroom window to making Facetime calls on a huge iPhone – the design elements are a highlight.
Macy Nyman makes a noteworthy stage debut as Sophie, beautifully expressive and childlike, providing a wonderful narration as she brings the puppet of Sophie to life.
John Seaward is instantly loveable as the BFG – full of energy, kindness and humour – with a full head of flaming orange hair, he looks considerably different to the familiar Quentin Blake drawings. Introducing Sophie to his wondrous imaginative language, where the words sound very similar to English or are completely made up – so beautifully typical of Roald Dahl.
The talented pyjama-clad double up to play a range of different characters – Richard Booth, Philip Bosworth and Roddy Peters as the booming, ruthless ogres; Sarah Finigan impresses as The Queen and the cantankerous Mrs Clonkers and Emma MacLennan also adapts to a number of roles demonstrating her versatility as a performer.
Recommended for ages 5 and over, this is a fantastic ensemble production with a lot of heart. The BFG at Bolton Octagon offers families a high-quality production and a pleasing alternative from the traditional Christmas pantomime.
The BFG runs at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton until 9 January 2016.
Looking for things to do, plays to see and creative activities for the family over the summer?
Look no further – I’ve compiled a comprehensive and diverse list of the best plays, music and arty stuff happening for children through the wonderful month of August and as always many are FREE…
Recommended for those aged over 3, The King of Tiny Things is set on a magical midsummer’s night. Two sisters huddle together, fearful of what the darkness holds, when a mysterious winged creature appears and leads them on a moonlit adventure. Together they rescue juggling slugs, contortionist worms, and a trio of acrobatic baby bats. But while the girls are busy being brave they overlook their winged friend, the King of Tiny Things, who needs their help most of all. Can they save him in time…
Starring four of the world’s most exciting circus artists Metta Theatre bring Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward’s enchanting story spectacularly to life with circus, puppetry and song. Fun for all the family.
The King of Tiny Things somersaults into The Lowry in Salford on the 6th August 2015, with 2 showings at 2:00pm and 4:30pm.
Running alongside the main art exhibition at The Lowry, ExtraORDINARY -Everyday objects & actions in contemporary art, is ExtraORDINARY at The Lookout. The Lookout is a family activity space with different activities taking place throughout the summer on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 11:00am and 12:30pm. Activities include puppet making, junk modelling and paper patchwork and the best part about these activities are that they are completely FREE. Hurrah!
ExtraORDINARY at The Lookout in The Lowry runs through until 18th October 2015 and you can find activity listings here.
Waterside Arts Centre
Forensic Science in Action is back at Waterside Arts from 3rd August until 5th August 2015 so put on your white suit, gloves and mask, grab a scene kit and learn some of the essential skills needed – fingerprinting, DNA profiling and footwear marks – to be a forensic scientist. It’s a one day workshop and it costs £20.00 per child – the Monday and the Tuesday are for for 7-11 year olds and the Wednesday is for older children aged 12-16 years.
For those aged 10 and up there are ComedySportz Summer Workshops happening on the 26th and 27th August from 11:00am until 4:00pm. The fun costs £40.00 for the full 2 days and kids will learn the basics of comedy improvisation, creating characters and scenes in a fun and friendly environment before showcasing their talents at 5.30pm on the 27th.
Artful Playground’s Musical Theatre courseruns from Monday 24 – Friday 28 August from 10am – 4pm each day at Waterside Arts Centre in Sale. It’s suitable for children aged 7–16 and costs £80 per child. Children will have sessions in acting, singing, dance/ movement and have lots of fun putting together a production which will be a performed for friends and family. To book your place, call Artful Playground on 0161 438 2021.
A couple of summer dance courses are taking place at The Edge in Chorlton from 10th August until 14th August.Jungle Jumpers runs from 9:00am-10:00am and is suitable for ages 6-9 years old. Dance Explosion runs from 10:30am until 12 noon and caters for children aged from 9-12 years old. Sessions are led by resident professional dancer Genevieve Estevez-Baker and cost £25.00 per child for the week. For more information and to book, click here.
Z-Arts in Hulme has a series of OneLoveDance Holiday Clubs available over the summer. The clubs run from 10:00am to 5:00pm (with an early drop off/ late pick up available at an extra cost) and themes these are Annie (10th – 14th August) and Frozen (17th – 21st August). The week is spent learning songs, dances and the script from the popular musicals. Throughout the week they are provided with professional singing, dance and drama tuition from highly experienced tutors. This includes activities that work on their confidence and team building skills. These holiday schools are really good value at £75 for the week – making them just £15 per day.
Bolton Octagon have a super Stage It Summer 2015 performance project running for 2 weeks from 17th August – 28th August (omitting weekends) from 10:00am to 4:00pm each day. The project is suitable for ages 11-18 year olds and gives young people the chance to work with professional theatre directors on a production to be performed in the Octagon main auditorium. The 2 week course costs £100 and culminates in 2 performances, taking place on Thursday 27th August and Friday 28th August at 7:30pm in the main house.
From 28th-31st August 2015 there areFairy Tales on Foot, an interactive storytelling playground, with fairy tale adventures popping up where you’d least expect them across Bolton town centre. Meet Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Beauty and the Beast and many more. You’ll experience all of the best moments of these beloved stories portrayed by actors and musicians. There’ll be live music, singing and even some dancing. This event is completely FREE and we love that.
Katy Ashworth, a favourite from CBeebies is also performing in her live show as part of the Bolton Food and Drink Festival. The children’s television favourite will be performing in 2 live shows at 10:30am and 2:30pm from the Friday 28th- Sunday 30th August 2015. The shows are taking place at the Children’s Marquee, Le Mans Crescent and cost just £1.00.
The Manchester Opera House
Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom LIVE skips into Manchester’s Opera House for the 1st and 2nd August 2015. Join Ben and Holly, and their friends on this exciting musical adventure packed full of games, songs and laughter on an enchanting journey through the Magical Kingdom. With actors, masks and colourful costumes.
Our favourite open-air theatre makers Heartbreak Productions are back with their version of the popular David Walliams book, Mr Stink.
On a perfectly average afternoon, two restless souls unite on a bench in an average English town – one of them the lonely 12 year old Chloe and the other an incredibly smelly homeless man. Oh, and let’s not forget his loyal dog, the Duchess. Watch the colourful characters from the celebrated novel by David Walliams come to life in Heartbreak Productions’ adaptation of Mr. Stink for the open air. This show takes place in Longford Park, Stretford at 5:00pm on 16th August and Dunham Massey, Altrincham at 6:30pm on the 21st August 2015. For full listings and other venues click here. Tickets are £10.00 with under 5’s free of charge.
Imperial War Museum North
What a Performance runs at the Imperial War Museum in Trafford throughout August on the 5th, 24th, 25th and 27th with four performances on each date (11.15am, 12.15pm, 1.15pm, 2.15pm).
Each session brings real experiences from wartime – you can hear stories from the Second World War, both at home and abroad, including the bravery of an undercover agent dropped into France and the hard work of a factory worker in Trafford Park. Suitable for all ages and is entirely FREE.
Black-Out! is another super free event recommended for ages 7 and over, taking place between 12pm and 3pm(just drop in!) on 20th August. Your children can take part in a treasure hunt exploring the new special exhibition Horrible Histories®: Blitzed Brits. A must for inquisitive young minds and I hear that there are a few prizes up for grabs too.
There is also FREE daily storytelling sessions happening throughout the whole of August at 1:30pm. Discover the blitz through the eyes of 10 year old Dotty in Dotty’s Daring Blitz Adventure. Follow Dotty as she goes on a daring rescue mission and get your hands on with ARP artefacts and unique pieces of shrapnel collected by children over 70 years ago.
Intu Trafford Centre
Intu Trafford Centre is home to In the Night Garden LIVEuntil 22nd August.The popular CBeebies favourite takes place in its own all-weather, purpose-built inflatable showdome with many family-friendly facilities. This site-specific structure is a huge hit with children and parents and its immersive theatrical experience makes audiences feel they are actually entering the magical world of the TV show In the Night Garden.
My children are past being interested in In the Night Garden now but it’s sure to be a certain hit with many of the younger children. This show sold out very quickly down at the O2 in London so if you don’t want to disappoint your little one – I’d probably get your tickets while you can.
CBBC is bringing the magic of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athletics Championships to MediaCityUK in Salford on the 22nd and 23rd August from 10:00am to 5:00pm with the CBBC Summer Sportarama. This exciting event is FREE to attend and will give children the chance to take part in athletics events and other activities designed to give them a flavour of the championships taking place in Beijing. There are too many activities to list really – the opportunity to compete on a running track, football freestyling and a chance to have a go at being a presenter as well as hands on craft activities with CBBC Art Ninja Ricky Martin and a CBeebies sport area for the younger children too.
Have a creative, active and crafty summer everyone and tweet me with your events and adventures @upstagedMCR
Noises Off, written by Michael Frayn, takes us behind the scenes to witness the backstage shenanigans of a shambolic theatre company. With less than twenty-four hours to go until their opening night of ‘Nothing On’ everything that can go wrong, is going hopelessly wrong. When the play opens the cast are in the throes of their dress rehearsal…or is it their technical rehearsal…nobody really seems to know. However, one thing is for certain – there are plenty of laughs in this chaotic and hilarious comedy about this dysfunctional theatre company.
Director David Thacker pulls out all the stops in his final production as artistic director at Bolton’s Octagon. After six years at the helm he is leaving to take up the prestigious position of Professor of Theatre at the University of Bolton enabling him to ‘engage with new generations of talent’ while still continuing to direct two productions, as Associate Artistic Director, each season for the Octagon.
Designed by Ruari Murchison, the intricacy of the set is highly impressive and the scene changes even more so. The play runs for just over 3 hours which includes two 25 minute intervals during which the backstage crew completely switch the set around. Although these set changes may seem slightly excessive, many of the audience seemed to enjoy watching the production crew turn the stage around so quickly. Also, considering the themes of the play it was very apt that the audience were able to have a glimpse into the real-life workings of a theatre and all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
The cast of nine all bring high energy and impeccable timing to the stage with notable performances from Jessica Baglow (Poppy), Colin Connor (Freddy), Paula Jennings (Brooke), Barbara Drennan (Belinda), James Quinn (Tim) and James Dutton (Garry), Charlotte Cornwell (Dotty) and Alan Taylor (Selsdon). Philandering and harassed Director Lloyd Dallas, played by Rob Edwards attempts to get the show on its feet despite Dotty’s missing sardines, Selsdon’s drunken antics and doors that stick or won’t close properly.
Noises Off has all of the trademarks of a superb British farce, providing the perfect closure to the Octagon’s theatre season and David Thacker’s position within it. There is certainly a lot to enjoy in this classic comedy and judging by the laughter in the auditorium on the night I attended, it’s a big hit with the Bolton audience too.
Noises Off runs at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton until 4 July 2015.
Notable dates include: Meet the Director and cast Monday 29 June and Investigate Day (a full day event around the themes and issues of the play) on Saturday 27 June. There is an Audio Described performance on Wednesday 24 June, British Sign Language performance on Thursday 11 June, and Captioned Performance on Thursday 2 July.
For those of us who aren’t jetting off to sunnier climes during the Whitsun school holidays, there is an abundance of good stuff going on. I’ve helpfully compiled the best picks of theatre, film and creative activities for families happening in Manchester from 22nd May until 7th June 2015…
Remember Basil Brush? Well “Ha ha ha! Boom! Boom!” – he is coming back to The Lowry in Salford for a performance on 24th May 2015. Currently, he is super busy on his UK tour, a brand new specially written ‘live’ stage show, which promises to be packed with laughs, storytelling and song. He’s celebrating over 50 years in show business and he’s back With a boom in The Basil Brush Show. Suitable for ages 3 and up.
One Little Word also heads to The Lowry for 4 performances on 24th and 25th May 2015. A play from local M6 Theatre Company, who are internationally renowned for producing high quality, dynamic and relevant theatre for young audiences. One Little Word is a moving and beautiful story about friendship, power struggles and the rich world of creative play.
Stick Man Live on Stageheads to The Lowry from 26th May until 31st May 2015. It’s suitable for ages 3 and up and tells the charming tale of Stick Man, as he tries to escape playful dogs, nest building swans and even a fire, in a bid to get back to the family tree.
Also, at The Lowry on the 6th June 2015 is The Bounce. This is a multi-sensory and highly interactive show, using trampolines, video projection and live music, for young people from 3-19 who are defined as having Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities or who are on the Autism Spectrum.
This half term also brings the usual fun and frolics with Half Term Little Actors, who will be swimming in rivers and rolling through forests with The Hedgehog and her Hoglet and Half Term Little Artists who will be making their own characters inspired by Julia Donaldson’s book Stick Man. Sessions are suitable for ages 5-11 and run from 11:00-12:30 from 25 May until 29 May 2015 at The Lowry.Each session costs £3.50.
For ages 11-18 there is Wicked – Half Term Musical Theatre Madness running from 26 May 2015 from 10:30-15:30. Over the 3 days young people will work with a professional Musical Theatre director and performer to stage well known musical theatre hits and perform them at the end of the course for family and friends. No experience is necessary.
Waterside Arts Centre
Flyaway Katiezooms into the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on the 28th and 29th May 2015. Based on the popular Children’s book by Polly Dunbar and with music by Tom Gray of Gomez – Flyaway Katie is an inspiring flight of fancy about the power of imagination.
Forensic Science in Action is back at Waterside Arts on the 30th May– the event is led by experienced forensic scientists and is suitable for children aged 7-11. Ticket price is £20 which admits 1 adult & 1 child to the session. (Every child MUST be accompanied by an adult).
Birds Nest Theatre presents My Friend Moleon the 31st May at Waterside Arts. This hour long show also includes a stay and play and is suitable for ages 3-6.
The Journey Home, the acclaimed children’s book by award winning author Frann Preston-Gannon, is brought to life through puppetry, lyrical music and transformative design in this new production by Little Angel Theatre.
The Journey Home is at The Edge on the 22nd May 2015 (11:00am/1:30pm) and Z-Arts in Hulme on the 23rd May 2015 (2:30pm/3:15pm) – with a running time of 45 minutes, it is perfect for ages 2 and over.
Casa comes to The Edge on 4th June 2015 with 2 showings at 11:00am and 1:30pm. It is advised for ages 1-5 years and tells the surreal story of a grown-up and a child who meet, get to know each other and start to build. Building turns into play, and little by little, while playing, they build a story. For more information click here.
The Journey Home arrives at Z-Arts on the 23rd May 2015 (2:30pm/ 3:15pm). Please see listing above, The Edge for the trailer and more information…
Tarsa by Dorna Theatre is also showing at Z-Arts from 26th May until 28th May 2015. This play is suitable for ages 14 and up and features live music and dance. More information can be found here.
Z-Arts also have a number of events available for those families with a Bright Sparks Membership. Membership costs just £15 per year per family and gets you discount on some shows as well as free access to all of the regular activities at the centre.
Bolton Octagon are offering two workshops during the half term break.
On 27th May 2015 there is Shake Up Your Shakespeare which is suitable for ages 11-18 and on 28th May 2015 there is The Magic of Masks, suitable for ages 8-11. Each of the workshops costs just £10 and runs from 10am until 4pm.
Now in its fifth year, it’s a week-long run of amazing solo and one-to-one live art, spoken word, comedy, dance and theatre performances. And this year Contact Theatre have a bold line-up of artists including Chris Brett Bailey, Jackie Hagan, Keisha Thompson, Cheryl Martin, Jamie Lewis Hadley and the vacuum cleaner, as well as premières from last year’s Contact Flying Solo commission winners Louise Orwin and Ester Natzijil.
For those fancying a bit of Shakespeare -Northern Broadsides production of King Lear is at The Lowry from 5th May until 9thMay 2015. Renowned for their down-to-earth performance style, Northern Broadsides have won over a whole new generation of Shakespeare fans. And if you want to treat yourself to a rock ‘n’ roll musical inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the Olivier Award winning rock spectacular Return to the Forbidden Planet blasts into The Palace Theatre, Manchester from 4th May until 9th May 2015.
The premiere of Jim Cartwright’s The Ancient Secret of Youth and the Five Tibetansstarring Denise Welch, Tom Mannion, Eric Potts, Lauren Drummond, and Matt Tait is running at Bolton Octagon until 23rd May 2015.
Box of Tricks Theatre Company present Plastic Figurines at The Lowry on the 6th May and 7th May 2015.
“Mum told me that there was something in his brain that was different, she said that he liked to put his toys in lines and that was a symptom or whatever. I used to go in his room and see all his stuffed animals in a line and I’d mess them up. I’d mess the line up.”
Inspired by events in the writer, Ella Carmen Greenhill’s own life, Plastic Figurines is a funny and moving new play that explores autism and the relationship between siblings with very different views of the world.
From 10th May- 17th May…
The story of the greatest middleweight never to be champion, Len Johnson ‘Fighter’is showing at Studio Salford in The Kings Arms in Salford from 11th May until 13th May.
RITES is on at Contact Theatre from 12th May until 14th May.It is a powerful and provocative new production exploring the deep-rooted cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation, a local and national issue in the UK. With a strong creative team behind this production, it is a verbatim piece based on interviews with girls, women and professionals who have been affected by the practice.
Told by an Idiot and The Royal Exchange present The Ghost Train from 14th May until 20th June 2015.
Told by an Idiot return to the Royal Exchange, bringing their trademark wit, flare and theatrical invention to this blisteringly funny take on the classic ghost story.
Newly opened HOME on First Street in Manchester kicks off with the world premiere of The Funfair on 14th May until 13th June. Featuring a live band playing a soundtrack of iconic tracks, The Funfair promises to be a theatrical experience that will immerse you in all the colour, chaos and fun of the fair.
Meanwhile, Boeing Boeing opens at Oldham Coliseum on the 15th May and runs until 6th June 2015.
The Three Minute Theatre, based in Afflecks Arcade present a FREE event, Three Friends and you, on 14th May 2015 – it’s an evening of spoken word with a focus on mental health, in support of Mental Health Awareness week.
Winner of the Best Studio Production Award at The Manchester Theatre Awards, He Had Hairy Hands returns to The Lowry on the 15th and 16th May 2015. It’s described as Hammer Horror meets the Wicker Man, Scooby Doo and The League of Gentlemen…
Other hot picks on at The Lowry this week are Different is Dangerous on the 14th May2015 and Edinburgh Fringe sell-out, So It Goes on the 15th May 2015.
From 18th May -25th May…
The Call of Nature by Mike Heath runs for 7 nights from 18th May 2015 until 24th May 2015 in The Cellar at The Kings Arms, Salford. You are strongly recommended to get your tickets early for this event, as due to the intimate performance space, there will only be 18 tickets available per night.
Harper Lee’s much loved story – To Kill a Mockingbird is running at The Lowry from 19th May until 23rd May 2015.
Cuddles, the story of Eve a 13 year old vampire, is guaranteed to give you shivers in The Studio at The Royal Exchange from the 19th May until 23rd May 2015.
Billed as one of the best musical theatre nights of the year and acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels arrives at The Opera House Manchester on the 20th May and runs until 30th May 2015.
And if you didn’t catch Len Johnson ‘Fighter’ at Studio Salford earlier in the month – it is showing again at Bolton Octagon on the 20th and 21st May 2015.
The 56 arrives at The Studio in The Lowry Theatre on the 23rd May 2015, retelling the stories of those involved in the Bradford City Fire in 1985.
The Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival comes to Oldham on 23rd May 2015.With events taking place in and around Oldham Coliseum.
I’ll be doing another post with theatre and entertainment ideas for the family during the May half term – but for now there is The Journey Home at Z-Arts on the 23rd May 2015. It’s suitable for ages 2+ and is based on the book by Frann Preston -Gannon. There is also One Little Word, a beautiful story about friendship suitable for ages 3+, at The Lowry on the 24th and 25th May 2015.
From 26th May onwards…
Judy – The Songbook of Judy Garland is on at The Palace Theatre, Manchester from the 28th May until 30th May 2015. Along with never before seen film highlights and interviews, Judy’s dazzling songbook is brought to life by the creme of London’s West End.
On the 29th and 30th May 2015 HOME and Rosie Kay Dance Company present5 Soldiers – The Body is the Frontline – it’s site specific with the Rusholme Army Reserve Centre providing the appropriate backdrop for a piece that weaves a story of physical transformation, helping us to understand what makes a soldier and how the experience of warfare affects those that choose to put their life on the line.