It is rare that we experience dementia from the perspective of the person who is struggling with it, rather we experience it from the viewpoint of family members and carers. This idea is obviously even more difficult to dramatise in a theatre. In The Father, written by Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton, Oldham Coliseum triumph in presenting a highly engaging but charming, heart-rending though witty, interpretation of Andre’s struggle with the disease.
Patrick Connellan’s raised set design is intelligently reminiscent of a Polaroid picture. The stage is framed almost like a photograph – perfectly suggestive of Andre’s struggle with memory. A deconstructed piano lies at the fore, hinting at Andre’s love of music and his attempt to make sense of the confusing world that envelopes him. A stunning piano soundtrack by Lorna Munden accompanies the cast as they adjust the stage around Andre. Confused and his senses heightened, he can hear the clank of cutlery and plates clashing and we feel his pain and confusion. Kevin Shaw has catered for every detail in this accomplished production. Stunning and painstakingly beautiful.
Kenneth Alan Taylor’s performance as Andre is nothing short of tremendous, charting one man and his family as they struggle with the grip of dementia. Giving a beautifully nuanced performance – managing to hint at the insight he still has into his condition, while giving depth to the rich and lively life he has had, he fleshes out the resilient fiery character that continues to push up against the disease. Kerry Peers gives a strong and emotive performance as Andre’s daughter Anne, always striving to do the right thing for her father despite the pressure she faces from her husband Pierre, played solidly by John Elkington.
As I looked around the Oldham Coliseum at the end of the show, it was clear to see that so many people had been moved by The Father. Two ladies sat in front of me wiped the tears from their eyes as others appeared to be sharing stories, clearly deeply touched by this phenomenal production. This is a flawless production that gets us talking, sharing and understanding dementia together.
The team at Oldham Coliseum always succeed in delighting their dedicated Northern audience during pantomime season and this year they’re back, and true to form, with Sleeping Beauty.
With Kevin Shaw at the helm, Oldham Coliseum triumph once again – following their tried and tested recipe of pantomime goodness. With no glitter spared, every performer has that magical twinkle in their eye and, commanding the stage, they deliver the perfect Christmas show. Perhaps what makes Sleeping Beauty so delightful is that every child (and adult) feel involved – the auditorium is just the right size for the audience to be able to interact, which is a real bonus for the younger theatre-goers.
With an unexpected reshuffling of the cast following Fine Time Fontayne’s injury in rehearsal, Simeon Truby jumps into dame Nanny Nutty’s large and vibrant Doc Marten’s and delivers a superb performance. Celia Perkins’ costume design is a real treat – bright, larger than life and guaranteed to put a smile on even the most hardened of faces. Accompanied by Dave Bintley’s toe-tappingly brilliant musical soundtrack, Fine Time and Shaw’s script is tight and littered with references to popular culture. With a range of gags for the adults and the usual panto slapstick for children, Sleeping Beauty is a real winner with the diverse crowd.
Radiant Demi Goodman steps daintily into the role of Briar Rose, oblivious to the curse that has been thrust upon her by the bitter Carabosse, played by Liz Carney. Comedy capers are plentiful from Oldham Coliseum regulars Richard J Fletcher and Justine Elizabeth Bailey as The Nutty’s with Demi Goodman doubling up to play Nicky Nutty. Sara Sadeghi is full of energy playing both the good fairy, Spinning Jenny and the ‘super shiny’ Queen Hermione; David Westbrook completes the super line-up as King Cuthbert – there is no weak link here. The chorus dancers are full of energy, unbelievably light on their feet and springier than bouncy balls.
Simply put – Oldham Coliseum’s Sleeping Beauty is everything that a pantomime should be. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, a lively musical score and the opportunity to interact with the performance – and all in an ideal sized performance space, where everyone can feel part of the action. Packed to the brim with magic, mischief and good old fashioned fun, Sleeping Beauty is certain to get all of the family ready for Christmas.
With performances running until 7th January 2017, Sleeping Beauty is the perfect treat for families this Christmas. To book your tickets click here.
Written by Graham Linehan, well-known for penning Father ted and The IT Crowd, The Ladykillers is a dark comedy inspired by the classic Ealing film of the same name.
Widely regarded as being one of the staples of British comedy, The Ladykillers is perfectly adapted for the stage with all of the action taking place within the shaky four walls of the innocent widow, Mrs Wilberforce’s home. With slick Professor Marcus at the helm of a ruthless gang of criminals masquerading as musicians, they use the rickety old house as the base for their illegal operations.
Foxton’s pleasingly skewed set design of the lop-sided house beside the busy train line is delightful and harbours many comic moments throughout the show. Graham Linehan’s script is packed with slapstick humour and one-liners and Kevin Shaw’s direction blesses the energetic cast with some cracking visual gags and tricks. There is a superb sequence, for example, when the gang, posing as a classically trained quintet, are revealed squeezed like sardines in a tiny cupboard. A further highlight comes when the felons find themselves being forced to play for Mrs Wilberforce (Roberta Kerr) and her gaggle of old ladies, with smooth Professor Marcus (Chris Hannon) passing the din off as being an experimental musical composition.
However, for the main the show feels like it never quite reaches second gear and there is a sense that the full potential of hilarity in the script is never quite achieved. Nonetheless, the cast all give energetic performances throughout with Chris Hannon as the pompously manic gang leader Professor Marcus. Howard Gray gives a comical performance as likeable baddie One Round, more endearingly known as Mr Lawson and Matthew Ganley gives a strong performance as moody Romanian gangster who does not like old ladies. Henry Devas shows infectious energy on stage as cleaning obsessed crook Harry and Christopher Wright intrigues as a Major with a penchant for ladies clothes. Simeon Truby puts in a witty performance as Constable MacDonald and gives a sterling turn as one of Mrs Wilberforce’s pals. Headed up by Roberta Kerr’s righteous but dotty Mrs Wilberforce, there is no doubt that the cast give this production their all.
With a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, The Ladykillers has plenty of comic moments but failed to make my ribs ache as much as I had hoped.
Oldham Coliseum are certainly bound to excite their friendly Northern crowd with a brand-new stage production celebrating the life and talent of Dame Gracie Fields. Hailing from Rochdale, Gracie labelled herself as Britain’s most popular female entertainer of all time. It’s a big label and she’s a big character and there is no better place to stage the premiere of Philip Goulding’s new musical than ‘up’ at Oldham Coliseum.
Born just a short distance away from Oldham Coliseum above her grandmother’s chippy, Dame Gracie Fields first performed in the theatres of Oldham and Rochdale. The story of the local mill girl who became an international star continues to inspire many performers today.
Our Gracie is written in the style of the old music hall and incorporates live music and toe-tapping song along with movement and feel-good banter. Philip Goulding’s clever script documents Gracie Fields’ vibrant and inspirational life using her own words and infectious personality. The production transports us back to the Oldham Repertory Theatre Club of the 1960’s where we are ready to welcome Gracie Fields to the stage.
Sue Devaney takes on the title role and gives a phenomenal performance as Dame Gracie Fields; her beaming smile and rich Northern tone perfectly capture the down-to-earth personality and charming stage persona of the Rochdale-to-Hollywood star. What makes Devaney’s performance so special is her ability to connect with her audience, which arguably was also Gracie Fields’ greatest talent. Many of the audience sing and clap along enthusiastically as she belts out Sing As We Go, The Biggest Aspidistra In The World, Walter, Walter and her most famous signature tune Sally.
Six of Oldham Rep’s finest support Devaney in presenting the fascinating life of Dame Gracie Fields – playing a variety of roles between them, they present the intriguing characters that influenced Gracie during her vibrant life. As well as providing a wonderful live soundtrack, the talented company introduce us to George Formby, Laurence Olivier and Liberace. Often breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience – it’s refreshing and engaging and there is a powerful harmony between the audience and the performers. Liz Carney has a wonderfully sweet tone and gives a dedicated and wonderfully comic performance; Ben Stock generates genuine laughter from the spirited crowd as dedicated pianist Harry and flamboyant showman Liberace.
The music hall style is possibly not for everyone, packed with silly gags and an exaggerated acting style, but the Oldham crowd seemed to enjoy it on the night I attended. Regardless of this, Our Gracie is a wonderful trip down memory lane, filled with nostalgia and warm sentiment.
The Pitmen Painters is a true story following a group of men from the mining community as they rediscover and reflect on their world through art. Written by Lee Hall, best known for Billy Elliot, the play follows The Ashington Group from their first art appreciation class in the old army hut to exhibiting in national galleries and gaining critical acclaim.
The story unfolds in a small mining town in Northumbria called Ashington. It’s 1934 and a group of miners decide to hire a professor, Robert Lyon (Cliff Burnett) to teach an art appreciation evening class. Headed up by no-nonsense union man George (Jim Barclay) the group of men soon abandon the theory of art in favour of practice. Amusing and moving, under Kevin Shaw’s light directorial hand, The Pitmen Painters shines a light on a group of ordinary men who achieve unprecedented things.
Joe Strathers-Tracey’s framed projections of the original Ashington Group artwork hang at the back of the stage – depicting images inspired by a 1930’s coalfield community. It’s a thought-provoking reminder of the cultural and economic barriers that can stand in the way of achieving individual potential and expression.
The cast are brilliant and there is a real sense of camaraderie throughout with some superb individual performances. Jim Barclay gets plenty of laughs from the Northern crowd as the sharp-toned leader of the group and, in contrast, Simeon Truby plays the most promising artist of the group Oliver with sensitivity and focus. Helen Kay impresses as the bohemian art-lover Helen Sutherland and Maeve O’Sullivan adds a jot of cheekiness to the stage as the art student come life model, Susan. Cliff Burnett leads as the eccentric but humble art professor Robert Lyon, with Luke Morris, James Quinn and Micky Cochrane completing an assured line-up.
The Pitmen Painters is perfect programming for the Oldham Coliseum and is certainly worth catching. Perhaps what makes this story so brilliantly charming is that it is a true story about a group of working-class men. The real warmth in The Pitmen Painters lies in the Ashington Group’s true friendship as they embark on a discovery of themselves and each other through art.
Pantomime is always a huge amount of fun for any creative team to work on and this year’s festive offering from the team at Oldham Coliseum is a sparkling example of this. Mother Goose offers all of the traditional pantomime fun – with audience interaction at its core, all your favourite current chart hits and hilariously messy slapstick – there is much for little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy this Christmas at Oldham Coliseum.
The story of Mother Goose has been co-written by Artistic Director Kevin Shaw and our nominal dame, Fine Time Fontayne – while the story maintains its timeless appeal, many of the comic sequences and gags zap the show giving a fresh take on the old classic tale. Mother Goose is poor until she finds Priscilla, a magical goose who lays golden eggs. Now that Mother Goose no longer has to worry about money – she wants to be young and beautiful – but will her new-found wealth, beauty and youth bring happiness?
This pantomime has a superb range of musical numbers ranging from contemporary pop music through to well known show tunes. With a funky soundtrack featuring The Jackson 5, Defying Gravity from Wicked and a humorous ditty which incorporates the names of stops on the Metrolink line – there is plenty for the audience to clap along to.
Fine Time Fontayne is a superb pantomime dame with an exceptional costume designer, Celia Perkins. With an array of over-the-top frocks and vibrant Doc Martens, Mother Goose could easily have been peeled from the pages of a story book. Under Kevin Shaw’s direction, costume changes occur off stage as well as in full view of the audience – in a clever illusion Mother Goose disappears through revolving doors only to reappear immediately looking just like Kim Kardashian. Well almost.
Alongside Fine Time Fontayne there is a host of Oldham Coliseum regulars – Richard J Fletcher is a comical success as the accident prone Billy Goose with Justine Elizabeth Bailey playing his sensible older brother Colin Goose. Andonis Anthony excels as evil baddie The Demon of Discontent – with no prompting needed to rally the audience into a booing and hissing frenzy. The chorus dancers deserve a special mention also, animated and light on their feet, filling the stage with energy.
Once again the Oldham Coliseum have egg-ceeded themselves and produced a most egg-cellent pantomime. With plenty of laugh out loud moments and opportunities to sing along, Mother Goose is packed with festive cheer and is certain to get all of the family warmed up and ready for Christmas.
Mother Goose is on at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 9th January 2016.
Hot Stuff premiered at the Oldham Coliseum back in November 1990 and was devised by Maggie Norris and the Coliseum’s artistic director of the time, Paul Kerryson. Following its debut, Hot Stuff played to packed audiences, received rave reviews and rocked the West End. Now, under Kevin Shaw’s direction, this cult classic returns to the Coliseum stage on its 25th anniversary in a bid to thrill, delight and rock the Oldham audience once more.
Based on the Marlowe classic Faustus, wannabe rock star Joe Soap (Benjamin Stratton) sells his soul in exchange for musical fame and a rock star lifestyle. With stars in his eyes and money on his mind, Soap strikes a demonic deal with Lucy Fur (Alan French) and ditches his ballroom dancing sweetheart Julie (Ibinabo Jack) for his place on the devil’s train.
The Hot Stuff stage gleams with gold – it is as if King Midas has paid a visit to Oldham. With gold lamé drapes and curtains framing the stage – there is certainly no shortage of sequins, glitz or glamour in this energetic and raunchy stage show. However, the whole production does take a little bit of adjusting to – the writing is incredibly loose with more than a whiff of pantomime. Nevertheless, the whole narrative anchors around some of the most well known tunes and characters from the 70’s and 80’s which gives Hot Stuff the feel good factor.
The talented cast belt out hit after hit with tremendous energy and naughtiness and the four piece band add a further dimension, with their Beatles tribute being a particular highlight. The two baddies, Paul Duckworth as The Boss and Alan French as the high heeled drag queen Lucy Fur add a hint of Rocky Horror to the production. BenjaminStratton’s likeable Joe Soap rocks us through the ages, from disco to punk, with his transformation to Jimmy Filth. Ibinabo Jack gives a superb performance as girlfriend Julie with her interpretation of I Will Survive. Lakesha Cammock, Abigail Climer and Nicola Hawkins make a smouldering trio of Hell’s Angels.
It is easy to see how Hot Stuff attracts a cult following akin to the Rocky Horror Show and although it won’t please some of the culture vultures out there – it is all round top quality, devilishly funny entertainment.
Hot Stuff is running at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 26th September 2015.