Your regular update on what’s going on behind the scenes here at Oldham Coliseum Theatre.
With seven actors playing a total of 19 unique and interesting characters, Hard Times tells the story of the community of Coketown, an industrial northern town in the Victorian era.
Written by one of the greatest storytellers of all time, Charles Dickens, Hard Times was originally published in 1854 as a series in his weekly magazine, Household Words. Through its rich array of characters it tells a story of class divides, morality and a war on creativity.
Internationally acclaimed playwright Stephen Jeffreys (The Libertine) penned the stage adaptation of Hard Times in 1982 and it premiered at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, Cumbria. This fast-moving adaptation is Dickens as you’ve never seen him before!
Hear about the show from our cast in the trailer below:
We’re starting rehearsals for our production of The Father next week and looking forward to welcoming back some old friends in the cast.
Friends of the theatre don’t get much closer than Kenneth Alan Taylor – who first performed on the Coliseum stage back in 1959 when we were the Oldham Rep. Since then, Kenneth has appeared in over 320 Coliseum productions, including most recently: The Road to Nab End in 2010 and Albert Nobbs in 2006.
But that’s not all… Kenneth became Artistic Director of the Coliseum from 1978 to 1982, reopening the theatre after a nine-month closure and reconstituting the Oldham Rep as Oldham Coliseum Theatre. He returned as Chief Executive in 1996 until 2002, and was presented with the Horniman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre in 1997. A living legend of the Coliseum, Kenneth is now also one of our Coliseum Stars, an initiative launched in 2016 that gives audiences the opportunity to align themselves with the people who have shaped the history of the theatre.
The Father is a multi-award winning play that takes the audience on a journey through the perspective of Andre, a charming elderly gentleman living with dementia. It was written by French literary sensation Florian Zeller and translated into English by Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) and has enjoyed international success with hit runs in France, London’s West End and New York’s Broadway.
Manchester ADP are a collective of actors, writers and directors. They host fortnightly rehearsed readings in Manchester, Scripts Aloud, for writers to receive feedback from audiences and creative teams.
The four short plays in What The Dickens? are:
“Superhead” Tamara Gradwell-Grindley is on a mission to turn Coketown Academy around, but retiring teacher, Janet, thinks her obsession with data has sacrificed the soul of the school. She’s determined not to leave without telling Tamara exactly how she feels about a system where children are treated like units on a production line.
A conversation between a creator and creation; exploring the effects of suppressing emotions and imagination.
A Christian ministry led by Matt has moved into one of Manchester’s most deprived areas. Taliyah has dreams of escaping the council estate and her alcoholic Mother. Matt appears happy to help Taliyah realise her dreams but at what price?
Austerity rules in these hard times… there are no deserving poor… the nice, good, middle classes can’t take refuge here either, not on Mr Jobsworth’s watch.
After the performance of What The Dickens? we’ll be holding a post-show chat led by Hard Times director Chris Lawson and Manchester ADP’s Hannah Ellis Ryan, giving you the opportunity to discuss the themes of Hard Times and the process of creating the response performances.
From Thursday 22 – Friday 30 June our Studio Theatre will transform into a hub of new writing and emerging talent as we present the annual First Break Festival.
The Coliseum is proud to support and nurture writers and emerging theatre practitioners. First Break showcases the very best from the North West in a packed programme of new writing, rehearsed readings and touring shows.
First Break opens on Thursday 22 June at 7pm with New Tricks, a rehearsed reading of a new play by Daniel Kanabar, from Box Of Tricks Theatre. Later that evening the annual Panel Discussion will delve into the issues around making work, getting seen and breaking into the theatre industry. This year’s panel includes Simon Naylor from 53Two, writer and performer Afreena Isam, Sarah Emmott from Art With Heart and Box Of Tricks Theatre’s Adam Quayle.
On Friday 23 June at 7.30pm Every Egg a Bird Theatre Company present Car Park King, a play about one of the most controversial kings of England, Richard III, with a drop of Monty Python, a dash of Spymonkey, and a sprinkle of Spike Milligan. The following evening, on Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm Lewis Bray follows his brother Jack, a young man with severe autism, through the imaginary world he creates in their back garden in Cartoonopolis, and on Monday 26 June at 7.30pm Manchester ADP present Scripts Aloud, an evening of script-in-hand short plays by local writers with a mix of comedy, politics and drama.
The winners of this year’s First Break Writing Competition: Futurist showcase their work on Wednesday 28 June at 7.30pm. The competition asked writers to script an original short play imagining the what the future will look like based on current trends. In the showcase the four winning scripts: Macaroni by Sam Orton; Resistance by Megan Holland; The Warning by Aisling Caffrey and Waiting by Aimie George will be presented as rehearsed readings.
Later that evening, at 8.45pm, the Coliseum’s scriptwriting group led by Meat Pie, Sausage Roll and Dreamers co-writer Cathy Crabb, Scribbles, will showcase a collective piece that they have written over three terms, Defeat the Clowns. The play follows a group of employees at a run-down theatre. Some have been picked specifically to ruin the place, but other employees have worked there for a lifetime (and beyond) and they won’t be letting go that easily.
On Thursday 29 June Red Bobble Theatre presents a rehearsed reading/work in progress performance of If I Should Fall by Charlotte O’Leary. Inspired by original letters and real accounts from the people of Oldham and the surrounding areas, If I Should Fall explores what it means to be at war – then and now.
First Break Festival comes to a close on Friday 30 June at 7.30pm with Church Blitz by Naughty Corner Productions, a surreal dark comedy where seven paranoid strangers take cover in a nearby church from strange flashing lights in the sky.
The international humanitarian charity Penny Appeal came to the Coliseum on Sunday 16 April as part of their 19-date strong Finding Fatimah Film Tour raising money for their East Africa Crisis Appeal.
Created by British Muslim TV, Finding Fatimah is a heart-warming rom-com about Shahid (played by Danny Ashok: The Tower; Four Lions) searching for true love with a failed marriage behind him and a failing business to deal with. The film features the talents of Nina Wadia (EastEnders; Goodness Gracious Me), as well as Oldham born Shobna Gulati (Coronation Street; Dinner Ladies) who recently appeared on our stage in Mother Tongues From Farther Lands as part of the Southbank Centre’s Alchemy.
Penny Appeal’s event here in Oldham was a sell-out. From the generous donations of the guests on the night, Penny Appeal raised enough to build two Solar Panel Water and Power Centres in East Africa and feed 80 families for a month.
We hope to welcome them back to the Coliseum in the near future.
In partnership with the University of Manchester, New Charter Group and Housing and Care 21, the Coliseum is working with two Oldham-local groups: a South Asian community group and a group of white British elders, to explore what the concept of home means to the older generation.
Looking at their treasured objects and listening to their stories, our findings will form a key element of the university’s on-going research into ageing and care.
The project will culminate this summer with a celebration here at the Coliseum that brings both groups together. This special event will feature a short piece of theatre with professional actors performing their words and an exhibition developed in collaboration with the groups which will then be displayed at the university.
Manchester on Fire on a Sunday night
Manchester on Fire on a Sunday night
Straight across a line of flames
In the pictures, the siren flashes on the screen
Bombs falling, running home
Cold night times underground
A dolly tub and sink bath in the kitchen
A ginger Tom, that’d only come near me
All together by the fire, keeping warm
Toast on forks, Churchill on TV
A knocker up or an alarm and we’re up
House still standing
Written by participants from Charles Morris House
Introducing Rose Sergent, Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s Administration Officer.
How long have you worked at the Coliseum?
I came over from Octagon Theatre in Bolton and I’ve been here since October 2015, which means one year and eight months.
What has been your favourite production since working at the Coliseum?
There have been so many! My top three would have to be Pygmalion from May 2016 because the script was so well-written, Jumpers for Goalposts from October 2016 because it was modern, funny and had great music and The Ladykillers from last June/July because it was farcical, fast-paced and the set was really cool.
What is your favourite aspect of working at the Coliseum?
My job stays really interesting because at different points in the year I’m always working on something different. Oh, and that everyone who works here is super friendly.
What are you currently working on?
Our department is working on casting at the moment, for this year’s pantomime (she explains the process and it sounds like it requires uber organisational skills she luckily has!) We’re also working with Front of House on a celebration for our volunteers as part of National Volunteer Week and getting things ready for The Father starting rehearsals next week; making sure everyone has their digs sorted, contracts and welcome information.
What are you currently looking forward to?
First Break in our Studio – the writing group, Scribbles, has a showcase and I’m in that group so that will be cool; but also seeing a range of work from lots of different companies and groups.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
Hmm my mum , gran and great gran all worked in Wardrobe (not at the Coliseum) but I’m no good at sewing so I had to break the tradition.
But we think they’re absolutely brilliant. Do you?
For National Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June) we’re celebrating the 45 Customer Experience Volunteers who give 168 hours of their time on average to the Coliseum every week and we’re asking our audiences to let us know how much our hardworking team mean to you.
Giving their time completely for free, our Customer Experience Volunteers greet audiences with a smile, show people to their seats, sell ice-creams, sweets and programmes, and ensure everyone is safe and well looked after at all times. Our Customer Experience Volunteers turn up for their shifts come rain or shine, and we’re able to keep our theatre going through their loyalty and commitment.
Please send your feedback to House Manager, Heather Shaw, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by post to: Heather Shaw, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Fairbottom Street, Oldham, OL1 3SW or drop a note off with her next time you’re here.
Action Together #youmakethedifference
In Oldham and Tameside there are 51,700 amazing volunteers contributing 153,000 hours per week. As part of Oldham’s overall celebration of volunteering Action Together are asking people from the local community to post a short 1-2 minute video on Social Media during Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June) with #youmakethedifference. All you need is a mobile or tablet and you can tell volunteers what a great impact they’re making and raise the profile of these generous people in our community.
We’re always on the lookout for friendly and reliable people to join our team of Customer Experience Volunteers, who help to look after our audiences from greeting them in the foyer, to selling programmes and ice creams, taking them to their seats and much more.
Oldham Coliseum Theatre gratefully acknowledges funding from: