This month the Coliseum started rehearsals for our annual pantomime – oh yes we did! It’s only three short weeks until this year’s festive spectacular, Dick Whittington, opens on Saturday 11 November. We’ve also been laughing on the rugby pitch with The Wheatsheaf Arms in Up ‘N’ Under and we’re looking back at our first ever Fun Palace, a brilliant day which saw families from across Oldham popping into the theatre for a whole range of activities.
Read more about these – plus even more updates on what’s going on behind the scenes here at the Coliseum – below.
See you in the stalls,
Chief Executive & Artistic Director.
The Coliseum’s production of John Godber’s hilarious underdog comedy Up ’N’ Under has had audiences and critics roaring with laughter since it opened on 6 October.
Arthur is an ex-pro who makes a bet with his arch nemesis, Reg, that he can train any team in the amateur rugby league to beat the undefeated Cobbers Arms side. He stakes his house on winning – then discovers that the team he’ll be training is the worst in the league…
Inspired by the film, Rocky, we’re backing The Wheatsheaf Arms as they prepare to face the mighty Cobblers in this down-to-earth Northern comedy. When the teams hit the pitch, audiences have been cheering with every try.
“Fast, furious and very funny”
– The Reviews Hub
“Every joke was met with raucous laughter”
– Oldham Reporter
With six actors and a rugby ball, the match played live on stage and some very memorable dancing, you definitely don’t want to miss Up ’N’ Under. The show runs until Saturday 21 October. To learn more and book tickets click here.
From Tuesday 24 – Saturday 28 October the Coliseum will be visited by The Weir, a brooding and dark modern classic perfectly fitting for the week before Halloween.
On a miserable winter’s night in rural Ireland, local lonely souls Jim and Jack gather in Brendan’s pub. They’re surprised when Finbar brings Valerie, the newest member of the community, in for a drink. Held together by their shared experiences and a lot of alcohol, the group unearth their skeletons and haunting legends to Valerie. But are they enough to stir her, or has she got some tales of her own…?
This shadowy story is not to be missed; delving into the private anxieties of this divided collective and the enthralling pull of folklore and the supernatural.
The Weir is a co-production between English Touring Theatre (French Without Tears, winners of the 2016 UK Theatre Awards’ Best Touring Production for The Herbal Bed), and Mercury Theatre Colchester. Click here to learn more and book tickets.
We started rehearsals for our annual pantomime this month, seeing the return of Fine Time Fontayne, who is back at the Coliseum after an accident in rehearsals last October, which meant he was unable to perform in Sleeping Beauty.
Fine Time is the Coliseum’s beloved pantomime dame and has been spending his Christmases in Oldham for many years. Last October, he tripped in the rehearsal room and suffered a broken ankle. He was assessed at Royal Oldham Hospital and had surgery before heading home to recover.
That old theatre adage ‘the show must go on’ is certainly true, and back at the theatre our Chief Executive & Artistic Director, Kevin Shaw had to re-draft the script and re-cast Fine Time’s part in the space of 24 hours. Our hero of the hour was Simeon Truby – originally cast to play King Cuthbert – who took to the role of Nanny Nutty like a duck to water and was praised by audiences and critics alike. This year, Fine Time is back in his wigs and panto hips as Saucy Sarah Suet and Simeon will be donning his whiskers to play the villain of Dick Whittington, King Rat.
Fine Time commented: “Thank you to the Royal Oldham Hospital, what a great job you did on my ankle, your crutches are in the post. Thank you Simeon, your pay cheque is in the post. And thank you to the Coliseum for having me back!”
Dick Whittington sees poor young lad Dick Whittington and his rat-catching cat set off to find fame, fortune and adventure in London. But the path to happily-ever-after isn’t always that easy and King Rat hatches an evil scheme to get Dick out of his city. Are the streets paved with gold? Can the cat catch the rat? All will be revealed…
This festive treat for all the family opens on Saturday 11 November 2017, running until Saturday 13 January 2018. Don’t miss it! Click here to learn more and book tickets.
On Monday 30 October at 7.30pm we’ll be announcing our programme of plays and events for Spring/Summer 2018 at our twice-yearly Season Launch event.
Season Launch is a free evening at the Coliseum where our Chief Executive & Artistic Director, Kevin Shaw, discusses upcoming productions – with special guests, live entertainment and a question and answer session, giving audiences the opportunity to ask Kevin about past, present and future plays and future plans for the theatre.
At October’s Season Launch we’ll be announcing the plays and events that are coming to the Coliseum stage between March and July 2018.
Season Launch also gives audiences the opportunity to be the first to book Season Tickets and ensure they get their favourite seats. Box Office is open before and after the event and during the interval. All events for the season will go on general sale the following day.
Tickets for Season Launch are free but must be booked. Book your place at this special event by calling in at Box Office or phoning 0161 624 2829.
The Coliseum’s nationally renowned pantomime is the highlight of the festive calendar for hundreds of families in Oldham. The Coliseum strives to work alongside other businesses in our town to help provide the best service possible, whether that be on stage or in our community activity.
George Hill Timber and Building Supplies and JD Williams supported 2016’s Sleeping Beauty and are helping to spread the pantomime magic again this year by sponsoring Dick Whittington. George Hill Timber is a long standing family business, founded in Oldham in 1919. They are a leading supplier of timber, building supplies, street materials and many other quality products in the North West. JD Williams is one of the town’s largest employers and is proud to be part of the Oldham borough. The company looks to help to build an even better future through support in the local community and have supported different Coliseum productions over the last four years, including two pantomimes (oh yes they have!).
Oldham Hulme Grammar School joins us as the pantomime’s Educational Partner for the second year running. The school has a proud tradition of youth theatre and have been preparing Oldham’s children to play their part on the ‘stage’ of successful careers for over 400 years. Just like the Coliseum, they have a modern outlook with a great history of tradition behind them.
“It’s wonderful to see a group of people come together in support of the Coliseum and we’ve been taken aback and heartened by the support we get in Oldham.”
– John Edwards, Development Manager, Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Give Local Oldham is Dick Whittington’s Charity Partner. Give Local is a fundraising event showcasing great causes across Oldham, how each one makes a difference in the borough and the ways in which they can work together for the greater benefit of the town.
There are six charities involved in Give Local: the Coliseum, Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, Action Together Oldham, Mahdlo, Maggie’s Oldham and Kingfisher Special School and, thanks to Sir Norman Stoller CBE DL, all money raised during the festive period will be doubled by The Stoller Charitable Trust and split equally between each charity.
The Coliseum held a Fun Palace on Saturday 7 October, inviting people of all ages to come and have a peek behind the scenes to explore the science of theatre and the theatre of science. We had a wonderful day with people from across Oldham enjoying activities on offer which ranged from presentations about programming plays to taking part in a balloon race in the foyer.
Kids and not-so-grown-up grown-ups enjoyed face painting in our Stalls Bar, which meant the theatre was packed with tigers, cats, spider men, fairies and Manchester Bees. Daisy the Pantomime Cow was ready and waiting for all those wanting to put her on and have a “moo” about and little ones made their very own plays with our puppet theatre. Those in need of refreshment had the opportunity to sample science themed drinks and sweets in the bar to add a little pop-fizz-bang to their day. In the Education Suite we got even more creative making our own space crafts, musical instruments and costumes out of cardboard, with comfy cushions to relax on for a spot of colouring in.
In the auditorium our LX department put their skills on show, inviting people of all ages to have a go at lighting and sound – which lead to some spectacular colours, lightsabre sound effects and hilarious voice overs. Towards the stage our Stage Management team were waiting to take people through the Coliseum’s historic backstage area on a tour that unveiled some theatre magic and gave a glimpse at what goes on behind-the-scenes. On the stage itself our Technical Stage team had a trebuchet ready for firing tennis balls through the rugby goal of the Up ‘N’ Under set – it was a game of physics, with a dash of luck – and with three tries each, it got a little competitive!
Upstairs in the Studio The Steering Group presented an interactive play learning all about the human body in Fun Palace Surgery, Chief Executive & Artistic Director, Kevin Shaw, gave an insight into programming and casting plays, and Associate Director, Chris Lawson, spoke about devising new pieces of theatre. Our dressing rooms were open for presentations about our new building set to open in 2020 – and gave the chance to ask any questions, in another dressing room a production presentation allowed people to prop their own sets using the set models for Oh What A Lovely War and Up ‘N’ Under and a Selfie Station was set up next door, full of fabulous fancy dress.
On their way out everyone had the change to take part in our balloon race in the foyer – the balloon that travels farthest wins a prize! We’ll be contacting winners after 31 October, so if you took part in the race, keep your eyes peeled and your ears open! Those who encountered our Mad Scientists wandering around the theatre throughout the day also had the chance to win four tickets to this year’s pantomime, Dick Whittington. Winners of the prize draw will be selected at random and contacted on 31 October.
The Fun Palace concept was conceived by theatre legend, Joan Littlewood (Oh What A Lovely War) and architect Cedric Price in the 1960s as a ‘laboratory of fun’. We were thrilled to see so many people enjoying our Fun Palace and there is a collection of photographs from the day available to view online here.
We’re launching a new group this Spring for people living with dementia and their friends and family members. Join us at the theatre for a coffee morning and creative activities centred around the Coliseum’s heritage. We’ll be delving into the archives and reminiscing about memories of Oldham’s infamous ‘Rep’ theatre.
Sessions run from 11am – 1pm on Tuesdays: 27 February, 13 March, 27 March, 17 April, 1 May, 15 May, 29 May, 12 June and are free to attend.
The project is generously supported by Mind.
Each year, the Coliseum’s Learning and Engagement team design an accompanying workshop for teachers and group leaders who wish to take their class or group’s pantomime experience a little further.
We’re offering seasonal workshops based on this year’s production of Dick Whittington that will bring a huge amount of fun to your sessions. In this two-hour practical workshop groups explore pantomime conventions, acting techniques and the interesting workings of the stage. From set and costume design to performing stock characters, this workshop explores the mechanics of this fascinating style of theatre.
£75 for 1 x 2 hour session
£120 for 2 x 2 hour sessions
For more information or to book call 0161 785 7008 or email LED@coliseum.org.uk
We’ll be presenting our second ever relaxed performance on Wednesday 10 January at 2:30pm with our hugely popular pantomime, Dick Whittington.
There are many aspects of the theatre experience that can cause anxiety for people with sensory, communication and other additional needs. Crowds, loud music, flashing lights and applause can be unsettling and create a barrier to accessing theatre.
A relaxed performance allows us to present our much loved pantomime in another way. Extra staff and volunteers are available for support, lighting is softer, noises quieter and audience members are able to exit and re-enter the auditorium whenever they need to. During the show, our Stalls Bar becomes a Chill Out Zone with colouring and activities and the show is relayed on the TV screen. Our Education Suite becomes a Quiet Space for anyone who needs to take a peaceful moment.
“Absolutely fantastic. The kids loved it and were super engaged when they usually struggle with performance.“
– Teacher from New Bridge School on Sleeping Beauty’s relaxed performance, 2016
The Coliseum is committed to being an accessible venue for all visitors and in addition to relaxed performances, we offer a British Sign Language interpreted performance and an Audio Described performance for each of our in-house productions throughout the year.
If you have any questions about our relaxed performance or to book tickets, please get in touch with Box Office on 0161 624 2829.
How long have you worked at the Coliseum?
Not very long…I’ve been here almost a month!
What has been your favourite production since working at the Coliseum?
As I’m still relatively new I’ve only seen Up ‘N’ Under so far. I really enjoyed it and thought it was funny, touching and the choreography was exciting.
What is your favourite aspect of working at the Coliseum?
It’s like a big family here which is really nice as I’ve just moved from another city. I also like that everyone is a fan of a good cup of tea! It’s an exciting time to have joined the company; I’m really enjoying learning about the new building which will be open in 2020.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on lots of different on-going projects including preparing for the upcoming Give Local campaign. Give Local will involve lots of local charities joining together to raise awareness for their causes and inform the public of how they can help.
What are you currently looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to meeting all of our amazing supporters and the next season which will be announced at Season Launch on the 30 October.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
I began Portuguese lessons this week. My boyfriend’s family are from Brazil and it would be nice to be able to speak to them in a different language.
Experience Coliseum productions up close, uncover hidden talents in a creative working environment and meet new people.
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.
Customer Experience Volunteers must be 18+ and able to commit to a minimum of three months volunteering with us. No experience is needed as full training is provided.
Oldham Coliseum Theatre gratefully acknowledges funding from: