It’s been an exciting month here at the Coliseum. Our new theatre on Union Street has been granted planning permission bringing us another step closer to realising our ambitions for the future of professional theatre in Oldham, we opened the fantastic Oh What A Lovely War, presented in a traditional Music Hall style with a cast of multi-talented actor musicians, and we’re making preparations for our first Fun Palace – a free event for all the family on Saturday 7 October.
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 Oh What A Lovely War opened earlier this month to rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.
Oh What A Lovely War is a ground breaking musical in which a troupe of end-of-the-pier entertainers sing and dance their way through Word War One in a Music Hall style extravaganza. With dark humour, compassion and morale-boosting musical numbers, the political and historical events that led to life in the trenches are presented as you’ve never seen them before.
“A remarkably entertaining production”
– Paul Genty, former Features Editor, Oldham Evening Chronicle
“The cast really are all-rounders with some great comedy turns, accomplished musicians and some great voices”
– The Reviews Hub
“I would rate the quality of the choral singing as among the best I’ve ever heard on a theatre stage”
– Manchester Theatre Awards
Oh What A Lovely War was premiered in 1963 at Theatre Royal, Stratford East by theatre legend, Joan Littlewood, and her Theatre Workshop. It is famed for telling the story of the conflict from the perspective of the soldiers in the trenches and has become Littlewood’s best-known work.
The Coliseum’s production is presented in a traditional style, with ten talented actor musicians each playing multiple instruments. Songs include moving renditions of Keep The Home Fires Burning and And When They Ask Us and joyful performances of It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, Goodbye-ee and Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers.
We’re in the second week of rehearsals for Up ‘N’ Under, John Godber’s riotously funny play which brings the fanatical world of amateur rugby league up close and personal. The show opens on Friday 6 October and is directed by Chris Lawson.
Chris originally trained at Bretton Hall College, University of Leeds, and later at RADA and Birkbeck (University of London), where he completed his Master’s in Text and Performance. He joined Oldham Coliseum Theatre as Associate Director in October 2015 having previously worked at the Almeida Theatre in London. Since he arrived at the Coliseum, he has directed Hard Times and Jumpers for Goalposts and assisted on Pygmalion and The Pitmen Painters.
Chris has launched a number of Coliseum initiatives and opportunities for theatre-makers including: a writing group, play reading group, workshops and RTYDS directing scheme. He has also developed a number of partnerships with local theatre companies, universities and drama schools.
The Coliseum’s Studio season is programmed by Chris and focuses on new writing and supporting emerging artists. He has also commissioned response shows and toured the region with post-graduate student shows, most recently One Million Tiny Plays About Britain for ALRA (Academy of Live & Recorded Arts).
Up ‘N’ Under, first performed at The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, in 1984 was rewritten by Godber in 2004 for Hull Truck Theatre. The play tells the story of former Rugby League player Arthur who would give anything to destroy the winning streak of the Cobbler’s Arms team, run by his arch rival, Reg. The stakes are high and the pressure is on for Arthur’s ramshackle team who are more likely to scram than scrum. The Wheatsheaf Arms are three players short of a seven aside consisting of an antique collecting English teacher, a distracted mechanic, a heartbroken butcher and an aspiring male stripper.
One of Godber’s most successful plays, Up ‘N’ Under is expertly choreographed and is as much a ballet as it is a ball game – in which six actors play both teams by means of reversible shirts. It’s is a momentous tale of determination, friendship, pride and desperation that everyone will relate to… you can bet your house on it!
Join us at our free Fun Palace on Saturday 7 October for a peek behind the scenes to explore the science of theatre and the theatre of science. We’ll have activities for all the family to enjoy and there’s no need to book, just drop in between 11am and 4pm.
Immerse yourself in lighting and sound demonstrations, learn about scale models, acting and directing, make your own musical instruments and pantomime costumes, watch a science themed performance, look sharp for the selfie station, have a balloon race, get your face painted, and top it off with a science themed drink in the bar.
The Coliseum is one of 300+ Fun Palaces across the UK set to erupt with free and fun activities celebrating culture in our community. Fun Palaces believe in the genius in everyone and that creativity in the community can change the world for the better.
The Fun Palace was originally conceived by theatre legend Joan Littlewood (Oh What A Lovely War) and architect Cedric Price in the 1960s as a ‘laboratory of fun’ and a ‘university of the streets’. For many reasons Littlewood’s Fun Palace didn’t come to fruition as a building in 1961, but the idea of a space that brings arts and sciences together and welcomed everyone to join in was still there. The Fun Palaces campaign was launched on 6 October 2014, the day that would have been Joan Littlewood’s 100th birthday, with over 140 Fun Palaces held across the UK, and a further seven internationally. The campaign has grown year on year since then with hundreds of free Fun Palaces held on the first weekend of October.
The Coliseum’s Fun Palace takes place on Saturday 7 October between 11am and 4pm. The Fun Palace is a free event and there’s no need to book in advance.
The Coliseum’s Studio Theatre is buzzing with activity in October, with two fantastic touring plays, a Rehearsed Reading and a Work in Progress performance.
On Wednesday 4 October the Coliseum Studio presents a Rehearsed Reading of Clogs to Clogs and the Shalwar Kameez by Carol Solazzo; a joyous and funny telling of the history of the Lancashire Cotton Industry through drama, stories, songs and dance.
Shanaz is the town’s first female Muslim mayor. Her drive to bring in new business means demolishing the town’s last mill. Scratch the surface, and we have so much more in common than what seems to separate us. Clogs to Clogs and the Shalwar Kameez tells the story of how the lives of the workers of Lancashire and South Asia have been woven together through cotton for over 400 years. Click here to learn more and book tickets.
On Thursday 12 October Box of Tricks presents a Work in Progress Performance of New Tricks – a brand new play by Danial Kanabar. This is a continuation from the earlier Rehearsed Reading performed at the Coliseum’s First Break Festival of New Writing in June, allowing us to observe and reflect upon how the play has progressed. Click here to learn more and book tickets.
On Friday 13 October Annie McKenzie presents Happiness is a Cup of Tea, a play about family, being the youngest and losing the ones we love; with story-telling, puppetry and song.
During a stormy night on the cliff top at Beachy Head, Fiona Nash is facing her own mortality. She’s been asked to write a eulogy, but she didn’t even know her mother was ill. She should probably go home, but sometimes it’s best to have a cup of tea and sit down for a minute. Click here to learn more and book tickets.
On Saturday 14 October Straightforward Theatre Company present Edward and Eliza and the Smashing of the Van by Eileen Murphy.
The year is 1867. Edward Brett and his Irish wife, Eliza, are struggling to make a living from their small shop. Edward’s brother is shot dead during the rescue of two Irish Republican prisoners in Manchester. A huge upsurge of anti-Irish feeling sweeps the country, and three Irishmen are publicly hanged. Edward and Eliza struggle to cope with their loss, their loyalty to each other and their different cultural backgrounds. Click here to learn more and book tickets.
Plans for the new Coliseum on Union Street were approved at the end of last month in a move that will see the theatre occupying a new state-of-the-art facility.
The Coliseum will relocate from our existing site on Fairbottom Street to the current Southgate Street carpark site, with entrance on Union Street next to the new Heritage and Arts Centre in the heart of Oldham’s Cultural Quarter. Construction work is anticipated to start early next year with the new theatre set to open in 2020.
The new theatre will be home to a 550 seat Main Theatre and a 200 seat flexible Studio Theatre as well as improved Front of House facilities for all our audiences.
Kevin Shaw, Chief Executive & Artistic Director, said: “We’re delighted as this very exciting project takes another important step forward.
“This move, the second in our 132 year history, will see the Coliseum inhabit a purpose built theatre that will enable us to build on our strengths, realise our rich potential and make even more ambitious theatre for our audiences from Oldham and beyond.
“Our commitment to our existing and new audiences remains – we’ll continue to deliver our fantastic productions and there will be even more opportunities for participants to engage with the theatre. We will take our famous warm welcome with us and ensure that coming to the Coliseum is a rewarding experience for everyone.”
The project was given the go-ahead after a successful joint funding bid by Oldham Council and Oldham Coliseum Theatre secured a £7.1m National Lottery-funded capital grant from Arts Council England towards the project.
To learn more about the new Coliseum on Union Street click here.
How long have you worked at the Coliseum?
I started at the Coliseum in 2003 as one of the pantomime chorus members and started working as a Chaperone and on the Bar in 2013. Over the last year I’ve become a full time Box Office Assistant and started training as a Front of House Duty Manager.
What has been your favourite production since working at the Coliseum?
I really liked Satin ‘n’ Steel in 2009, it was a musical and only had two actors. It was different and had loads of Elvis songs in it!
What is your favourite aspect of working at the Coliseum?
The people that I work with, everyone is so friendly… it’s like a family really.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently gearing myself up for panto. It’ll be my first year working on the Box Office and as a Duty Manager – everyone keeps telling me how busy it’s going to be!
What are you currently looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to working my first solo Duty Manager shift, I feel much more confident now than when I started.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
I went on my first ever camping trip this year and for so many reasons it’s put me off for life!
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: