Encore – a backstage eye view of the show made in just two weeks

On 31 March 2023 Oldham Coliseum Theatre closed with a one-night-only event that will live long in the memory. Conceived, planned and produced in just two weeks, Encore was the Coliseum going out on our own terms: loudly, together, and with style.


Just two days after all Coliseum staff received confirmation of the theatre’s closure and the beginning of redundancy procedures across the whole company, we sat and discussed an event for our audiences to celebrate the Coliseum, its place in Oldham and the wider theatrical landscape – and how we were going to pull it off within the timeframe we had left. Later that day we reached out to our friends – people who have come through the Coliseum and share our love and dedication – asking them if they would help. They overwhelmingly said yes, and Encore was born.


“We have to have a brass band.”


In 2012 the Coliseum reopened after the refurbishment with Curtain Up at the Coliseum. The gala event showcased productions from the Coliseum’s history, dating back to the days of Music Hall. A lot has happened in the past 11 years – not least a global pandemic – but very importantly many award-winning shows and Coliseum world premieres. Curtain Up had months to plan and many weeks to rehearse, we had mere days. This would most certainly be script in hand but if there’s anything the Coliseum is good at, it’s rising to a challenge. Could we pull it off, one last time?


I will make my mark” – Beryl Burton, Maxine Peake’s Beryl

“…Jane, do we still have the bikes?”


With redundancy meetings still taking place, the Coliseum’s skeleton staff sprang into action. Costumes and props were brought back from the store or returned on loan, emails pinged across cyber space as the line up and running order was meticulously put together, only then to be reordered and rewritten when something inevitably changed hours or even minutes later. The title Encore was conceived, as with many great ideas: in the shower.

On Friday 24 March at 12noon tickets for Encore went on sale. Less than half an hour later they had completely sold out. On the evening of Monday 27 March the line up was fully confirmed.


Throughout the last week of March these corridors buzzed with activity around the clock as actors and creatives returned to us for the tightest rehearsal schedule we have known since the days of repertory theatre. On stage, the video wall from our 2022 production of Beryl was reinstalled and floor painted black for the last time. Our stunning stage curtain was put up and this old theatre was made to look her best. In the rehearsal room upstairs performers from four previous Coliseum pantomimes – some of whom had never met before – put together a pop medley routine in just six hours. Over Zoom, the cast and writers of 2015’s Dreamers stole previous time together to revive the hit musical from eight years previous.


A review of the weeks leading up to Encore would be severely lacking without mentioning another special event that took place just 24 hours before. Coliseum legend Kenneth Alan Taylor commanded the stage for an intimate evening of reminiscence, sharing stories from his times both on and off stage at the Coliseum. An Evening with Kenneth Alan Taylor felt like the hug we all needed, a reminder of this theatre’s great history, told by the man who has been a part of the Coliseum family the longest.


At 7.30am on Friday 31 March the Coliseum’s Housekeepers opened the building early for BBC Breakfast. It was the beginning of a day-long media storm and the culmination of the Coliseum’s dramatic and heart-breaking closure story, which started one Friday morning in November.


“This is probably the first and last time I will ask this. Please vandalise my theatre”


With 11 previous Coliseum productions and guest performances getting ready to get back on our historic stage, on the afternoon of Friday 31 March you couldn’t turn a corner without bumping into someone rehearsing – from Juice Vamosi and Richard O’Neill of Gypsy Jam sitting on the studio steps, to the cast of pantomime dancing in the circle bar, and We Should Definitely Have More Dancing’s Clara Darcy and Ian Kershaw in the administration corridor. Now, if you think that four days isn’t much rehearsal time for a sell-out event, let us tell you about the mere ten minutes had by special guest stars Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake – both of whom travelled across country to Oldham to be with us for the evening. Or indeed Sue Devaney, who arrived during the second half having been unavailable any earlier.


The show itself was emotional, triumphant and (almost) exactly to plan. Everyone involved in the show, and indeed the Coliseum, was invited to sign the long backstage corridor wall, to leave their mark on this theatre, that had left such a huge mark on them. With tears flowing throughout the auditorium Encore came to a close in a long-held standing ovation with rapturous applause, both from the sold-out audience and from the packed stage where performers and directors stood for one last time.



“You can’t put a price on this. This is priceless.”





With thanks to

Grant Archer

Shelagh Bourke

Darren Robinson

Imagine Theatre

MSL Oldham Limited


Photography from Encore is available to view on Facebook via the link below.



Encore Photography by Darren Robinson (opens in Facebook)

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