Friday, 24 May 2013

Waiting for the review

Ask any artist about reviews and they will probably tell you that they are not to bothered what is said about them, if you asked me I'd come up with similar rubbish like that as well, but underneath my thick skin is an insecure, nervous bloke wanting to be liked (I am an actor).

On Wednesday we had the Stage Newspaper and the Oldham Chronicle watching our production of I Love Oldham, both very important and both influential in different ways.  The Chronicle is the local paper, the voice of Oldham for an age and a well respected source of news and views for the good people of Oldham.  Their reviewer is a powerful figure in the theatre world within the borough, pointing a way through for audiences to experience the best of the arts.

The Stage is the nations theatre newspaper, read by professionals and  picked up by funding bodies like Arts Council England.  A nod from them and we might get some interest from other venues around the country looking for the next "bums on seats" production.

So, for the last two days, this puppet has been dangling on his string waiting for the masters.

I have got 2 seats sold for tonights show (24th May).  If the reviewers like me I guarantee this time next week we will be sold out.

Every night we ask the audience to leave contact details and comment on the show, he's an example.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Call Me.

The thing is about site specific theatre is that you never know what's around the corner.  When I was performing Thick As Thieves once in a Nottingham shop a policeman walked in having had reports that two burglars with axes had been spotted breaking in.  The surprise on his face as he walked into the middle of a performance with 60 people in the audience was classic.  

So last night, we're into the final (touching) act of I Love Oldham last night when a drunk irishman (this is not a racial stereotype , its a fact that adds to comedy/horror of the story) who staggers into the shop mid performance and is trying to buy our old phone prop in the shop window. "I've been fekking trying to buy the frekking phone all day" he slurs. to which Rayyah McCaul as Joyce tells him to pop round in the morning and "we'll put it to one side".  At least someone believes our characters are real.

Really enjoyable night and thankfully the phone has started ringing with bookings.  As the film said, "build it and they will come."

The shop window of I Love Oldham with the old Telephone that everyone wants to buy.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Countdown to Oldham first

4 days to go till we open our doors to the public for the first time.  All day yesterday the cast and crew were busy making this unique event a brilliant experience for locals with great performances and a utterly brilliant set to look at.  I don't want to show too much as it wil spoil the surprise for the audience but here is a sneak preview of the shop window.

Celia, our designer has been busy trailing the web and other charities to find the hidden gems from our past and from the response of local shoppers we have hit the nail on the head.

come and see the shop and the show from 21st May 2013 12 Albion Street Oldham

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

7 days to go.

It is always very exciting when you get the keys to a new property that you know you are going to be involved with for a while and our new shop on Albion Street Oldham is no exception.  As you can see we have already started the massive job of dressing the front of the shop, this is quite important as it's a really bit part of

Friday, 10 May 2013

Stories are the most important things in the world.

Every month I do a walk around Oldham visiting sites that historically have had reports of ghosts, we call it the Oldham Ghost walk.  Most nights we average 5 or 6 people (I will never be a millionaire) and what I find really interesting is that by the time we are at the half way point a couple of the group will start telling me their stories.  These stories sometimes about Ghosts, but mainly about their town and what was there in their past, the names of shops, about getting drunk and sleeping in the grave yard.

People love stories, they love to listen and they love to share.   Maybe the Ghost walk should evolve into the Thursday night story club, where you bring an open, relaxed attitude and we share in the brilliance of stories.  Tell us where you met and fell in love, or where your Uncle Ted worked before he went off to war, tell us why a street is called Gas Street or who used to clean the Church clock twice a year.

People love stories, people love other people's stories told by the people.

A Ghost, caught on CCTV in the Butterflies Nightclub in Oldham in the 1990's and a cracking yarn.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Local shops for local people

Went into Prime Mark today to see if they would let us use any old shelving for the set of the show.  Talk about corporate bureaucrats, I had to write a headed letter so the manager could forward it to head office where it would surly get passed around for a month before they told me no.  So, I went down the lane to Zutti and spoke to Maggie the owner of this independent clothes shop who without a heart beat said "Yes".  Moral of this story is, when ever you need the help of business in the arts ask the local businesses as they have the power to help.

Shops are like theatres, in the front are flash stock, shelving, lighting and glamour, behind all the gloss are the bare bones, the kettle and if you're lucky a toilet.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Putting the Mark into Market

We've just collected the contents of our pretend charity shop from Dr. Kershaw's Hospice in Royton Oldham.  They have been kind enough to save the "weirder" things left as donations, stuffed 8 foot bear, a bag of dentures, nipple hooks.  Dr. Kershaw's has two giant storage units where all the donations are kept before being sorted into useful or not and moved into their shops.

I know from past experience that lots of donations are not good enough for re sale and are scrapped, I also know that some people don't even wash their donations and many charity shop workers have told me they have opened bags of soiled clothes.

The thing that I have found most interesting today is the shop and the town centre.  We couldn't park anywhere near our unit and had to borrow a trolley from the florist to get us anywhere close.  the traffic wardens were not the least bit interested in our plight and told me to shift.  Tough times for the retail industry.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Press release


OLDHAM’s Hard Graft Theatre Company has come up with a novel way to give one of Oldham’s empty shops a new use. 

Company founder Mark Whiteley has hired a town centre unit for three weeks with plans to stage his latest production in it! 

Audiences will be able to watch their hit comedy “I Love Oldham” in the shop unit on Albion Street.   “I Love Oldham” is set, appropriately, in an Oldham charity shop. 

Mark wrote it after gathering tales from over 50 charity shops about the sort of goods donated for sale. 

“There were some really funny stories - but the story that stuck was that of a hand gun, a ski mask and a stack of cash - which is where our story begins.”

The tiny “theatre” will only be able to hold 35 people a time. 

AS well as putting on the play, Mark has stocked the shop with items from the local charity Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, audience members will be able to make a purchase at the end of every show.

An earlier version of the show was a big hit at the Edinburgh fringe festival, and is by no means unusual for Hard Graft, which has appeared in people’s sitting rooms before now. 

The show runs from May 21-June 9. All tickets online at 

or call 0161 652 6026 

or 07956-913 666.

I Love Oldham 21 May – 9th June 2013
A Hard Graft Theatre Production
Written by Mark Whiteley
Directed by Keith Hukin
Designed by Celia Perkins

Cast :
Mark Whiteley (Burt Priory)
Rayyah McCaul (Joyce Priory)
David Crowley (Bungo, Mac Man, PC Ted Fletcher)

Friday, 3 May 2013

Design Interior - The Empty shop has a new purpose

This is the interior of 6 Albion Street Oldham, or it will be in the next few weeks.  Theatre Designer Celia Perkins has measured the unit and mapped out where everyone and everything should fit.   The small white squares are individual chairs, and as room is an issue we can only fit 35 people per show.

If you have never seen a piece of theatre in a found space, this is how the company (or our company) manage the space.

If you want to see the process of building a show in a shop keep your eye on the blog or join our news letter here

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Oldham Theatre in a Shop.

In three weeks we will be turning an empty retail unit (a shop) into Oldham's first theatre in a shop.  For the last few weeks I have been working hard to get everyone and everything in place to make this as exciting as possible for the North West.

On board so far is brilliant Oldham designer Celia Perkins.  Celia is the Oldham Panto designer and she has been busy getting our magical shop made over in time for the grand opening on the 21st May.

Owl Marketing are supplying the PR know how letting all the Oldhamers know about our event.

Dr. Kershaw's Hospice shops are supplying the contents of our shop.  They have a giant storage unit where all your donations go.

I will be trying to keep up with the project via Blogger so keep your eye on the ball and join us.