Sunday, 26 November 2017

Kit our dog

We never wanted to be dog owners, so imagine our annoyance when Kit the border Collie came into our life?

But, since he's been here we've had some adventures.  

Kit the Border Collie

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Friday, 24 November 2017

3 Reasons to be Famous

Why would I want to become famous? Well, three reasons.
1. Money – as an actor you get paid something in the region of £400 per week for say a panto, if I were a famous actor I’d be looking at anything up to ten grand.
2. Work – I went up for Coronation Street last week, I met the casting director and two directors. One of the directors said, this episode is the biggest, most ambitious storylines since the Deirdre love triangle in 1983 (ask your gran). 
It’s about Roy Cropper and his whippet (spoiler alert). Blah, blah, blah and he’s telling me this great storyline, big fight, car chase and it ends up with Ken Barlow being hijacked on a plane as he’s coming back from Malta.  It’s a really current storyline about an ex-celebrity who’s been accused of acting inappropriately with animals and he’s got drunk on the plane (must be made of money) anyway, he’s taken a stewardess (played by Antony Cotton) hostage.  To cut a long story short the pilot has a fit and Ken has to land the plane, in Whetherfield!
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but he puts the plane down just outside the Kabin and there’s explosions and flames and Leanne Battersby gets knocked over and it’s marvelous mayhem.
I’m sat listening and I’m thinking, brilliant, this is my big chance to shine, the part I’ve been waiting twenty years for.  “This is where you come in” he says.
CUT TO. Ken stumbles out the plane and he’s off his head, but he manages to make it to the Kabin.  He pushes the door open through the debris and shouts “Roy! Roy, come quick” I’m, my character, is sat eating a bacon barm cake and I turn to Ken and I say “He’s just nipped next door, he shouldn’t be too long”.
Twenty years.  Twenty years of bottom feeding and scratching about for work and all I get is “He’s just nipped next door, he shouldn’t be too long”.
Reason 3. Weight – If I become famous I’m going to be in lots of newspapers, magazines and television shows. My face will be adorning such glossy’s as OK, Chat, DIY Week and Nuts. And what’s the first thing I’m going to do when I see myself in them? You fat bleeder.
So then you’ll have to live through ‘My Battle with the Bulge’. Endless interviews about my weight, childhood obesity, caused by depression, I’ll have depression, they all have depression. Hello will do another spread – At home with the Whiteley’s.  – I’ll probably do a cooking show or a diet show.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Monday Mornings

Joanne hates mornings, she'll sit, silent for 40 minutes while the caffeine kicks in.  Mark wakes up running.  How annoying for them both. 

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Halloween, stories and theatre makers

Well, another Halloween passes and we at hard graft are as chuffed as punch with the massive turnout once again.  We have been producing innovative walks at halloween since 2012 in Oldham, Uppermill, Burnley and now in our home town of Rawtenstall. 
What we love are the faces of the audience when we deliver the history of their streets, they had no idea about.  Stories of witches, madmen or murders.  People always ask ' Are they true'?  And we always say, if you believe, then yes.  We research online, in libraries and get lots and lots of stories from the public, in fact the majority of our stories are your stories retold by our award winning team.
As a theatre company we feel it is our job to entertain at times like Halloween, who else has the access to professional storytellers, writers and producers.   Halloween walks are part of a community development scheme to get everyone to enjoy theatre without even knowing they were part of it.
Stories are the most important part of human existence and being scared, safely, is a normal healthy part of living.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Halloween is just around the corner.
A couple of months ago, my friend’s cousin (a single mother) bought a new mobile phone. After a long day of work, she came home, placed her phone on the counter, and went watch to TV; her son came to her and asked if he could play with her new phone. She told him not to call anyone or mess with text messages, and he agreed.
At around 10:20, she was drowsy, so she decided to tuck her son in and go to bed. She walked to his room and saw that he wasn’t there. She then ran over to her room to find him sleeping on her bed with the phone in his hand.
Relieved, she picked her phone back up from his hand to inspect it. Browsing through it, she noticed only minor changes such as a new background, banner, etc., but then she opened up her saved pictures. She began deleting the pictures he had taken, until only one new picture remained.
When she first saw it, she was in disbelief. It was her son sleeping on her bed, but the picture was taken by someone else above him... and it showed the left half of an elderly woman’s face.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Halloween, Ghosts and Bunkum

Joanne and Mark talk about Ghosts and murders and mysteries.  The UFO in Mark's grandma's living room.  Our ghost in the bathroom, the ghost dog in the wardrobe and much, much more. 


Check out this New Podcast episode!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

How I write (pt.1)

Mark Whiteley is an actor, writer and theatre producer from the UK.  He has written numerous plays and stories for the theatre.  He won the MTA for Thick As Thieves.

Many people have many ways to write, here's some of the tricks I've learnt along the way.

Idea – the idea is the most important part of writing my stories.  To me they usually come out of the blue and very quickly.  I usually write a half page synopsis of every idea.  If the idea is any good it stays with me, I think about it night and day and let it grow in my head. 


Ideas I’ve never written are numerous.  Some ideas stay with you for years.  One of my plays, GRASS took 5 years, until I could get all the components to finish it.  Sometimes it’s because I can’t think of the end.  I think sometimes as I get better at writing I’ll be able to do the really mad ideas I have, I’m not good enough yet.


Ideas come from every where, friends, family, personal stories (Grass), internet, newspapers, photographs, flyers (walk this way). 

See and read about his work HERE

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017


First proper meeting of The Jungle Book today.

We were talking about animals. Snakes, monkeys, bears, panthers and a big bleeding Elephant (Indian, do they have bigger years?) I explained about being a Wallaby at drama school, but no one was listening. I was good.

Do you know those pipes you put in your tumble drier? They were mentioned a few times....

We had a 'chat' about changing character names, I said I'd have a word with the writer... I won't. Terry it is.

Come and have a look

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

My Dad's superpower


My dad left me when I was 7, when I say left me I don’t mean to live in a bedsit like many of the other dads on our council estate, I mean left me.  He didn’t want to go but the cancer had got hold of him so he had no choice.  Before he went, most afternoons we would talk, mum, who had to look after him all day would send me upstairs to keep him company as soon as I got in from school.  He told me about his childhood, about my grandma, and the things they used to get up to when he was a kid.  He told me about his dreams and his ambitions for me, how he wanted me to ‘do better’ than him.


Near the end he would get upset and cried a lot.  I think he worried about my mum and me and how we would cope without him and that’s when he gave it to me.  He was in bed the curtains and his eyes were shut so I thought I’d got away without having to sit with him.  “Dad” I whispered as quietly as possible and moved towards the door.  “Mark, come here”. My heart sank, I know now to the world today it makes me look mean that I didn’t want to sit with my dying dad, but truth was, all I wanted to do was sit and watch telly like every other kid my age.  “I got something for you” he said. I sat down and he told me that because he was probably not going to be there as I grew up, that I would need a superpower to keep me safe.  This power wasn’t invisibility or speed or flight, but it is a super human strength that I can summon up when the situation arises.  In that bedroom, that afternoon my dad gave me everything.  When I am scared and lonely, when I have decisions to make, when I need council, when I need a friend and when I want to be with my dad I close my eyes and summon up my power…

 Hold fast to dreams  For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.  Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow. 

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Not known

I was walking to the beach and I see a man.  When I get there he was gone.

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Friday, 7 July 2017

The Greatest story we NEVER told

When writer Mark and nurse practitioner Joanne tied the knot in Nashville Tennessee there was a little niggling doubt in the backs of their minds. You see, this couple hadn’t told a soul that they were getting married, and they had 100 guests invited to their ‘real’ wedding back in the UK when they got home.


Watch the film 

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Children's Theatre

For 10 years we have been producing a show for young people in this episode we answer a few questions about how it came about.

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Holidays in hell and high high water

Joanne has never played a game of bingo in her life and wasn't allowed to go into amusement arcades because all the rough kids went in them.  Mark was a rough kid in the amusements.

Tripadvisor Review 

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Weather Or Not

This week Mark tells you about a Hurricane that hit an island he was marooned on.  Jo waxes lyrical about tornadoes in America and being patient to her patience.

This episode is 'Too Hot' to handle. 

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Shoes, Jack's Boots & Foot Fetish FFS

This month we talk about shoes.  Please stay with us.  Very funny. And we talk about the secret word we use to stop Jo from choking Mark.  

Foot fetish fun.  How to REALLY use the Samaritans.  1066 and all that.  Hastings.  Liar, liar the French teacher's on fire.


Download share and have fun 



Check out this New Podcast episode!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Nashville Tennessee with Dylan.

We meet up with legendary country star Dylan Williams in Nashville to talk about rubbish (garbage) and journey from Atlanta to Tennessee.

Is America Fat?

How Irish can a bar be?

Walmart V Aldi 


Mark, Jo, Dylan

The New, New Avengers.

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Courage Above and Beyond.

Whilst travelling through Arkansas we run into a very special service, held to celebrate those firefighters lost "watching our backs"
The Memorial for firefighters in Arkansas.

News from the case HERE
Dedicated to the World's firefighters.

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Arise Sir Mark of Rawtenstall.

The Queen is famous, really famous.  This week we jump on the back of popular culture when we take a look at the royal family.  Hear about the time I slipped one of them a brown envelope containing 500 quid. And the time I trumped at Lady Di's wedding and followed through.  Joanne gives her insight into Princess Margaret.  


Check out this New Podcast episode!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Write here, write now.

How I write.

Please take from this what you want, there are no hard or fast rules about writing.

First of all, don't listen to anyone except yourself.  You know if your work is any good, you don't need others to compliment you (but it does help).

lesson 1 

Idea – the idea is the most important part of writing my stories.  To me they usually come out of the blue and very quickly.  I usually write a half page synopsis of every idea.  If the idea is any good it stays with me, I think about it night and day and let it grow in my head. 

  • Have a book to write these ideas in.  I have lots of idea books and when I need inspiration I have a look through.

Ideas I’ve never written are numerous.  Some ideas stay with you for years.  One of my plays, GRASS took 5 years, until I could get all the components to finish it.  Sometimes it’s because I can’t think of the end.  I think sometimes as I get better at writing I’ll be able to do the really mad ideas I have, I’m not good enough yet.

Ideas come from every where, friends, family, personal stories (Grass), internet, newspapers, photographs, flyers (walk this way). 

Lesson 2

Research - the world, the characters, the story.  I use the internet, the library and then I talk to people.  This time can take months, its writing but in your head mainly.  At night before I go to sleep I think about the problems in my story and I try to solve them. 

Who are the characters, where do the characters live, work, their age, etc?  The answers to these questions shape your story and the lives of the characters.  

I write a graph for my characters like this.  Every new play I start writing notes about the story.  The notebook and the graft is a great source of information if I’m stuck. 

I also write the story scene by scene where my hero is going - From Knife Edge  
          Brian turns up and sets up theatre  
          Brian gets annoyed by Alan, Brian invites Alan on stage.

I don’t always stick to this, but it helps. 

Lesson 3 

Write – Before I write I need to know the end so I know where I’m going.  Think of it like a journey, get everyone in the car and set off to your destination.  Along the way you might meet some interesting characters, your car might break down or there might be a massive diversion, but you always know where you’re headed. I think how it is best to start (usually slowly as an audience need time to settle) the middle part I make up as I go along; it’s the organic stage that I love.  If you’ve done your research the middle should come easier.   I like to get a first draft finished quite quickly no matter how bad it may be.   After I’ve written something I usually leave it alone for a week or two then I come back to edit. 

What is it about?  If a play were about love I would examine and explore the depths and widths of love.  Self love, young love, obsession, loathing, lost love,  

We write drama – what is drama?  It is conflict, things rubbing against each other.  One says yes, the other says no.  So my love story wouldn’t be boy meets girl they live happily ever after – that’s boring.  

Lesson 4

Edit – when I edit I start with first draft and rip it to bits.  Never be scared to take things out, if it doesn’t work cut it.
      Find out what the plays about?
      More in-depth Research, is the world and characters plausible?  I want an audience ideally to believe me and be carried away with the story and my characters.
      Smooth out the scenes, most of my first drafts are disjointed, I might repeat myself.
Re write.  I have never finished writing a play yet.  Even as the play is being performed I’ll still be thinking, tinkering.   

Lesson 5

Structure - You need tension and excitement as well as climaxes.  

and finally...

Rehearsed reading – if you’re planning to get the play on, try and get people to help you listen to it.  Plays are to be played by actors and actors are great at finding all the holes for you.  When a play is cast the actor will concentrate all the attention on their part, they will underline or highlight only their words or their actions, that’s what they’re (we’re trained to do).  If an actor comes up with something better steal it, the play will always have your name on it.  Knife Edge was read in front of an audience of actors, writers, producers and directors – it was very nerve wracking, but a good way to pick their brains. 

I have a CSE in English  

My story would be like Romeo and Juliet – two lovers who can’t be together because of their families.  

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Knife attack in Nottingham

I was attacked with a knife and a chain when I was young.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Weddings, Reviews 2 & Holidays

Our new podcast.

Today Foxy and Mark talk about reviewgate (our last podcast Ep 15). We wonder about weddings and whether Foxy will wear a Princess costume? And our holiday begins so we try and make you all jealous.

Visit our website and listen to more podcasts

Monday, 2 January 2017

Reviewers and feeding the trolls.

Our new podcast about reviewers, or one review.

In 2016 our annual Children's Christmas show was Pinocchio. 1000's of families love our shows and over 10 years we have grown out of 4 venues across Manchester and the North West. Without sour grapes we look at our 2 poor reviews and ask the question...What are your qualifications to review professional theatre? Also, Christmas telly, Wedding bells and Tenerife.

More podcasts