Socially-distanced season at Oldham Coliseum

Writer:

Paul Genty

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...And Julie Hesmondhalgh tells her early life story

Oldham Coliseum is reopening for socially-distanced performances from early November – and Oldham audiences will get a Christmas show after all, though not the Coliseum’s famous panto.

Oldham’s historic theatre is able to open under Greater Manchester’s current tier three restrictions and on November 12 will welcome audiences for the first time since March for a sold-out performance of Dare to Know Theatre’s Drowning.

The Oldham-based company’s debut play had originally been scheduled for the Coliseum’s 50-capacity studio but will now reopen the theatre in the main auditorium.

From December 11-January 2 the Coliseum and Front Room Productions will present a socially-distanced, promenade family production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

The audience will literally join Scrooge on his path to redemption by way of the theatre’s normally unseen nooks and crannies. The show features live music and Christmas carols and social distancing is being integrated into the performance.

Before Christmas the theatre will offer a second debut play (Dec 5), My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, written by Coliseum-supported artist Nana-Kofi Kufuor and presented by Red Ladder and the Coliseum.

The play, about a 15-year-old boy accosted by police, concerns Black identity and poses the question: if you see something you don’t agree with, do you intervene?

Previously announced, Manchester’s award-winning ThickSkin brings innovative virtual reality theatre Petrichor to the Coliseum on November 20-21 (several performances each day). The production will be viewed on VR headsets which will be made medical-grade safe before each use.

Coliseum favourite Julie Hesmondhalgh returns to the Coliseum on December 21 in a special show to raise money for the theatre and The Edge in Chorlton.

The former Corrie star will appear in her own play, Julie Likes to Draw Squirrels, the tale of her Lancashire childhood and adolescence. The show will also be seen in the Chorlton venue.

“I wanted to do something to support some of the theatres I love best in the North West and thought this little show, about growing up in our part of the world, might be something audiences might like,” said Julie.

“It's a very personal show about my childhood and family, about the importance of words and nature, and about the healing power of daftness."

Coliseum artistic director Chris Lawson said: “Despite all the many difficulties of this year, we’re really excited to be opening our doors to audiences again.”

::The Coliseum is also producing a Covid-secure Christmas offer for schools, to make up for some of the disappointment felt by around 17,000 children on missing out on their annual school trip to panto.

For 2020 two of the Coliseum’s pantomime stars – Dame Dotty Trott (Richard J Fletcher) and Cinderella (Shorelle Hepkin) will be heading out to local schools to tell the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella in a uniquely Coliseum way.

More info on the season here


::The theatre currently has a Crowdfunder #GetBehindUs campaign to raise money to secure its future. Donations can be made online here, and currently stand at around £35,000 of the £40k target.

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