Oldham Coliseum has a world premiere, a modern adaptation of a children’s classic, two tours based on true stories and hard-hitting US drama in its new spring and summer season.
March and April feature two long-awaited shows originally intended to be seen two years ago before the pandemic: the theatre’s production of The Jungle Book, which at the time was entering its second week of rehearsals, and Manchester company Box of Tricks Theatre’s The Last Quiz Night on Earth – due to open in Oldham on lockdown night, March 16, 2019.
The theatre’s studio programme also returns after a two-year halt, with six independent theatre companies scheduled to present new work. The Coliseum’s Cultivate festival will provide a week-long festival of workshops, talks and opportunities.
First up, for Easter, is Jessica Swale and Joe Stilgoe’s musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (April 7-24): the first family show the Coliseum has produced, apart from its annual pantomime, in almost 20 years.
A popular favourite in theatres across the north in recent years has been star actress Maxine Peake’s play about gritty Yorkshire cyclist Beryl Burton, and Coliseum artistic director Chris Lawson will direct Beryl at the theatre in May (7-21) before visits to Theatre by the Lake in Keswick and The Dukes, Lancaster.
Bruntwood award-winning Oldham writer Ian Kershaw teams up with actor Clara Darcy to tell her astonishing real-life story in We Should Definitely Have More Dancing (June 17-July 2).
Darcy was a fit, carefree young actress and dancer until six months of severe headaches led to doctors finding a fist-sized tumour in her head. The show is performed by the now-healthy actress and her friends. Co-directed by Tatty Hennessy and Raz Shaw, the world premiere is at the Coliseum before transferring to the Edinburgh Fringe and a national tour in the autumn
As well as its own shows, the Coliseum will also be home to touring plays The Glee Club, The Ballad of Maria Marten and Jitney.
Richard Cameron’s raucous comedy The Glee Club arrives in Oldham from March 15-19, telling the story of five hard-working, hard-drinking miners and a church organist, preparing for the local gala. It’s the summer of 1962, and the world is about to change – as are the lives of these six men.
From March 22-26, Eastern Angles and Matthew Linley Creative Projects present a thrilling retelling of a real-life murder mystery, The Ballad of Maria Marten. In the summer of 1827 Maria Marten awaits her lover in the red barn. A year later her body is found there, buried under the floor, and a manhunt begins.
In July Headlong Theatre, Leeds Playhouse and The Old Vic’s co-production of August Wilson’s award-winning Jitney (July 13-16) arrives at the Coliseum, a modern American classic about eight men as they live, love and work in a racially segregated, post-Vietnam America. Regular cabs won’t travel to Pittsburgh Hill District in 1977, so local residents turn to the eight’s unlicensed taxi company of jitney drivers. As an added bonus, the cast features Oldham-born veteran actor Tony Marshall.
Elsewhere in the theatre the Coliseum reopens its more intimate studio space to present new writing from independent theatre companies from February 12. As we have previously reported, the theatre is also presenting Box of Tricks’ The Last Quiz Night on Earth on March 14-15 at a local pub. Full details here.
Coliseum artistic director Chris Lawson said: “Our industry has had the most difficult two years in memory and like other UK theatres, we’ve been on a rollercoaster since reopening last summer. We’re not out of the woods yet, but I’m heartened to announce this ambitious programme which sees us returning to what we do best.”
Full details on all the shows and a roster of studio productions, children’s shows and one-off events can be found on the theatre website here. You can download a full pdf version of the season brochure here.