Image adapted from a photograph of the programme for 'Encore'.

It was a show unlike any other. With a cast of stars who began their careers at the Coliseum, with future stars of the stage and screen, with amateurs who have been welcomed onto that stage as they escape the real world with their love of theatre, the show encapsulated the spirit of the Coliseum. This was the last show at Oldham's Fairbottom Street theatre.

Both Act 1 and Act 2 began with two of its famous pantos; a bright, vibrant beginning to what was a rollercoaster of emotions. First Act comics Justin Moorhouse and Steve Royle briefly made us forget the gravity of the situation as the auditorium was in raptures, howling with laughter as Moorhouse poked fun at the politicians whilst Royle’s ventriloquist act got the audience involved and interacting with him. A bit of northern humour usually helps you through a tough situation and I don’t think some of the audience expected it.

Former artistic directors Kevin Shaw and Kenneth Alan Taylor joined Chris Lawson as they took it in turns to introduce acts and reflect upon their time at the Coliseum, often voicing their own anger and dismay over the Arts Council and Oldham Council’s lack of care.

The show tried to take us back through some of the Coliseum’s most successful shows over its 138 years and the cast of Dreamers reunited for a medley which was a highlight of Act 1. Meanwhile, Brassed Off welcomed the Diggle Band back to the Coliseum stage. It was directed by Alyx Tole, one of the theatre’s Learning and Engagement team who have done wonders for the community – I myself have benefited greatly from the work she and her team have done.

The extracts they chose from shows such as ‘Brassed Off’ and ‘I, Daniel Blake’ were well thought out, poignant and relevant or adapted slightly to hammer home the emotion of what that night was about. Christopher Eccleston, after hearing a radio interview with him earlier in the day, delivered his lines, script in hand, with emotion and passion alongside Maxine Peake – one of the most vocal protesters in the fight to save the theatre.

The end of Act 1 brought me to tears as Peter’s Friends performed ‘One Day More’. It wouldn’t be the last time I cried. Hearing Chris talk about the work the theatre has done in delivering brand new shows such as the informative and inspiring ‘Beryl’ not just to the people of Oldham but to the north west and the rest of the country, drew a lump in my throat to think that tomorrow it will cease to do that.

Sue Devaney in her short segment brought all the emotions too, her humorous entrance and powerful delivery of songs from ‘Our Gracie’ were the perfect addition and as she took her bow, through tears she said “I love this theatre”. As the clock neared 11pm, Clara Darcy with an adapted monologue from ‘We Should Definitely Have More Dancing’ drew the night to a close, delivered so eloquently and powerfully, I let my tears fall as there was no holding them back now, and a man a few seats away pulled another tissue from the box he had positioned on his knee.

After Chris Lawson gave some final words, there wasn’t a dry eye left in the house as the auditorium got to their feet and applauded for what must have been about five or ten minutes as the curtain came down. Many sat in their seats sobbing long after the lights came up. Technical staff continued working, their faces red, tears still streaming. They were losing more than most, but there was still a strong feeling in the room that this wasn’t the end. That was Oldham. 

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Feature Image: Zoe Hodges / Katy Preen

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  • Zoe Hodges

    Zoe has been a journalist for over eight years specialising primarily in music and sports. She has had the pleasure of interviewing some of the biggest artists in the country music genre and covering major sporting events such as the Women's Euros and the Commonwealth Games. In her spare time she enjoys writing and composing her own music.

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  1. So sad the ACE and Oldham Council have seen fit to close this wonderful theatre. I no longer live in Oldham but have tried to support the panto’s with my grandchildren continuing a tradition started 50 years ago with my children. 😔. I wish all the supporters of the Theatre good luck and hope people see sense and this little theatre continues to entertain generations to come. X

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