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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke



REVIEW By Steve Cooke

The Octagon Theatre Bolton is on a roll will an exhilarating production of Blonde Bombshells of 1943 coming hot on the heels of crowd pleasers such as Spring and Port Wine and The Book of Will.

The Blonde Bombshells are a female dance band led by Betty (Georgina Field) touring WW2 army barracks to boost morale. A turnover in band members due to a tendency to pair off with the morale-boosted soldiers means they have run short of players prior to an upcoming prestigious recording for the BBC. Hence the first half of the play’s auditions in the shape of an innocent schoolgirl, a naïve nun who doesn’t understand the saucy innuendo of the songs she learned from her aunty in Bradford, and an outrageously eccentric member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. In their desperation they also take on a conscription avoiding male drummer as long as he is willing to dress in drag.

Blonde Bombshells of 1943 is play with music with full renditions of many of the hits of the time, showcasing the excellent versatile musicianship of the ensemble.

The play’s drama revolves around Patrick (Rory Gradon), whose conscription avoidance offends band members with a lost loved one and a husband who is a prisoner of war of the Japanese. The resolution coming solved when he eventually joins up.

The jokes and songs, delivered with warmth and enthusiasm by the multi-talented cast, are a tribute to the 1940’s swing era and more pertinently to the indomitable spirit of the ordinary people of the home front getting on with it under constant threat from. Hitler’s bombs.

One of many comic highlights is Stacey Ghent as, the much older than her years, eccentric solider Miranda, casually defusing a ticking bomb with a hair-clip before proceeding to freshen her make-up.

Gleanne Purcell-Brown also dazzles as the overeager, effervescently cheerful Lily.

Designer Jess Curtis startles the audience returning for the second act with a huge German bomb centre-stage followed by the transformation into a glittering dance hall, including a Mirrorball.

Zoë Waterman’s direction creates an authenticity with such as the skilful deployment of the stagehands who change props dressed as air raid wardens or radio technicians. The songs are, where appropriate, sung in American accents with stage announcements and banter having a Northern England tone.

Lauren Chinery’s gawky schoolgirl becomes in full fairy tale mode transforms into a sophisticated torch singer and Gleanne Purcell-Brown pays tribute to Billie Holiday with gardenia in her hair.

The audience are on their feet, flag waving, dancing and enthusiastically applauding - including members of the press!

This Co-production from Octagon Theatre Bolton, Stephen Joseph Theatre and Theatre by the Lake is definitely a not to be missed uplifting experience that can be highly recommended to people of all ages.

Octagon Theatre Bolton from until Sat 1 July before transferring to Theatre by the Lake from Wed 5 – Sat 29 July and Stephen Joseph Theatre from Wed 2 – Sat 26 August.

Tickets start from £15.

Find out more and book tickets via the Box Office on 01204 520661 or at

The cast includes Verity Bajoria (Tale of a Thousand and One Nights, Dragonboy Productions, Atrocities at Arkham, Tell No Tales Theatre Company); Lauren Chinery (Dreamboats and Petticoats, Bill Kenwright Ltd, Gatsby, Ruby in the Dust); Georgina Field (Gods & Dogs, The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company, Roll Over Beethoven, Belgrade Theatre Coventry).

Joined by Stacey Ghent (We are the Best, Live Theatre, When the Long Trick’s Over, High Tide and New Wolsey Theatre); Rory Gradon (The Snow Queen, London Touring Players, Julius Caesar, The Undisposables); Sarah Groarke (The Borrowers, Theatre by the Lake, Jane Eyre, Stephen Joseph Theatre and New Vic Theatre).

Completing the cast are Alice McKenna (Red Sky at Night, Mikron Theatre Company, Girls Don’t Play Guitar, Royal Court Liverpool); and Gleanne Purcell-Brown (Playboy of the West Indies, The Birmingham Rep Company, She Loves Me, Sheffield Crucible).

The creative team includes Jess Curtis (designer); Greg Last (musical director); Richard G Jones (lighting designer); Chris Bogg (sound designer); Sundeep Saini (movement director); Howard Gray (orchestrations); Sarah Hughes (casting director); and Ryan McVeigh (assistant director).

Toad Lane Concerts - The Telemann Baroque Ensemble

REVIEW By Dr Joe Dawson

The sophisticated troupe of Baroque music makers made their welcome quarterly visit to Toad Lane Concerts for summer. Their varied line up is drawn from the cream of freelance players in the NW and this time featured rare appearances of Alfred Pollard on oboe, and Kevin O’Sullivan bassoon.

They were ably supported by Elaine da Costa and Sarah Snape violins, John Goodstadt viola, Roger Bisby cello, and Peter Collier harpsichord. This glorious sound filled the acoustic at St Mary in the Baum.

Like layering a sumptuous cake, the strings and harpsichord began with Fasch’s Quartet Sonata in g minor establishing a fundamental rich and full ensemble sound. Then the woodwind soloists announced their individual voices with Telemann’s Trio for oboe, bassoon, and Basso Continuo in F major.

The two violinists provided a tonal contrast with Leclair’s Trio in d minor Op 4 No 1

And the whole ensemble collaborated in the little-heard, exciting Reichenauer Concerto for oboe and Bassoon in B flat.

The musical notion of ensemble has a greater sense than just a group of individuals playing together, in the same place at the same time to the same end. It suggests cooperation, sensitivity to others, contribution to a shared expression, and so on, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, with the TBE we have a true ensemble in name and nature.

The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday at 12.30pm at St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane, Rochdale, OL16 1DZ. Entrance fee is £6. No refreshments available. Contact 01706 648872 for further information.


Thursday 22 June

Visit Rochdale Parish Church of St Chad - Church Watch

As part of Church Watch 2023, the historic Grade 2* listed Parish Church of St Chad will be open every Wednesday and Thursday 2pm – 4pm starting on 7 June until the Heritage weekend on Friday 8, Saturday 9, and Sunday 10 September.

There has been a church on this site since 1194 and offers visitors much to see.

You’ll find the church at Top o’ th’ Steps behind the Town Hall, and they hope that stepping into the past for a moment will refresh you in the present and also inspire you for the future.


Phone: Graham Knox 01706 642311


2pm - 4pm

St Chad's, Sparrow Hill, Rochdale OL16 1QT

Friday 23 June

The Active Living Social

Come and join them for fun-filled music and dance afternoons taking you through the decades.

Have a drink, chat in a warm space, and meet new people and friends.

Bring your own hot drinks cup to help save the environment!

Numbers limited, booking required.

Booking is available in person at the centre you wish to attend, or by emailing: or ringing the number below.

01706 926205

2pm - 4pm

Rochdale Leisure Centre, Entwisle Road, Rochdale OL16 2HZ

Thursday 22 June - Saturday 24 June

Visit Fireground Museum

Join us at Fireground this week to discover Greater Manchester's firefighting story.

Fire museum attractions are on show inside the museum including our collection of historic firefighting artefacts from the 18th century to present day, plus home-made refreshments in the new Fireground Café, and souvenirs from our fantastic new gift shop! We have a wide choice ranging from toddler to collector.

Under 4s are free, Children (aged 4-15) and Concessions £5, Adults £7, and Family (4 people) £20.

Phone: Fireground 01706 341219


Open Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 10am - 4pm

Fireground, Maclure Road, Rochdale OL11 1DN

Saturday 24 June

Rochdale Music Society concert: Prince Bishop’s Brass

Dukas: Fanfare le Peri

Praetorius: Dances of Terpsichore

Bach: Prelude and Fugue

Gabrieli: Canzona a 4

Ewald: Quintet

Mozart: Overture, The Marriage of Figaro

Horowitz: Music Hall Suite

Fauré: Pavane

Bernstein: 4 Episode form West Side Story

A booking fee of 5% will be charged on all bookings other than those made in person.

Rochdale Music Society has been providing the best in live music played by great artists for the people of the borough of Rochdale and beyond since 1980.

Entry fee: Adult £15, Over 65s £13, Students £5, Children £1

Bookings can be made by telephoning the Box Office on 0300 303 8633, or online via the link below.


Heywood Civic Centre, LCpl Stephen Shaw MC Way, Heywood OL10 1LW

Saturday 24 June

Messy Church

Fun time of crafts, music, and food. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Free (donations accepted)

Phone: Andrew Hardwick 01706 644134

4pm - 6pm

Moorhouse Methodist Church, Rochdale Road, Milnrow OL16 3LN

Saturday 24 June

Diamond Decade

Carnaby School of Dance are back with one of their ever-popular Shows, this year… with dances to hits from the last decade!

With a plethora of Group Dances and Solos/Duets/Trios to tracks that have been top ten hits in the last ten years, the Carnaby Dancers are back for their annual Show and as ever… out in full force!

To book your tickets please visit the link below or call the Box Office on 0300 303 8633.

Tickets from £16

Middleton Arena, LCpl Joel Halliwell VC Way, Middleton M24 1AG

Saturday 24 June

Charity show at Littleborough Con Club

Joining us are VOLTAGE, AKINDRED, FINAL HOUR and Headliners. METAVOLTZ.

A great night of good music, cheap beer, great friends, and a donation to a fantastic cause.

All proceeds go to Wythenshawe Hospital's heart surgery department.

£5 on door

Phone: Geoff Greenwood 07411 455560

6pm till late

Littleborough Conservative Club, Peel Street, Littleborough OL15 8AQ

celebrating creative arts and artists - an oasis of positivity supporting individual and community wellbeing.

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