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A night at the theatre doesn’t have to mean getting to grips with 400-year-old language, or watching a three-hour ballet. The Grand Theatre’s new season features a whole host of shows that draw more on pop culture than high culture, from our fascination with true crime to our collective obsession with our pets.

West-Yorkshire playwright John Godber knows a thing or two about representing our daily lives. He began his career at the soapy end of the opera world, writing for the likes of Brookside and Grange Hill, and in his back catalogue of over 70 plays has done much to represent the realities of working-class Britain with humour and authenticity.

Stage producers are increasingly looking to the media we consume in our homes as a way to make theatre more egalitarian

When Northern Soul captivated a generation in the 1970s it was a reaction to the bleak picture communities faced. Amid rising costs, unemployment and small-town blues, a dissatisfied youth found solace in music and dancing. Blackpool and other northern towns were not at the heart of the scene by coincidence, and it’s no coincidence either that the ‘70s are seeing a revival in 2023.

In Do I Love You? Godber brings Northern Soul to a new generation next week before returning to The Grand in the new year with his seminal play Bouncers. Set in a Yorkshire disco in the 1980s, Bouncers is vulgar, hilarious and one of the most down to earth pieces of theatre you will likely ever see.

John Godber’s Bouncers is possibly the most down to earth piece of theatre you can see. It arrives at Blackpool Grand in February

National electricity blackouts in the ‘70s were perhaps the only time in the recent past that television hasn’t been used as a weapon of mass distraction and stage producers are increasingly looking to the media we consume in our homes as a way to make theatre more egalitarian. The Grand’s new season includes shows inspired by everything from Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to our dark fascination with true crime and the animals we cuddle up with in front of the telly each evening.

We’re no strangers to nostalgia in Blackpool but new generations of theatre-goers will remember less about the golden period of a booming tourist industry than birthday parties at Wimpy Burger and trips to Beatties toy shop. Blackpool Tower was not a place for ballroom dancing or even Northern Soul, but the home of Jungle Jims and the Dawn of Time. The nostalgia complex among children of the ‘80s and ‘90s is also catered for on the stage over the next few months.

Stranger Sings is a parody of the ’80 nostalgia Netflix hit show. It comes to The Grand this week (20th-21st September)

Stranger Sings is a parody musical and smorgasbord of ‘80s pop culture references. It arrives in town after delivering hit after hit of nostalgia to audiences off-Broadway and in London. Buffy Revamped was only at The Grand less than a year ago but the Fringe hit was a sellout and audiences have summoned it back from the Hellmouth. Blood soaked with ‘90s pop culture references the one-man show runs through 144 episodes of Buffy through the eyes of vampiric cult hero Spike.

Amid all this weird and wonderful theatre is Emma Kenny’s Killer Cults which homes in on our strange fascination with true crime. Kenny is a psychological expert who delves into the minds of the charismatic killers who lead the mysterious and manipulative world of cults. At the fluffier end of the spectrum Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick examines the psychological effect of our furry companions. Beyond Supervet offers an antidote to the hectic whirlwind of modern living with an uplifting and motivating show that reveals how animals can help us heal.

Oscar Wilde’s plays might seem like more traditional viewing in the setting of the The Grand Theatre but they often subverted Victorian values and had subtle socialist and anarchic themes. In another remix straight from the Edinburgh Fringe, The Importance of Being… Earnest? is a comedy play within a comedy play that subverts the subverted.

Unassuming audience members become the stars of the show in this comic subversion of Oscar Wilde’s classic, on in November

When a traditional production of Wilde’s beloved play gets underway, everything seems to be going perfectly to plan, until the lead actor fails to arrive on cue. In a monumental effort to save the show, a real audience member is quickly cast in the lead role. A hilarious chain of events unfolds that, one-by-one, renders the rest of the cast unable to continue their performances and more and more audience members are encouraged to step into the spotlight.

It’s exciting to see programming like this that challenges tradition and entices new audiences into theatre seats. These shows might be off beat and left field but, like being greeted at the front door by your dog or watching reruns of your favourite series, they are strangely familiar and comforting too.

Listings

19th-23rd September: John Godber’s Do I Love You, book here

20th-21st September: Stranger Sings, book here

29th October: Emma Kenny’s Killer Cults, book here

12th November: Noel Fitzpatrick: Beyond Supervet, book here

15h-16th November: The Importance of Being Earnest, book here

19th November: Buffy Revamped, book here

21st-24th February: Bouncers, book here

Find out what else is on in Blackpool in our Listings.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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