Adam Barlow chats about Willy Russell's Our Day Out

The Oldham Coliseum is going back to school next month with Willy Russell’s ”Our Day Out.” We chat to Adam Barlow to find out more.

So, you're back at the Coliseum. What do you enjoy about working there?

Adam Barlow in rehearsals for Our Day Out
Adam Barlow in rehearsals for Our Day Out
© Oldham Coliseum

In all honesty, I feel a great sense of loyalty towards the Coliseum. Kevin (Artistic Director) gave me my first acting job in the North, which in turn opened up a lot of doors for me. I have grown as an actor, as well as a person during my time working at this theatre, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Everyone involved with the Coliseum, from the technical team to the front of house staff, admin and wardrobe are all extremely welcoming and positive and this also runs through each audience member that walks through the door. This creates a very vibrant and exciting atmosphere, which in turn means audiences are very loyal and supportive. Oldham has now become a second home for me.

Your turn in Chicago gained good reviews there, how enjoyable was that to be in?

I feel very proud to have been a part of that show. It was very much an ensemble piece and couldn’t have worked without everyone working together to create an exciting piece of theatre. The most challenging aspect was playing the music, as well as the acting. I remember we all turned up on the first day of rehearsals and were all given the full orchestra score, which instantly hit home to everyone the sheer scale of the show in front of us. But, with everyone being talented musicians, it was an exciting process. We only had three weeks to learn all the music, choreograph and stage the songs and then fit all the scenes around it, which meant a few wrinkles, but the end result was massively rewarding.

Tell us a bit about Our Day Out?

The play is about a school class with learning difficulties that get taken for a day out at what they think will be Alton Towers, but things don’t go quite to plan and the trip becomes something of a riot. Along with the three teachers that run the class, the kids all try to have a good day out, but not without being under the watchful eye of Mr Briggs, who would be much better suited to running an army camp.

And what attracted you to the show?

What attracted me most about doing this show was the chance to work at the Coliseum again and doing a show that Oldham audiences will love. There are also over 25 kids, most of which are involved with the youth theatre that get the chance to work with professional actors in a professional show. They bring heaps of energy to the piece and I’ve been amazed at how talented and hard-working they all are.

And your character?

He's Mark, one of the teachers that helps Mrs Kay to run the Progress Class, and accompanies them on the trip. He is also in a relationship with Katy, the other class teacher who also joins them on the coach. Mark has a good heart and just wants to be a good teacher, but as Mrs Kay describes, is like a ‘delicate butterfly’.

Willy Russell always writes killer lines and mixes poignancy with comedy, is this in that vein?

Oh absolutely! Anyone who is a fan of Blood Brothers or Educating Rita will be right at home with this piece. Most of the comedy comes from the exaggeration of everyday characters that we can all relate to, and situations or events that have been heightened but come from a place of realism. It’s like any adult looking back on their school life and remembering the most dramatic version of say, the Headmaster, and in this piece Mr Briggs is a great example of that. I’m pretty sure members of the audience will be thinking (or in Oldham’s case, saying out loud) "Oh my teacher was exactly like that!" or "I remember when I used to do that".

What are your memories of school like?

A mixed bag really. I was always just a bit too geeky to fit in with the cool kids. My interests were in studying music and drama, but I always felt like I had to hide it somewhat out of fear that I would be mocked. It’s strange to think now that this happened, but childhood is a weird and wonderful part of anyone’s life. If the majority is in favour of football or smoking a sneaky cigarette behind a teacher’s back, anyone who doesn’t follow suit can be a bit of an outcast. But I like outcasts. What I didn’t realise when I was at school, was how much it would influence my adult life. At the time, I thought playing instruments or going to acting classes was fun, but never thought it would become part of who I am.

How do you keep your energy levels up in between shows?

I don’t think it’s something the cast think about too often to be honest. During the run of a show, spirits are generally quite high anyway as adrenaline is in full flow. The key factors are making sure you eat and sleep well, but ultimately you need to enjoy what you’re doing.

How would you persuade someone to see the show who knows nothing about it?

I would say anyone who is looking for a good night out at the theatre, combined with live music, comedy, a high level of singing and a heart-warming story then this is the show for you.

Our Day Out is at the Oldham Coliseum from 5 – 27 September.