Octagon Theatre Bolton To Present Pam Gems’ ‘Piaf’ from Thursday 23 May to Saturday 15 June 2013


The final show of the Octagon’s 2012-13 season of plays will be the Pam Gems classic Piaf, sponsored by Manchester Airport Group, the largest UK owned airport operator. This powerful drama with music celebrates the life of French singer and cultural icon Edith Piaf, following her rise from the streets of Paris to the international stage.

The life and career of Piaf is as unique as her distinctive singing style. Raised in a brothel by her grandmother whilst her parents worked as performers, Piaf sang in public for the first time in 1929, aged 14, when she joined her father in his acrobatic street shows. The years that followed were spent as a street singer and it was in 1935 that she was discovered by a nightclub owner, starting her career in an exclusive club off the Champs-Elysees.

Piaf became known as the ‘little sparrow’, so called for her petite frame and extreme nervousness at singing on stage, her fragile appearance creating a striking contrast against her powerful and mesmerising voice. But as her popularity and fame increased so too did the drama that was to shape her life. Connections to the French Resistance, addictions to morphine and alcohol, a dramatic love life that was to end in tragedy, and rumours of links to ‘the mob’ were all to contribute to her enigmatic and ill-fated life.

Taking on the captivating title role of Edith Piaf is Caroline Faber, who will perform Piaf’s iconic torch songs live on stage, including La Vie En Rose and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. A talented singer, Caroline has appeared in numerous theatre productions, most recently Life for Beginners at Theatre 503 and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Caroline recently played Hunith, Merlin’s mother, in the popular BBC TV series Merlin. Other television credits include Casualty, Doctors, Holby City and The Bill.

Playing the role of Toine, Piaf’s early friend on the streets of Paris, will be Kate Coogan. Kate is currently performing on stage at the Octagon in Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!. Prior to this, she last appeared at the Octagon in the world premiere production of Secret Thoughts by David Lodge. Her performance in Secret Thoughts earned her a Manchester Theatre Award (MTA) nomination last year, in the category of Best Actress. The play picked up five MTA nominations and received the award for Best New Play.

Joining Caroline and Kate on stage, in the role of popular actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, will be Lynda Rooke, who is used to taking on iconic roles at the Octagon after last season’s production of The Queen of the North, where she was outstanding as Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix. Lynda also performed in the Library Theatre Company’s sell-out production Hard Times (2011), and has recently appeared in BBC’s Silent Witness, Doctors and ITV’s Endeavour.

Taking on the role of Louis Leplée, the nightclub owner who discovered Piaf, will be Danny Cunningham. Danny is a TV and film regular, and is probably best known for his role as Fusilier Andy Butcher in the long running ITV drama series Soldier Soldier. He has starred in numerous films, including 24 Hour Party People where he played Shaun Ryder from the Happy Mondays. He is currently performing on stage at the Octagon Theatre in Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!, alongside Kate Coogan and Lynda Rooke.

Director Elizabeth Newman commented: “It is a real privilege for me to direct this wonderful play by Pam Gems. Piaf is an unforgettable story, full of character, drama and the real-life challenges faced by the vulnerable ‘little sparrow’ Edith Piaf. We’ll see the highs and lows Piaf faced throughout her rollercoaster life. It’s also all about the music. The play is full of some really big numbers and our Company will raise the roof when they perform them live on stage.”

Once again the Octagon Theatre is delighted that M.A.G, the largest UK owned airport operator,  will be sponsoring the final show of the Octagon 2012-13 season, a celebration of the work that has been produced over the past ten months at the Theatre.  It is a privilege to have been selected as one of the many organisations in the region who benefit from their continued support, the generous funding received allows the Octagon to continue to create exciting and ambitious work at an exciting time in the Theatre’s development. The Octagon looks forward to continuing the partnership with M.A.G  in what has been a successful relationship for more than ten years.

Piaf is at the Octagon from Thursday 23 May – Saturday 15 June 2013.

Tickets are from £23.50 – £9.50 on 01204 520661, or at www.octagonbolton.co.uk