A new play from

Laura Genders

Directed by

Holden Oak

Presented by
A new play from

Laura Genders

Directed by

Holden Oak

Presented by
Performances commence at 7.30pm on

22nd Sept | 23rd Sept | 24th Sept

at Salford Arts Theatre as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2021

About the Show

It’s 1977 and for the first time in Fire Brigade history, a national strike threatens to bring the country to a stand still.

In a quiet corner of Cheshire, the lads of Blue Watch, Macclesfield are waiting with bated breath to see what this means for them. Will their hopes blaze to union glory or smoulder to ashes and what will this mean for the Brigade, their loved ones and the lads themselves?

Through a fictionalised account of the ‘Bysmal Boys of Macclesfield Blue Watch, you will be transported back to the true life backdrop of the strike action as autumn gives way to the Winter of Discontent. Genders’ new play explores this rarely examined period of history and the impact that is still felt today. 

Conflictive, comic yet utterly compassionate, the boys of Blue Watch navigate their individual stories and that of their brotherhood. It may just be 30% but is that all they really stand to lose?

Meet the Lads of Blue Watch

Our Impeccable Cast

Fireman Harold 'H' Nelson

performed by Hans Keith Oldham

First ever stage role: My first ever stage role was Salter in A Number by Carole Churchill. My son in real life played the parts of Bernard 1, Bernard 2 and Michael Black (Salter’s birth son and the 2 sons he cloned).

Dream role: My dream role is always the next role I’m cast in. I’ve been acting for six years and I haven’t stopped learning, I don’t think you ever do. I always look for something new to challenge me and the more it does, the bigger the dream.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: If not me; then my own son, and professional actor, Hans Luke Oldham as the younger me and, maybe, Anthony Hopkins as the grumpy old git I’ve become.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: To be cast in a challenging role, work hard at it and feel my performance surpass my own expectations. The audience reaction is usually the best tell.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: It’s a well written, dramatic, real life, gritty, local story. Very character driven with jaw dropping moments in the plot. It’s a ‘must see’, particularly for anyone who was around in the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s.

Fireman Harold 'H' Nelson

performed by Hans Keith Oldham

First ever stage role: My first ever stage role was Salter in A Number by Carole Churchill. My son in real life played the parts of Bernard 1, Bernard 2 and Michael Black (Salter’s birth son and the 2 sons he cloned).

Dream role: My dream role is always the next role I’m cast in. I’ve been acting for six years and I haven’t stopped learning, I don’t think you ever do. I always look for something new to challenge me and the more it does, the bigger the dream.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: If not me; then my own son, and professional actor, Hans Luke Oldham as the younger me and, maybe, Anthony Hopkins as the grumpy old git I’ve become.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: To be cast in a challenging role, work hard at it and feel my performance surpass my own expectations. The audience reaction is usually the best tell.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: It’s a well written, dramatic, real life, gritty, local story. Very character driven with jaw dropping moments in the plot. It’s a ‘must see’, particularly for anyone who was around in the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s.

Fireman Anthony 'Tony' Dooley

performed by George Reavey

First ever stage role: Tarquin the Rat in a school play, my career really peaked with that role.

Dream role: Either Dionysus in Euripides’ The Bacchae or Fitz in Enda Walsh’s Penelope – they’re both brilliant.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Danny DeVito would smash it.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: I want to tell impactful stories and mess about as much as possible whilst doing it.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: Because we’ve been bursting to show it to you for 2 years! The play reminds me of the power behind resistance and solidarity; it inspires me to bring about change in the world.

Fireman Anthony 'Tony' Dooley

performed by George Reavey

First ever stage role: Tarquin the Rat in a school play, my career really peaked with that role.

Dream role: Either Dionysus in Euripides’ The Bacchae or Fitz in Enda Walsh’s Penelope – they’re both brilliant.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Danny DeVito would smash it.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: I want to tell impactful stories and mess about as much as possible whilst doing it.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: Because we’ve been bursting to show it to you for 2 years! The play reminds me of the power behind resistance and solidarity; it inspires me to bring about change in the world.

Fireman Nicholas ''Afe Wit' Porter

performed by Connor Evans

First ever stage role: I was supposed to play the role of a king in the nativity in year 6, but I got the flu the week of the shows so I couldn’t do it. I was so gutted.

Dream role: My dream role would be Clov from Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: I reckon Matt Smith. Cracking actor. 

Aspirations as a performer/actor: I just want to make art that I can be proud of and that conveys an important social message. 

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: The piece is really beautifully written. It’s very funny with some really touching moments. It also highlights an era in local history that is very rarely put into the spotlight. Oh, and also it’s really important to support the arts so get on it.

Fireman Nicholas ''Afe Wit' Porter

performed by Connor Evans

First ever stage role: I was supposed to play the role of a king in the nativity in year 6, but I got the flu the week of the shows so I couldn’t do it. I was so gutted.

Dream role: My dream role would be Clov from Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: I reckon Matt Smith. Cracking actor. 

Aspirations as a performer/actor: I just want to make art that I can be proud of and that conveys an important social message. 

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: The piece is really beautifully written. It’s very funny with some really touching moments. It also highlights an era in local history that is very rarely put into the spotlight. Oh, and also it’s really important to support the arts so get on it.

Fireman Phillip 'Phil' Butler

performed by Hans Luke Oldham

First ever stage role: Professional? Tybalt in “Mercutio and Tybalt”. A modern look at a different pair of star-crossed lovers. Nonprofessional? The Pharaoh in my year six production of Joseph.

Dream role: MacBeth in the Scottish play. Or Bottom in A Midsummer Nights Dream.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Ideally Ewan McGregor but probably Andy Cantillon.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: I have a particular passion for performing the works of Shakespeare and will continue to pursue that work as an actor. I have recently begun to develop my skills as a director, having produced and directed adaptations of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream and Much Ado. Directing is something I aim do more of in the future. I have a real passion for stage combat, having taken many advanced level qualifications. In the future I’d love to qualify as a combat choreographer and instructor.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: The show takes a shocking relevant look at the country’s emergency services and the value we place on them as a society. Not to mention the talent involved on stage and off.

Fireman Phillip 'Phil' Butler

performed by Hans Luke Oldham

First ever stage role: Professional? Tybalt in “Mercutio and Tybalt”. A modern look at a different pair of star-crossed lovers. Nonprofessional? The Pharaoh in my year six production of Joseph.

Dream role: MacBeth in the Scottish play. Or Bottom in A Midsummer Nights Dream.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Ideally Ewan McGregor but probably Andy Cantillon.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: I have a particular passion for performing the works of Shakespeare and will continue to pursue that work as an actor. I have recently begun to develop my skills as a director, having produced and directed adaptations of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream and Much Ado. Directing is something I aim do more of in the future. I have a real passion for stage combat, having taken many advanced level qualifications. In the future I’d love to qualify as a combat choreographer and instructor.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: The show takes a shocking relevant look at the country’s emergency services and the value we place on them as a society. Not to mention the talent involved on stage and off.

Fireman Andrew 'Will' Wordsworth

performed by Andy Cantillon

First ever stage role: My first ever stage role outside of nativity shows was in Bugsy Malone at school! I played a boxer, a butler and a French violinist… I definitely couldn’t play the violin, but the accent was on point. I must have been 6-7.

Dream role: I’m far too young to play my dream roles! I’d love to take on Willy Loman, in Death of a Salesman, or Irwin in History Boys (although I’m probably the right age for that now). I also dream of playing The Doctor in Doctor Who. Bringing my own spin on a character like that would be so much fun.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Ideally, I’d play myself. I’ve had a pretty boring life so it’s not the meatiest of roles for an actor. Having said that, I think Martin Freeman could get quite a lot out of it, given his skill at playing the “Everyman” in such a compelling way.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: The only reason I wanted to be an actor was to entertain. If even one person enjoys something I do on stage or screen, and takes anything away from it, I consider it a job well done.

Why should people come and see ‘Bysmal Boys: It’s a brilliant view of an under-acknowledged period in British history, from the perspective of normal people, inspired by the true stories of people from the time. It’s fresh, funny, and beautifully every day.

Fireman Andrew 'Will' Wordsworth

performed by Andy Cantillon

First ever stage role: My first ever stage role outside of nativity shows was in Bugsy Malone at school! I played a boxer, a butler and a French violinist… I definitely couldn’t play the violin, but the accent was on point. I must have been 6-7.

Dream role: I’m far too young to play my dream roles! I’d love to take on Willy Loman, in Death of a Salesman, or Irwin in History Boys (although I’m probably the right age for that now). I also dream of playing The Doctor in Doctor Who. Bringing my own spin on a character like that would be so much fun.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Ideally, I’d play myself. I’ve had a pretty boring life so it’s not the meatiest of roles for an actor. Having said that, I think Martin Freeman could get quite a lot out of it, given his skill at playing the “Everyman” in such a compelling way.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: The only reason I wanted to be an actor was to entertain. If even one person enjoys something I do on stage or screen, and takes anything away from it, I consider it a job well done.

Why should people come and see ‘Bysmal Boys: It’s a brilliant view of an under-acknowledged period in British history, from the perspective of normal people, inspired by the true stories of people from the time. It’s fresh, funny, and beautifully every day.

Fireman Daniel 'Handsome Dan' Launchbury

performed by Rik Barnett

First ever stage role: Romeo

Dream role: Lady Macbeth/Jill Tyrell

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Diane Morgan.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: To write and perform more original work and also perhaps get that PhD.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: It’s a factual, punchy piece of theatre that explores the plight of this tight-knit group of firefighters from Macclesfield.

Fireman Daniel 'Handsome Dan' Launchbury

performed by Rik Barnett

First ever stage role: Romeo

Dream role: Lady Macbeth/Jill Tyrell

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Diane Morgan.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: To write and perform more original work and also perhaps get that PhD.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: It’s a factual, punchy piece of theatre that explores the plight of this tight-knit group of firefighters from Macclesfield.

Fireman John Meadows, E.C (and others)

performed by Peter Munro

First ever stage role: Brian, in a new play “Write About What You Know” with AstraZeneca’s own theatre group. That is, if you don’t count Oliver in my infant school’s production of the same name.

Dream role: A ginger Jack Sparrow, or perhaps Bond!

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Damien Lewis or Daniel Craig

Aspirations as a performer/actor: After initially having no inclination to tread the boards, I took the plunge about 23 years ago. Having since appeared in over 50 productions, I think it is safe to say that I caught the bug. From playing the ukulele to diving over furniture whilst singing at the same, to attempting to stay upright on rollerskates – I have already seen a fair range of challenges.

I am thrilled to be a part of Northern Rep’s production of Laura’s play after being in at the start, then having to step back for personal reasons- and then being welcomed back into the fold! Let’s see what happens next!

Fireman John Meadows, E.C (and others)

performed by Peter Munro

First ever stage role: Brian, in a new play “Write About What You Know” with AstraZeneca’s own theatre group. That is, if you don’t count Oliver in my infant school’s production of the same name.

Dream role: A ginger Jack Sparrow, or perhaps Bond!

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Damien Lewis or Daniel Craig

Aspirations as a performer/actor: After initially having no inclination to tread the boards, I took the plunge about 23 years ago. Having since appeared in over 50 productions, I think it is safe to say that I caught the bug. From playing the ukulele to diving over furniture whilst singing at the same, to attempting to stay upright on rollerskates – I have already seen a fair range of challenges.

I am thrilled to be a part of Northern Rep’s production of Laura’s play after being in at the start, then having to step back for personal reasons- and then being welcomed back into the fold! Let’s see what happens next!

Emma Porter (and others)

performed by Catt Johnson

First ever stage role: Fairy in A Pocket Dream with my mum

Dream role: Any that speaks to me and lets me tell part of my story.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: My boyfriend said I looked like Scarlett Johansson so I’m happy to live that lie

Aspirations as a performer/actor: To be able to live comfortably doing something that I love to do.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: I especially am enjoying BB because I’m studying a politics degree so the intercuts of the political maelstrom at the time are fascinating. However, all should know this little-known part of British history and through the lens of real life it creates an incredible connection with the audience. This is first and foremost a play about genuine human interaction and doesn’t shy away from the grisly dark bits; plus, there’s a few good jokes.

Emma Porter (and others) - Alternate

performed by Sophie Cutler

First ever stage role: The Ventriloquist and ensemble in Bugsy Malone, NK Theatre Arts 2012.

Dream role: Dorothy in a stage version of The Wizard of OZ.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Maybe Amanda Seyfried, or Annasophia Robb, or Elle Fanning. All for their look, sweetness and bubbly and sometimes giggly childish energies, but also their abilities to be resilient and strong.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: The West End! A lead in a west end or broadway musical would be a dream achieved.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys:  Bysmal Boys is brilliantly witty, humorous and captivating. Its genius is in the voyeurism of the audience, allowing them to spy on the lives of the characters, all of whom have opposing personalities and energies, yet what’s obvious is their companionship both as friends and colleagues. When they’re together at work, the audience enjoys their light-hearted banter, their jokey nicknames, their skills as professionals, and most importantly, their companionship to help each other get through the day. However, we also see the juxtaposition of when they go home and they’re apart, their secrets, domestics, and the problems they all have behind closed doors that they take to work them but hide until the day is done is unveiled. What’s most heart-warming and inspirational, is that no matter what, the brotherhood and spirit of the firemen stay strong throughout, including through the political endeavours of the late 70s and 80s. It’s a real time capsule of life.

Emma Porter (and others)

performed by Catt Johnson

First ever stage role: Fairy in A Pocket Dream with my mum

Dream role: Any that speaks to me and lets me tell part of my story.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: My boyfriend said I looked like Scarlett Johansson so I’m happy to live that lie

Aspirations as a performer/actor: To be able to live comfortably doing something that I love to do.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys: I especially am enjoying BB because I’m studying a politics degree so the intercuts of the political maelstrom at the time are fascinating. However, all should know this little-known part of British history and through the lens of real life it creates an incredible connection with the audience. This is first and foremost a play about genuine human interaction and doesn’t shy away from the grisly dark bits; plus, there’s a few good jokes.

Emma Porter (and others) - Alternate

performed by Sophie Cutler

First ever stage role: The Ventriloquist and ensemble in Bugsy Malone, NK Theatre Arts 2012.

Dream role: Dorothy in a stage version of The Wizard of OZ.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life: Maybe Amanda Seyfried, or Annasophia Robb, or Elle Fanning. All for their look, sweetness and bubbly and sometimes giggly childish energies, but also their abilities to be resilient and strong.

Aspirations as a performer/actor: The West End! A lead in a west end or broadway musical would be a dream achieved.

Why should people come and watch ‘Bysmal Boys:  Bysmal Boys is brilliantly witty, humorous and captivating. Its genius is in the voyeurism of the audience, allowing them to spy on the lives of the characters, all of whom have opposing personalities and energies, yet what’s obvious is their companionship both as friends and colleagues. When they’re together at work, the audience enjoys their light-hearted banter, their jokey nicknames, their skills as professionals, and most importantly, their companionship to help each other get through the day. However, we also see the juxtaposition of when they go home and they’re apart, their secrets, domestics, and the problems they all have behind closed doors that they take to work them but hide until the day is done is unveiled. What’s most heart-warming and inspirational, is that no matter what, the brotherhood and spirit of the firemen stay strong throughout, including through the political endeavours of the late 70s and 80s. It’s a real time capsule of life.

'Bysmal Boys in Workshop
Prior to the pandemic, this show had every intention of premiering in 2020. After a table read in late 2019, in February of 2020, a daring collective of actors, a writer, a director and photographer braced the chilly winter climes in a cold mill converted to a gym, and they workshopped through the material.

Back then, we had a different Will and Phil in casting, and we are so grateful to Paolo and Michael for their support and dedication to the project before the world fell silent as distancing became a thing.

A couple of cast changes later and we are ready for launch this September (2021).

Immense thanks to Abbie Tomlinson for capturing that weekend on her camera.

please scroll through and see what we got up to!
A brief introduction to...

Northern Rep Theatre

In 1995, at a Macclesfield secondary school, two young people bonded over a passion for theatre and musicals. Their friendship has lasted out over almost three decades, and in 2016 – having found lives across the country and globe – they found themselves living back in their home town at the same time.

Although Laura and Holden had found a whole world of experience prior to their reunion, they were keen on reigniting the spark of theatrical passion they had shared in their teen years. With a wealth of credits to each of their names, their initial disappointment at the lack of ready opportunities for Northern based actors, writers and directors would soon turn to heightened enthusiasm as they set about forging their own path towards creativity.

Northern Rep Theatre was conceived. A new company keenly focused on growing Northern talent, and showcasing our stories. 

The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2021 will see the world premiere of ‘Bysmal Boys, a brand new play written by Laura Genders and directed by Holden Oak – the two founders of Northern Rep. Exploring the lives of Blue Watch, Macclesfield, the writing draws on Laura’s native background in the Silk Town and the stories she heard growing up in the Fire Brigade circles. Set against the backdrop of the strike action taken by the National Fire Brigade in 1977, this play discovers universal voices of all who work in the public sector and the desperation, elation and camaraderie found in their professional and personal lives. 

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Performances commence at 7.30pm on

22nd Sept | 23rd Sept | 24th Sept

at Salford Arts Theatre as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2021