Saturday, 22 September 2012

New Website


If you have arrived at this page, please note the NEW Tales from Paradise Heights website is at the link below...thank you for looking...

Joe x


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Shark comes to The Octagon

Frank Morgan: As seen in THE WATCHER: A Tale from Paradise Heights

Hi all

I'm delighted to announce that the play that started the continuing series of plays and films, Tales from Paradise Heights is finally coming to my home town of Bolton, in the studio of the fabulous OCTAGON THEATRE, once again thanks to the ever supportive dynamo that is Elizabeth Newman, the theatre's talented Associate Director. 

I'M FRANK MORGAN will be stripped back, raw, rough, ready and remixed, and very much a tale for our times.  It's a one man show, played by myself as an Irish loan shark, gambler and owner of The Ace of Spades club who see's himself as very much the first emergency service in Paradise Heights.  A sociopath who's short fuse may have brought about his end.  Join him on a dark night for a tour of his domain, a man seemingly afraid of nothing...apart from his own reflection in the mirror - why can't he look himself in the eye anymore? 

DARREN MCGINN has once again worked his magic and produced these two poster images for the show coming to The Octagon on 14th September, it would be great to see you there, and for those that have seen the show before I've revisited the script to reflect our world of 2012...;)

More details to follow...

So what else have I been up to...?


I was recently commissioned by Jacqui Carroll of REEL MANCHESTER to write a play for a drama group in Salford - Kersal Young People's Group.  This group is wonderful.  I've worked with them over the last few weeks - they are aged from 9 to 79 and I've never seen such a warm atmosphere of mutual respect and enthusiasm right across the age group.  They really are a joy to work with.  Jacqui's remit was to write a play set in World War 2 around a Salford Air Raid Shelter.  And boy, do we have a play...

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON seemed a very apt title as the posters from that era, in various re-edtions tailored for our times - had recently re-emerged. 

I've set the story over the months leading up to the Salford Blitz of December 1940.  Filled with rich characters, Salford humour, do or die spirit of WW2 and at the same time it is powerful and poignant, I can honestly say that if you get the good fortune to see this great group perform the play, it will be a night you won't forget.  Written in six days, it's one of the best pieces of writing I have ever done, I'm proud of it and very, very proud that this group are going to be performing it, it will be directed by Jacqui Carroll and myself. 

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON will be at THE LOWRY, QUAYS THEATRE on Sunday 5th August. 

More updates soon...

Joe x

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A Few Words on A Fear of BIG The Octagon Theatre

Joe O'Byrne: Rehearsal Pic by Lee Bolton

It's been a wee while since I wrote something here, so I'm gonna make up for it a bit...Reherasal Pics here are from Lee Bolton, and the live show pics are from Mike Craig, two top lads with a real eye for the shot.

A Fear of BIG WORDS...was always going to be something of an experiment. Co-Producer and Co-Director for the show, Ian Curley had the idea first, a selection of scenes from across the range of productions from Tales from Paradise Heights.  Ian picked the scenes and from his program notes here, you get the picture...

As with many of the scenes selected for this show, a conscious effort was made to bring another dimension wherever possible, to some of the characters and their stories; whilst maintaining the essential context and  dialogue originally written by Joe. The constraints of the unique format of  A Fear of BIG WORDS... initially seemed like they would limit or restrict new creative interpretation. However one of the exciting and interesting consequences of producing a show like this has been the freedom and liberation it has given to the actors and directors to explore different alternative realities for the characters and lives of the people we have met so far.

So, very much an experiment...well, it's fair to say it worked...

The show connected fantastically with the audience, as performers we could feel it coming through in waves.  The cast were absolutley on fire and Tangled Man's live musical renditions along with Stella Grundy brought a new dimension to Paradise Heights, one that bodes well for the future. 

Inspired by the song SHIRLEY'S TOWN (lyrics Joe O'Byrne, melody Tangled Man)  Darren McGinn produced his version of Shirley,
the Angel from Paradise Heights

We had some lovely feedback from the audience, who were moved by the stunning performances from cast who gave their all in a very eclectic show.  Live music, theatre and film, with just enough in there to show the connections between the stories, and enough to whet appetites, many there last night said they would be seeking out the full blown productions and new shows when they are ready, so as an advert for the series...mission accomplished.  It's a show we will be repeating, and hopefully rolling out to different towns and city's to give a flavour of the world in the lead up to the full shows hitting new provinces.

The following are shots from the night and the rehearsal process...

BROTHERLY LOVE:  Jeni Howarth Williams (PIC: Mike Craig)

BLUE:  Alice Brockway (Pic: Mike Craig)

 BEHIND THE SCENES:  Ian Curley and Alice Brockway (Pic Lee Bolton)

BEHIND THE SCENES: Ian and Joe working out the scene running order        (Pic Lee Bolton)

TANGLED MAN performs SHIRLEY'S TOWN opening the show (Pic Mike Craig)

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jo Malone and Stella Grundy perfoming live (Pic Mike Craig)

TANGLED MAN rehearses SHIRLEY'S TOWN (Pic Lee Bolton)

JO MALONE rehearse THE JACKA HACKA (Pic Lee Bolton)

Pic Lee Bolton

SECRET: David Edward Robertson rocks the audience
Pic Mike Craig

STELLA GRUNDY as The Queen of Clubs, Miss Nula Christie
Perfrming THE GEMINI MAN (Pic Mike Craig)

MARBLES: Alice Brockway and Joe O'Byrne
Pic: Mike Craig

BEHIND THE SCENES: David Edward Robertson and Joe
Pic Lee Bolton

BROTHERLY LOVE: Jeni Howarth Williams rehearses
Pic Lee Bolton

THE HACKA JACKA: Joe rehearses (Pic Lee Bolton)

RED: Alice Brockway performs a harrowing monologue
Pic Mike Craig

SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS: Ian Curley and Ste Myott
Pic Mike Craig

FULL OF BEANS: Ian Curley live
Pic: Mike Craig

FIRST DAY OUT: Ian Curley and Stella Grundy move the house
Pic Mike Craig

Pic Lee Bolton

Pic Lee Bolton

Pic Lee Bolton

Pic Lee Bolton


Thanks to a wonderful audience and to the great folks down at THE OCTAGON, paricularly ELIZABETH NEWMAN, we'll be back...

Joe x

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Way of The Writer and Things To Come...

Joe O'Byrne: Creator, Tales from Paradise Heights

I attended a screen writing seminar last night at The Octagon Theatre.  It was delivered by Henry R Swindell, New Writing Manager for BBC Writersroom North (which focuses on championing writers from across the north of England)  and organised by the lovely and ever industious creative Elizabeth Newman, the Octagon's associate Director and Head of New Writing.  This wasn't about a creative cashing in on his success in a whole host of TV productions over the last decade or two - this was FREE to attend, and I doff my cap to Henry, well done Sir and thank you for sharing your passion. 

Henry R Swindell

Henry has a very impressive background in TV production and series editing (list of some credits here ) and he delivered an informative, witty and very entertaining presentation on what the BBC Writers Room are looking for in new writers.  Henry started the evening by expressing the obsession, the urge, the all consuming fever that makes some of us simply have to write.  I sat in a very packed Bill Naughton theatre, a room stuffed full of imaginations of all ages, a mix of writers that have had their work performed and writers waiting to have their work performed and was just one of those nights where you could hear cogs clicking in creative minds, and you wonder just who you are sat in the presence of, who is going to be blowing our minds on our screens in the future...

And speaking of the URGE, the many of you will know I'm seriously infected.  There are no clocks in my writing den.  There is however music (a 63 hour random play list on my computer with everything from opera and film scores to David Bowie and Marilyn Manson).  There is a coffee machine and there is an ash tray...and most nights it's me, the music, the smell of coffee and cigarettes and an imagination that knocks down the walls of that writers den to find out WHAT'S OUT THERE...

Most of my writing takes place in the dark witching hours between midnight and 4 am...or later if it's really flowing.  I've hit the sack many a time with the sound of dawns chorus sending me into dream or nightmare land.  I'm my own worst enemy, biggest critic and I fight and wrestle with every new story until I think it's right.  Jim Cartwright (Road, Two, Bed, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice) described me as 'a forest writer.' (Jim is also a forest writer).  That's someone that creates the whole forest first, writes and writes and then, once the forest is there they cut their way through it, find the path, the tale to tell.  Many times that involves cutting passages that I think are pure gold, it hurts but they have to go.  So painful - like cutting the fingers off your baby.  But those fingers (and sometimes limbs - god, I'm vicious) will stay in my little butchers' freezer, a place of severed limbs or frozen characters that stare at me with accusing eyes for creating them but not using them.  They are saved because sometimes they are very good places to start on your next project - or it's a limb that will fit, Frankenstein style, very nicely to the anatomy of your next creation.

Anyway enough about that, what's happening and what has been happening in Tales from Paradise Heights?


We were delighted to be part of The Manchester Film Festival, organised by fellow Bolton lad Andrew Oldbury - WELL DONE Andrew.  Our first festival, we will be entering many more.  In a packed program of excellent Manchester shorts we managed to get a 'Special Mention' from the jury, that was for David Edward Roberston's EXCELLENT performance as homeless Danny, the burnt out ex fireman living under a railway arch. 

Here's a clip from  David's performance...

Well done David and indeed all involved in THE WATCHER and to the other films in the fest, special congrats to MUG the winning entry from Oli Lee's. 

I'm looking for spaces at the moment to bring 5* rated STRAWBERRY JACK: A Tale from Paradise Heights back this summer, so watch this space.

And more immediately coming up next month there's this...

Yes, this promises to be a great night at The Octagon, it's fantastic to be returning there after last years successful run of THE BENCH: A Tale from Paradise Heights. 

This will be a night for both existing and new fans of the series, come along and find out just what TALES FROM PARADISE HEIGHTS is about.  There will be scenes from the existing plays, film clips, live original music from the series, a Q&A with my twisted self and a couple of scenes from my new plays DIANE'S DELI and TORCH, both of course are TALES FROM PARADISE HEIGHTS...

Before then I will be turning up to The Thirsty Scholar as part of this... 

And what is Hotpotch?  This is from their facebook page...

'HotchPotch Manchester is a unique monthly performance art and multi-media event held at the Thirsty Scholar and Attic, organised to promote some of and most diverse talent within Manchester. It is for everyone, who is interested in improving and developing knowledge about visual art, live performance, film and music. You can learn new skills, talk about own ideas or just have fun.'
And yes I know it the flyer/poster says there will be a short play from me, well instead I'll be assaulting your ears with some of my slam/slang poetry or indeed Noetry...come along, it's a great monthly night organised by Zuzanna Zukiewicz a tremendously passionate enthusiast of the Manchester Arts Scene...
Till then, see ya...
Joe x

Friday, 10 February 2012

A Fear of BIG WORDS...DIANE'S DELI and who is Detective Constable Phil Mackey...?

Hi all

Joe O'Byrne

Well after a relatively short quiet period things are starting to stir again at Paradise Heights Towers

First up...

A Fear of BIG WORDS...

So what's this?  Well after a sensational run of THE BENCH last year at THE OCTAGON THEATRE, we're returning there in May to give people a flavour of what this series of tales is about, exploring the origins and themes within the tales.  There will be scenes from the current productions - exploring the links between the plays and films, film clips, trailers possibly some of the original music played live and an exclusive reveal of new material from both DIANE'S DELI and TORCH (two new plays in the series) and just maybe...a new short film.  This is all part of bringing Tales from Paradise Heights to Bolton audiences and sets the pathway to STRAWBERRY JACK which will be showing at THE OCTAGON later this year...more details as this shapes up...


Yeah, there's a cafe in Paradise Heights known as Diane's's ran by a rather enigmatic Irish man - not Frank Morgan ;)

He has a tale, boy does he have a tale...I'm fully back in writing mode and have to say this is some of the most enjoyable writing I have ever done, I'll be looking to premiere it in the later part of 2012...


Who he...?  For those that saw RANK there was a certain copper that had let Lisa McGeehan's name out live on air...I found this news clip on youtube covering the story...

A certain Police Officer who was placed under investigation for his conduct...he kept his job.  There will be a short film looking at this guy later this year...and he will be appearing in TORCH, another play on the way that revisits Frank Morgan, Nula Christie, Deaf Freddie and The Ace of Spades Nightclub... 

So, lot's going on...further updates imminent...

Joe x

PS  FAB new Documentary on the way from Ben Mottershead on The Making of STRAWBERRY JACK...;) x

Monday, 26 December 2011


Steve Balshaw reviews
Strawberry Jack: A Tale from Paradise Heights  
***** Five Stars

Written & Directed by Joe O'Byrne
Christmas seems to be a time of year for heartwarming tales of forgiveness, redemption and renewal, of the bad made good, the broken healed, the darkness made a little lighter.

So when Joe O’Byrne advertises STRAWBERRY JACK as “A Christmas Tale” there’s a certain expectation as to what it will be about. And the set up plays into, and plays UP to those expectations. This is the tale of Jack Grundy, “Strawberry Jack”, a brutalised, burn-scarred bouncer at the Ace of Spades Nightclub. Jack is a bad man, who has done some very bad things, for an even badder man - Frank Morgan, the psychopathic crime kingpin of Paradise Heights. But lately he’s started to lose it a little. His bottle is gone. His friend and colleague, Deaf Freddie is covering for him as best he can, but the other doormen are starting to suspect something - particularly that cocky little prick Dave.

 Matthew Ganley (DAVE) Strawberry Jack

Bad enough to be a bad man whose “baditude” has gone for a burton, when there are challengers to your crown all around, but there’s a further complication. A far worse complication. A few nights ago, Jack saved Mandy, one of the bar girls, from being raped. Beat her attacker half to death, left him in a coma. No more than the bastard deserved, far as Jack’s concerned. Only problem is, the would be rapist happens to be the brother of local gangland up-and-comer Jimmy Gargan. And Gargan’s just looking for an excuse to move on Frank Morgan’s empire. First of all, though, he’s put the word out. A £5K bounty on anyone who gives up the person who hospitalised his brother.

So far, so noir. This is a classic tale of a hard man trying to break free, but trapped by his environment, the jaws and claws of which are about to close on him forever. Jack’s bottle’s too far gone for him to consider fighting back, and he cannot run. He has commitments; he has dependents. There’s his Uncle Mel, the man who raised him, who protected him from his own brute of a father, his mind now lost to Alzeimer’s and despair, veering between bitter resentment of every perceived slight and childlike helplessness. And there’s Mandy, who Jack wants to help, who he finds himself drawn to - a chance perhaps for a little beauty, maybe even for love, in his bleak, brutal life.

 David Edward Robertson (DEAF FREDDIE) and Ian Curley (STRAWBERRY JACK)

Jack copes as men of his nature always do. He drinks. He gets off his face on pills. He broods, and rails against the world. He breaks into a church on Christmas Eve, and he rails against god. And there he meets a mysterious woman. She is the ghosts of all his Christmases past, she’s Clarence the Angel trying to earn his wings. She offers him a chance for redemption, if he can just turn his back on the life he has thus far led. For a moment, we can almost  hear A Christmas Carol. It looks as though it really IS A Wonderful Life, even in Paradise Heights…

But there’s the rub. This is, after all, Paradise Heights. And Jack is who he is. He seeks redemption, but he desires revenge. Whatever the cost to his soul…

Characterisation is pin-sharp. Ian Curley never plays for sympathy as Jack - this is a hard, ruthless man, but one who is coming unravelled. In his interplay with others, we see his humanity revealed, - be it in his sparring with his fellow doorman Deaf Freddie (a deft and laconic turn from David Edward Robinson), in his awkward, uneasy attempts to define his relationship with Mandy (a lovely study in hardbitten vulnerability from Alice Brockway), and above all in the heartbreaking relationship with his broken and confused father figure, Mel, played with lovely warmth, humour, and baffled vulnerability by O’Byrne himself (O’Byrne demonstrates his versatility by also putting in a cameo as the vicious human pitbull Jimmy Gargan). Completing the cast, Matthew Ganley’s craven gobshite Dave is a masterful depiction of swaggering blowhardism, while Jo Kirkham scores double as Dave’s snide, avaricious girlfriend, and as the woman who offers that fleeting chance of redemption. 

Strawberry Jack and SHIRLEY (Jo Kirkham) 

The dialogue is pungently, darkly witty, shot through with unforced pathos and flashes of real poetry, in keeping with the blend of naturalism, Brechtian theatre craft and magic realism that define the piece as a whole. O’Byrne is a master of the unexpected pay off to a recurring motif, and while he does not flinch from onstage violence, he is also aware of the effectiveness of understatement - one of the most bone-chilling moments here is provided by Mandy casually discussing something she just witnessed at work, which, whether she knows it or not, is somebody being led off to their probable death. Did I mention there’s even a song? Written by O’Byrne and the Tangled Man, and performed by the inimitable Stella Grundy, this serves as an atmospheric counterpoint to the action, as well as being a taster for the forthcoming TORCH.

STRAWBERRY JACK finds Joe O’Byrne at the top of his (considerable) game, playing on audience expectations of both the traditional sentimental Christmas tale, and the cynical noir crime drama. In one, the girl can offer redemption, in the other, she will invariably get you killed. With a master storyteller’s skill, O’Byrne sets up all of the mechanisms that we know will damn and destroy his protagonist, then puts them into motion. The audience can only watch, hoping that, just this once, their fears will be misplaced. That tragedy will be averted. After all, it’s Christmas…

Alice Brockway (MANDY) and Ian Curley (STRAWBERRY JACK)

But it’s also Paradise Heights. And even Charles Dickens wouldn’t go there without someone riding shotgun.

This is a self-contained piece, but, as always, with the Tales from Paradise Heights, there are hints of the larger tapestry, clues to stories happening elsewhere, answers to questions raised in other works in the sequence, that will appeal to those of us who have been following the Cycle for a while. TORCH, is coming soon. Anyone remotely interested in theatre, in storytelling in general, should get ready to check it out.

Steve Balshaw
Director, Salford Film Festival

Saturday, 17 December 2011


Hi all

STOKING THE FIRE AGAIN: Two New Plays On The Way...

I've just seen a review for STRAWBERRY JACK that is a stunner, the kind of review that makes this kind of struggle all worth while, a review that I'm sure will only help us in getting the play on in further venues regional and national.  On top of that the lovely PAUL CRYER of filmed the first nights run of the show, the DVD will be available in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime here are a few stills from Paul's filming:

 DAVID EDWARD ROBERTSON (Deaf Freddie) and IAN CURLEY (Strawberry Jack) outside Frank Morgan's ACE OF SPADES CLUB, Strawberry Jack
 Deaf Freddie and Strawberry Jack outside Frank Morgan's ACE OF SPADES CLUB, Strawberry Jack

 Strawberry Jack and Mandy (ALICE BROCKWAY) in the bar, Frank Morgan's ACE OF SPADES CLUB. Strawberry Jack
Strawberry Jack and Mandy, Strawberry Jack

Deaf Freddie and Strawberry Jack After hours at Frank Morgan's ACE OF SPADES CLUB, Strawberry Jack

Strawberry Jack and Melvyn (JOE O'BYRNE) at Melvyn's House, Strawberry Jack

Mandy and IAN Strawberry Jack at Melvyn's House, Strawberry Jack

Strawberry Jack and Shirley (JO KIRKHAM) at the derelict church,
Strawberry Jack

Mandy and Strawberry Jack: Strawberry Jack

Dave (MATTHEW GANLEY) on The Ace of Spades Club Door, Strawberry Jack

Strawberry Jack in the derelict church, Strawberry Jack

Huge thanks to Paul Cryer for these stills, full DVD due shortly.
A time for quiet reflection?  Take a chill pill? Sit back, kickback and relax? Let the grass grow a little?  Nah...Never been one for sitting still. 

Ben Mottershead is currently beavering away on the edit of The Making of Strawberry Jack Documentary that will no doubt help push the play further, Ben did a fantastic job on The Making of The Watcher - a talented young film maker that is sure to go far.

Obviously TORCH is on the horizon, another play in the series.  This one will be another huge step forward, and will need a few quid in the kitty, that's something I'll have to work on.  STRAWBERRY JACK showed us the outside of Frank Morgan's club The Ace of Spades, TORCH will take us inside, and inside the mind of a twisted TORCH SINGER Nula Christie, THE QUEEN OF CLUBS working at THE ACE OF SPADES.  If you saw STRAWBERRY JACK you will have heard her, THE GEMINI MAN is one of her songs. 

THE GEMINI MAN - Stella Grundy (Lyrics: Joe O'Byrne, Music & Composition: The Tangled Man) by Paradise Joe

I'll be writing a couple of more songs to be performed live in TORCH, and indeed I hope to be collaborating with TANGLED MAN, RUTH PARFITT and HOLLY KIM WYATT on a possible Songs and Music from Paradise Heights Concept Album - it was such a buzz working with them for Strawberry Jack that we'd be missing out if we didn't.

I'm planning a short film before it, to go hand in burnt hand with TORCH, a stand alone film with it's own story (that is ALWAYS important, they have to work as their own singular tales) but fans of the series will see the bridge between STRAWBERRY JACK and TORCH. 

There's also another play I'm working on, DIANE'S DELI (working title - may change) that will very possibly be premiering at one of the regions leading theatre's between April and June - before TORCH - I'm hoping to confirm that one here very soon.

But more than anything I want to get STRAWBERRY JACK out there again, so I'm looking for spaces, theatre programmers if you're reading this please get in touch, that said I will very probably be getting in touch with you...:)

It's also looking like there will be some good news shortly on certain films that have been made in the Tales from Paradise Heights series, Watch this space.

Finally, what I'm really looking for now is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Tales from Paradise Heights - a PRODUCER.  A producer who will help us get to London, will help us bring the finance in to do if that's you and you want to work with a dynamic forward moving company, a team of talented professionals, with a tremendous back catalogue of successful and well reviewed projects just itching to hit London - please get in touch and let's talk...2012 is gonna be big...

Oh, and here's that review I talked about, another 5* one to add to the collection...

Strawberry Jack

Strawberry Jack
Designed by Joe O'Byrne