We are raising funds to bring James Ernest's new play Oct.O.Pus to life and to raise awareness about todays working class issues!

£348 raised of £1,000 target 35 %
15 supporters 18 days left
This project is using Flexible funding and will receive all pledges made by 11:22am 7th May 2018


Three generations, Nan, Mum and Daughter fight for survival and amongst themselves, as we witness their precarious existence in a tiny council flat that’s bursting at the seams.

Playwright James Ernest blends realism and melodrama to create a bleak and funny reflection of working class struggles at home and in the workplace.


“We are clearly not all middle class now.”

Figures have recently shown that 60 per cent of people in the UK now identify as working class.

With years of austerity, the end of a “golden age,” the NHS facing a funding crisis and with Brexit on the horizon; the government have left us all in a desperate state of uncertainty. 

The mental health of our working class people is rapidly on the decline, unmanageable debt is beginning to surface and we want to help raise awareness and demand action before it’s far too late. 


The initial idea of Oct.O.Pus first sparked in 2015, when Playwright James Ernest was selected to be a part of Sheffield Theatre’s most unique project; Fuse. It contained a series of workshops specially designed to find a new way of working between Designers and Playwrights. These workshops lead to a showing of the work the artists collaborated on. 

Since, James has worked with the development team at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.  They have helped him develop the idea into a fully fledged play. 



We are a passionate group of diverse and exciting freelances, who feel inspired to explore new approaches to theatre. Compared to other theatre productions who have a tendency to "play it safe”, we constantly thrive to discover ways in which theatre can be more innovative and ground-breaking and, as a result, more able to excite and attract new audiences.

We are all significantly different enough in our strengths and skillsets that we can comfortably challenge and stretch each other. Some of the cast and crew first collaborated at the beginning of 2014, where we produced our first play called Catnip; which was developed on The Royal Court Young Writers' Programme. The piece won a spot in the Rich Mix: Love Festival 2014, which was organised and run by IdeasTap. After much interest from other venues, we then, after further development, took the piece to the Arts Theatre in the West End, where it gained its critical acclaim.

And now, we have come together again, stronger than ever, after learning many lessons on the way.


We wish to continue to help our audience, by gently guiding them towards facing and discussing taboo subjects they tend to shy away from. We believe the specific issues we are interested in exploring are very important and need to be faced to ensure we continue being a progressive society.


The cast were carefully selected as it was extremely important to us that they truly cared about and related to the subject of Austerity in some way. They include disabled artists, artists from an LGBTQ+ backgrounds and working class artists.

Playwright - James Ernest “Women in the arts are also currently hugely unrepresented. I know so many extremely talented female actors who are struggling to be seen. So, when writing the play I made a conscious decision to write bold well rounded female roles, the sorts of characters that I felt were hardly seen on the British Stage.” 


We hope the production will take flight so our message can be sung to the high heavens. We wish to transfer Oct.O.Pus to a Manchester based theatre for a longer run and then tour to specific theatres and spaces in the region across the UK that are also affected by the issues in the play. 

We also aim to lead workshops and discussions around the subject matters of debt, elitism, mental health and other working class related problems. 

The Cast include: 

Melissa Johns  - Lisa


Melissa is best known for playing Imogen Pascoe in ITV’s Coronation Street and Sadie in BBC’s The Interceptor. She was born in Herefordshire and moved to London in 2009 where she attended East 15 Acting School. One of very few aspiring actors with a disability to be accepted into drama school. Melissa was born without her right hand and forearm. Having this body that was so different to everyone else’s has made achieving her dreams incredibly difficult, but she has never given up on knowing exactly what she wants and where she wants to be.

During her time at Drama school, Melissa was chosen to represent East 15 during award season and went on to win the Laurence Olivier Award. One of the most prestigious awards to be won. She was one of the first physically disabled actors to win the award.

As well as Coronation Street and The Interceptor, Melissa has also appeared in Doctors, Casualty & SILK as well as theatre shows throughout the UK.

 Melissa is an ambassador and campaigner for actors with disabilities, breaking down the barriers faced for disabled actors and changing perceptions of disability.

She is Co founder of TripleC with Coronation Street actor Cherylee Houston. 

TripleC is a disabled led organisation that use drama and theatre based workshops to enrich the lives of people living with disabilities. Running drama workshops in special educational needs schools, setting up weeks youth theatre for teenagers with disabilities/illnesses.  

Caroline Wagstaffe - Mum


Caroline is a brave northern actress who trained on the Acting course at East 15 Acting School.

Even though she is a single mother, she has continued and succeeded in pursuing a career within the arts. Caroline’s most recent theatre credits include playing : Betty in From Heaven to Hell (Manchester Fringe,) Kate in the latest Pensive Federation’s production, Significant Other and also Roselyn in Play Cock’s version of As You Like It. 

Anna Swan - Dorothy


Anna is an actress originally from Beverley near Hull. She trained at East 15 acting school. Her acting credits include : Julie in Catnip (Arts Theatre - West End,) Bella in Gas Light (Marine Theatre) and also appears in ITV’s Victoria!

The Crew include:

James Ernest - Playwright and Current Producer

James is a playwright originally from Swinton, a small village in South Yorkshire. 

He trained on the Contemporary Theatre course at East 15 Acting School and a former graduate of both The Royal Court and Soho Theatre’s Young Writers’ Programmes. 

James Ernest is also a HIV advocate and LBGTQ+ activist.

He works voluntarily as a personal mentor and workshop facilitator at the formidable charity - George House Trust. Here he supports those living with HIV to over come personal barriers, and helps to transform any ounce of personal shame and doubt into bold strength and elevated empowerment.

His past plays include : The Ascending (Sheffield Crucible Theatre Studio) One For Sorrow (Blue Elephant Theatre, Southwalk Playhouse) Catnip (Arts Theatre - West End, Richmix - London) and The 8th Wave (Soho Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre and Space Theatre, London.)

Lily Levin - Director  

Lily is a Director and the Award winning film maker behind Grampy and TITS!

She trained alongside Melissa and James on the Contemporary Theatre Course at East 15 Acting School. She is a Vegan and Socialist and her Theatrical Directorial credits include :

One For Sorrow (Blue Elephant Theatre, Southwalk Playhouse) and Catnip (Arts Theatre - West End, Richmix - London.) 

Ask My Bull  - The Band

Starting out in 2014 as an instrumental power duo, they adopted a bull-headed punk style and keep things interesting with guitar loops and plenty of irregular beats. This is music with an ADHD quality; stroking your head for most of the time, but then suddenly treading on your toes. Holding on to some of the unpredictability of math rock, they are also led into jazzier territory by buoyant and sultry saxophone lines, while the rhythm section plays somewhere between infectious gypsy-ska pulses and the tightly wound energy of punk and breakbeat.

Ask My Bul‖'s mechanical spirit recalls German efficiency injected with Tequila. Imagine them as an alien life form that crashed to earth 50 years ago and has been living in a council estate since. Fluorescent and flamboyant or blunt and vulgar, but always peppered lightly with tea & culture. Expect to smell a bit of everything, a musical chimera of prog, trip-hop or video game soundtracks, delivered in almost unreasonably hyperactive and sweat-inducing live performances that will make you dance, crawl, laugh and sneeze.


The Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford

28th June at 2pm and 7pm

29th June at 7pm

5% of the performance profits will go towards Partisan ‘collective and volunteer run space for independent, community led, DIY and cultural based projects.’ 



Melissa Johns - Lead Actress

Melissa has recently won the JCI UK Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award in the category “Children, World Peace & Human Rights” for working to break the mould in getting disability on screens and stages and running workshops for young people to allow them to see the importance of working with people with disabilities to try and evoke positive social change in society's approach to disability. 

James Ernest - Playwright

For The 8th Wave 

Runner Up for Soho Young Writers’ Award 2012

The New Current ★★★★★

'There is a beauty in Ernest's writing that not only makes one think but also stays with you once you left the theatre, and it goes without saying this play has no chance of leaving you.'

Whats On Stage ★★★★

'Beautifully written, the characters of The 8th Wave linger long in the memory.'

Gay Times ★★★★

'The 8th Wave is a thoughtful, precise debut from a young artist who knows his voice.'

For Catnip

‘Top 75 Scripts’ category for Verity Bargate Award 2013

James Hopkirk of IdeasTap said via Twitter:

‘Wow. @catniptheplay is an intense show for a Sunday lunchtime! Highly

recommended & coming to Leicester Square Theatre soon #IdeasTapLove’

The New Current ★★★★

‘James Ernest has written a play that continues his beautifully crafted style that is

full of depth.’


'By far the most eccentric of all performances was Catnip. 

With fantastic acting and dark humour throughout 

the audience left the theatre with smiles on their faces 

despite the melancholy topics.'

Lily Levin - Director/Film Maker

For short film, Grampy

Award of Merit 

Best Shorts Competition 

Award of Merit

Impact DOCS Awards

Humanitarian Honourable Mention 

Impact DOCS Awards

AWARD Of Exceptional Merit 

Viewer Impact & Inspirational AWARD Of Merit for Content/Message Delivery 

WRPN Short Tight & Loose Film Competition - WSTL.

Ask My Bull - Band

"Ask My Bull is a band with hypnotic and tightly wound momentum ... These Manchester masters have a unique quality to their song construction ... Having some tight pocket and funky tensions, the groove shares many aspects with drum and bass. This layering of textures really makes the duo sound full and complete." – Pat Clavel, SPREAD

"Imagine the mathematical mind of Mickey Mouse playing chess with a sledge hammer. That's Ask My Bull. Punk attitude with a nice warm shower and of course they take prisoners, that's were the real fun starts. Dressed up as corpses for your kids' Bar Mitzvah. Juggling around unconscious ears with a void brain and a spread open heart. So, if you believe there is a life after right now, don't miss the after party! Cocktail away." – Glandula Pineal, film-maker and poet

"Their music is like a journey through unknown forest. It is similar to ours in terms of power and progression, but way more flamboyant." - Eduardo, The Kingdom Lost

"Ask My Bull sounds like doodling with music instead of pen." Elena Cau, Blonde Lips

"A joyful mix of captivating gypsy jazz guitar riffs and progressive sax lead melodies. In parts their style courts with the visceral anarchical feel of rock, with a playful dash of distortion here and there." - Joel White, M20 Collective


We'll use all the funds raised here to produce Oct.O.Pus!

All your donations will go towards covering:

Theatre Hire 

Rehearsal Space 


Props and Costume

Marketing and PR


We’ve tailored all our Rewards to make sure you're part of the Oct.O.Pus Family.

Package Number 1 and 2!

If you donate up to £10 you will receive…

A personalised video by OCTAVIA - our Oct.O.Pus Mascot!

Package Number 3!


If you donate £20 you will receive… 

A personalised video by OCTAVIA - our Oct.O.Pus Mascot!

A 10%  discount code on tickets to Industry Showing of Oct.O.Pus


A signed POSTER from all the Cast and Crew!

Package Number 4!


If you donate £30 you will receive… 

A personalised song by OCTAVIA - our Oct.O.Pus Mascot!

A signed POSTER from all the Cast and Crew!

A 10%  discount code on tickets to Industry Showing of Oct.O.Pus


An Oct.O.Pus themed GIFT!

Package Number 5!


If you donate £40 you will receive… 

A personalised song by OCTAVIA - our Oct.O.Pus Mascot!

A signed POSTER from all the Cast and Crew!

An Oct.O.Pus themed GIFT

A 20% discount code on tickets to Industry Showing of Oct.O.Pus


An Acting Workshop with Anna Swan!

Package Number 6!


If you donate £50 you will receive… 

A personalised song by OCTAVIA - our Oct.O.Pus Mascot! 

A signed POSTER and from all the Cast and Crew!

A 20% discount code for tickets to Industry Showing of Oct.O.Pus


A day in the Rehearsal Room with the cast and our Director Lily Levin!

Package Number 7!


£60 and ABOVE you will receive 

A personalised song by OCTAVIA - our Oct.O.Pus Mascot!

A signed SCRIPT from all the Cast and Crew!

An Acting Workshop with Anna Swan!

A day in the Rehearsal Room with the cast and our Director Lily Levin!


So there you are! 

Please dig deep and help us show the world how amazing this production can be! 

Thanks to 

Javier X Camanas - Photographer

Ask My Bull for the Music!