BOLTON actor Joe O'Byrne is demonstrating his versatility with his next two projects.

Lookin' For Lucky, the film which Joe has spent four years creating, is set to be released soon, and a play, titled The Bench, will run from April 9 to April 12 at Studio Salford, the theatre event held at The Kings Arms, on Bloom Street, in Salford.

Both films are set on the fictional Paradise Heights estate.

Joe, who is from Halliwell, said: "Lookin' For Lucky will be ready in about six weeks time. What we're looking to do is launch it from Bolton as it was filmed here.

"It's been a real Heart of Darkness journey, to put it mildly.

"One of the problems we've had is that the lead actress Donna, a good friend of mine, broke her neck halfway through filming. So there were times when we just thought the film would never be complete and it led to a major rewrite.

"That introduced some major new characters to the script so, although it sounds a bit hard faced, it turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. Thankfully Donna recovered after about four months, got a couple more scenes done and we finished the film. "

Joe's previous film, Diary of a Bad Lad, was named by the British Film Council as one of the top 10 UK films of the year and it was selected for entry to Cannes International Film Festival.

But he doesn't believe in confining himself, and so when an idea for a play came to him, Joe set about writing The Bench.

"I work for the probation service with a group of lads, we go and tidy graveyards, that sort of thing," he says.

"There was a bench in one of these graveyards that I was sat on while I was having my lunch, and I just thought it would be a really interesting thing to write a play around.

"But I also wanted to use the play to introduce a range of characters that I want to write a whole series of characters around. So although this play is only one story, we will see more from these characters as well."

However, the former Smithills School pupil says it is hard to choose a favourite medium between theatre and film.

"I love both theatre and film," he says.

"Theatre is more immediate, it's a shorter process, it's more intense. The film has taken me four years to get to this stage, where the play I wrote in three weeks in January, it's now March and we're putting it on in April.

"We are tapping some quite serious issues in the play. It's been billed as a comedy but we do look at abuse, addiction, enormous personal grief... but at the same time with there being such a range of characters the audience will go on a real journey. There are some really funny scenes, but we take the audience into some darker places, too. But the whole thing is about hope."

The Bench opens at Studio Salford on April 9. For more information, visit