Bolton Octagon 50th Season

Bolton Octagon

I was fortunate to attend the recent launch of Bolton Octagon’s 50th Anniversary Season, running from August 2017 until August 2018.  Certainly both Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman and Chief Executive Roddy Gauld were very clear that the Octagon is a theatre for Bolton and surrounding areas.  The programming has in the past, and continues to, reflect the local community; even the promotional imagery ties the programme to the place.

The season includes several community productions.  The Railway Children (August 2017)  features a cast of 100 young people.    There is a birthday party on 26 November.  Gulliver’s Travels (July/August 2018) includes community choirs and groups.  Lyn Gardner said in 2009, and repeated something very similar last year at a conference I attended: ‘There is no one prescriptive model for success [of regional theatres], but what all these theatres have in common is a strong identity balanced with meaningful community involvement.’

There is a strong focus on plays that have a local or ‘northern’ focus.  Rita, Sue and Bob Too ‘is a vivid portrayal of girls caught between brutal childhood and an unpromising future’ (Sept 17).  A new ‘passionate and dramatic’ adaptation of the classic Bronte story Jane Eyre runs through Jan/Feb 18.  East is East, ‘a comedy about clashing cultures and family drama’ returns to the Octagon in March/April 17.  Following that, The Big Corner, adapted from Bolton writer Bill Naughton’s short stories, ‘is a story of hope, young friendship and love’.  The full season programme is available here.

As the theatre enters a new phase, a major redevelopment will significantly alter the building, but not the unique auditorium.  The final two shows will be staged offsite – a strategy that was so successful for Manchester’s HOME.  Summer Holiday (June 18) sees the performance take to Bolton’s buses, ending in the renovated Albert Halls.  Gulliver’s Travels is the theatre’s first full scale outdoor show, in Queen’s Park.

A theatre that is very much at the heart of the town and region that it serves.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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