Winter Hill

Winter Hill at Bolton Octagon is about a group of women who go to a part built hotel development on Winter Hill for a book group, but one of their number has deeper motives. Dense with ideas and imagery, the play looks at the effect of giant buildings on our environment and communities, the role of politics and protest, and questions the ways women can change the world. Do we need heroines and who should they be?

The play opens the second half with Cathy Tyson’s Irene defending the council’s decision to approve the hotel development, and trying to explain why the developers were able to go back on their community promises.  Can a council like Bolton ever hold a strong negotiating position against international developers?  This neatly counters the story of the deforestation of Easter Island from the first half.  Personally I found this fascinating and wanted to see more; but despite this underlying theme, the central thread is in the role the women themselves play.

It is very refreshing to see a well written and well staged play with strong female characters.  Directed by Elizabeth Newman and written by Timberlake Wertenbaker, the play evokes a strong sense of place with the presence of Winter Hill metaphorically dominating the scene; the hill is always visible.  Part told through looking back from the near future through their interactions with a daughter, we see a genuine depth of character.  There are an awful lot of ideas in this play, some central to the story but others fizzling out, developing character over story.  Key narrative themes loop in and out of the women’s dialogue.  In fact looking back on this play, it is the unique personalities of the six women on the hill that stand out.

But if there is a single central thread running through the play, it is about how women can become invisible as they grow older.  Why should this be?  What sort of legacy can be left behind?  Who has a voice?  What happens when it can’t be heard?

Bolton Octagon until 3 June.  Details here.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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