Artistic director David Thacker and his associates have announced the 2014/15 season for Bolton’s Octagon Theatre that promises to build upon the theatre’s considerable strengthens while offering also some startling innovations.
The Octagon will continue its successful collaborations with The New Vic Theatre, Newcastle- under- Lyme, and Oldham Coliseum. The policy of through casting, with the actors from one production being carried forward into the next, will continue.
The new season opens with tragedy and closes with comedy. The opening plays in the autumn will commemorate the centenary of World War One with a classic and a local play. R C Sherriff’s harrowing Journey’s End will utilise the layout of the Octagon to place the audience surrounding the dugout in which the hapless soldiers shelter. Les Smith’s Early One Morning has local resonance being the tale of a soldier from Bolton on trial for desertion. Audiences will also have the chance to get involved with community projects that will supplement the opening plays.
Thacker has an enviable reputation for staging classics of the American theatre and makes a rare return to a play that he has already directed. The centenary of Arthur Miller’s birth is marked by a revival of A View from a Bridge.
The Octagon hope that the financial success enjoyed in the current season, in which Hobson’s Choice set box office records, is duplicated by another Lancashire play- Stanley Houghton’s Hindle Wakes.
Comedy is not neglected as the new season features Noel Coward’s Private Lives. It will certainly be worth seeing the closing play of the season as Michael Frayn’s Noises Off is one of the funniest plays ever written. It will be fascinating to see how the theatre, which is in the round, overcomes the considerable technical challenges arising from a theatrical comedy involving characters rushing through many doors and being both on-stage and backstage at a theatre.
The new season includes the premiere of a play so new it has yet to be written and has a title so long as to be daunting: The Ancient Secrets of Youth and the Five Tibetansas the author of the play is Jim Cartwright (writer of Little Voice and Road) any doubts are easily overcome. The plot involves an annual get together of three friends in their mid-fifties one of whom unveils a book outlining a series of exercises which, if completed, promise eternal life. The friends agree to try them and discuss the results at their next meeting.
Elizabeth Newman has outlined plans for the Christmas show Alice in Wonderland and new writing projects. The Express Project is a collaborative audio exercise involving six short dramas to be staged in community venues and homes with audiences given the chance to attend a live recording at The Octagon in September.
Ten leading writers are to be invited to work with newer authors on plays based in each of the districts of Greater Manchester. The concept involves the writers either re-kindling a relationship with an area or starting a new one and offers an opportunity for the development of both established and new writers. Story Lab will examine the development of emerging writers from Bolton and invite them into the theatre.
The 2013/14 season at The Octagon set a high standard in both quality of productions and financial success for the theatre. Fortunately for audiences the producers seem to regard such achievements as simply another target to be exceeded and their new season shows every indication of so doing.
Reporter: Dave Cunningham
Journey’s End: 4th September to 4th October, 2014
Early One Morning: 9th October to 1st November 2014
Alice in Wonderland: 14th November to 10th January 2015
A View from a Bridge: 15th January to 14th February 2015
Hindle Wakes: 19th February to 21st March 2015
Private Lives: 26th March to 18th April 2015
The Ancient Secrets of Youth and the Five Tibetans: 30th April to 23rd May 2015
Noises Off : 4th June to 4th July 2015