THE new season at the Octagon features everything from a tripped-out reworking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the gritty Henrik Ibsen play Ghosts, described on its debut in 1881 as “a dirty deed done in public”.
And the theatre has been praised by none other than renowned Shakespearian actor and Captain of the Starship Enterprise, Patrick Stewart.
Stewart wrote the introduction to the new season programme after speaking to the theatre’s new artistic director David Thacker, whom he has worked with in the past.
In fact, David remembers the actor once asking him in the dressing room what he thought about a part he had been offered — the job was Star Trek which made Stewart one of the best known British actors ever.
Stewart wrote: “I know of no other regional theatre in the country that is producing an 11 month season like this. The Octagon is a very special theatre, intimate and friendly with a wonderful relationship between the actors and the audience.
“David is an outstanding director. It is marvellous for the Octagon that he has decided to return to running a regional theatre after his national and international success in theatre and TV.”
David returned the compliment, and said: “For us, Patrick represents major quality and massive accessibility.”
He said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the actor, currently starring alongside Sir Ian McKellen in Waiting For Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, appearing at the Octagon in future seasons.
The new season opens with the world premiere of Mixed Up North, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, followed by Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.
David is widely regarded as one of the country’s greatest Miller directors and had a personal friendship with the playwright during his lifetime.
He recalls that Miller once spoke to him about All My Sons, saying that he “was trying to write a play that a doctor, a lawyer, a docker and a builder could all enjoy”.
Ibsen’s drama Ghosts, which looks at the underlying corruption of an apparently respectable society, will run from October 29 to November 21.
David said: “If ever there was a time for us to be challenging people who are covering things up it’s now!”
Oliver Twist continues the popular tradition of producing Dickens at Christmas, followed by an unusual take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a revival of Les Smith and Martin Thomasson’s play about the White Horse Final, And Did Those Feet, which was written especially for the Octagon last year.
Trevor Griffiths’ daring play Comedians, Ayub Khan-Din’s affectionate reworking of Bill Naughton’s All In Good Time, Rafta Rafta, and Melvyn Bragg’s musical The Hired Man complete the lineup.
David takes over from Mark Babych, who held the post of artistic director for 10 years.
At the launch, he heaped praise on the Octagon’s executive director John Blackmore.
He said: “To work alongside someone as talented as John is a major pull for me.
“John and I are completely committed to the idea of a producing theatre, but it is only because of John and Mark that it is possible.”
He says that he hopes the people of Bolton will be impressed by his choices.
“I really like the people who come to the theatre here,” he said. “I think of it like running the National Theatre of Bolton. I want the people in Bolton and the North West to have the greatest range of plays I can give them.
“The most important thing of all to me is the season tickets. If people come regularly they’ve got something good in their lives. And it’s a fantastic reduction — it’s astonishing when you think about what it would cost to go see a football match or something.
“If you do plays that are directed sensitively and acted with great intelligence and power then they will communicate with everyone. These are plays that people from all backgrounds can enjoy.”