A HOST of top names in stage and television will make up an all-star cast of plays at the Octagon Theatre.

Over the next two weeks, theatre regulars Denise Welch and John McArdle, along with 'Allo 'Allo actor Arthur Bostrom, Waterloo Road star Lauren Drummond, Lorna Laidlaw from Doctors and How We Used To Live's Kathy Jamieson, will perform in Top Five — a festival of play-readings featuring five original new plays selected by the theatre’s artistic team.

They will be joined by other cast members include John Afzal, Sam Beresford, Tristan Brooke, Trystan Chambers, Sushil Chudasama, Sandra Cole, Christopher Connel, Natasha Davidson, Paul Dodds, Sam Edney, Richard Hand, Steven Hillman, Remmie Milner, Paislie Reid and Rob Ward.

When Gandhi Came to Lancashire will kick off the festival tomorrow, a play by writer, artist and director Chris Salt.

This will be followed by The House in Sofia with a Map of its Surroundings on Wednesday by award-winning playwright Ian Townsend, then Janet Plater — daughter of celebrated playwright Alan Plater — will debut Haddock and Chips Twice on Thursday.

On Monday, February 22, a new play by Becky Prestwich, who writes for writes for BBC1's Doctors, will be staged with How the Cabinet Maker Crossed the Road, before the Top Five concludes on Wednesday, February 24 with Mr & Mrs Khan, a play by new writer Shahid Iqbal Khan which follows a sister who comes to town hot on the heels of a family bereavement.

The readings, directed by Octagon Theatre's new writing associate and BAFTA-nominated writer Janys Chambers, are free to attend, and those who go will receive a free drinks voucher.

Speaking of the selection of plays and playwrights, Ms Chambers said: "We're really excited about these readings — all the plays fought off incredibly stiff competition to make it into our Top Five. We have here an amazing line-up of talented writers, brilliant new plays, and great actors, and this is a wonderful opportunity for audiences to see the contemporary classics of tomorrow, today."

To find out more, visit octagonbolton.co.uk/top-5-play-reading-festival.