A RENOWNED theatre director is to stage the northern premiere of an Arthur Miller play at a newly-created theatre in Bolton town centre. Ian Savage reports.

PROFESSOR David Thacker, head of the BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance Degree at the University of Bolton, will direct The Last Yankee – and it will be presented in the Bolton Library Lecture Theatre.

The bold move by the university will give students the chance to shadow a professional theatre company as part of their unique degree course.

Prof Thacker, former artistic director of Bolton’s Octagon Theatre, said he was “tremendously excited” to be presenting a play in a “new, intimate and beautiful space”.

The Lecture Theatre will be temporarily renamed The Library Theatre during its role staging the professional play.

It will undergo some temporary, reversible, modifications to make it suitable for a high- quality theatre production.

These adaptations have been designed in close consultation with Bolton Council’s Library and Museum Service.

The front row of the theatre will be removed to accommodate a larger stage. Suitable lighting will also be installed.

There will be no changes to the fabric or décor of the lecture theatre and all the modifications are designed so that the auditorium can easily revert back to its original design.

Prof Thacker said: “There are a number of aims with this project.

“The first is the creation of a new, intimate and beautiful theatre space in the cultural heart of Bolton at a time when the Octagon is closed and undergoing renovation.

“The Albert Halls is a beautiful venue and is quite different to our vision for the Library Theatre, which is to create an intimate space for theatregoers.

“The second aim is to provide an enhanced offer for the University of Bolton students.

“It will enable them to get a great understanding of what putting together a professional production – and theatre company - entails.

“The experience the students will gain from this is invaluable.”

He added: “Third, it is complementary to the wonderful Octagon theatre and enhances the Library and Museum Service, which is even more amazing than ever after all the recent renovation work.”

Prof Thacker and playwright Miller – famous for works such as Death of a Salesman, A View from the Bridge and The Crucible – forged a close professional and personal friendship.

Prof Thacker directed The Last Yankee as his final production when he was artistic director of the Young Vic in London in 1993. It was the play’s British premiere.

He said: “The Last Yankee is not one of Miller’s best known works but it is so relevant to issues high on the agenda.

“It puts mental health and perceptions and understanding of the issue at the forefront and it has huge contemporary relevance. I believe it is even more important now than it was in 1993.

“Like all of Arthur Miller’s work, it is a prescient, funny and moving play.

“I hope that the new space, though temporary at the moment, might be able to be used by local amateur theatre groups and for speeches and presentations once the minor alterations have been carried out.

“It will be a perfect multi-purpose space.”

Sam Johnson, Head of the University of Bolton School of the Arts, said she was delighted that the University of Bolton was involved in such an exciting project.

“It has been fascinating to see how a professional production comes together and it is an amazing experience for the students. I am sure it will be stunning.” Councillor John Byrne, Executive Cabinet Member for Culture, Youth and Sport, said the council was delighted to be supporting the University’s initiative.

He said: “It is very exciting that David Thacker and the University is presenting this play to a professional standard in the heart of the town centre, just yards from the Octagon Theatre which is out of action at the moment as it undergoes a multi-million pound transformation.

“The Lecture Theatre will be a great new venue to stage the play and the audience will be so close to the action, it is a chance not to be missed.”

Roddy Gauld, Chief Executive of the Octagon Theatre Bolton, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the University of Bolton on this production of The Last Yankee.

“Whilst the Theatre is out and about during our redevelopment, I’m thrilled that audiences can continue to enjoy outstanding theatre made in Bolton.”

“The Last Yankee promises to live up to that, with a fantastic cast and the world-wide reputation of David Thacker’s direction of Arthur Miller plays. “

The production, presented by the University of Bolton and partners Bolton Council and the Library and Museum Services is supported by the Octagon Theatre.

The Last Yankee will be performed at the Library Theatre from February 28 – March 16.

Tickets are available from the Octagon box office: Telephone 01204 520661, at www.octagonbolton.co.uk, or in person at the Market Place Shopping Centre.

Monday to Thursday and Matinees

£20, £22


£23, £25


£25, £27

26 and under; Students; Universal Credit

Monday – Thursday & matinees: £10

Friday – Saturday £10 (any available seat after 6pm)

+65; Equity,

Monday – Thursday & matinees: £15, £17

Friday – Saturday £15 (any available seat after 6pm)