Three university of Bolton students are acting alongside the professionals ­— in a role that requires them to do nothing!

Emma Parkinson, Olivia Needham and Colette Wiseman have to lie perfectly still for two hours as the action unfolds around them during performances of The Last Yankee which opens tonight (Thurs Feb 28).

The students, who are on the theatre degree course, are playing the role of a heavily medicated patient in the Arthur Miller play, which is directed by Prof David Thacker, head of the course and former artistic director of the Octagon Theatre.

Their character has to remain motionless in bed on stage so the audience will not be distracted during the performance.

To help them do that they have been learning techniques from movement coach and associate director Lesley Hutchison.

Emma, Olivia and Colette will play the character on different nights, according to a rota.

The Last Yankee tells the story of two women who have been admitted to a psychiatric hospital with mental health issues and are being visited by their husbands.

Rehearsals are taking place at the Queens Campus Farnworth, where their lectures are held.

Second year student Olivia, aged 20, who has acted in professional productions such as Annie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child, revealed how David had asked the three of them to audition as if their character had been released from hospital.

She said: “It helped us to feel part of the play and understand that this woman in bed and heavily medicated is as much of a person as everyone else in the world.

“David has treated us just the same as the professional actors and it has been an incredible experience.”

Emma, aged 23, also a second year student, said: “It is an amazing opportunity to be part of a professional production directed by David Thacker.

“It has given us the chance to get out of the classroom and see how a play like this comes together and all the work involved.

“This course is brilliant. We get to learn about all aspects of theatre, not just acting and we see productions being created in the professional environment and that is incredibly valuable.”

Third year student Colette, aged 21, from Bolton, said: “I am so excited to perform in this piece. I have loved being part of the rehearsal process and gaining an insight into a professional rehearsal room.

“We have created our own character narrative for when we are on stage and with the help of the movement director understood why the character is so still through the piece.”

To book tickets, contact the Octagon box office on 01204 520661.