OCTAGON Theatre's new artistic director Lotte Wakeham took centre stage to announce her first season of productions ­— described as "popular, bold and adventurous".

The season launch took place at Bolton Library and Museum in which Lotte, fellow directors and those behind the upcoming productions took part in a conversation with theatre critic Mark Shenton to give invited guests a "behind the scenes" preview.

Productions include a world premiere and a play penned by Bolton actor Maxine Peake, as well as a visiting production.

Opening the new season in September is Peake's critically acclaimed Beryl, which tells the extraordinary true story of unsung sporting hero Beryl Burton, which will be directed by Kimberley Sykes, who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Kimberley said: "A formidable strong working class Yorkshire woman who refuses to take no for an answer, I was obviously drawn to it."

She added: “I didn’t know about Beryl, and that’s the whole point of the play and that is why Maxine wrote the play. Maxine went why do people not know about her, she is still the most successful female cyclist of all time. She was cycling in a time when she was competing and breaking all the records in a time before women were allowed to compete in the Olympics.

“She had a heart condition and was told she shouldn’t do any strenuous activity."

The world premiere of a new musical Seagulls will take to the stage in October. Loosely inspired by Chekov's The Seagull, the story tells the story of a group of Bolton students and will be Lotte's directorial debut at the Octagon.

Lotte said: "Staff members and supporters of the Octagon have been telling me about their love of live music and the Octagon’s proud history of working with talented musicians, so we are going to produce the world premiere of a brand new musical Seagulls, by Beth Hyland, Seagulls is a coming of age story focusing on four students right here in Bolton who form an indie band and have their lives changed forever. "This is a punchy 21st century adaptation featuring live music throughout. I am very pleased we are going to present Seagulls in partnership with our wonderful colleagues at the University of Bolton and also in association with the Middle Child Theatre Company who specialise in gig theatre – theatre that makes a noise.”

I Wanna Be Yours, following the tender story of Ella and Haseeb by theatre company Tamasha Production and Paines Plough will show for one night only in November.

The season will close with Octagon's popular Christmas show, which this year is the classic tale about buccaneers and buried gold in Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island, which is being brought to the stage in a new adaptation by writer Kate Ferguson with music and lyrics by Susannah Pearse.

Lotte said: "I’m delighted to announce my first season as Artistic Director. I want the Octagon to produce popular, bold and adventurous work, giving our audiences the best theatrical experiences possible. Putting together this season has been a wonderful experience and I’m very excited about the variety of productions. From a brilliant play by Maxine Peake, to the world premiere of a new musical, to our annual festive treat for families, I can’t wait to share this wide range of shows and events with our fantastic audiences. I’m confident that there’ll be something for everyone this season, whether you’re an Octagon regular or whether it’s your first visit."

She added: "I find it really inspiring to think about the many many shoes which started their life here at the Octagon, some of which have gone on to be performed around the world, plays like Two by Jim Cartwright so here is to more world premieres and more opportunities for our audience to say I saw that show in Bolton first.

"I feel so lucky to inherited this audience who are so broad minded in their tastes."

The Octagon’s season of theatre "out and about" will continue for the new season as construction of the multi-million pound redevelopment of the town centre building continues. In the final months ahead of the new building opening in spring 2020 the theatre will be producing shows in Bolton Library Theatre and the University of Bolton Stadium with other events at the theatre’s base in the Market

Place shopping centre.

For those who can't wait until September, the Octagon's The Importance of Earnest will open in the Albert Halls next month.

Director Suba Das said: “One of the best comedies ever written and being staged in the context of the Albert Halls, one of the most beautiful Victorian buildings I have set foot in so in it’s in period.”

The Octagon autumn 2019 season will go on sale on Mon 20 May at 9am. For more information or to book tickets visit octagonbolton.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01204 520661.

IN addition there will be an exciting programme of rehearsed readings in the Octagon’s base at the Market Place shopping centre.

First Bite will be a chance for audiences to see actors perform three new plays “script in hand” followed by a question and answer session.

The first play Family Trees on November 15 by Clare Bayley is a gripping family drama about secrets and lies, from the 1950s to the present day. Wilt on Friday, November 22 by north-west playwright Kieran Knowles is a funny and moving ‘state of the nation’ play about a group of local park rangers. Finally Burkas and Bacon Butties on Friday, November 29 by Shamia Chalabi and Sarah Henley is a comedy set in

Wigan following a father-daughter relationship over a course of a year. First Bite is a unique opportunity to hear these plays which might one day become full productions.

For families there will be a series of Storymake events – storytelling with music and crafts for children and the grown-ups who look after them. This includes the telling of The Gingerbread Man, Hansel and Gretel and The Snow Queen.

Audiences will have a chance to once again to take part in the theatre's popular Investigate Days in which they can explore the themes of the plays with the director and cast.

Other special events staged by the theatre include a a spoken word open-mic event in Lecture Theatre Two at the Museum and hosting several young bands from Rock It! – a Bolton project focusing on young musicians.

Roddy Gauld, Chief Executive said: “I’m really excited with the programme we have coming up. I’m sure existing and new audiences alike will enjoy this season of fresh, new work. We’re

‘out and about’ as we continue construction work on the theatre, and both the Library Theatre and the University of Bolton stadium will be great venues that audiences are now familiar with. Our new building will open in spring 2020, along with a new artistic vision from Lotte for popular, bold and adventurous theatre. This season is a fantastic taster of what’s still to come.”

The Octagon autumn 2019 season will go on sale on Mon 20 May at 9am. For more information or to book tickets visit octagonbolton.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01204 520661.



Beryl by Maxine Peake at Bolton Library Theatre, September 19 to October 19

Seagulls by Beth Hyland at Bolton Library Theatre, October 24 to November 16

I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed, at Bolton Library Theatre, November 11,

Treasure Island, University of Bolton Stadium, December 8 to December 27

First Bite: Play Readings at Market Place Octagon base

Family Trees by Clare Bayley, November 15

Wilt by Kieran Knowles, Friday, November 22

Burkas and Bacon Butties by Shamia Chalabi and Sarah Henley, Friday, November 29

Investigate Days at Bolton Library Theatre

Beryl, October 5

Seagulls, November 2

Storymakers at Octagon's base at Market Place Shopping Centre

The Gingerbread Man, August 23 and 24

Hansel and Gretel, October 22

The Snow Queen, December 7