CHRISTMAS is always a special time but for Lotte Wakeham, artistic director at Bolton Octagon, there is just a little extra excitement in the air.

As the director of this year’s big festive production Peter Pan she is, in effect, bringing Christmas back to the Octagon after a three year absence.

As the venue underwent a multi-million pound transformation, festive shows were moved to Bolton Wanderers stadium in 2018 and 2019 and then the global pandemic last year saw work taken online as theatres around the country closed.

“We are really excited to be able to stage Peter Pan, the first festive show in our own building for three years,” said Lotte. “It does feel like a really special show because of that.”

Peter Pan, the classic tale of the boy who can’t grow up, is says Lotte, the perfect production for this time of year.

“There are a certain number of titles that fit the festive slot,” she said, “shows that have family appeal I’ve always loved Peter Pan as the story is so much about imagination and going on an adventure. This adaption is brilliant. When I first read it I thought it would be great as the story really brings out those themes of imagination and playfulness .

“Even though you may be familiar with the story or you’ve seen a cartoon version of perhaps the film Hook, I think it is so special to see it told on stage live, sharing the experience with other people. I think that’s something we have all been missing over the past couple of years.”

For maximum impact and engagement, Peter Pan will be performed ‘in the round’.

“I think that really adds something,” said Lotte, “as the audience is not only watching the actors they are aware of other audience members and can see how they are reacting.

“The actors are really looking forward to that intimate feel too. Due to the pandemic they have not had the chance to perform so close to an audience for some time.”

The cast of five will certainly be making up for lost time, for not only will they be playing the main roles they will also play pirates, fairies and the Lost Boys.

On top of they they will be playing instruments and singing in this musical production of Peter Pan

“There is a really talented songwriting duo behind the music for the show - Claire Tustin and Zaid Jabero - and the songs are poppy and funky and also very inventive. It will be great for children to see actors singing too as that can be really inspiring if they have not seen that before.”

For the director, a Christmas production adds an extra sense of responsibility as for many youngsters in the audience it could well be their first experience of live theatre.

“I’ve been lucky to direct several festive shows, although this is my first one for the Octagon,” said Lotte. “But I always feel that responsibility to get it right and give them a fun afternoon or evening so that they fall in love with theatre and want to come back to see something else.

“I’ve got a wonderful set and costume designer and we have talked about the visual side of the production. We want the set to feel almost like an adventure playground, we want children in audience to feel like ‘I’d love to get up there and have play on that’. We’ve got some surprising tricks that people might not expect. We are introducing a new generation of children and some adults as well to the magic of live theatre.”

For those who are well versed in Peter Pan, they will be pleased to know that flying is very much an integral part of the production. “It looks very exciting but no, I haven’t had a go,” laughed Lotte. And the crocodile will be making an appearance.

“Just to be able to bring a family show into our new building in time for Christmas has been fantastic,” said Lotte. “This beautiful space is for the people of Bolton and beyond and we are really keen to welcome people in and hear what they think about of it and share in that live theatre experience once more.

Peter Pan, Bolton Octagon, until Sunday, January 9. Details from