Artistic director David Thacker launched the new season graciously expressing appreciation of the support from his colleagues, the staff at the theatre, the local Council, audiences and even critics. Thacker drew connections between the plays some of which seemed tenuous.
There is a distinctly Northern tone to the season. It opens with J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls and Hobson’s Choice is the first play in the New Year. Thacker pushes his luck and draws a link between the latter and Twelfth Night basing the connection on the legend that The Bard spent some time in the North.
A more tangible link is made with other theatres and companies.The Octagon continues its relationship with Out of Joint in their co-production of Stella Feehily’s political comedy This May Hurt a Bit. Other collaborations are with York Theatre Royal, Oldham Coliseum and The New Vic Theatre Newcastle- Under- Lyme.
Thacker has a reputation for producing classics from American theatre. He argues that the season has an overall theme of families in conflict with the likes of Hobson’s Choice and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. Mind you as the Octagon is reluctant to edit text you have to hope that the title of the latter does not turn out to be literal.
The festive show Robin Hood has been promoted for some time but a real surprise is two plays by Tom Kempinski in repertoire. Duet for One alternates with Separation (in which an actor tries to persuade the author to cast her in the former play). Audiences will have the chance to see both shows in a double bill on a single day.
The depressing trend of adapting films to the stage seems continues with the very northern Brassed Off. But people may forget in this case, the play came first. And at least the production offers rousing live music played by local brass bands.
The last show of the season is a further surprise – another film adaptation but of a picture that was so awful it’s hard to see the appeal. The 1970s are rightly regarded as a golden age for cinema and Erich Segal’s Love Story was one of the funniest films ever made – for the wrong reasons. It’s doubtful that The Octagon will be able to capture the ‘ so bad its good’ quality of the film. Their version will be a musical and this received good notices when it was in London.
- Dave Cunningham