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Octagon stages Pat Phoenix play, Albee, Rattigan & Oz

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The Bolton Octagon has announced their new Season of plays that will be produced in house from September 2011- June 2012.

David Thacker will be celebrating his third year as Artistic Director with a stunning season of nine plays featuring the very best in Northern playwriting, vibrant new work, timeless classics and family drama. It will be ten months of great drama - made in Bolton.

David said: “We are proud to be one of the only producing theatres in the country that conceives and promotes a year-long season of plays. This is thrilling for me because it lets us take nearly 2000 committed Season Ticket holders on a theatrical journey. Again we’ve planned a season in which plays reflect on each other and themes from one play are picked up by another. Central themes to our 2011-2012 Season are; the fight for justice and freedom, sexual passion, truth and illusion, and hopes and dreams. I hope that you will join us on this journey.”

First up is a World Premiere of a compelling new play by Stella Feehily, a writer whose work has been receiving national praise from critics across the country. Bang Bang Bang (5 - 17 Sep 2011) will be directed by Max Stafford-Clark, Out of Joint’s Artistic Director. Researched through interviews with aid workers, journalists, government advisors and photographers, Bang Bang Bang reveals the fascinating story around the lives of humanitarian workers dealing with real danger on a daily basis.

Continuing in the Octagon tradition of producing great American drama, David Thacker brings to the stage Edward Albee’s acerbically funny and heart-breaking play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (22 Sep – 15 Oct 2011) A funny and ferocious rollercoaster of a drama, the play features Margot Leicester and George Irving in the roles of Martha and George; the sparring couple whose insults flow as freely as the bourbon. The pair appeared at the Octagon together in two productions in David’s first Season; in his production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, nominated for an MEN Theatre Award for Best Production in 2009, and also in Ibsen’s Ghosts in the same year.

From fury to farce, the Octagon will then return to the work of Alan Bennett for the first time in fifteen years with his comic masterpiece Habeas Corpus (20 Oct – 12 Nov 2011). Set in 1970’s Brighton, its sun, fun and seaside frolics in this bawdy and raucous play from one of Britain’s best-loved playwrights.

There’ll be no place like the Octagon this Christmas when L.Frank Baum’s classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (18 Nov 2011 – 14 Jan 2012) appears on stage. It will be directed by Elizabeth Newman, whose production of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield was nominated for the MEN Theatre Award for Best Family Show. Elizabeth will be directing three main house auditorium productions during the 2011/12 season.

Bolton will then pay tribute to arguably its finest playwright, Bill Naughton, in the much-loved popular culture classic Alfie (19 Jan – 18 Feb 2012). Made famous by Michael Caine, and later Jude Law, in film versions of the play, Alfie takes us back to the ‘swinging sixties’, a joyful era of swagger, charm and free love but with a gritty reality. Alfie is provocative, witty and challenging.

Thacker explores his passion for transforming great works of Shakespeare into dynamic, contemporary theatre for a wide audience following Romeo and Juliet (2011) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2010). Next year he will be tackling one of Shakespeare’s best-known works, the great Scottish Play; Macbeth (23 Feb – 17 Mar 2012). Following the involvement of a Community Company in The Hired Man and Sweeney Todd, Macbeth will be the Octagon’s most ambitious use of a Community Company yet, with local people playing Shakespeare alongside professional actors.

And from one famous royal to another of an entirely different variety, the season also includes The Queen of the North (3 – 26 May 2012) by Ron Rose. Following on from the recent success of The Demolition Man, based on the life of Fred Dibnah, the Octagon moves its focus to the life of another Northern legend, ‘queen of the cobbles’; Pat Phoenix. Immortalising the role of Elsie Tanner in Britain’s best-loved soap Coronation Street, Phoenix lived a life off-screen that was just as dramatic as that of her on-screen persona.

David Thacker also brings to the stage a play by one of Britain’s greatest Twentieth Century dramatists; The Winslow Boy (29 Mar – 21 Apr 2012) by Terence Rattigan. Despite the storm clouds of the Great War gathering across Europe there is only one story that has captured the imagination of the nation; the case of ‘the Winslow boy’ is on the front page of every newspaper as one family struggles to clear the name of their youngest son, wrongly accused of stealing a five shilling postal order. Doing whatever it takes to ‘Let Right Be Done’, The Winslow Boy explores the cost and consequences faced by one family in their pursuit of justice.

Closing the season on a musical high note, the Octagon closes the season with the work of another great playwright from Bolton, Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (31 May – 23 Jun 2012); a story full of heart with big characters and an unbelievable soundtrack. Musicians will perform live on the Octagon stage, recreating familiar sounds from all of the great divas including; Bassey, Holiday, Piaf and Garland, to name just a few.

The new season is on Priority sale for Premium Season Ticket Holders, on sale to Gold Season Tickets from Monday 16 May and on general sale from Tuesday 31 May.


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