The Guide To Bolton’s Octagon Theatre To Celebrate Its 50th Anniversary

The Octagon Theatre Bolton is proud to announce its 50th anniversary season full of new writing, timeless classics and unforgettable events.

This is one of the most historic theatres in the country and proudly hosts various productions every year to accompany their outstanding reputation. Many stars have started out at the Octagon such as comedian Peter Kay who worked at the theatre’s ticket office and presenter Matthew Kelly who starred in “Oh What A Lovely War”. For the past 50 years this theatre grown so much more and attracts some of the greatest stars in the theatre business to performance at the Octagon.

The Octagon Theatre was first opened on 27th November 1967 by Princess Margaret becoming the first professional theatre being built in the North West since the end of WWII. The building itself was designed by Bolton’s Director of Architecture Geoffery H. Brooks. The theatre was then constructed after a total of £95,000 in public donations were raised to make sure the theatre was built. In 1987 the theatre was then extended to add a smaller room originally known as Octopus Studio. This was renamed as The Bill Naughton Theatre in 1994 to honour the man himself.

The 50th Anniversary Season sees world premieres, the Octagon’s first ever full-scale park show, and a major new co-production with Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre that will revive Andrea Dunbar’s seminal play Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman and the team at the Octagon aim to celebrate the past 50 years while looking forward to the next 50, sharing stories with audiences in new and exciting ways.

To coincide with the Octagon’s major redevelopment, the final two productions are going to be OFF SITE. Summer Holiday will see audiences joining professional actors on a bus for a journey that will take them from Bolton’s new travel interchange, through the town centre, to the newly renovated Albert Halls. Following this, Queen’s Park will be transformed for the Octagon’s first ever full-scale park show, Gulliver’s Travels. 


Octagon Theatre Bolton, Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre are thrilled to announce a major new co-production of Andrea Dunbar’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too (Wed 6 – Sat 23 September 2017). First written for the Royal Court Theatre in 1982 when Dunbar was just 19, the play is a vivid portrait of girls caught between brutal childhood and an unpromising future, both hungry for adult adventure. Told with startling insight and wicked humour, the play’s original director Max Stafford-Clark returns to the Octagon to direct this new revival before the production goes on a national tour.

In October, Associate Artistic Director David Thacker directs Bertolt Brecht’s epic musical drama The Threepenny Opera (Thu 12 October – Sat 4 November 2017). Set after the death of the Queen and on the eve of King Charles III’s coronation this darkly comic story is brought right up to date in this exhilarating new production.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Fri 17 November 2017 – Sat 13 January 2018) will be the Octagon’s festive treat this season. Bringing alive the classic festive tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his mysterious journey of redemption through Christmass past, present and future, this beautiful stage adaption by Bolton playwright Neil Duffield will be directed by Octagon’s Associate Director Ben Occhipinti.

In the New Year we bring to the stage Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece Jane Eyre (Thu 18 January – Sat 10 February 2018) in a new adaptation by Lorna French. Directed by Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman this passionate retelling will follow Jane, who with her bold spirit, sharp wit and great courage fights for her independence and follows her heart whatever the obstacles.

The season continues with Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet (Thu 15 February – Sat 10 March 2018) directed by David Thacker. As we find ourselves in an increasingly uncertain world, Hamlet’s dilemma resonates as never before in this startling production about trust, loyalty, and one man’s struggle to control his destiny.

In the spring, Ayub Khan Din’s award winning comedy about clashing cultures and family drama East is East (Thu 15 March – Sat 14 April 2018) returns to Bolton directed by Ben Occhipinti. For George Khan – proud Pakistani and chip shop owner – life is an uphill battle to get his family to conform to traditional Pakistani values.

In April and May 2018, the Octagon Theatre is proud to present the world premiere of The Big Corner (Thu 19 April – Sat 5 May 2018) adapted from the short stories of Bill Naughton by former Octagon Artistic Director Lawrence Till. Directed by Elizabeth Newman this new play for Bolton weaves together Naughton’s stories into a heart-warming and uplifting comedy following the adventures of Bill and Alf as they discover the mystery and delights of girls as they grow up together.


During the 50th season the Octagon, will begin a major development that will reimagine the building in order to make it more accessible and open for audiences and artists for another 50 years to come. This will mean the end of the season will be performed off-site in different locations in Bolton, bringing theatre to some unusual locations.

The Octagon Theatre’s first full-scale off-site production is the 1960’s classic musical Summer Holiday (Thu 31 May – Sat 23 June 2018). The production follows Don and his friends on a summer adventure and will begin at Bolton’s new transport interchange before a musical bus journey will take audiences to the beautifully renovated Albert Halls to see the conclusion of their fun-filled escapade across Europe. Directed by Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti.

Something big is coming to Bolton…with the Octagon’s first ever park show Gulliver’s Travels (Fri 27 July – Sat 25 August 2018). Bolton’s Queen’s Park will be transformed into the extraordinary lands of Jonathan Swift’s fantastical Gulliver’s Travels. This new adaption by acclaimed children’s writer Mike Kenny (The Railway Children, Cinderella) and Satinder Chohan (Made in India, Perused by a Bear) will be brought to life with a professional cast joined by community choirs and groups in a theatrical extravaganza.

On its 50th anniversary the Octagon continues its tradition of supporting new writing by producing two new plays in the studio, selected from 100s of entries from the second year of the Octagon’s National Writing Prize. Sherbet (Thu 22 February – Sat 10 March 2018) by Sarah McDonald-Hughes and Curtis Cole, follows siblings Jade and Nathan growing up in Moss Side Manchester. All I See Is You (Thu 29 March – Sat 14 April 2018) by Katherine Smith is a story of love and heartbreak set in the 1960s, where Bobby and Ralph must defy society to be together.


The community and young people will feature throughout the season, including the opening of the season with a brand new interpretation of E-Nesbit’s The Railway Children (Thu 17 – Sat 19 August 2017). Adapted by award-winning writer Janys Chambers and performed by a cast of 100 young people alongside professional actors, this will be a joyous production bringing to life Bobby, Peter and Phyllis’ adventures.

The Octagon will also be opening its doors to the community throughout the year offering free activities and insights to the theatre. Over the August Bank Holiday Platform 50 will see the theatre transformed into an interactive railway station (Fri 24 – Mon 28 August 2017) and later in the year the Octagon will be celebrating 50 years since HRH Princess Maragret officially opened the theatre with a Birthday Party (Sun 26 November 2017) where all the family will be invited to the party.

Season ticket holders will be able to book their tickets from Wed 3 May 2017.

General on-sale for the season opens on Mon 15 May 2017.

For more information on the 50th anniversary season or to book tickets, please visit or call the Box Office team on 01204 520661

About Author /

Matthew has been writing for the past 5 years about music, sports and movies and has now finally got his chance to write about theatre. Having previously worked for the likes of Kerrang and Uncut, as well as previously having a radio show for 6 Towns, he has interviewed hundreds of bands throughout his career.

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