If you are new to Shakespeare, trying to take in his longest and most quoted work could understandably be considered to be thrown in at the deep end.
But there can be no better introduction to the bard than this stunning production at the Bolton Octagon which presents an accessible and absorbing drama, as gripping as McMafia or Collateral, without compromising on the themes Shakespeare sought to explore more than 400 years ago.
Hamlet is the classic revenge tragedy – the story of a young prince attempting to avenge the death of his father at the hands of his uncle who has usurped the throne and the dead king’s widow. Hamlet’s obsession is at the core of this drama and David Ricardo-Pearce portrayal is excellent.
The universal and timeless themes are brilliantly explored with Denmark transformed into a more contemporary militaristic regime where the soldiers carry AK47s and the leaders are dictators akin to Stalin or Putin.
There are two halves of 75 minutes, punctuated by a 20 minute interval, and action flies by – such is the quality of the production.
And it is no one-man show. Brian Prothero is superb as the usurper, Claudio with Eric Potts delivering a suitably tragi-comic portrayal of the bumbling civil servant Polonius, recast as a priest for this production. Also worth a mention is Margot Leicester whose portrayal Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude – now married to her former brother-in-law, the new King – is sensational.
The Octagon’s former artistic director, David Thacker, who was invited back to direct this production, can be proud of what has been achieved. The theatre’s 50th anniversary season goes from strength to strength.
A stage adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is one of those productions that could go horribly wrong.
But Bolton Octagon continues its 50th year celebrations in fine style with a superb version based on the classic novel.
Jessica Baglow takes on the title role, providing a convincing and passionate portrayal of the strong willed woman, ahead of her time.
And Baglow’s impressive performance is matched admirably by Michael Peavoy who is perfect in the role of the smouldering, brooding tragic hero – Mr Rochester. For anyone who has read the novel, he is everything you expect. Continue reading “REVIEW: Jane Eyre @ Bolton Octagon”→
A Christmas Carol is a timeless classic tale of of redemption which is familiar to almost everyone. It has been done so many times that it is a brave person indeed who decides to attempt to bring it to the stage and make it fresh.
But it is mission accomplished for the Bolton Octagon team who have managed to pull off something quite remarkable for their Christmas production this year.
Bolton writer, Neil Duffield, who adapted the Charles Dickens masterpiece for the stage, is no stranger to children’s productions – and it shows. There is the perfect blend of Dickens’ dark message, playful humour and festive spectacle which makes this just right for children of all ages.
The structure of the story brings a freshness which delight the audience. Dickens’ words come spinning at us through the decades and are remarkably apt. If I’m not mistaken Duffield adds some themes of his own about Scrooge’s cruel observations about the homeless “choosing to sleep” in shop doorways.
The staging is wonderful with some marvellous effects which don’t go over the top and Ben Occhipinti’s direction brings a pace to the the story which has you glancing your watch when we reach the interval, thinking “is it that time already”
Marc Small is excellent as the dour despicable miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, haunted by four ghosts whose task it is to make him see the error of his ways.
We are so familiar with the story we know the outcome, but it is what we encounter on the journey which makes this show such a joy. Special mention has to go to Sue Davaney whose portrayals as the Spirit of Christmas Present, the Charity Lady and Mrs Fezziwig are forces of nature.
Bolton Octagon’s season has been completed with a wonderful production of Alan Bennett’s beautifully crafted and bitter-sweet monologues familiar to fans of the Northern bard by TV performances by Thora Hird, Patricia Routledge and Bennett himself.
And David Birrell, Cathy Tyson, and Sue Wallace do great justice to Bennett’s scripts for Chip in the Sugar, Lady of Letters and Cream Cracker Under the Settee.
Birrell is superb as the repressed gay man with a history of mental health issues living with his mam. He successfully delivers a performance which conveys that typical Northern humour bearing the distinctive Bennett stamp.
Tyson is also more than competent as the the busybody not afraid to to express her views in a series of letters to her MP, the police, the chemist and eventually writes herself into trouble.
But for me it is Sue Wallace who excels in a tear-jerking portrayal of 75-year-old Doris, after a fall in her home considers the options of whether to face her grim fate or end up in a care home.
If you think this production is a recipe for a depressing night out – don’t. This production pulls off the remarkable task of presenting a moving commentary on the issues around loneliness and community whilst at the same time making us laugh.
Harper Lee’s timeless tale exploring justice, courage, racism and class comes to Bolton Octagon this week.
Bringing this iconic classic novel to the stage is a challenge, but it is one which director Elizabeth Newman has risen to superbly – making every possible use of the auditorium drawing the audience into the lives of the townsfolk of Maycomb and the intense heat of the courtroom confrontation.
To Kill a Mockingbird, based partly on Lee’s own recollections of her upbringing in Alabama USA, retells, through the childhood memories of Jean Louise Finch (Scout), the story of her father Atticus’ defence of a black man wrongly charged with rape.
Barbara Drennan gives a good performance providing the linking narration as grown up Scout looking back on those dramatic events. However, it is the children – Jasmine De Goede (Scout), Che Tligui (Jem) and Adam Crompton (Dil) – who steal the show. None of them put a foot wrong in three vital roles in the production.
But this is one of those shows where is it is difficult to single out performances for special praise. If pushed I would have to say Atticus Finch is brilliantly realised by Rob Edwards and Leila Mimmack is excellent as the tragic Mayella Ewell.
This is well worth the trip to Bolton. Runs till October 15