Winter Hill at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre

Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play has taken to the stage in Bolton. The world premiere of Winter Hill is under way at The Octagon and the words of the award-winning playwright have been tackled with the passion and force that the script deserves.

Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director at The Octagon, commissioned Wertenbaker to write a play for the venue and there has been a four year process in the lead up to the script reaching the stage. Newman felt that is was necessary to capture the essence of Bolton’s vibrant community and so the research period was prolonged and thorough to give Wertenbaker a true taste of the town. It was a walk up Winter Hill and inspiration from the iconic scenery that the hill surveys that brought about the foundations for the narrative. Through investigation into the relationship between the area’s landscape and its people, the play does justice to the spirit and strength of Bolton.

“It’s refreshing to see an all-female cast take to the stage with strength and determination.”

Making up the cast are some recognisable faces such as Cathy Tyson, Louise Jameson, Denise Black and Janet Henfrey. They work instinctively together playing on each other’s looks, gestures and tones of voice to progress each scene and heighten the tension and the drama. Each actress embodies their character, delivering their adopted identities in a believable and empathetic way.

The basis of the plot is that the women are protesting the development of a hotel complex on Winter Hill. They have contrasting opinions and are willing to go to different lengths to secure the failure of the hotel’s proposed venture. As each new scene unfolds and the plot develops, underlying issues begin to emerge and minute frictions between the characters turn into larger rivalries. The talented cast explore the complex issues that arise in the play and leave the audience to question which course of action is the most honourable and effective.

The striking set promotes intrigue as soon as audience members enter the theatre. Before the action begins, we are left to ponder the relevance of the tall scaffolding that dominates the stage. The imposing structure remains central to the action throughout, providing a constant visual representation of the hotel that the women object to the construction of. It looms over the characters, as the hotel will eventually loom over Bolton from its lofty position on Winter Hill.

It’s refreshing to see an all-female cast take to the stage with strength and determination. It was written by a woman, for women and it explores how far women will go for the sake of their beliefs. Winter Hill is a credit to The Octagon and the people of Bolton. It displays the town’s resilience and their hearty community spirit. Many issues are highlighted within the play and several questions are asked, but no definite answer is provided. The audience is left to ponder the actions of the women and each individual must come to their own conclusion about the play’s outcome and the moral dilemma encountered.

Winter Hill will run until 3 June at The Octagon. Go See This would definitely recommend getting your hands on tickets before you miss out on the opportunity to see the play in its home town.

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