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Winter Hill review at Octagon Theatre, Bolton – ‘multifaceted and insightful’

Louise Jameson, Janet Henfrey, Souad Faress, Susan Twist and Denise Black in Winter Hill at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton. Photo: Richard Davenport Louise Jameson, Janet Henfrey, Souad Faress, Susan Twist and Denise Black in Winter Hill at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton. Photo: Richard Davenport
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Timberlake Wertenbaker’s last play, Jefferson’s Garden, was set in 1780s America. Her new play is set closer to home: atop Winter Hill, the moorland plateau near Bolton.

Wertenbaker imagines a world in which a global company gets permission to build a sky-scraping mega hotel. Five local women take on the transnationals by transforming their book-reading group into an occupation.

Wertenbaker’s play is multifaceted, if patchy in places. It’s delicately directed by Elizabeth Newman; the production is replete with big leaps of imagination and plays out on a set overshadowed by an uncompromising scaffold structure.

The global and the parochial intersect. There are discussions about reshaping fictional literary heroines, anxious cross-talk about whether to make an heroic protest by bombing the monument, talk of corporate power. Cross-generational feminist politics are woven in too, raising questions about the changing empowerment of women over time and with age – and where the boundaries blur between protest and violence.

It’s a superbly cast ensemble production. Denise Black plays the feminist who has turned militancy into a lifestyle, Janet Henfrey excels as an acerbic old lady knocking back wine and happy to chuck a Molotov cocktail. Cathy Tyson is arguably the play’s true heroine as the local councillor who uses her limited powers of resistance to make tiny differences to a few small lives instead of trying to blow up capitalism.

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Verdict
Timberlake Wertenbaker's Insightful and challenging new play sheds new light on the changing power of collective action  
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