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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

Timberlake Wertenbaker’s last play, Jefferson’s Garden [1], 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.

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

Production Information

Winter Hill
Octagon Theatre
May 11, 2017
June 3, 2017
Press night
May 15, 2017
Timberlake Wertenbaker
Elizabeth Newman
Amanda Stoodley
Chris Davey
Ben Occhipinti
Mary Horan (wardrobe supervisor)
Stage manager
Victoria Hubbard (company stage manager), Sophia Horrocks (deputy stage manager)
Cast includes
Denise Black, Souad Faress, Fiona Hampton, Janet Henfrey, Louise Jameson, Eva-Jane Willis, Susan Twist, Cathy Tyson
Jenkins McShane
Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Running time
2hrs 25mins