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Summer Holiday review at Octagon Theatre, Bolton – ‘unapologetically fun’

David Heywood and Isobel Bates in Summer Holiday at Octagon Theatre, Bolton. Photo: Richard Lakos David Heywood and Isobel Bates in Summer Holiday at Octagon Theatre, Bolton. Photo: Richard Lakos

In many ways this revival keeps things joyfully simple. It’s ostensibly a remounting of Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan’s 1990s stage adaptation starring Darren Day. This added a few extra songs from Cliff Richard’s back catalogue while retaining much of the dialogue and most of the story, unironically channelling the clean-cut, consequence-free fun of the 1963 movie to audience-pleasing effect.

Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti’s similarly winning production largely follows the same formula. By introducing a site-specific element – with early scenes taking place at Bolton’s bus interchange and on the steps of the town hall and audiences conveyed by double-decker – proceedings are slightly protracted. But once you’re in the theatre, the hardworking, effervescent cast and the persuasively cheery tone sweep you along for the ride.

It helps that the dialogue and songs – accompanied on stage by the multi-skilled cast – are delivered in earnest, irony-free fashion, resisting the archness that could derail the whole thing. The only real nod to modernity comes by switching one of the Do-Re-Mi vocal group to male – and therefore adding a same-sex element to the coupling up – but Robert Jackson and Luke Thornton portray Al and Edwin’s relationship in such a wholesome, unapologetic fashion that it doesn’t feel out of place.

Elsewhere, Michael Peavoy brings a twitchy broodiness to ringleader Don, a performance that is more Angry Young Man than Cliff Richard’s squeaky clean teen idol. Insipid title song notwithstanding, the foot-tapping tunes really connect, notably David Heywood’s delivery of I Could Easily Fall (In Love With You) and the Shadows-eque instrumental interludes.

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A committed cast unapologetically delivers sun, fun and laughter in a hugely enjoyable production