After two years of construction and a grand reopening in July ruined by the global pandemic, Bolton’s new Octagon theatre is finally to reopen on Friday, December 4.
The theatre’s kitchen and bar will be the first spaces to open to the public, not only for eating and drinking but also for creative workshops and a series of Christmas events. But with the delays caused by coronavirus and the lack of a date from the government about audiences to return without social distancing, the theatre has postponed its previously-announced productions.
Chief executive Roddy Gauld said: “I’m relieved and delighted we now have a new opening date. We were so close to reopening when Covid-19 robbed us of not only our reopening, but also risking our entire existence. The financial losses are huge and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported us so far.
“Though we’re getting ready to open the doors, social distancing creates financial gaps as well as physical ones. We typically need at least 75 per cent of seats to be sold for a show to be financially viable. Social distancing will reduce our capacity to only 25 per cent.
"We have no choice but to postpone our planned shows and recognise that we’re far from over this crisis yet. Our staff are still on furlough with no guarantee of further government support.”
The new casualties are a new musical version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which will be postponed until Christmas next year. Productions of Vinay Patel’s epic drama An Adventure and the world premiere of a new musical adaptation of the bestselling novel The Book Thief – both due to be staged in early 2021 – are also being rescheduled.
Artistic director Lotte Wakeham is aiming to stage alternative productions in the main theatre from early 2021, titles and ticket details for which will be announced in the autumn.
This new programme is being planned on the assumption that social distancing will still be in place (government advice on full reopening isn’t expected until November at the earliest), which will mean a significant loss of future revenue due to the need to restrict audience numbers.
The theatre continues to encourage supporters to join its membership scheme as a way of continuing their support.