A look ahead to the Winter Hill production at the Bolton Octagon

PUBLISHED: 10:32 04 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:22 04 May 2017

Louise Jameson

Louise Jameson

Archant

The Octagon Theatre in Bolton will shortly host a new play from writer Timberlake Wertenbaker which looks at what it means for women to resist, how far they’ll go for a cause they believe in and at what point does the fight for freedom become terrorism. Rob Gemmell speaks to one of the shows cast, Louise Jameson.

Winter Hill in BoltonWinter Hill in Bolton

Louise Jameson herself admits that she has been very lucky with her career. Her acting credits include Tenko, Doctor Who, Holby City and The Bill to name a few, but it was as Rosa Di Marco in Eastenders that she really rose to fame in 1997. For now, Louise is back doing something that she loves. Being on the stage.

“They sent me a copy of the play through and my agent told me that I had an interview for the very next day. It didn’t give me much chance to read the play, so I read certain parts of it.” Louise begins. “I met the director, Elizabeth Newman, and I was bowled over by her energy, her vision, enthusiasm and political savvy. I spent forty minutes with her and was asked if I would like to play Beth to which I replied that I would like to read the rest of the play. I knew just from speaking to her that I wanted to work with Elizabeth. A lot of agents have said to me that she is going to end up running the National one day. It was the decision to be able to work with Elizabeth topped with the fact that it is a Timberlake Wertenbaker play and who is going to say no to that?! It is an extraordinary cast made up of all women which is rare and I feel so privileged to be part of it. Plus, it is always flattering to be offered something on the spot.”

I asked Louise what it was about the play that attracted her to it. “Timberlake was commissioned to write the play and Elizabeth said that she wanted a stage full of women and she wanted most of them over forty and didn’t want them talking about men all the time. She also wanted to make it specific to Bolton. Timberlake then took all that information and came up with the play ‘Winter Hill’ which is taken after the beautiful landmark just outside Bolton.” Louise then added. “My digs, where I am staying, overlooks Winter Hill, so I get to see it every morning. I have been very blessed with my career, but I have been somebody’s mother, somebody’s lover, somebody’s companion, somebody’s assistant and it is very rare that you get a woman in the driving seat and what Timberlake has managed to do is to put everyone on that stage in their own driving seat. They are not there because of somebody else.”

Louise plays Beth and I asked her to divulge more about the character. “The play is about how do women protest and is the use of violence ever justified. Which battles do you pick to protest about and Beth is the pacifist voice rather than the revolutionary one. She’s an appeaser and she’s a pleaser. She says she had a very happy marriage although you’re never quite sure whether she’s telling the truth or not. She’s quite a traditional woman, but feels intensely that women should never use violence in order to get what they want because you move into a territory from which there is no return. There are all other points of view that come in the form of protesting and she manages to represent a global picture of how to protest and when and why to protest.” Louise then goes on to explain. “It is not a completely wordy piece of theatre, there are actually some hilarious scenes in there as there can only be when you get a bunch of women together. The women know each other incredibly well and there is always wine involved.”

Louise is supported on stage by a stellar cast of national talents, most of which she had never worked with before. “Denise Black and I tend to go up for the same parts, so it’s either her or myself that gets it, so I’ve never actually got to work with her. I worked with Janet Henfrey on audio parts, but never on stage. Cathy Tyson I know through her CV. I am lucky to work with such talented people. Elizabeth has an amazing eye of the casting. The late Pennant Roberts, who cast Louise in a many shows including Doctor Who and Tenko said that as a director 80% or your job is in the casting. Then you can sit back and see what happens.”

Away from the stage Louise spends a lot of her time with teenagers who are looking to get into theatre schools. She shares the same views that I do when it comes to drama in education. “It always seems to be theatre and sport that gets cut from schools struggling for funds. Drama is an essential subject. Even if you have no plans to go anywhere near a theatre it helps you with interview techniques, in situations where you may be at a party on your own, it gives you life skills, brings people out of their shells and it teaches team playing. Why is it the one that is considered to be redundant?”

The conversation soon reverts back to Winter Hill and in particular, Louise’s thoughts on how the play will be received. “Men as well as women will find something really interesting to latch onto. I think people should leave a theatre slightly altered from when they came into it. This is a play that is going to absolutely open up debate and make people look at the present situation and where they have a responsibility towards getting the future that they think Britain and the world deserves. Timberlake has such an amazing poetic, political way of writing. It is so intelligent and moving. I would buy a ticket to see it!”

Dates: Thursday 11 May – Saturday 3 June

Performances: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm (Except Monday 22 May at 5pm)

Matinee performances: 12, 20, 24, 27 & 31 May at 2.00pm

Investigate Day: Saturday 22 May from 10am (Contact Octagon Theatre Bolton for further details)

Tickets: £27.50-£11 (Concessions available)

Group and School tickets: Available

Address: Octagon Theatre Bolton, Howell Croft South, Bolton, BL1 1SB

Box Office: 01204 520661 Online Booking: octagonbolton.co.uk
Twitter: @octagontheatre | Facebook / OctagonBolton | Instagram @octagontheatre

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