Theatre Review: SUMMER HOLIDAY – Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Michael Peavoy as Don in SUMMER HOLIDAY.

Michael Peavoy as Don in SUMMER HOLIDAY. Photo Credit: Richard Lakos

Bright, bold and slightly bonkers, SUMMER HOLIDAY is a feel-good musical that is ambitiously staged

Rides on double-decker buses, live music and audience sing-a-longs, theatre doesn’t come much more immersive than Bolton Octagon’s latest production of SUMMER HOLIDAY.

Developed as a site-specific production to allow important redevelopment work to start Octagon Theatre, this joyous, uplifting and feel-good piece of theatre conjures up memories of summer holidays gone by and leaves you with a smile on your face.

Based on the 1963 film starring Cliff Richard and The Shadows, SUMMER HOLIDAY tells the story of Don (Michael Peavoy), a young bus mechanic who arrives with a borrowed Bolton double-decker bus ready to take his friends on a journey to sunny Athens. On the way, they are joined by a trio of young musicians and a runaway singer (Eleanor Brown), who initially pretends to be boy to escape her domineering mother (Barbara Hockaday) and under-the-thumb agent (Greg Last).

The cast of SUMMER HOLIDAY outside Bolton Town Hall.

The cast of SUMMER HOLIDAY outside Bolton Town Hall. Photo Credit: Richard Lakos

Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti’s retelling of the much-loved 1960s musical starts at Bolton’s new travel interchange as Edwin (Luke Thornton), Cyril (Alexander Bean) and Steve (David Heywood) discuss their holiday plans over a cup of Greggs coffee before Michael Peavoy’s Don comes up with the brilliant suggestion of taking one of Bolton’s trusty buses out on tour across Europe. Joining them on their adventure, the audience embark onto six double-decker Vision buses – along with actors who perform musical numbers along the way – to take the short journey to Victoria Square where a short scene is then performed outside Bolton Town Hall.

It is here that SUMMER HOLIDAY really comes to life as the 300+ “passengers” join in with the fun, singing along to the musical numbers and getting into the holiday spirit as they make their way back to the Octagon for the conclusion of the performance. Despite the movement between venues, the action flows well and fans of the original film and stage show will recognise plenty of the musical numbers including THE YOUNG ONES, LIVING DOLL, BACHELOR BOY and of course, SUMMER HOLIDAY.

Sarah Workman, Luke Thornton and David Heywood in SUMMER HOLIDAY

Sarah Workman, Luke Thornton and David Heywood in SUMMER HOLIDAY. Photo Credit: Richard Lakos

But what really makes this production work is the talented cast of actor-musicians who stay in character throughout, singing, dancing and playing musical instruments in all of the locations across Bolton. Michael Peavoy delivers a strong performance as Don and his chemistry with Eleanor Brown as Barbara is well matched and believable. Barbara Hockaday and Greg Last also stand out for their hilarious performance as Stella and Jerry, as well as their impeccable music skills on the drums and keyboard respectively.

This is a bold, bright and slightly bonkers production which is not only incredibly fun to watch but also breaks boundaries in terms of its innovative and ambitious staging. Perhaps, most poignantly, this feel-good and celebratory experience paves the way for the Octagon’s bright future, marking a new chapter in the theatre’s history as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Whether you’re a fan of the original film or just fancy seeing something different, you’re sure to love SUMMER HOLIDAY. A nostalgic trip down memory lane and a musical feast that should not be missed.

4 out of 5 stars

SUMMER HOLIDAY runs at Bolton Travel Interchange and Octagon Theatre until 23 June.