Bolton takes to the stage in new venture

The Octagon Theatre and the University of Bolton are starting a partnership development which will create a new degree programme

The partnership will also involve a new professorship and will give students and theatre audiences an exciting new experience.

The University of Bolton and the Octagon Theatre have developed an innovative BA (Hons) degree in Theatre which is set to admit its first students in September 2015, enabling them to study the critical and practical aspects of theatre in both university and professional settings.

As part of this development, David Thacker will become the first Professor of Theatre at the University in July 2015, when David completes his tenure as Artistic Director of the Octagon. He will remain at the Octagon in the new post of Associate Artistic Director until 2018, directing two productions a year as part of the Octagon’s season of work. These two productions will be placed at the heart of the new degree structure. 

Students will benefit from working with oone of the UK’s most successful regional producing theatres, giving them a strong professional insight at the core of their curriculum. They will undertake a range of modules that allow them to experience theatre both practically and theoretically. Students will benefit from first-hand observation of the process of production at the Octagon, learning directly from practicing professionals and accessing a rich variety of potential work placements. There will be opportunities to specialise in disciplines including direction, production and theatre management, with teaching taking place at both the Octagon Theatre and the University of Bolton campus.

The Octagon and the University of Bolton have long enjoyed a strong partnership, with the University being the Theatre’s Principal Sponsor and the Octagon contributing regularly to the University’s Performing Arts, English  and Creative Writing courses. The degree course is being jointly designed by Octagon and University staff, with the costs and revenue being shared between the two organisations. The University will also act as a co-producer on a number of Octagon productions; ensuring that the Octagon audience can continue to enjoy ambitious productions and that students will be able to experience the highest standards of production in regional theatre.

This initiative has been driven forward by the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor George Holmes, by the Octagon’s Chief Executive, Roddy Gauld, and David Thacker. 

Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, Professor George Holmes said: ‘Our University believes in growing through partnership, working together with organisations to achieve extraordinary developments which could not be achieved by one single organisation. This partnership development between an independent theatre and a university is unique in this country. It is a testament to our commitment to work together for our organisations and our town.’

David Thacker added: ‘I’m delighted to have been appointed as the first Professor of Theatre at the University of Bolton. This gives me the opportunity to bring together academic study and theatre practice in what I believe will be one of the most exciting theatre degrees in the UK. Although I will be sad to end my tenure as Artistic Director of the Octagon, leading this course will be a stimulating new challenge for me. 

David has directed over 150 productions throughout the UK, in the West End and internationally, most notably at the Dukes Playhouse, Lancaster (Theatre Director); The Young Vic (Director of the Young Vic); the Royal Shakespeare Company (Director-in-Residence); the National Theatre, and he has directed six West End transfers. David has also directed over 30 television productions for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, as well as a two-part film of The Mayor of Casterbridge and a feature-length BBC film, Faith.

In 1991 David received two Olivier Awards for his RSC production of Pericles – Best Director and Best Revival. During David Thacker’s six years as Artistic Director the Octagon will have presented an astonishing 52 main auditorium productions, more than any other regional theatre in the country.



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