Bolton Audiences will Have Stars in Their Eyes as Matthew Kelly Leads an All-Star Line-up for First Bite Play Reading Series This Month!

Octagon Theatre Bolton presents

First Bite Series

Family Trees by Clare Bayley

Wilt by Kieran Knowles

Burkas and Bacon Butties by Shamia Chalabi and Sarah Henley

Bolton Audiences will Have Stars in Their Eyes as Matthew Kelly Leads an All-Star Line-up for First Bite Play Reading Series This Month!

Full cast announced for three events in the series.

A collection of new play readings will be presented by The Octagon Theatre this November as part of their First Bite series.

Over three consecutive Fridays, commencing on Friday 15 November, audiences are invited to attend the script-in-hand readings taking place at Market Place Shopping Centre.

Performances include thegripping drama Family Trees by Clare Bayleyon Friday 15 November; funny and moving ‘state of the nation’ play Wilt by Kieran Knowles on Friday 22 November; and Wigan-based comedy Burkas and Bacon Butties by Shamia Chalabi and Sarah Henleyon Friday 29 November.

The works will be performed by an impressive collection of talented actors, including the legendary TV presenter and actor Matthew Kelly. The star of stage and screen will play the role of Alan in Wilt on Friday 22 November.

Renowned for hosting ITV’s Stars in Their Eyes from 1993-2004, Matthew has had an extensive stage career including the role of Lennie in Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, West End and UK tourUK tour and New York production of Toast; and previous Octagon Theatre productions Oh What A Lovely War and Blue Remembered Hills.

On performing as part of the First Bite series, Matthew Kelly said: “I am delighted to be returning to Bolton and being part of this new series of play readings at The Octagon Theatre. I have wonderful memories of performing here, my last visit was appearing in the 40th Anniversary production of Oh What A Lovely War in 2007, so it will be lovely to be back!”

Joining Matthew in Wilt is Hollyoaks actor Darren Jeffries who starred as OB in the Channel 4 soap. His stage credits include HOME Manchester’s production of This is Where We Are At and As If We Just Held Hands at Hope Mill Theatre. Completing the cast is Chris Jack who returns after performing in the recent production of Beryl and Coral Sinclair whose credits include Pramkicker at Postcard Theatre and The Secret Garden at York Theatre Royal.  This reading will be guest directed by Liz Stevenson, artistic director of Theatre by the Lake in Keswick.

Opening the series on Friday 15 November in the reading of Family Trees will be: Brookside star Susan Twist (who appeared as Rosie Banks); Brookside and Emmerdale’s John McArdle (who starred as Billy Corkhill and Ronnie Hale respectively); Hollyoaks’ Greg Kelly (appeared as Freddie Watson); Alice Proctor (Do You Want A Bag With That, Hope Mill Theatre); Simona Bitmate (Hamlet, Leeds Playhouse); Nakib Narat (Afterthought, Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester); Esh Alladi (Hobsons Choice, Royal Exchange Theatre – for which he won the UK Theatre Awards for Best Supporting Performance 2019); Amy Drake (Tinned Up, Oldham Coliseum); and recent graduate of ALRA North, Sue Radcliffe. 

Cast confirmed for Burkas and Bacon Butties on Friday 29 November include:Emmerdale actor and star of The Octagon Theatre’s 2018 production of East is East, Shila Iqbal; Wendy Albiston who has recently appeared in Coronation Street as part of Sinead’s heartbreaking cancer storyline; Dean Michael Gregory (Debris, Despite The Monkey Theatre Company); Dana Haqjoo (Not Moses, Art Theatre); Nadia Emam (Belonging, Hope Mill Theatre); and Amirul Hussain (Monologue Slam Golden Ticket Contestant selected at the Birmingham Rep).  Both Family Trees and Burkas and Bacon Butties will be directed by the Octagon’s Artistic Director Lotte Wakeham.

The First Bite series will give audiences an exciting opportunity to get an exclusive look at these new plays that could later be developed in to full scale productions.

Artistic Director, Lotte Wakeham commented: “We’ve lined up a hugely talented pool of actors for this very exciting series of play readings, featuring a mix of Octagon regulars as well as first time performers for the venue.  It promises to be a wonderfully entertaining offering for Bolton audiences and a chance for people to give feedback on these new plays.”

There will be a Q&A following each performance.

Tickets for the events are limited.

First Bites will be performed over three consecutive Fridays, commencing on Friday 15 November at Market Place Shopping Centre. Tickets are priced at £5 which includes a free drink. Visit for more information.