REVIEW: “Lighthearted Intercourse”, Octagon Theatre, Bolton, to November 13th.

Nicholas Shaw and Fiona Hampton star in Lighthearted Intercourse at the Octagon, Bolton.
Nicholas Shaw and Fiona Hampton star in Lighthearted Intercourse at the Octagon, Bolton.

THE Octagon Theatre is presenting Bolton’s famous playwright Bill Naughton’s “Lighthearted Intercourse” as a world premiere.

In fact it was once put on in Liverpool, but Naughton continued to redraft the play. Indeed there are 10 drafts extant.

Artistic director David Thacker, consulting with Naughton’s widow, has produced a theatrically enjoyable version of this essentially autobiographical story, about Naughton’s early life in Bolton in the 1920s, with poverty and unemployment. The first act is, indeed, quite lighthearted, centring on newlyweds Joe (Nicholas Shaw) and Madge (Fiona Hampton). They seem affectionate and close, delighting in their baby. But underneath there are problems.

Joe has had to marry the pregnant Madge, but still dreams of a romantic day with his real love, Mary. Madge loves Joe but has admitted he was not the first man in her life, which arouses his jealousy. Most importantly of all, Joe is unemployed and desperate to find work and earn enough money to keep them all.

The situation is complicated by a mysterious visitor (David Fleeshman) who appears to Joe with warnings about wasting what he has, by this need to make money. The second act is darker and explores the couple’s relationship in greater depth and the physical hardship of the filthy job Joe takes. The visitor continues to appear to offer advice and it becomes clearer who he is.

There is much in this play to make you laugh and much to make you feel the pain of jealousy, misunderstanding and desperation. Nicholas Shaw makes a delightful, charming, and later, a more complex, Joe. Fiona Hampton is a passionate, warm-hearted Madge. David Fleeshman is suitably grave and portentous.

The production values are excellent, every detail of the set authentic and the sound of a very believable baby! The similarities with our own age are very clear.

Box office: 01204 520661 Website: www.octagonbolton.co.uk

PIPPA MUNRO HEBDEN