The Octagon Theatre is delighted to present Top Five; an exciting festival of play-readings in the Octagon Studio Theatre featuring five fantastic and original new plays selected by the Theatre’s artistic team.

The incredible cast for the five productions, which includes stage and television stars, is comprised of: John Afzal, Sam Beresford, Arthur Bostrom, Tristan Brooke, Trystan Chambers, Sushil Chudasama, Sandra Cole, Christopher Connel, Natasha Davidson, Paul Dodds, Lauren Drummond, Sam Edney, Richard Hand, Steven Hillman, Kathy Jamieson, Lorna Laidlaw, John McArdle, Remmie Milner, Paislie Reid, Rob Ward, and Denise Welch.

The readings, directed by Octagon Theatre’s New Writing Associate Janys Chambers (formerly Dramaturg for National Theatre Wales and Associate Artist at the New Vic, and herself a BAFTA-nominated writer, whose work includes Emmerdale, Holby, and Belonging), will take place from Monday 15 February – Wednesday 24 February. Each play is entirely free to attend, and audiences are even entitled to a free drink with each show.

Beginning the festival on 15 February is When Gandhi Came to Lancashire, a play by writer, artist,and director Chris Salt, who balances an award-winning television career with a wealth of non-broadcast work. Set in Lancashire in the early thirties, the play is based around Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Lancashire following his Indian cotton blockade, which saw mill towns in the area brought tothe edge of despair.

On 17 February, audiences will be treated to a new work by award-winning playwright Ian Townsend, whose plays All the Bens and The Lonely Walk Home won a Manchester Theatre Award and a special Alfred Bradley Bursary Award prize, respectively. Ian’s new play, The House in Sofia

With a map of Its Surroundings, tells the story of five people with big secrets, including a boy locked in his room; a man struggling to cope; a girl who hurts herself; a man dying; and a woman who may hold the key to them all.

18 February will introduce new work by Janet Plater, daughter of celebrated playwright Alan Plater. Haddock and Chips Twice takes place in a busy fish and chip shop in Whitley Bay, where Brenda and

Bob are managing with one staff down, and all human life are in for their tea, including a lorry driver passing through, a lass on a night out, and a policeman with news of a missing child. Based in Tyneside, Janet’s credits include BBC Radio 4’s Telephone in The Deep Freeze; BBC Radio’s Jesting About and theatre work including Gaslight on Grey Street, Theatre Royal Studio Newcastle; Shoes & Camden Carter, Alphabetti Theatre; and Lydia’s House, Washington Arts Centre and Tour.

On 22 February, Becky Prestwich’s new work, How the Cabinet Maker Crossed the Road, will be performed. Becky currently writes for BBC1’s Doctors, her play Chip Shop Chips is currently touring with Box of Tricks Theatre Company, and she was one of the writers on Sanctuary from the Trenches, an immersive theatre experience at Dunham Massey. How the Cabinet Maker Crossed the Road centres on John, a homeless man under an ASBO restricting his movements, who is determined to find a way to get across the road to the local corner shop where his beloved niece has started working.

Concluding the Theatre’s Top Five on 24 February is new writer Shahid Iqbal Khan’s Mr & Mrs Khan, a play about a sister who comes to town, hot on the heels of a family bereavement. Born and bred in Bury, Shahid mainly writes poetry and plays, and attends Manchester Muslim Writers’ workshops which look at the art and craft of writing in its various forms.

Speaking of the selection of plays and playwrights, Janys Chambers said: “We’re really excited about these readings – all the plays fought off incredibly stiff competition to make it into our Top Five. We have here an amazing line-up of talented writers, brilliant new plays, and great actors, and this is a wonderful opportunity for audiences to see the contemporary classics of tomorrow, today.”

For more information and tickets click HERE to visit The Octagon`s website