Haylie Jones is most certainly playing at home when she dons her England strip for a new play, Testmatch, which is currently at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre.

A former member of the Octagon’s Youth Theatre, Haylie still lives in the town and is excited to be returning to a venue she is very familiar with.

Bury Times: The cast of Testmatch (Picture: Helen Murray)

“It’s a massive deal for me really,” she said “The Octagon was where I watched productions growing up and for about three or four years from when I was 11 I was in the youth theatre.

“We did showcases at the theatre. I remember doing David Copperfield and I think we also did Oliver Twist.

“So now, at 27, to be coming back for my first professional role there is amazing.”

Testmatch is an intriguing and thought-provoking work by Kate Attwell which explores a wide range of issues in an entertaining way over the span of more than 200 years.

“It is unusual as it is effectively two plays in one,” said Haylie. “The first half is set today at Lord’s Cricket Ground. England Women are playing India and rain has stopped play.

“The players are confined to the dressing room and the audience sees how they interact and how their rivalries develop in this confined space.

“Then in the second half we go back to the 1800s in Calcutta and follow these two governors of the East India Company. There’s a loose cricket connection but it’s really a study of colonialism and racism.

“These are issues which are not really talked about and we’re not taught about in school. I must be honest, when we first started researching things for the play I hadn’t any idea about the extent of colonialism and the power that the East India Company had.”

Bury Times: Haylie Jones

In the first act, Haylie is England 3 - one of a six strong, all-female cast. “We don’t have names, just numbers,” she said.

Then in the second act she is one of the two governors of the East India Company, complete with wig, breeches and ruffled shirt.

“I’m man two, I’ve got promoted,” she laughed

“There is such a great contrast between the first and second acts,” she said. “The first half is very naturalistic and then when we go back in time everything is completely heightened. There’s some very dark humour and playing one of these buffoons, which is what they are, is such great fun.

“The audience gets to laugh but also take in some very powerful messages along the way.

“It’s very rare that you get the chance to play two completely contrasting characters within the same play. Also to be able to play a man is lots of fun.”

For anyone who might be put off coming along fearing that the play is all about cricket, Haylie has this reassuring message.

“Honestly, you don’t need to know anything about cricket,” she said. “That was one of the things I was worried about before we started work on things. But the cricket is very much in the background, it’s more about the relationship of the characters and their attitudes.”

Testmatch as been playing at the Orange Tree in Richmond to rave reviews.

“I think one or two people came along because they were cricket fans and thought it was a play about cricket, but they still really enjoyed it,” said Haylie.

Bury Times: Haylie Jones in Testmatch (Picture: Helen Murray)

“It’s going to be interesting to see how a Bolton audience reacts to the production.”

Part of that audience is likely to be giving Haylie a standing ovation every night as family and friends get a rare chance to see her on stage in her home town.

“Oh don’t,” she laughed. “My mum and nan came to Richmond and my mum said ‘you do realise there will be someone in every night you know’.

“I think it’s going to be a bit weird on opening night because I’ve been watching shows at the Octagon for years.”

She believes that the theatre is the perfect setting for Testmatch.

“We’ll be performing ‘in the round’ which I love doing,” she said. “It just invites the audience in and makes them feel part of the show. The storytelling is all around them and as an actor you are very aware of that.”

Haylie clearly has nothing in common with Man Two, her character in the second half of the show but how about England Three?

“Yes, I suppose she is a bit like me,” she confessed. “She is the one trying to keep the peace and that’s something I do. Plus she’s sporty and has that competitive streak.

“For me I always wanted to be a footballer rather than play cricket but I ruptured a tendon in my knee which stopped me playing.”

Haylie set her sights on an acting career when she was at school.

“I went to Canon Slade in Bolton and the BBC came in and wanted children who were good at football, boys and girls, for a new series.

“Somehow I ended up getting this role - I have no idea how - and was in this documentary-style sitcom called The Cup which was shown on BBC Two.

“From there I just carried on acting and I’ve really been doing it ever since. I didn’t go to drama school. I have done classes at the Manchester Acting School which is quite prestigious but I’ve really just learned on the job.

“I’m not and never have been the kind of person who wants to be famous. I genuinely do acting because I love it - I think it’s what I was born to do. I know that sounds a bit cringey but it’s true.”

Testmatch opens tonight and runs until next Saturday.

“I’d love for it to get picked up and continue telling its story at some point,” said Haylie.

So what does the rest of the year hold for her?

“There might be another production I’m involved in coming up but it’s too early to say really,” she said. “I also do quite a bit of writing and I’ve written a short film which I’m looking to produce next year.”

Testmatch, Octagon Theatre Bolton, until Saturday, June 1. Details from www.octagonbolton.co.uk