Passion and heartbreak – Welsh National Opera’s spring season of intoxicating love stories

La Bohème
La Bohème

La Bohème © Robert Workman

Two classic Puccini operas and a hidden opera gem make up Welsh National Opera’s Love’s Poisoned Chalice season at Mayflower Theatre from 25 to 29 April, taking audiences on a journey of love, passion, heartbreak and tragedy through some of opera’s greatest tear jerking music.

At the heart of the spring season is a new production of Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Le Vin herbé, directed by former WNO Genesis Assistant Director Polly Graham in her first main scale production for WNO.  Inspiring the season theme, Le Vin herbé (‘the spiked drink’) is based on the myth of Tristan and Isolde.  Martin’s composition investigates the very meaning and function of myths, as a group of people come together to narrate this tragic love story.  Written between 1938 and 1941, Frank Martin’s version of the lovers’ tale is more in riposte than homage to Wagner, and influenced by the imminent World War as well as his own personal crisis of losing his first wife.

Iseult will be performed by Caitlin Hulcup and Tom Randle returns to WNO to sing the role of Tristan, with Catherine Wyn-Rogers singing the role of Iseult’s Mother.  Originally conceived for 12 singers, this production will be performed with the entire WNO Chorus taking the role of narrator as in a Greek Chorus, commenting on the dramatic action as the story unfurls.  An orchestra of 7 string players and a pianist will be on stage throughout the opera, along with conductor James Southall.  

As WNO Genesis Assistant Director, Polly Graham received mentorship from internationally-renowned opera directors including WNO Artistic Director David Pountney, Mariusz Trelinski and Pierre Audi.  She returns to WNO following her work with WNO Youth Opera on Kommilitonen! during the summer of 2016 which received excellent reviews from the national media.  

Up next is Puccini’s much-loved La bohème in a production which WNO first staged in 2012 to high praise from both critics and audiences.  Telling the tragic love story of Mimi and Rodolfo, this production transports audiences to the streets of bohemian Paris.

Annabel Arden’s 1913 inspired pre-war production will be directed in this revival by Caroline Chaney. Jessica Muirhead returns to WNO to sing Mimi following her performance as Micaëla in Carmen in 2014 alongside tenor Matteo Lippi as Rodolfo.  La bohème will be conducted by Manlio Benzi who makes his debut at WNO. La bohème will be conducted by Manlio Benzi who makes his debut at WNO.

Former WNO Associate Artist Gary Griffiths returns to WNO to take the role of Marcello, and Australian Lauren Fagan makes her WNO main stage debut in the role of Musetta. Jihoon Kim takes the role of Colline and Gareth Brynmor John takes the role of Schaunard.

Completing the trio of spring operas is another Puccini classic: Madam Butterfly. Joachim Herz’s beautiful sepia-toned production will be directed in this revival by Sarah Crisp and conducted by Andrew Greenwood.  

Punctuated with irresistible music including the Humming Chorus and the moving Un bel dì aria, Madam Butterfly tells the heartbreaking tale of Cio-Cio-San’s love and loss at the hands of her American naval officer, Pinkerton.  This production features a double cast for the roles of Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton.  South Korean-born soprano Karah Son will sing the role of Cio-Cio-San alongside Paul Charles Clarke who returns to WNO to sing Pinkerton following performances in Sweeney Todd during the 2015/16 season.

Former WNO Associate Artist Rebecca Afonwy-Jones returns to WNO to sing the role of Suzuki, and fellow Welsh favourites David Kempster and Richard Wiegold also return to sing the roles of Sharpless and Bonze respectively.

Talking about the season, WNO Artistic Director David Pountney says: “To bring Madame Butterfly and La Bohème together in one season is a luxurious offering for our audiences, but there is a delightful and no less passionate or moving sting in the tail: a small, intimate but deceptively powerful work by the Swiss composer Frank Martin, a very underrated musician. You may know by now that I take a particular delight in bringing such neglected gems to your notice! In the years leading up to the 2nd World War, Martin, from his safe observation post in Switzerland, reacted to the flagrant abuse of Wager’s music by the Nazis by composing an “alternative” Tristan and Isolde, which he called Le Vin herbé – literally “The spiked drink.” Martin’s work is small scale, deeply intense, personal, full of pent up emotion, rather than the Tsunami’s of sound that Wagner created. But Martin’s work is, in its very different way, just as powerful. He gathers together a group of singers, in this case our wonderful chorus, and induces them as a collective to create for us a narrative of the famous love story. As accompaniment we have a powerfully expressive string septet plus piano. It is amazing what power and what emotion Martin is able to conjure up with these apparently slender forces, but then we remember that Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, with just a few musicians in the pit, fills large theatres with its emotion and its special atmosphere. That is what Martin achieves, and every one of you who harbours that nagging bug of curiosity will want to experience this rare operatic opportunity.”

More information on WNO’s spring 2016 season is available at wno.org.uk/lovespoisonedchalice

Tickets for Le Vin herbé (25 April), La Boheme (26&28 April) and Madam Butterfly (27&29 April) are on sale from Mayflower Theatre Box Office tel: 02380 711811 or online at mayflower.org.uk. Ovation Restaurant bookings: 02380 711833



Danny Mac, Jeremy Taylor, Fred Haig and Maggie Steed cast in On The Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

On The Town
On The Town

On The Town

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre announce casting for the opening production of their 2017 season, On The Town (19 May – 01 July).

Danny Mac, Fred Haig and Jeremy Taylor take the roles of the three sailors, Gabey, Chip and Ozzie, originally played in the film version by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin. Siena Kelly, Lizzy Connolly and Miriam-Teak Lee take the roles of Ivy, Hildy and Claire, originally played in the film version by Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller.

Also joining the cast are Maggie Steed as Madame Dilly, Naoko Mori as Lucy Schmeeler, Rodney Earl Clarke as The Workman and Mark Heenehan as Judge Pitkin.

Danny Mac (Gabey) was a finalist in Strictly Come Dancing 2016 and, with dancing partner Oti Mabuse, has recently completed theStrictly Come Dancing Live arena tour. Following his training at Arts Educational Schools he played Mark ‘Dodger’ Savage inHollyoaks, and went on to join the cast of Wicked (Victoria Apollo).

Fred Haig (Chip) is a recent graduate of LAMDA. Jeremy Taylor (Ozzie) recently played Fiyero in Wicked (Victoria Apollo), and has previously appeared in We Will Rock You (Dominion), The Sound of Music (Palladium and UK tour) and Evita (UK tour).

Siena Kelly (Ivy) and Miriam-Teak Lee (Claire) are both recent graduates of Arts Educational Schools and make their professional West End debuts. Lizzy Connolly (Hildy) is currently appearing in The Wild Party (The Other Palace) having previously appeared in Once In A Lifetime (Young Vic) and as Ellie Goulding in the TV series The Windsors.

Maggie Steed (Madame Dilly) has enjoyed an extensive career on film, television and stage. Film and television highlights includeFlorence Foster Jenkins, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassis, The Painted Veil, Larkrise to Candleford, Jam and Jerusalem, Pie in the Sky, Victoria Wood’s As Seen On TV and the E4 series, Chewing Gum. Her stage career includes roles at the National Theatre, RSC and Royal Court, and recent credits include Richard II (Trafalgar Transformed), The Birthday Party (Manchester Royal Exchange), The School for Scandal (Bath Theatre Royal) and Trelawney of the Wells (Donmar Warehouse).

Naoko Mori (Lucy Schmeeler) played the role of Kim in Miss Saigon (Theatre Royal Drury Lane) and Christmas Eve in Avenue Q (Noel Coward). Her extensive TV credits include Toshiko Sato in Torchwood, Sarah (aka Titikaka) in Absolutely Fabulous, Doctor Who, Humans, Vexed, and Yoko Ono in Lennon Naked. Her film credits include Everest, Topsy Turvy, Spiceworld, and the upcoming film Life.

Rodney Earl Clarke (The Workman) has appeared in productions of The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan Tutte and in the title role of Don Giovanni. He has appeared as Jake in Porgy and Bess for the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle, debuted the role of Crown with The Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen, and took the title role with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Sante Cecilia, Rome. In the UK he has performed the Bernstein Mass with the London Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop and Carmen Jones at the Royal Festival Hall.

Mark Heenehan (Judge Pitkin) most recently played Gyp in Jersey Boys (Piccadilly), with previous credits including Fiddler on the Roof (Grange Park Opera), Guys and Dolls (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Kiss Me Kate (Chichester Festival Theatre/Old Vic).

Completing the cast are: Michelle Andrews, Myles Brown, Matthew Caputo, Edward Chitticks, Lavinia Fitzpatrick, Cristina Hoey, James Leece, Jacob Maynard, Rachel Muldoon, Melissa Nettleford, Emily Ann Potter, Mollie Melia Redgrave, Lisa Ritchie, Barnaby Thompson, Sam Salter and Brandon Lee Sears.

Playing 19 May to 1 July 2017, On The Town is based on a concept by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, including the hit song “New York, New York (it’s a helluva town)”. It is directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie who won the Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreography for In the Heights before scoring a hit with his choreography for Jesus Christ Superstar in 2016, for which he is nominated in The Olivier Awards 2017. He has also choreographed Jekyll and Hyde and The Lorax (Old Vic), Bugsy Malone (Lyric Hammersmith) and Hairspray and Chicago(Curve, Leicester), as well as directing and choreographing Strictly Ballroom (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and The Wild Party (The Other Palace).

On The Town is designed by Peter McKintosh, whose previous credits for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music, Hello, Dolly! and Crazy for You (Olivier Award for Best Costume Design). Musical Supervision is by Tom Deering (Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre / wonder.land, National / In the Heights, Southwark Playhouse and King’s Cross Theatre) and, completing the Creative Team, are: Lighting Designer Howard Hudson (Romeo and Juliet, Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company / Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Linbury Studio/ In the Heights, Southwark Playhouse and King’s Cross Theatre); Sound Designer Nick Lidster for Autograph (Olivier Nominated for Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre); Fiona Dunn (Associate Director); Ebony Molina (Associate Choreographer); Kevin Amos (Associate Musical Director); Barbara Houseman (Associate Director, Voice and Text) and James Orange (Casting Director).

The season continues with Dickens Uncovered, celebrating the greatest storyteller of London life, Charles Dickens: Artistic Director Timothy Sheader directs A Tale of Two Cities (7 July – 8 August), a new play by Matthew Dunster adapted from the original Dickens novel and, developing their programme of work made especially for families, Caroline Byrne directs Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over adapted by Anya Reiss (17 July – 5 August). Completing the 2017 season, Jesus Christ Superstar returns for just 41 performances (11 August – 16 September), giving audiences one last chance to see the production in its original home. The musical, directed by Timothy Sheader, won the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical, and is currently nominated for six Olivier Awards.



Casting update announced for Defibrillator’s major new revival of Sam Shepard’s A Lie Of The Mind

Lie Of The Mind
Lie Of The Mind

Lie Of The Mind

With their critically acclaimed production of Stephen Karam’s Speech and Debate running at the Trafalgar Studios, Defibrillator Artistic Director James Hillier today announces a casting update for their production of Sam Shepherd’s A Lie of the Mind. Hillier directs Gethin Anthony (Jake), Kate Fahy (Lorraine), Robert Lonsdale (Mike), Laura Rodgers (Sally) and John Stahl (Baylor) in a new updated version as yet to be seen in the U.K. The production opens at Southwark Playhouse on 8 May, with previews from 4 May, running until 28 May. Further casting will be announced shortly.

“Love… it’s a disease that makes ya’ feel good. While it lasts. Then, when it’s gone, yer worse off than before you caught it.”

America. The great wide open. Two families torn apart by more than one brutal marriage. Out of this bleak landscape emerges a human spirit that burns bright. At heart a love story, this poetic and gritty play explores the ambivalence of family relationships, of love lost and found, against the backdrop of a macho American West.

Defibrillator’s production immerses you in Shepard’s world and features live music from acclaimed composer and musician James Marples.

Sam Shepard (b 1942) is a playwright, actor, director and author. He has written over 45 plays (11 of which have won Obie Awards) including True Love, Fool for Love and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, recently seen at Trafalgar Studios starring Ed Harris. He also wrote the screenplay for Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Gethin Anthony plays Jake. Antony previously worked with the company on The Hotel Plays – Green Eyes. Other theatre credits include In the Vale of Health and What Fatima Did (Hampstead Theatre), A life of Galileo and Boris Gondonuv (RSC), Carrot (Theatre503), 24 Hour Plays (The Old Vic), In Praise of Love (Theatre Royal Northampton), Ditch (HighTide), Cling to me like Ivy (Birmingham Rep) and Cyrano de Bergerac (Oxford Playhouse). For television his credits include Game of Thrones, Aquarius, ALT, Call the Midwife, Cloud Chamber, 10 Days to War and Pinochet’s Progress; and for film, First Kill, Kodachrome, We are Monster, Copenhagen, Dreck, Into the Storm, Beyond the Rave and Bus Terminal.

 Kate Fahy plays Lorraine. For theatre her credits include Handbagged (UK tour), After Electra (Tricycle Theatre), Definitely the Bahamas (Orange Tree Theatre), The Goat (Almeida Theatre and Apollo Theatre), Copenhagen (Watford Palace Theatre),Grace, Gaucho and Sparrowfall (Hampstead Theatre), Seduced (Royal Court), Old Flames (Arts Theatre), A Doll’s House (Riverside Studios), Bouncing and Sunday Morning (National Theatre) and Othello (Young Vic). For television her credits includeThe Suspicions of Mr Whicher, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, Death in Paradise, Cherished, Pure Wickedness, The Best Man, The House of Elliott, The Jury, Trial and Retribution, The Mozart Inquest, Danton’s Death, Terra Nova, Oxbridge Blues, The Lodger and The Nearly Man; and for film, Archipelago, Defiance, Brilliance, The Show, The Living and The Dead, The Fourth Angel, Somewhere Sometime.

 Robert Lonsdale plays Mike. For theatre his credits include Plaques and Tangles, Open Court: Piigs and Brilliant Adventures (Royal Court), Another Place (Plymouth Theatre Royal), From Here to Eternity (Shaftesbury Theatre), A Life (Finborough Theatre), Anna Christie (Donmar Warehouse), Finding Neverland (Curve, Leicester), La Bete (Harold Pinter Theatre) and The Indian Wants the Bronx (Young Vic). For television his credits include Vera, Chewing Gum, Love Sick, The Interceptor, Lost Christmas, A Passionate Woman, Plus One and Decisions; and for film, The Glass House.

 Laura Rodgers plays Sally. For theatre her credits include Winter Solstice (Orange Tree Theatre), Private Lives (UK tour),Tipping The Velvet and Arcadia (Lyric Hammersmith), An Ideal Husband, Blue Remembered Hills, Hay Fever and Pressure (Chichester Festival Theatre), Masterpieces (Royal Court), 55 Days and Revelations (Hampstead Theatre), The Comedy of Errors (USA tour and Shakespeare’s Globe), Macbeth,  A New World – The Life of Thomas Paine, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens, The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III (Shakespeare’s Globe), The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre), See How They Run (Royal Exchange, Manchester) and The Three Musketeers and The Barber of Seville (Bristol Old Vic). For television her credits include New Tricks, The Smoke, Dates, Twelfth Night, Dark Matters, Doctor Who Christmas Special, Missing, Albert’s Memorial, Rock Face, Running Scared, Relic Hunter, Pleasure Beach and The Sins; and for film, Love Me Do, The Right Hand Man, Nylon Ghosts and In Two Minds.

 John Stahl plays Baylor. For theatre his credits include The Winter’s Tale (Lyceum Theatre), Father Comes Home From the War (Royal Court), The Crucible and Ghosts (Bristol Old Vic), Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, King John, Richard IIIand A Soldier in Every Son (RSC), Troilus & Cressida, The Frontline, We, The People, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and The Globe Mysteries (Shakespeare’s Globe), Frankenstein (National Theatre), The Whisky Taster (The Bush Theatre), The Alice Trilogy (Royal Court Theatre), Blue Eyes and Heels (Soho Theatre), The Found Man (Traverse Theatre). For television his credits include Game of Thrones, Being Human, Beehive, Murder Rooms, Glasgow Kiss, Rebus – The First Stone, Shetland 3, Dr Finlay, Resort to Murder, Crime Story, Life of Jolly; and film, Victoria and Abdul and Loch Ness.

James Hillier is Artistic Director of Defibrillator. His directing credits include, Terry Johnson’s Insignificance at Langham Place, New York; the première production of Tennessee Williams’ The Hotel Plays at the Grange Hotel in 2012 and The Langham, London in 2014; The Armour  (also The Langham, winner of an award at Le Miami Rebels), and Hard Feelings (Finborough Theatre).  Hillier has directed a number of short films, including How To Make A Good First Impression Part 1 which went on to win awards at Tribecca Film Festival and Cannes.  As an actor, he has worked at the Royal Court, National Theatre, Almeida Theatre, Bush Theatre, Manchester Royal Exchange and the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. He is currently shooting the second season of The Crown.

DEFIBRILLATOR is an award-winning London based company with a growing reputation for delivering inspiring and entertaining theatre in both conventional and non-theatre settings. With a history of bringing to life less commonly used material, the company is increasingly developing and discovering new works from UK and international writers for audiences around the world. Defibrillator is led by Artistic Director James Hillier and Executive Producer Trish Wadley, supported by the Stage One Bursary Scheme for New Producers.

A LIE OF THE MIND                                                                                                                                                Listings

Southwark Playhouse

77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD


Gary Barlow & Tim Firth’s The Girls wins at WhatsOnStage Awards ahead of opening on Tuesday 21 February 2017 at the Phoenix Theatre

The Girls
The Girls

The Girls © Matt Crockett

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth triumphed tonightSunday 19 February 2017, ahead of the opening of their musical THE GIRLS in London’s West End on Tuesday 21 February.  At an awards ceremony at the Prince of Wales Theatre, they won the prestigious WhatsOnStage Award for Best Regional Production.  Gary and Tim and the original Calendar Girls were given a rapturous reception from an audience made up of stars from all the West End shows after Gary, Tim and Joanna Riding performed Scarborough, a song from their musical.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new British musical, THE GIRLS, is based on the true story, the film and the award-winning play by Tim Firth, Calendar Girls.  The West End premiere at the Phoenix Theatre, which began previews on 28 January 2017, follows sold-out runs at the Grand Theatre Leeds and the Lowry Salford late 2015/early 2016.  In the West End, the producers have made a commitment to there being no ‘premium-rated’ seats, no booking fees and reduced price previews.

The ‘Girls’ are played by Debbie Chazen as Ruth, Sophie-Louise Dann as Celia, Michele Dotrice as Jessie, Claire Machin as Cora, Claire Moore as Chris and Joanna Riding as Annie.  Also in the cast will be Joe Caffrey as Rod, Jeremy Clyde as Denis, John Davitt as Doctor, Soo Drouet as Brenda, James Gaddas as John, Jenny Gayner as Miss Wilson (coffee), Steve Giles as Lawrence, Maxwell Hutcheon as Colin, Shirley Jameson as Miss Wilson (tea), Marian McLoughlin as Marie, Judith Street as Lady Cravenshire and Jane Lambert, Rebecca Louis, Victoria Blackburn and Frazer Hadfield, and introducing Josh Benson as Tommo, Ben Hunter as Danny and Chloe May Jackson as Jenny.

THE GIRLS is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies, who decide to appear nude for a Women’s Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands, and have to date raised almost £5million for Bloodwise.  This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth grew up in the same village in the north of England and have been friends for 25 years.  With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner.  Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.

THE GIRLS is directed by Tim Firth, with musical staging by Lizzi Gee, comedy staging by Jos Houben, design by Robert Jones, lighting design by Tim Lutkin, sound design by Terry Jardine and Nick Lidster, musical direction and orchestrations by Richard Beadle, with casting by Sarah Bird, and associate producer is U-Live.

THE GIRLS is produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and The Shubert Organization.

Bloodwise, the UK’s specialist blood cancer charity, will receive monies from this production.

Website            www.thegirlsmusical.com

Twitter               @thegirlsmusical


Facebook          www.facebook.com/TheGirlsMusical



Full casting announced for UK Tour of Grease!

Tom Parker
Tom Parker

Tom Parker © Ruth Rose

Grease is the word! Full casting is announced for the hit 70s musical, which returns this year for a UK tour coming to Mayflower Theatre from 27 June – 8 July 2017. Casting for the tour includes Tom Parker (The Wanted) who makes his musical theatre debut playing Danny Zuko, Danielle Hope (Over the Rainbow winner) who plays Sandy and Louisa Lytton (Strictly Come Dancing, EastEnders) who plays Rizzo.

Completing the cast are Tom Senior as Kenickie, Michael Cortez as Sonny, Oliver Jacobson as Roger, Ryan Heenan as Doody, Callum Evans as Eugene, Lauren Atkins as Marty, Rosanna Harris as Jan, Rhiannon Chesterman as Frenchy, Gabriella Williams as Patty and Ailsa Davidson as Lynch. The ensemble includes Charlotte Coggin, Anthony Hughes, Alessia McDermott, Natasha Mould, Anna Murray, George Olney, Rory Phelan and Grant Thresh.

Daniella Hope

Daniella Hope

Since opening on Broadway in 1972 and the smash hit movie starring John Travolta and Olivia   Newton-John, Grease’s place has been firmly established in the cultural Hall of Fame, having seduced the hearts of millions with its back-to-back sizzling tunes. It’s the original high-school musical featuring everyone’s favourite characters – Sandy, Danny, the groovy T Birds, the sassy Pink Ladies and the whole gang at Rydell High – and all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You, Sandy, Greased Lightnin’ and many more.

Louisa Lytton

Louisa Lytton

Voted the “No 1 Greatest Musical”*, Grease has proved that a musical love story, bursting with denim, cheerleaders, slick hairstyles, rock’n’roll, 1950’s pop culture and an irresistible mix of teenage angst and young romance is timeless and universal.  Grease is the ultimate feel-good, pick-me-up musical – an electrifying extravaganza, packed with fun, energy and vibrant physicality. The show is guaranteed to thrill audiences and leave everyone hand-jiving the night away with “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a wop-bam-boom!”

This award-winning production originally opened in the West End in 1993 where it enjoyed a hugely successful run of 6 years at the Dominion and Cambridge Theatres.  The show has since toured throughout the world playing to sell-out audiences and breaking box office records everywhere, having been seen by over 12 million people in the UK alone.

Tom Parker has amassed worldwide success with his band The Wanted, achieving two UK number 1s and 9 top 10 singles as well as 4 Billboard 100 singles, with Glad You Came placing in the top 5 and selling over 900,000 records. The band have had three platinum albums, two sold out arena tours, and 3 million singles sold in America. Tom is also a winner of BBC Radio 1’s Teen Choice Award and US People’s Choice Award with The Wanted.

Danielle Hope made her professional debut as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium, after capturing the hearts of the country and winning the BBC’s smash hit Over The Rainbow having competed against over 9,000 girls. She went on to star as Eponine in the West End production of Les Miserables (Queen’s Theatre) – a role to which she most recently returned, Cathy in The Last Five Years (Greenwich Theatre & Warren Theatre, Brighton), Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (National Tour) and Maria Rainer in The Sound of Music (National Tour).

Louisa Lytton trained at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and secured her first professional role as the innocent schoolgirl Ruby Allen in EastEnders. Following this Louisa joined The Bill, playing the inexperienced and shy police officer Beth Green. She has since enjoyed a host of varied roles, from parts in the internationally successful American Pie franchise, to the British Shakespeare Company’s productions of both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing. Most recently she has appeared in the new prime-time ITV comedy drama The Edge of Heaven, filmed a thriller due to be released in Oct 2017 called Fractured, appeared in the Canadian period drama Murdoch Mysteries and starred in the touring production of Swap!. Aside from acting, Louisa reached the quarter-finals in the fourth series of Strictly Come Dancing, and subsequently toured the country as part of the sold-out Strictly Come Dancing arena tour. She also represented the UK in the 2008 Eurovision Dance Contest. Louisa recently took park in Channel 4’s The Jump.

Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, directed by David Gilmore (Daisy Pulls It Off, Happy Days, Song & Dance, Footloose) and choreographed by Arlene Phillips (Starlight Express, Saturday Night Fever, Flashdance The Musical & BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing), designed by Terry Parsons, with costumes by Andreane Neofitou. Grease is presented by Paul Nicholas and David Ian.

Tickets for Grease (27 June – 8 July 2017) are on sale from Mayflower Theatre Box Office tel: 02380 711811 or online at mayflower.org.uk. Ovation Restaurant bookings: 02380 711833


ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival kicks off with Man Booker winner Paul Beatty, playwright David Hare and the iconic poet Anne Waldman

David Hare

Described as the ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is the world’s largest free event of its kind. Celebrating its 10th year, the past decade has seen the Festival host 1300 speakers and welcome nearly 1.2 million book loversA rich programme with over 400 speakers, more than 30 languages, and more than 100 musicians both global and local gather to celebrate collective creativity.

ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival opened today and runs until Monday 23 January at Diggi Palace in Jaipur.

Today’s speakers included Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty, award-winning playwright David Hare and iconic experimental poet Anne Waldman.

 In their sessions at Jaipur Literature Festival

Paul Beatty commented on current events in America –

‘Trump is like America’s dickpic – it is ugly but it is out there.’

‘In a world of assholes and quasi-assholes, Trump has his own political correctness.’

David Hare said:

‘There is no avant-garde anymore – people are judged by how successful they are.’
‘When I read some of the critiques of my work, I go, ‘Is that the best you can do?’ I can come up with 5 better things to dislike about this.’

Anne Waldman said:

‘I’ve been too much of a patriot,’ declared Waldman. ‘This is about to change.’

‘I apologize to anyone younger than me that we did not save the world,’


FIRST LOOK – Rehearsal Photos for the Second National Tour of Torben Betts’s INVINCIBLE

The Original Theatre Company has announced that its production of Torben Betts’s critically acclaimed INVINCIBLE will tour the UK for a second time, directed by Stephen Darcy.  The 2017 tour will open at Royal & Derngate in Northampton on 24 January 2017.

Alastair Whatley, Emily Bowker and Graham Brookes will reprise the roles of Oliver, Emily and Alan respectively. Elizabeth Boag joins the 2017 tour as Dawn.

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Artistic Director of The Original Theatre Company, Alastair Whatley, said of the second UK tour, “We are delighted to be taking Invincible back on the road in 2017. Torben’s state of the nation comedy reached out to audiences across the UK in 2016 with his vision of a nation divided, cleft in two down the Watford Gap. We look forward to navigating the play through post Brexit Britain in 2017.”

With the recession biting hard, Emily and Oliver have decided to downsize and shift their middle-class London lifestyle to a small town in the north of England.  One night, they open their doors to their next door neighbours, Dawn and Alan.  Over the course of a disastrous evening of olives, anchovies, Karl Marx and abstract art, class and culture collide, resulting in consequences that are both tragic and hilarious.

INVINCIBLE had its world premiere at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond in 2014 and transferred later that same year to St James Theatre, London. Invencible, a Spanish version of INVINCIBLE, has just begun a nine-month tour of Spain, starring Spanish film actress Maribel Verdu.

Torben Betts was born in Lincolnshire and studied at Liverpool University.  He became the resident dramatist at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1999.  Poet and dramatist Liz Lochhead said Betts “is just about the most original and extraordinary writer of drama we have.”  His play The Unconquered won Best New Play 2006/07 at the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland.  2015 saw a revival of his acclaimed 2012 play Muswell Hill at London’s Park Theatre, his latest work, What Falls Apart, opened at Newcastle’s Live Theatre, and his version of Chekhov’s The Seagull was staged at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.  In February 2016, Betts adapted Get Carter for Northern Stage in Newcastle.

INVINCIBLE is designed by Victoria Spearing, with lighting by Andy Purves and sound by Max Pappenheim.  The national tour is produced by Tom Hackney for The Original Theatre Company, Adrian Grady for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and Ghostlight Theatre Production (a Bob and Co Company).

Website: www.originaltheatre.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/OriginalTheatre

Twitter: @OriginalTheatre


24 – 28 January Royal & Derngate, Northampton 01604624811 www.royalandderngate.co.uk On sale


31 Jan – 4 February Derby Theatre 01332593939

www.derbytheatre.co.uk On sale soon


8 – 10 February Cast Doncaster 01302303959

Castindoncaster.com On sale


16 – 18 February Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield 01484430528

thelbt.org On sale 9 Dec


22 – 25 February Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough 01723370541

www.sjt.uk.com On sale


1 – 4 March Cambridge Arts Theatre 01223503333

www.cambridgeartstheatre.com On sale


7 – 11 March Palace Theatre, Southend 01702351135 www.palacetheatresouthend.co.uk On sale

15 – 18 March Harrogate Theatre 01423502116

www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk On sale


21 – 25 March Lichfield Garrick Theatre 01543412110

www.lichfieldgarrick.com On sale


28 – 30 March Theatre Royal Brighton 08448717650

www.atgtickets.com/brighton On sale


4 – 15 April    New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme  01782717962

newvictheatre.org.uk  On sale 16 January




London Theatre Consortium Announces Fourth Year of Pioneering Apprenticeships

The London Theatre Consortium (LTC) has announced plans for a fourth year of its pioneering apprenticeship programme offering up to a further 12 apprenticeships across the group for 2017. In a new development the LTC will work with the National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries to offer the apprenticeship qualifications and will pilot a new apprenticeship training hub at the Lyric Hammersmith.

This announcement comes as the consortium publishes a new report on the programme’s first three years which sets out how an investment of £800,000 has created 56 entry level apprenticeships into theatre across a broad range of disciplines including Technical Theatre, Costume, Community Arts, Venue Operations, Producing and Administration.

The report shows how apprenticeships can help arts organisations to diversify their workforces and to create new routes into a career in theatre. 62% of apprentices to date have been from non white-British backgrounds and 27% have a disability, most hidden. The programme was also effective in reaching people from socio-economic backgrounds that are not currently well represented in theatre staff teams. All apprentices were paid at least the adult National Minimum Wage, regardless of their age, to make sure that no one was barred from taking a role for financial reasons.

As well as college and workplace training towards an accredited qualification, apprentices were given mentoring support, help to plan their careers and next steps and provided with opportunities to build their contacts and networks. Of the 48 individuals, 23 have gone on to further employment in the arts and 11 will shortly complete their Level 2 qualifications.

Apprentices reported that their self-confidence, organisational skills and work readiness improved enormously. Employers reported that managing an apprentice had encouraged them to reconsider their standard working practices to support better inclusivity and access.

The programme has been co-funded by CCSkills’ Creative Employment Programme, AGE, City Bridge Foundation, LTC employers and the LTC itself.

“We worked really hard to find talented young people who we don’t usually hear from when we are recruiting. Almost everyone working in the arts will say at some point that they owe their position to someone who “saw something in them and believed in them”. That’s brilliant if you’re there to be ‘spotted’ but impossible if you’d never find yourself in that position in the first place. We decided we needed to be proactive and to go out and look for talent and potential – and we found it.” Emma Rees, Director, LTC

“I think it’s important to continue schemes like this where it’s completely accessible to people who didn’t go to university, people from different walks of life”. LTC apprentice

“Working with apprentices makes me question a lot of practice that is taken as read within the organisation, and I think that is a really good thing for the culture of an organisation”. Sam Maynard, Education Manager, Donmar Warehouse.

“The cultural sector is a real UK success story in terms of growth and economic development and London is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, yet the workforce of the theatre sector is still under-representative of London’s diversity. From the start, we have seen this collaborative programme as an important way to diversify the workforce, to reach and train young people from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in the theatre sector. Working together has been key to this. I don’t think the London theatres could have embraced apprenticeships on the scale that they have, and with the success they have, if it hadn’t been for that collaborative approach, as part of the London Theatre Consortium. Although the funding climate makes it harder now, we are committed to continuing to work together to maintain the momentum we have achieved and to create open and accessible opportunities for talented young people from all backgrounds in our theatres.” Sian Alexander, Executive Director, Lyric Hammersmith.

Recruitment for the fourth year of apprenticeships will begin in January 2017, with apprenticeships starting in March 2017. More details are available from www.londontheatreconsortium.com

Fundraising endeavours by the musical Wicked raises money for the planting of over 5000 new trees by the Woodland Trust


Thanks to donations from Wicked fans from across the UK, over £8,500 has been raised in 2016 for the Woodland Trust to create new woods as part of the production’s annual WICKED DAY charitable fundraising activities. This year, the hit musical raised enough money to plant over 5,700 trees.

 Last week, to mark the occasion, Wicked stars Suzie Mathers (Glinda), Oliver Savile (Fiyero), Idriss Kargbo (Boq) and Martin Ball (Doctor Dillamond) braved torrential rain and strong winds to help plant the first of the new trees.

2016 marked the sixth year of the partnership between the long-running musical and the Woodland Trust, which forms part of the production’s wider philanthropic programme, WICKED: FOR GOOD, which has raised almost £60,000 for the green charity in total. This has, to date, enabled the charity to plant 39,492 trees across the UK, creating new woodland spaces for the benefit of both people and wildlife.

Some of this year’s fundraising endeavours included an eBay auction, where numerous Wicked-themed items and experiences were auctioned off, including a series of unique, cast-personalised garden gnomes. Other experiences included an afternoon tea with Elphaba and Glinda, a private dance workshop with the production’s Dance Captain, a ‘Greenifying’ experience with Rachel Tucker (Elphaba) and the makeup department. Two auction winners were also invited to join the cast at the planting event.


Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight, said: said: “We are so grateful to fans of Wicked and the team behind the musical itself for the brilliant donations. It is a real achievement that they have helped us to plant almost 40,000 trees. It is quite fitting that each one of these musical-funded trees will actually boost nature’s orchestra by providing homes for birds such as blue tits and blackbirds . And of course these trees will be a brilliant place to visit and enjoy. A big thanks from the Woodland Trust.”

 Michael McCabe, Executive Producer (UK) of Wicked added: We are extremely proud and honoured to to support the incredible work of the Woodland Trust and continue our long-standing partnership. This year, through the fantastic generosity of our audiences and much appreciated support of our cast, we have been able to raise funds for the planting of another 5700 new trees”.

 Some of the trees funded by Wicked have been planted at Heartwood Forest in Hertfordshire. Over half a million trees have been planted by The Woodland Trust since 2009 at the 850 acre site, creating new wildlife habitats for species like the rare corn bunting, meadow brown butterfly and pygmy shrew and helping link up existing pockets of rare ancient woodland.

 Find out more about the charity’s work at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk