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Graeae, Jenny Sealey MBE Interview: “It is a very, very brutal environment out there at the moment…We need the wider audience to be on our side & fight our battle with us, not for us but with us.”

Jenny Sealey
Jenny Sealey

Jenny Sealey

Graeae theatre company’s Artistic Director, Jenny Sealey MBE is distressed. “My Access to Work benefit is being capped,” she says. “So, my hours will be cut in half. They cut capping it at £40,000… I’m trying to work out how I am going to be Chief executive and Artistic Director on half the amount of access. This all remains to be seen because I am in complete denial about it because it is too upsetting.”

Tory cuts, reforms and changes to disability benefits and a growing crisis in social care and housing are the story of people living and working with disabilities in modern Britain. Her mood is serious, too, when she talks about the challenges being a cultural leader with a disability in 2017; she lost her hearing at the age of seven and relies on sign-language interpreters in much of her professional life. She speaks from complex experience and the threat long held over the company and so many others has now become a reality. “Many of us are going through the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment to find out if they can get their care packages recognised so that they can actually come to work,” she explains. “So, it is a very, very brutal environment out there at the moment but again, that’s why we are doing Reasons to be Cheerful because it is one way of just reminding the wider mainstream world that we exist and we are good at what we do and we need the wider audience to be on our side to campaign and fight our battle with us, not for us but with us.”

Jenny has been Artistic Director at Graeae, since 2007 in that time the industry has made huge strides to achieve greater diversity in terms of disability, race, gender and socio-economic background. But it still has some way to go. “A lot of the challenges are that there are still some awful attitudes out there,” says Sealey. “You can have the best ramp, an induction loop, sign language interpreters, note takers – everything but if the attitude of the theatre, casting director or the producer, the attitude of the BBC or Channel 4 or whoever, if the attitude is not in and around equality, acceptance and engagement then that is what stops us.”

Graeaes’ production of punk musical Reasons to be Cheerful is hitting the road again this Autumn. “We are bringing Reasons back because, my god, do we need a Reason to be Cheerful with how the world is at the moment,” Sealey laughs. “It is just one of the best shows to have in our rehearsal rooms because the music really lifts the spirits of everybody. It is such a gorgeous simple story of a young man who wants to take his dad to a gig, for the last time before his dad dies. It is a rite of passage story; it is about love, it is about being a blockhead, it is about political. Another reason we are bringing it back is because the gang love doing it – we all need to do it one more time before we are too old and don’t have the energy to do it because it is massively high impact! In my heart of hearts, I know this won’t be the last time but for now, we are calling it the last ever tour.”

Ian Dury contracted polio when he was seven years old and was left disabled. He wrote “Spasticus Autisticus” in 1981 as a protest against the International Year of the Disabled, something he saw as patronising. The lyrics were “So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin/ And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in/ So long have I been languished on the shelf/ I must give all proceedings to myself.” Dury was a patron of Graeae and Sealey has the full support of Jemima Dury, Baxter and all the Blockheads. She has nothing but praise for him. “Oh my God what a man! For so many disabled people he absolutely changed their perceptions of who they could be, as young teenagers,” says Sealey. “The first time we ever did Reasons to be Cheerful in Ipswich, we did Spasticus Autisticus and afterwards some kid came running out and just said to John Kelly, our front man, ‘I’m Autistic! I’m Autistic! I’m Spasticus Autisticus!’ and it was the first time he has owned his impairment and understood it. So, it’s a many, many splendid song,” she recalls. “Spasticus Autisticus”, was performed at the 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony despite being banned by the BBC in 1981 and features in the show. “I love that Spasticus Autisticus was banned by the BBC and I love that it was part of 2012 opening ceremony and I love that it has now become a real national anthem for disabled people,” says Sealey.

Reasons to be Cheerful was first performed in autumn 2010 with co-producers New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Theatre Royal Stratford East. This kind of work is best when it is willing to take risks and embrace the challenges of presenting inclusive and dynamic theatre to audiences. Do co-productions dilute the values of work, I ask.  “I think sometimes, co-productions can get diluted if there is too much compromise but that hasn’t really happened with us so we have been lucky. It is always something to be wary of,” she says. “In a way, it is the only way that small companies, like Graeae, can operate is through co-productions. We are very rarely in a position to do our own piece of work which is why this time round, Reasons is not a co-production, it is just us and that feels quite nice. It has really re-lit the coals of the whole company because we own it. Sometimes, the co-production, especially if it is in a city outside of London, can sometimes feel a bit detached from it. But, this time we are all absolutely on it! It is so nice to be doing it ourselves.”

She talks too about audiences taking a leap of faith on work that is not necessarily mainstream. “Ian Dury isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but this is more than just the songs. Well, it is the song but the story is for everybody who has ever fallen in love, anybody who has ever lost anybody and anybody who has ever tried to go to a gig or the theatre and it has all failed,” she says, as she tries to explain the shows enormous appeal. “So, that actually covers quite a lot of people! I think it’s a good fun show about a family and for most of us, we belong to families. The complexities, the dysfunctional stuff about being part of a family and that’s what it is. I think it is a show for everybody.”

“I think it is just really pushing the point that we are massively excited about this and we really do want a whole young audience to also see it so that they can realise the skill and the wisdom and sheer brilliance of Ian Dury’s lyrics and download as many songs as possible. We want the old fans to come back and support us!”

 Twitter:@R2BCheerful
#Reasonstobecheerful
Facebook:
Reasons to be Cheerful – the Musical 
YouTube: GraeaeTheatreCompany
Graeae’s media language guide can be viewed here

National Tour (click on venue names to book tickets):

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry  8 September –  9 September

Derby Theatre  12 September –  16 September

Nuffield Theatre, Southampton 26 September –  30 September

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich 3 October –  7 October

West Yorkshire Playhouse  10 October – 14 October

Liverpool Everyman  17 October –  21 October

Theatre Royal Stratford East  24 October – 4 November
Relaxed performance 2:30pm (matinee) 2 November

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Fierce Festival, Birmingham. Aaron Wright Interview: “I think we need more young artistic directors in the arts in the UK.”

Aaron Wright

Basically, right, Fierce Festival has announced the full programme of live art, theatre, dance, music, installations, activism, and parties taking over Birmingham from 16 – 22 October 2017

The festival explores themes as diverse as the rituals of clubbing, mental health, “fandom” and fan art, activism, queer culture and climate change the 2017 programme contains fifty events with five World Premieres, twelve UK premieres with artists hailing from ten countries across four continents.

I had a chat with the Artistic Director of Fierce, Aaron Wright about a whole manner of things.

Here is what we discussed.

*Q&A*

Aaron Wright

Aaron Wright

Hello! Can you tell us about an average working day in the life of Aaron?
My day usually starts with a Berroca. Then I POWER WALK to the office with my head phones in listening to Diana Ross. I usually schedule meetings for earlier in the day, and then go and get my head down in the office with admin and emails in the afternoon. It’s a small organisation so I have a hand in everything, from long-term planning meetings and research to day to day office up keep, admin and production stuff. This week we’ve had to source a massive block of ice and a load of live flies for the festival. It’s rarely dull.

What are you secretly most excited about in this season?
I’ve personally selected everything in the programme, so I really do love it all. However I’m most excited for the debuts of the international artists who’ve never performer in the UK before – so Erin Markey’s cabaret show Boner Killer, Michele Rizzo’s incredible club dance piece HIGHER and Quarto’s brilliant Durational Rope piece, amongst others.

Bearing in mind that obviously all arts folk say “well I just do what I do” and so on, do keep an eye on the movements of directors you perceive to be your competitors?
I’ve only recently stepped into a director role, but I am aware that I’ve now got some brilliant director peers across the country. I love what Mike Pony is doing with Submerge Festival in Bristol and Amy Letman with Transform in Leeds. I think we need more young artistic directors in the arts in the UK. Fierce is quite distinct though, and so we don’t really have any direct competitors, not in the UK anyway. I love our “cousin festivals” In Between Time and SPILL, but they’re both very different – we complement each other really well. There are of course curators in Europe who I really respect and follow their programmes for tips on interesting artists, but Fierce also has a finger in really underground scenes of hard-core performance art and club stuff which isn’t being presented so much by publicly funded organisations. I think there is a culture in Europe of certain festivals all working with the same artists – and I don’t want to fall into that trap, but also – that’s how big work gets commissioned! Pooling resource is no bad thing. But I also hate artists being commodified; I don’t sit looking through brochures ‘picking’ which artists I want to ‘book’ for fierce. It’s all done through dialogue and relationships.

How important is access and inclusion when you are producing Fierce festival?
Access is fundamental. If people don’t feel comfortable enough to attend, then really why are we bothering. At Fierce we’re really trying to challenge dominant art hierarchies – asking lots of questions about what can be art, who it can be for and where it can happen. In this respect I think Fierce is pretty hot. The programme contains some challenging work but it’s all presented in quite an approachable way. Language is key. We’ve done a lot of work on that this time, but it could still go much further, which we’ll aim to do for the next one. The brochure is fun, a lot of the work is free, it’s presented in quite an informal style that tends to appeal to young curious audiences.

What is the most ambitious part of this programme?
Everything Fits In The Room is this incredible immersive dance work by Simone Aughterlony and Jen Rosenblit requires a big brick wall to be built in this colossal warehouse space in Digbeth – that’s going to be challenging. There’s also a new commission by artist Preach R. Sun from NYC which will see a procession from one venue to another, which involves an awful lot of planning. Luckily the Fierce team are brilliant at this sort of stuff! Also just the sheer scale of this year’s programme – we’ve consciously scaled things up, it felt like the right thing to do following on from the years of brilliant work Laura and Harun did establishing Fierce internationally and cementing a brilliant brand.

Where do you start organising 50 events, with 6 world premieres, 12 UK premieres and artists from 10 countries, across 3 counties?
As this is my first festival I’ve really been drawing on a lot of the research and relationships I built at my last job as Programmes Manager at the Live Art Development Agency – it’s great to be able to commission and programme artists that I got to know whilst I was working there. I also knew there were specific things I really wanted to do with this festival. I wanted to have a well-supported strand of Performance Art, which is often neglected by institutions, and I wanted to continue this enquiry into club culture, so quite quickly strands started to emerge which I then shaped the festival around. There are also loads of brilliant partners we work with in Birmingham, so speaking to all of them and what they all might be interested in collaborating on is a fundamental first step for each festival too.

Can you tell us a secret? 
The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein is a fake ass bitch with fake hair and sleeps with animals. Actually, hardly a secret. She’s Notorious (World Premiere at Fierce 2017!).

Birmingham has a lot going for it doesn’t it – what are your tips for visitors to the city? 
Food is my favourite thing in Brum – some great independent restaurants. There’s a fab stall in the Bullring markets selling vintage sportswear dead cheap, there’s lots of nice concrete too and canals. Some other rad organisations too – BCMG, Flatpack Film Festival, Supersonic Festival, Grand Union gallery etc. There’s a thriving arts scene. There’s a brilliant new wave of club kids here too, centred around the gay village – people like Yshee Black, Ginny Lemon, China Dethcrash, Lacey Lou and Auntie Jamie – all fierce people making Brum a more vibrant place to be with their nights Second Self and Church of Yshee.

What will success look like for you with Fierce Festival in 2017? 
That we might inspire a few people to quit their dull day jobs and become full time performance artists/X-rated cabaret artists/experimental theatre makers. You know you want to.

Fierce Festival runs between

16 – 22 October 2017 across Birmingham.

www.wearefierce.org

Fierce Festival intro from Fierce Festival on Vimeo.

Kelsey Grammer to star in the London Premiere of BIG FISH THE MUSICAL

Kelsey Grammer

Kelsey Grammer

Kelsey Grammer


Kelsey Grammer will star as ‘Edward Bloom’ in a new production of John August and Andrew Lippa’s BIG FISH THE MUSICAL. Based on the novel BIG FISH by Daniel Wallace and the Columbia Pictures film screenplay by John August, this new production will be the London premiere of the musical and also marks Kelsey’s first time on the London stage.

Directed by Nigel HarmanBIG FISH THE MUSICAL will play at The Other Palace from Wednesday 1 November 2017 – Sunday 31 December 2017, with a Press Night on Tuesday 7 November and a Gala Night on Wednesday 8 NovemberTickets on sale 31 July 2017.

The Other Palace opened in February 2017 as a home for musical theatre. Discovering, developing and reimagining musicals is at the heart of what The Other Palace is about. The spaces are used to nurture the next generation of musicals, and the creatives behind them; celebrating the very best of the art form, from the established to the brand new.

Kelsey Grammer played the role of Dr. Frasier Crane in the NBC sitcoms “Cheers” and “Frasier” for which he has won five Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe awards. In 2010 Kelsey made his Broadway musical debut playing the lead role of ‘Georges’ in “La Cage Aux Folles”, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. He also originated the roles of ‘Charles Frohman’ and ‘Captain Hook’ in the Broadway premiere of the musical “Finding Neverland”.

BIG FISH THE MUSICAL will be directed by Nigel Harman, director of the upcoming tour of “Shrek The Musical” and perhaps better known to audiences for his stage and TV work as an actor. Nigel first met with writers John and Andrew in 2016 and the vision and creativity they shared for this new version was evident.  Nigel said When I first encountered the piece I was struck by its depth of humanity and it’s zest for life.  A story that celebrates life in all of its wonders and despairs. A simple tale told in the most extraordinary way. It has been wonderful to revisit the music, book and lyrics with John and Andrew”

Joining Kelsey Grammer will be Matt Seadon-Young (Les Misérables, Beautiful, Pride) as ‘Will Bloom’, Frances McNamee (Little Shop of Horrors) as ‘Josephine Bloom’, Forbes Masson (Travesties, Dr.Faustus) as ‘Amos/Don’, Jamie Muscato (Lazarus, Bend it Like Beckham)as ‘Edward’, Laura Baldwin (Shrek, Alice in Wonderland) as ‘Sandra’,  Landi Oshinowo (Shrek, Sister Act) as ‘Witch/Jenny Hill’, Dean Nolan (Fiddler on the Roof) as ‘Karl’, and George Ure (Sweeney Todd, Wicked) as ‘Zaki’. They are joined by Sophie Linder-Lee (The Rocky Horror Show, Wicked), Gemma McMeel (Titanic and Candide) and Jonathan Stewart (Guys and Dolls).

 

 

Meet Edward Bloom, an ordinary man, and an extraordinary father. He has always told his son tall tales filled with beauty, love and imagination but when his son confronts him about what is make believe, they both discover that the truth is more wonderful than fiction.

BIG FISH THE MUSICAL is a love story that will take you on an exhilarating and heart-warming journey deep into the heart of what it means to be human. Blending fairy-tale, romance and adventure it celebrates the true meaning of life, and reminds us that the love for our family and friends will live on within them, long after we have gone.

Adapted from the much-loved book by Daniel Wallace and Tim Burton movie, BIG FISH THE MUSICAL has a beautiful score by Tony nominee Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party) and a new book by John August (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

BIG FISH THE MUSICAL will be presented at The Other Palace by Big Fish Productions, Selladoor Worldwide and Baiyue Culture Creative with associate producers Dominic May and Underbelly Productions.

Originally produced on Broadway by Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen and Stage Entertainment with Roy Furman, Broadway Across America/Rich Entertainment Group, John Domo, The Nederlander Organization and Edward Walson in association with CJ E&M, Dancing Elephant Productions, Parrothead Productions, Harvey Weinstein/Carole L. Haber, Peter May/Jim Fantaci, Ted Liebowitz/Joe Piacentile and Columbia Pictures.

Anne Reid cast as Lady Hunstanton in A Woman of No Importance at Vaudeville Theatre

Anne Reid

Anne Reid

Anne Reid

Classic Spring has announced that Anne Reid will play Lady Hunstanton in A Woman of No Importance from 6 October to 30 December 2017. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole, the production is the first in a year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Anne Reid MBE, is best-known for her BAFTA Award-nominated role as Celia Dawson in Last Tango in Halifax (BBC). The award-winning show also starred Derek Jacobi and Sarah Lancashire, with the final episode attracting over 8 million viewers. Anne received a BAFTA nomination for her performance in The Mother (Best Actress, 2004) and an Olivier Award nomination for her role in Epitaph for George Dillon (Best Supporting Actress, 2006).

Anne’s extensive TV credits include Doc Martin, Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (ITV), Shameless (Channel 4), Bleak House, Jane Eyre, Dr Who, New Tricks, Upstairs Downstairs and Dinnerladies (BBC). Her theatre credits include Fracked! (Chichester Festival Theatre), Hedda Gabler (Old Vic), Dimetos (Donmar Warehouse), Happy Now? (National Theatre) and Into the Woods (Royal Opera House). Anne’s numerous film credits include Kaleidoscope, Foster, Cemetery Junction and Hot Fuzz. She will also appear in the upcoming films The Snowman, starring Michael Fassbender and Romans, starring Orlando Bloom.

Dominic Dromgoole, director, said: “It will be a delight to welcome Anne back to the London stage, since she has become an even more loved star with Last Tango in Halifax. She has long been one of my favourite actresses, and her performance in Peter Gill’s beautiful The York Realist was one of my greatest experiences in the theatre. It will also be nice to celebrate her recent successes as a cabaret performer by cutting her loose with a song or two from the Victorian songbook”.


CLASSIC SPRING: A Celebration of Oscar Wilde

Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH

A Woman of No Importance
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Dominic Dromgoole
Designed by Jonathan Fensom
Lighting by Ben Ormerod

6 October to 30 December 2017
Press night: 7pm16 October 2017

Please visit classicspring.co.uk for a detailed performance schedule

Box office: 0330 333 4814 / classicspring.co.uk
Tickets from £19.50, with reduced price previews

Anne will be joined by Olivier Award-winner Eve Best, playing Mrs Arbuthnot.

Classic Spring is a new theatre company from former Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Dominic Dromgoole. As part of its year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde at the Vaudeville Theatre, the company will stage A Woman of No ImportanceLady Windermere’s FanAn Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.

An iconoclast, a socialist and a gay Irishman in the socially conservative late-Victorian era, Oscar Wilde broke the mould in his work and in his life. Opening in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, this season aims to offer a much fuller picture of the man and the artist, and reveal this much-loved playwright as the brilliant renegade he was in his own time. Interspersed with the plays will be a curated series of interludes and ‘Wilde Talks’ that will reveal the deep current of radicalism and subversiveness that runs through all of Wilde’s writing. There will be 20,000 tickets under £20 offered across the season.

James Nelson-Joyce to co-star with Julian Clary in the world première of “Le Grand Mort”

Le Grand Mort

Le Grand Mort

Le Grand Mort

James Nelson-Joyce  is to co-star with the previously announced Julian Clary in the world première of the two-handed black comedy, Le Grand Mort.

James has recently starred as James Yates  in Little Boy Blue, ITV’s sensational four part drama about the murder of Rhys Jones in Liverpool in 2007. He has also appeared in Cilla, Mount Pleasant and Shameless.

Le Grand Mort was written specially for Julian Clary by four-time Olivier Award nominated writer Stephen Clark (Martin Guerre, Zorro, Love Story, and the play Stripped, which won him a Stephen Jefferson Award), who died at the age of 55 last October.

Directed by Christopher Renshaw, Le Grand Mort will première at Trafalgar Studios from Wednesday 20 September – Saturday 28 October

Press night is Monday 25 September at 7.00pm.

In his super stylish, sterilely beautiful Notting Hill kitchen, Michael is preparing dinner for two. As he meticulously cuts the vegetables with almost a surgeon’s precision, he talks, with knife-like wit, about cases in history where the human body has continued to prove useful even after death. As he slices and chops, one wonders who is coming for dinner and what the main course might be. When Tim, his young guest arrives, they engage in a series of funny, thrilling but searingly dangerous mind games, as they try to unravel the reasons why they are both there. Only when the games turn deadly do they catch a glimpse of the sadness and loss within each of them, that enables them to at least begin to connect with the truth, using whatever damaged shreds of humanity they still have left.

The creative team is: Director Christopher Renshaw. Production Designer Justin Nardella. Lighting Designer Jamie Platt. Sound Designer Edward Lewis. Producer & Casting Director Danielle Tarento.

Julian Clary said: “In 2010 Stephen Clark took me out to lunch in Camden and told me he’d like to write a play for me. How lovely, how flattering, how unusual! Over the following few years I got the occasional email from Stephen saying ‘I haven’t forgotten the play!’ but I decided he’d
probably thought better of it. We were both busy with life, work and in Stephen’s case, some serious health issues. Then, one day in 2013, it arrived. A funny, dark, beautiful play…Le Grand Mort will take me so far out of my comfort zone I may never return.”

Director Christopher Renshaw said: “Through our many collaborations, Stephen Clark and I became very close friends. Someone with whom I shared absolute trust, not only in our work but in our lives. A brave, honest, brilliantly funny man, who faced the many health challenges of his life without a single complaint. An inspiration. It is so very sad for me that Stephen will not not be here for the first production of Le Grand Mort, but I know he will be watching from somewhere, sipping a glass of good red wine, absorbing and encouraging every moment of rehearsal, as he always did.”

THE CAST

JULIAN CLARY

Julian Clary is a comedian, entertainer and author, who has toured across the world with his one-man shows. He became a household name in the late 1980s, and remains one of the country’s most popular entertainers. Julian has appeared on numerous popular TV shows including Sticky Moments, Terry and Julian, Strictly Come Dancing, QI, Have I Got News For You and Celebrity Big Brother, which he won in 2012. He also hosted his own natural history series, Nature Nuts, for ITV and paid tribute to the life and works of his idol Noël Coward for Sky Arts’ Passions series. Julian has starred in West End productions of Taboo, Olivier Award-winning Cabaret and Cinderella at the London Palladium, which broke box office records. In 2016, he extended his critically acclaimed UK tour, The Joy of Mincing, and this year published the third instalment of his hugely successful children’s book series, The Bolds.

JAMES NELSON-JOYCE

James’s TV credits include Ryan in The Virtues (directed by Shane Meadows), James Yates in Little Boy Blue (ITV), Degsy in CIlla (ITV), Liam in Mount Pleasant (SKY), Benny the Hat in Shameless (C4).

STEPHEN CLARK (playwright)

Stephen Clark was an award winning playwright, librettist and lyricist. His play Stripped won a Jefferson Award in Chicago 2003 (Circle Theatre). Other plays include Takeaway (Lyric Hammersmith and national tour) and Making Waves at the
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.Stephen became involved with music theatre after studying with Stephen Sondheim at Oxford University in 1991. His first musical, Eyam, was
produced at the Old Fire Station and The Bridewell. Stephen went on to receive an Olivier Award for his lyrics for the
re-worked version of Martin Guerre for Cameron Mackintosh, which then toured Britain and North America. Other work includes Forbidden City (Esplanade Theatre, Singapore) and
The Far Pavilions (The Shaftsbury Theatre, London). He
adapted the libretto of La Traviata for ENO’s new production in 2006. Stephen’s music theatre adaptation of The Mahabharata, music by Nitin Sawhney, opened in 2007 at Sadler’s Wells
Theatre, London, and toured Britain. He wrote the book and lyrics for Zorro (UK tour, The Garrick, London and the
Folies Bergère, Paris. Now also Brazil, Tokyo, Moscow, Israel, Holland, South Korea, Atlanta, Poland, Czech Republic. Israel, China). Stephen wrote the book and lyrics for Love Story, music by Howard Goodall, which opened at Chichester in 2010 and opened in the West End in December 2010. Love Story was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Musical. This was Stephen’s 4th Olivier Award nomination for that category. Most recently, he was co-writer of the book and lyrics of Carmen La Cubana, a version of Carmen Jones, set in Cuba, which opened to critical acclaim at Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris in April 2016.

CHRISTOPHER RENSHAW (director)

Christopher began his career in the 1970s directing opera at Royal Opera House. His acclaimed production of The King And I began in Australia, was mounted on Broadway, where it won four Tony Awards and then came to the West End, starring Elaine Paige. Christopher directed We Will Rock You, which
ran at the Dominion Theatre for 12 years. In 2002, he
co-conceived and directed the world première of Taboo, the Boy George musical in London. It later transferred to Broadway and was revived back in London in 2012, co-produced by Danielle Tarento. His production of The Gipsy King’s Zorro, with book by Stephen Clark, has been seen in London, Amsterdam, Moscow, Tokyo, Paris and the US. Again with producer Danielle Tarento, he co-conceived and directed Pure Imagination, The Songs of Leslie Bricusse at St James Theatre in 2015. Last year, Christopher’s Carmen La Cubana played at the Theatre du Châtelet in Paris. Developed in Havana, inspired by Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones, it embarks next year on a world tour.

DANIELLE TARENTO (producer)

Danielle was named Best Producer at the 2012 Off West End Awards and won Best Off West End Production at the WhatsOnStage Awards for Titanic at Southwark Playhouse. She has also produced Grey Gardens, Allegro, Grand Hotel, Gods And Monsters, Dogfight, Three Sisters, Victor/Victoria, Mack & Mabel, Parade and Company at Southwark Playhouse; Death Takes A Holiday, Ragtime and Titanic (Charing Cross Theatre), Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse (St James Theatre), Taboo (Brixton Clubhouse); The Pitchfork Disney (Arcola); Burlesque, Drowning On Dry Land (Jermyn Street); Noël And Gertie (Cockpit). She is co-founder of the Menier Chocolate Factory and co-produced all in-house shows 2004 – 2006, including Sunday In The Park With George, which received a West End transfer and 5 Olivier Awards. Forthcoming productions include Tony Kushner’s translation of Brecht’s Mother Courage And Her Children, starring Josie Lawrence and a UK and Ireland tour of Titanic.

LISTINGS INFO

Le Grand Mort
by Stephen Clark

starring Julian Clary
and James Nelson-Joyce

directed by Christopher Renshaw

Trafalgar Studios 2
14 Whitehall
London SW1A 2DY

Wednesday 20 September –
Saturday 28 October

Press Night:
Monday 25 September at 7.00pm

Monday – Saturday at 7.45pm
Thursday & Saturday matinee
at 3.00pm

Prices:
£25.00 – £40.00

all tickets subject to a restoration levy of
£1 per ticket and transaction charge of
£3.50 per transaction

www.atgtickets.com/shows/le-grand-mort/
trafalgar-studios/

Trafalgar Studios Box Office: 0844 871 7632

Directions:
By bus: 3 11 12 24 53 77a 88 91 139 159 453
Closest Tube:
Charing Cross and Embankment
(Northern and Bakerloo)

Social:

Twitter:
@LeGrandMort

Facebook:
www.facebook.com/tarentoproductions/

Bush Theatre announces casting for Autumn productions

Ruby Bentall

Casting is announced today for two new plays as part of the Bush Theatre’s Autumn Winter season by Sophie Wu (Ramona Tells Jim) and Chris Thompson (Of Kith and Kin).

Ruby Bentall

Ruby Bentall


Ramona Tells Jim
Written by Sophie Wu
Directed by Mel Hillyard
Designed by Lucy Sierra

Cast includes: Ruby Bentall (Ramona), Joe Bannister (Jim) and Amy Lennox (Pocahontas).

Bush Theatre Studio
20 September – 21 October 2017
Press Night 22 September 2017

Joe Bannister Credit Faye Thomas

Joe Bannister Credit Faye Thomas


It’s 1998. Ramona, of Englandshire, is 15 and she’s totally cool. Honestly. She’s completely cool.

On a wet, midge-riddles geography field trip she meets Jim, a local laddie wearing an anti-pill fleece. He’s obsessed with hermit crabs, rock erosion and making homemade Irn-Bru cocktails.

Deep in the Scottish Highlands, Ramona falls for Jimmy’s awkward charm but gets caught in a scandal that will haunt them both for years to come.

Fast forward fifteen years and Jim, of the shittest village in Scotland, has got a girlfriend and something like a functional life. But Ramona still can’t shake the consequences of that fateful trip. Determined to clear her conscience, she heads back to the Highlands to find that neither her nor Jim’s lives have turned out how they had planned.

Ramona Tells Jim is a darkly comic play about confession and the gravity of young love, from Bush Theatre Emerging Writers’ Group graduate and actor Sophie Wu (Kick AssWild Child), directed by Mel Hillyard and designed by Lucy Sierra.

Supported by Peter Wolff Theatre Trust.

A Bush Theatre and Sheffield Theatres co-production
Of Kith and Kin
Written by Chris Thompson
Directed by Robert Hastie
Designed by James Perkins

Cast includes: Joanna Bacon (Lydia and Carrie), Donna Berlin (Arabelle), James Lance (Daniel), Chetna Pandya (Priya) and Joshua Silver (Oliver).


Sheffield Theatres
14 September – 7 October
Press Night 19 September, 7.45pm

Bush Theatre
18 October – 25 November 2017
Press Night 20 October, 7pm 
Daniel and Oliver are about to have their first baby. With their best friend, Priya, acting as surrogate, they’ve turned the study into a nursery and the bottles are sterilised. All that’s missing is the bundle of joy they’ve been pining for.

But when Daniel’s chaotic mother gatecrashes the baby shower with a few home truths, the cracks in Daniel and Oliver’s relationship begin to show. Are they as ready for this as they think they are? And more importantly, is Priya?

Sheffield Theatres Artistic Director Robert Hastie (Julius CaesarMy Night With Reg) directs this gripping new comedy by Chris Thompson (Albion).  The pair previously collaborated on Carthage at the Finborough Theatre.  Of Kith and Kin will be designed by James Perkins, with lighting by Prema Mehta, sound by Ella Wahlström and casting by Vicky Richardson.

Of Kith and Kin opens at Sheffield Studio Theatre on 15 September with a press night on 19 September.

Casting announced for RSC’s A Christmas Carol

RSC

Casting is announced for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of A Christmas Carol, a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ festive tale by David Edgar and directed by Rachel Kavanaugh. This is David Edgar’s first Dickens adaptation since the multi-award winning production of Nicholas Nickleby in the 1980s.

Phil Davis plays Ebenezer Scrooge, known for his extensive TV credits, which most recently include Riviera,Poldark and Whitechapel. He has a long association with Mike Leigh, one of his most well-known parts being “Stanley” in the award-winning Vera Drake. Previous theatre credits include First Light and Pygmalion(Chichester Festival Theatre); Philistines (National Theatre) and The Gambler (Hampstead and West End).

Further casting includes Nicholas Bishop (Charles Dickens); Tom Byrne (Slingshot); Gerard Carey (Bob Cratchit); Sally Cheng (Katherine/Belinda Cratchit); James Gant (Father/Coachman); Dinitia Gohil(Belle/Isabel/Lucy); John Hodgkinson (Fezziwig/Old Joe); Beruce Khan (John Forster); Verity Kirk (Mrs Baldock/Caroline/Housemaid); Luke Latchman (Wicker); Bethany Linsdell (Martha/Amy); Emma Pallant (Mrs Cratchit/Mrs Snapchat); Vivien Parry (Lady Tibshelf/Christmas Past); Joseph Prowen (Fred); Giles Taylor(Marley); Sarah Twomey (Fanny/Jane); Jamie Tyler (Uber/Doctor/2nd Businessman) and Brigid Zengeni (Mrs Trowell/Christmas Present).

A Christmas Carol is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis with lighting byTim Mitchell. Music is by Catherine Jayes and sound by Fergus O’Hare. Movement is by Georgina Lamb.

The RSC Acting Companies are generously supported by THE GATSBY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION and THE KOVNER FOUNDATION

The work of the RSC Literary Department is generously supported by THE DRUE HEINZ TRUST

BP £5 tickets and BP Shakespeare Pass for 16-25s
The BP £5 tickets and BP Shakespeare Pass for 16 – 25 year olds gives access to £5 tickets for all RSC productions whether we are performing in Stratford-upon-Avon, London or on tour. The pass enables 16-25 year olds to see five shows in Stratford-upon-Avon for £20 – the cheapest way to enjoy shows at the RSC. Tickets can be booked in advance on the phone, online or in person with some available for sale on the day of the performance.  The scheme is supported by Project Partner, BP.

The Royal Shakespeare Company creates theatre at its best, made in Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world.  We produce an inspirational artistic programme each year, setting Shakespeare in context, alongside the work of his contemporaries and today’s writers.

Everyone at the RSC – from actors to armourers, musicians to technicians – plays a part in creating the world you see on stage.  All our productions begin life at our Stratford workshops and theatres and we bring them to the widest possible audience through our touring, residencies, live broadcasts and online activity. So wherever you experience the RSC, you experience work made in Shakespeare’s home town.

One week to go until the stunning Edinburgh International Festival opening event Bloom

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival

Just one week to go before Edinburgh International Festival celebrates the start of its 70th anniversary Festival with Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom.

Preparations are moving into the final phase for this year’s opening spectacular of the Edinburgh International Festival, Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom. From Monday passers by will be able to see the beginnings of visible set up for the event around the St Andrew Square.

With just a week to go until the Festival’s anniversary celebrations get under way, Associate Artists 59 Productions, the creators of Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom have shared a first glimpse of what audiences can expect to see, giving just a hint of the scale, colour and immersive aspects of the event. Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom happens over a period of two hours on both Friday 4th and Saturday 5th August on a 20 minute loop allowing more people than ever before the opportunity to enjoy it.

Everyone can join in the opening celebrations and can queue in George Street for entrance from10.30pm until midnight. All the first admission tickets for the free event were snapped up as soon as they came out.

In Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom, 59 Productions transforms not only a single building but uses the facades around St Andrew Square in Edinburgh’s New Town to create a vast canvas for projection-mapped animations. The Square becomes an immersive environment of colour, texture, sounds and sensations that places the audience at the centre of a visually stunning digital constellation allowing them time and space to explore. This visual spectacle will be accompanied by a soundscape by composer and musician Nick Powell who among his extensive theatre credits has written the score for many popular shows at the International Festival in the past including Lanark and The Wonderful World of Dissocia.

Today Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, confirmed the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund contributed £100,000 in support of Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom recognising its status as a key moment in the 70th Anniversary celebrations and noting its ambitious, inspiring and artistic visual representation of those 70 years to create a fitting tribute to Edinburgh’s legacy as the city that inspired cities around the world to celebrate cultures.

The Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom is made possible by support from a portfolio of partners across the private and public sector. This is the second opening event in a three year partnership between the International Festival and Standard Life – the International Festival’s Opening Event Partner – which supports the event alongside other key funders including EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, and the University of Edinburgh, which have supported the Festival’s Opening Event since its inception in 2015.

Sponsored by Standard Life

Supported by EventScotland

Supported through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund

Created by 59 Productions

In association with The University of Edinburgh

Technology Partner Blue-I Theatre Technology in partnership with mclcreate

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An American in Paris’ Ashley Day Interview: “I’m known as banana man on this show.”

Ashley Day
Ashley Day

Ashley Day

“I’m known as banana man on this show,” declares Ashley Day who is currently playing Jerry Mulligan in the West End production of An American in Paris. “I have two bananas every night to keep my stamina up.”

We are talking on the phone and the spirit of theatre enthusiasm is strong in Ashley. He trained at Stonelands School of Ballet and Theatre Arts and with the National Youth Music Theatre. His first ‘proper’ job was as a dancer with the Matthew Bourne Company. “I had just turned 17 and I was eager to be working and doing what I’d trained to do,” he recalls. “That experience as my first job, which included a tour of Japan was such an unbelievable time and one that I’ll never forget. Matthew is such an incredible choreographer and director. He came to see An American In Paris last week and said it how much he enjoyed it. It was a long time ago but I remember those times very fondly.”

An American In Paris

An American In Paris

It would be only polite to discuss An American in Paris. Christopher Wheeldons adaptation of the Oscar-winning film, about an American soldier and young French dancer in Paris sees Day as the leading man alongside Royal Ballet dancer Leanne Cope. The show features the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin and includes the songs “‘S Wonderful“, “I’ll Build a Stairway To Paradise” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”. It’s a dreamlike musical that pulls off an impressive double, too: fresh enough to stand its ground in the bustle of the risk-taking lot but also conventional enough to catch the imagination of the mainstream-loving millions, with the crucial distinction of not being utter rubbish. It is, in fact, the opposite of rubbish.

I ask Ashley to describe his state of mind before a show. “I’m normally buzzing. I get ready in my dressing room but when I get downstairs it’s a big company with the most incredible number of performers, dressers, technical crew and staff. It’s amazing,” he says. “There are lots of people that I really love here, the excitement backstage is electric. We are a huge family.”

 What is it about this kind of musical that is so appealing audiences to, I ask. “The opportunity to hear these sweeping Gerswhin songs in stunning new arrangements really is very special,” he says. “These songs are absolute classics and everyone loves them; this music sweeps people right out of their seats. The spectacle and artistry is done so brilliantly, there isn’t another show like ours in town.”

An American in Paris is an accessible but immensely rewarding watch, and Day is perfectly cast as leading man, which should in itself tell you that he is capable of really giving it 110%, making the role his own, posing a triple threat, stepping outside his comfort zone and so on.  But, what does he do on his day off? “Absolutely nothing! I usually just lay on the sofa,” he laughs. “I like to walk my dog. An American in Paris is such a gauntlet of a show and so a day off is all about recovery. I watch a ridiculous amount of Box Sets.”

An American in Paris is at the Dominion theatre, London until January 2018.

https://www.anamericaninparisthemusical.co.uk/

Gina McKee to play Boudica in new production at Shakespeare’s Globe

Gina McKee

Gina McKee

Gina McKee

Shakespeare’s Globe has announced that Gina McKee will be playing the title role in Eleanor Rhode’s forthcoming production of Tristan Bernays’ new play Boudica, opening Friday 8 SeptemberThe final production of Emma Rice’s Summer of Love season, Boudicacharts the story of one of Britain’s most famous warrior queens.

Gina McKee is well-known for a huge range of roles across stage and screen, having appeared in award-winning films such as Notting HillAtonement and In The Loop, and television dramas such as Line of Duty (BBC), Vera (ITV), Hebburn (BBC), The Borgias(Showtime) and most recently, Emerald City (NBC). On stage, she played Queen Elizabeth in Jamie Lloyd’s Richard III at Trafalgar Studios, Goneril in Michael Grandage’s King Lear at the Donmar Warehouse and Anne in Lyndsey Turner’s Faith Healer at the Donmar Warehouse last year.

Joan Iyiola will play Boudica’s daughter, Alonna, having starred in Omeros at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (2015). Other theatre credits include The Convert (Gate Theatre), They Drink It In The Congo (Almeida), You’re so Relevant (Young Vic) and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream (RSC). Recent television work includes Black Earth Rising (BBC/Netflix), NewBlood (BBC) and Yonderland (Sky). Blodwynn, also Boudica’s daughter, will be played by Natalie Simpson. Natalie’s recent theatre work includes The Cardinal (Southwark Playhouse), King LearCymbelineHamlet (RSC) and Measure for Measure (Young Vic).

Forbes Masson will play Cunobeline. Recent theatre credits include Terror (Lyric Hammersmith), Travesties (Menier Chocolate Factory/Apollo Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Theatre Royal Bath), Doctor Faustus (Duke of York’s Theatre), Mr Foote’s Other Leg(Hampstead/Theatre Royal Haymarket), The Ruling Class and Richard III (Trafalgar Studios). Screen credits include Catastrophe (Channel 4), DoctorsShetlandDead Water and My Life Story (BBC). Anna-Maria Nabirye will play the role of Andraste. Recent theatre credits include They Drink It In The Congo (Almeida), Les Blancs (National Theatre), Medea: A Solo Adaptation (The Faction) and Kampala (The Arcola). Screen credits include Misfits (E4), Collateral and Waterloo Road (BBC).

Samuel Collings will be playing the role of Catus Deciamus, returning to the Globe after appearing in The Inn at Lydda last year. Other theatre credits include Waiting for God(Tour/Seabright productions), Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s A Christmas Carol (The Vaults), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (USA Tour/AFTLS) and Macbeth (Omnibus). Television credits include New Tricks (BBC). Clifford Samuel will play Suetonius, having starred in the Globe’s production of The Lightning Child (2013). Other theatre work includes Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes (Park Theatre), The Events (Young Vic) and One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show(Tricycle Theatre). Television credits include McMafia and Holby City (BBC).

The full cast comprises Bethan Clark, Samuel Collings, Owen Findlay, Jenny Fitzpatrick, Kate Handford, Joan Iyiola, Brian Martin, Forbes Masson, Gina McKee, Anna-Maria Nabirye, Abraham Popoola, Clifford Samuel, Natalie Simpson and Tok Stephen.