Nottingham Playhouse -Autumn 2020 Season Announcement – Mark Gatiss stars as Jacob Marley in his new adaptation of A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Nottingham Playhouse has revealed a brand new set of shows for Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021 – including a chilling retelling of a classic ghost story, a Broadway hit making its way to Nottingham, exciting changes to the Playhouse’s quintessential pantomime, and a political juggernaut brought to life.

Main announcements: 

  • Award-winning Mark Gatiss will return to Nottingham Playhouse, to star in his own re-telling of the classic Victorian ghost story A Christmas Carol
  • Nottingham Playhouse to be first regional theatre to produce Broadway smash-hit Choir Boy
  • New writing will tell the story of Labour Party legend Red Ellen.
  • Pantomime Beauty and the Beast will be directed by award-winning Bill Buckhurst
  • Festive show Jack and Beanstalk is set to delight younger families and schools

Mark Gatiss (DraculaThe League of GentlemenDoctor Who) has written a brand-new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – drawing inspiration from the Victorian supernatural world and Dickens’ original spine-tingling ghost story. Gatiss will also star as the ghost of Jacob Marley, who visits mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve with a warning about his greed – sparking three more eerie encounters.

Mark Gatiss said: “A Christmas Carol’ has been absolutely my favourite story since I was, well, tiny. It’s an astonishingly powerful tale of life, love, loss and redemption and remains supremely relevant. But at its heart it is a ghost story and that will be at the core of my new version. A scary, thrilling, joyous adventure to get the blood piping on a freezing winter’s night. A Victorian phantasmagoria!”

A Christmas Carol will also reunite Gatiss with director Adam Penford (HolesAn Enemy of the People), following 2018’s production of The Madness of George III. It will travel to London’s Alexandra Palace with Eleanor Lloyd Productions for the Christmas season after its initial run at Nottingham Playhouse over Halloween and early November.

Then in spring of 2021, Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company and Theatre Royal Stratford East will present the work of Oscar-winning Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), in the UK regional premiere of Choir Boy.

Nancy Medina (Two Trains Running) will direct this coming-of-age story that follows pupil Pharus as he tries to settle into life at a prestigious prep school, and strives to become the best choir leader in the school’s history. Exploring issues of class, race and sexuality it’s a poignant piece brought to life with a score of soaring gospel music.

Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive at Nottingham Playhouse, commented: “Our new season embraces Nottingham’s rebellious and pioneering spirit, showcases exceptional new talent and delivers world-class theatre to UK audiences.”

Changes to Nottingham Playhouse’s annual pantomime have also been announced, with the 2020 panto being directed by award-winning Bill Buckhurst. Having directed for 36 magical years, pantomime legend Kenneth Alan Taylor will continue to write the script for Beauty and the Beast. The legendary John Elkington will also return and reprise his role as pantomime dame.

Bill Buckhurst’s previous work includes his phenomenally successful, multi-award winning production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, which began life at Tooting Arts Club, subsequently transferred to the West End and then went on to New York where it received a rapturous reception. In autumn 2018 he won universal acclaim at Nottingham Playhouse for his production of Coleman and Field’s Sweet Charity, which starred Rebecca Trehearn. He returned to the theatre in autumn 2019 to direct Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins (a Nottingham Playhouse / Watermill Theatre production) to 5-star reviews. In spring 2020, Bill will be directing a major West End revival of Sister Act The Musical starring Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Saunders.

Adam Penford, artistic director at Nottingham Playhouse, said: “We’re very proud that many children are introduced to the joy of theatre through the Playhouse panto, just like I was aged 5. By coupling Kenneth’s sparkling scripts, with Bill’s incredible vision, and John’s beloved dame, we are creating a pantomime for 2020 which balances tradition with theatrical innovation. Our audiences are going to love it.”

Nottingham City Transport are delighted to renew their sponsorship of Nottingham Playhouse pantomime, and continue their partnership with Nottingham Playhouse for a further three years. The Playhouse plays an important role in providing access to arts and culture to people from all backgrounds and in the next three years they will be working together to improve access further through discounted travel offers.

Joining the line-up for the festive season is Nottingham Playhouse’s annual Neville Studio show, which will be Jack and the Beanstalk. It will re-tell the giant adventure of Jack, who sells his cow in exchange for some magic beans – causing a rather large beanstalk to suddenly grow in his garden. Designed with little ones in mind, it promises to be filled with music, dancing, and the chance for young children – and their grown-ups – to join in the fun. The production will then also tour to primary schools across the East Midlands.

Remarkable new writing will also be making its debut in October 2020 as Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company, Northern Stage and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh present Red Ellen by Caroline Bird.

Directed by Wils Wilson (The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Cockpit), it tells the story of Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson, who among many incredible achievements battled to save Jewish refugees in Nazi Germany, and led 200 workers in the Jarrow crusade – a march from Newcastle, through Nottingham and the Midlands to deliver a petition to reduce unemployment and poverty to London.

The play captures her reckless energy and brings to life her inspiring feats of social justice, in an epic tale of one woman’s mission to create a better world… whilst having affairs with communist spies, government ministers and bumping into the likes of Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway.

Writer Caroline Bird said: “Ellen Wilkinson was described as ‘the mighty atom’ and I have loved, and relished, the challenge of bringing her unbelievably huge and hectic life to the stage.  As the valiant leader of the Jarrow Crusade, it seems fitting that her play would march from theatre to theatre… Newcastle, Nottingham, Edinburgh… I can’t wait to hear what audiences think of her story.”

Returning to Nottingham Playhouse’s Neville Studio in May 2020 is LAVA – a sharply funny and deeply moving story about friendship and human connection. Co-produced by Fifth Word and Nottingham Playhouse, this play about an asteroid hitting the capital city and a boy who can no longer speak is now touring the UK.

Also, between 27 and 29 April 2020, the Playhouse’s main auditorium will be taken over by Connections – the National Theatre’s nationwide youth theatre festival. Youth theatres and theatre groups from across the Midlands will gather to stage new plays written specifically for young people by the most exciting playwrights working today.

Following popular demand the Playhouse’s Classes and Courses are back this spring and summer, with sessions on improvisation, Shakespeare, Public Speaking and ballroom dancing. A new, weekly session at the Playhouse Bar and Kitchen invites budding creatives to socialise and learn new techniques from resident artists as well.

Family Fest is also back – bigger and better than ever before. From 6- 9 April there are more activities than a family could shake a stick at –with music, drama, writing, play dough, and messy play for little ones. And, of course, the famous baby and toddler disco returns. For older children there are also writing classes, creating a play in a day, circus skills and a spot of hat making.

Nottingham Playhouse’s newly announced shows will go on sale to Playhouse Pass members on Monday 3 February 2020, following a launch event held in the Playhouse’s auditorium. Tickets will go on general sale from Monday 17 February 2020.

To book tickets visit, or call the box office on 0115 941 9419. Please email to secure tickets to the season launch event.

Nottingham Playhouse has announced its spring 2020 season


Nottingham Playhouse has announced its spring 2020 season, which includes musical legends, TV stars, gripping new writing, hilarious comedies and a brand-new musical.

New announcements include:
·      TV and theatre star Jenna Russell to bring a musical legend to life in Piaf
·      New play First Touch to tackle the footballing world’s child sex abuse scandal
·      Hilarious, quick-witted comedy Moonlight and Magnolias
·      Tickets now on sale for performances of Oliver Twist – the latest tour from the Ramps on the Moon consortium
·      The creation of new West End musical Identical – based on novel The Parent Trap.

Tony-nominated and Olivier Award-winning actress Jenna Russell (EastEnders and Sunday in the Park with George) will be taking to the stage in Piaf in May 2020. She will bring to life the sensational, world-renowned Edith Piaf, whose most famous songs include La Vie en Rose and Je Ne Regrette Rien. Pam Gems’ play explores the extraordinary life led by Piaf – from singing in the streets to becoming one of France’s biggest international stars.

Piaf is a co-production with Leeds Playhouse and will be directed by Adam Penford (An Enemy of the PeopleThe Madness of George III). Nottingham Playhouse will also transform its auditorium into a Parisian bar, with the opportunity to book cabaret-style seating for performances.

Adam Penford, Artistic Director for Nottingham playhouse, said: “Nottingham Playhouse produced Piaf in the 1980s and I’m thrilled to bringing this lively play back to the theatre. It takes a real star to capture the legend that is Edith Piaf and Jenna Russell is one the UK theatre’s most beguiling actor-singers. She has a unique talent for bringing fragility, spirit and charisma to every role she tackles. Nottingham’s in for a magical night at the theatre.”

In February there will be also be a new production of farcical comedy Moonlight and Magnolias.  When the producer of Gone With The Wind scrapped the script three weeks into filming, he tasked a new director and screenwriter to create a new one.  Hilariously they only had five days to achieve cinematic magic, and this play speculates what happened behind the locked doors of an office with just peanuts and bananas for food.

The play will be directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward (director of Groan Ups in the West End, a new play by the award-winning team behind The Play That Goes Wrong), who previously worked on Nottingham Playhouse’s Shebeen as dramaturg.

Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive of Nottingham Playhouse, commented: “Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive of Nottingham Playhouse, said: “With this season we’re proud to showcase the range of fascinating stories that we will bring to life here in Nottingham – from showcasing major new talent to reviving absolute classics.”

After previously announcing it had commissioned new writing from stage and screenwriter Nathaniel Price (Noughts and Crosses, BBC and Tin Star, Sky) Nottingham Playhouse can now confirm First Touch will make its stage debut in June.

It’s 1980 and Clayton James, a 17 year-old Nottingham lad, seems to have the world at his feet after being offered a professional contract at a First Division football club. During an era of racism, hooliganism and Thatcher’s administration, his dual-heritage family are facing an uncertain future and Clayton’s success may hold some relief. However, when his former coach suddenly re-enters his life, Clayton is forced to confront a past he had try to bury.

The summer will also see the world premiere of a ‘twinsational’ new musical, destined for London’s West End. Identical will be co-produced between Nottingham Playhouse and Kenny Wax Ltd (producer of the global phenomenon, Six) and directed by the Olivier and Tony award-winning Sir Trevor Nunn (Les Miserables and Cats).

The summer will also see the world premiere of a ‘Twin-sational’ new musical, destined for London’s West End.

Identical will be co-produced by Nottingham Playhouse and Kenny Wax Ltd (producer of the ‘Goes Wrong‘ shows and the new musical phenomenon SIX) and directed by Olivier and Tony award-winning Sir Trevor Nunn (responsible for some of the greatest hits in the world, including Les Miserables, Starlight Express, Cats and Sunset Boulevard).

Identical is based on the novel The Parent Trap by Erich Kastner, which inspired Disney films featuring Hayley Mills in 1961 and Lindsay Lohan in 1998. It tells the story of twin girls separated at birth, reunited by chance at a summer camp 10 years later. In an attempt to re-join their divorced parents, they decide to exchange identities.

Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, (the multi award-winning writers of the Olivier award-winning National Theatre hit Honk!, who also created a new score for the international smash-hit Cameron Mackintosh/Disney production of Mary Poppins) with a book by Stuart Paterson.

Producer Kenny Wax says: “It’s a wildly ambitious project which will stand or fall on whether we can cast identical twins who the audience cannot tell apart. Without that, there will be no show. So our challenge over the next nine months is to scour the country and leave no stone unturned until we find our Lottie and Lisa.”

Auditions for identical twins will take place in London on Saturday 5 October and in Nottingham on Saturday 26 October. All audition enquiries should be sent to Jo Hawes

William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice will also be brought bang-up-to-date in the first ever co-production between Nottingham Playhouse and Lakeside Arts. The play – directed by Martin Berry – will be transported to the modern-day Goose Fair, delivering a tale of greed, poverty and personal vendetta with no-nonsense Nottingham spirit.
In April, Nottingham Playhouse will welcome a new adaptation of Oliver Twist, as part of the Ramps on the Moon consortium. The play, based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, will be brought to life with creative sign language, audio description and captioning – placing D/deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the heart of the project.

Ramps on the Moon is a consortium of seven major UK theatres plus partner company Graeae. Each year, one of the organisations creates a new large-scale production which champions diversity both on and off stage, most recently Nottingham Playhouse’s production of Our Country’s Good in March 2018. 2020 is the turn of Leeds Playhouse and Oliver Twist will be adapted by award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery and directed by Amy Leach.

Director Amy Leach, said: “Oliver Twist will give an integrated ensemble cast of D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled actors the opportunity to play a brilliantly varied range of characters and showcase a wide range of talents.”

Tickets for Michael Morpurgo’s award-winning Private Peaceful are also on sale, with performances running from March. The new adaptation by Simon Reade, which has been written for an ensemble of actors, follows the Peaceful brothers, Tommo and Charlie, after they both fall for the same girl just as the Great War begins. The production will be directed by Anna Ledwich (Kiss Me, Trafalgar Studios and No One Will Tell Me How to Start A Revolution, Hampstead Theatre).

It has now been announced that Private Peaceful will travel to Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre for performances between Tuesday 21– Saturday 25 April, and Plymouth’s Theatre Royal 28 April – 2 May.

Arriving in Nottingham in March is Poet in da Corner by Debris Stevenson – one of Nottingham Playhouse’s former associate artists. It tells the story of how a young girl’s life is changed after she is given Dizzee Rascal’s ground-breaking album Boy in da Corner. This dynamic production combines music, dance, spoken word – and features grime MC Jammz and SS Vyper. Poet in da Corner will be directed by Ola Ince, is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions and the Royal Court Theatre, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation, in association with Nottingham Playhouse and Leicester Curve.
Continuing Nottingham Playhouse’s link to emerging artists, Amplify Festival will take February by storm – with a line-up of fresh new work from some of the region’s most exciting new artists. The festival is produced by Amplify – Nottingham Playhouse’s Artist Development Programme, and will include a programme of workshops led by the industry’s most-prominent practitioners.
Holes will also return to Nottingham Playhouse in February. Based on the award-winning novel and the Hollywood blockbuster, the production was hailed as “a fast-paced and inventive family show” by The Stage when it was first produced by the Playhouse back in spring 2018. It now returns as part of a UK tour that will tell the story of Stanley Yelnats, who is cursed with bad luck and sent to a labour camp for a crime he didn’t commit.

A new term of Nottingham Playhouse’s Classes and Courses will start after a successful debut this year. Eleven classes, led by industry professionals, will take place between February and April. The quirky and unique sessions range from song writing, stage fighting, prosthetic makeup and ballroom music.
Nottingham Playhouse Spring 2020 shows will go on sale to Playhouse Pass members
 < Monday 23 September 2019, following a launch event held in the Playhouse’s auditorium. Tickets will go on general sale from Monday 7 October 2019.

To book tickets visit <, or call the box office on 0115 941 9419.

Coram Boy – August 7 -10 – Nottingham Playhouse stages biggest ever live production

Coram Boy

Nottingham Playhouse is taking over the city’s esteemed Albert Hall with a company of over 100 local performers and creatives in its biggest-ever live community production.

Based on the award-winning novel by Jamila Gavin, Coram Boy tells the tale of Aaron and his best friend Toby. Both are wards of Thomas Coram’s famous Foundling Hospital, which took in children whose mothers were unable to care for them during the eighteenth century. However, as the story unravels the boys uncover the dark underbelly of Georgian society, and the gruesome truth behind the infamous ‘Coram men’ who pretended to work for the hospital.

The play will be directed by Adam Penford, following his successes with both Wonderland and The Madness of George III – starring Mark Gatiss and Adrian Scarborough. It also continues Nottingham Playhouse’s long-standing tradition for making ground-breaking theatre with – and for – local people.

In March 2019, over 300 people applied to be part of Coram Boy. Applicants ranged from ages 12 to 80, and from a diverse range of occupations including nurses, care workers and bus drivers. They came from far and wide across Nottinghamshire, and for many, it is their first time acting or singing in a production. The journey of both cast and choir members has been followed through the Playhouse’s regular video posts

George Frideric Handel conducted annual performances of The Messiah to raise vital funds for the Foundling Hospital, and his music is central to the plot of the play. Internationally acclaimed organist John Keys will perform on the Albert Hall’s famous grade 2 listed Binns Organ alongside a string quartet, accompanying the community choir in Coram Boy’s soaring vocal score.

Adam Penford, Artistic Director at Nottingham Playhouse, said: “Coram Boy is our most ambitious and exciting community project to date. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to be involved and had to make some tough decisions during the audition process. The cast reflects the diversity of our region with participants of all different ages and backgrounds. It’s been so much fun watching them bond and work together to create this complex and moving production. Their work ethic and enthusiasm has infected the whole organisation.”

Martin Berry, Head of Participation at Nottingham Playhouse, added: “A huge project like Coram Boy underlines how talented and creative our city is. The company has developed and thrived throughout the project, and the end result promises to be incredible.”

280 years ago Thomas Coram established the Foundling Hospital – London’s first home for babies whose mothers were unable to care for them themselves. Mothers left a token which could be used to identify their child if they returned to reclaim them. Over the centuries, more than 25,000 children’s lives were saved. Today, the children’s charity Coram continues to offer direct, practical help and emotional support to vulnerable children, young people, and their families.

Nottingham Playhouse was named Regional Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards 2019. Nottingham Playhouse has been one of the United Kingdom’s leading producing theatres since its foundation in 1948. It welcomes over 130,000 ticket buyers annually and an additional 170,000 visitors to participation events and to Anish Kapoor’s stunning Sky Mirror. It creates productions large and small, from timeless classics and enthralling family shows to adventurous new commissions, often touring work nationally and internationally.

In spring 2018 under Artistic Director Adam Penford, the Playhouse produced two world premieres, Shebeen and Lava, and one regional premiere,Wonderland, all to great critical acclaim. September 2018 saw the highly praised production of Sweet Charity, the Playhouse’s first musical in over 10 years. In November 2018, The Madness of George III became the Playhouse’s highest ever selling drama. The production was also broadcast by NT Live to over 2,500 venues in nearly 70 different countries, and won two WhatsOnStage Awards 2019 for Best Play Revival and Best Supporting Actor in a Play (Adrian Scarborough).

Based on the novel by Jamila Gavin
Adapted by Helen Edmundson
Director Adam Penford
Designer Kevin Jenkins
Lighting Designer Will Welch
Sound Designer Adam P McCready
Musical Director Alex Patterson
Choreographer Emma Lewis-Jones
Organist John Keys
String Quartet Helix Ensemble
Associate Director Jack Quarton

Albert Hall Conference Centre
North Circus Street

Performance dates
Wednesday 7 August- Saturday 10 August

Performance times
Evenings – 7pm
Matinee (Sat 10) 2.30pm (signed)

£22.50 – £10

Box Office
01159419419 <>

Children’s Theatre Partnership and Royal & Derngate Northampton present UK Tour of HOLES by Louis Sachar

The Children’s Theatre Partnership (CTP) and Royal & Derngate, Northampton  present a UK Tour of the Nottingham Playhouse production of “HOLES”, written by Louis Sachar and directed by Adam Penford.

The production will open at Royal & Derngate, Northampton on 24 January 2020 before embarking on a UK tour. The tour will visit,Nottingham PlayhouseCoventry Belgrade TheatreNewcastle Theatre RoyalTheatre Royal Plymouth, Liverpool PlayhouseHigh Wycombe SwanNorwich Theatre RoyalWolverhampton Grand Theatre and Canterbury Marlowe Theatre. Further dates to be announced.

“HOLES” is an inventive new stage show based on the multi-award-winning novel and blockbuster film of the same name. It is a thrilling off-beat comedy adventure which tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, who is born into a family cursed with bad luck and finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

Sent to a labour camp as punishment, he is tasked with digging one hole, five-foot wide by five-foot deep, every day. He is told it is to build ‘character’. But the tyrannical Warden is definitely hiding something. How will Stanley and his fellow inmates deal with her demands, her two cronies, plus the fearsome rattlesnakes and yellow-spotted lizards? And will Stanley and his new friends unearth what’s really going on?

“HOLES”, written by Louis Sachar won the 1998 U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal for the year’s most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Louis also wrote the screenplay for the 2003 film adaptation.

This production will be directed by Adam Penford who has been the Artistic Director at Nottingham Playhouse since 2016. Adam’s directing credits include “The Madness of George III” at the Nottingham Playhouse, “Boys in the Band” at the Vaudeville Theatre and “Committee” at the Donmar Warehouse.

“HOLES” is the first production from CTP since the partnership announced three years of support from Arts Council England. CTP aims to produce new and exciting productions, created for a young and diverse audience. Previous CTP productions include the Olivier award winning “Goodnight Mr Tom”, “Swallows and Amazons”, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, Michael Morpurgo’s “Running Wild” and a new adaptation of “The Jungle Book”.

Tour listings 2020:

24 January – 2 February

Northampton, Royal & Derngate


5 – 8 February

Nottingham Playhouse

18 – 22 February

Coventry Belgrade Theatre

26 – 29 February

Newcastle Theatre Royal


17 – 21 March

Theatre Royal Plymouth


24 – 28 March

Liverpool Playhouse

31 March – 4 April

High Wycombe Swan


14 – 18 April

Norwich Theatre Royal


19 – 23 May

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

27 – 30 May

Canterbury, Marlowe Theatre

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Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse, Adam Penford: ‘Gender balance is fascinating.’

Nottingham Playhouse’s new artistic director – he started full time last November–  Adam Penford likes his colourful socks. What socks is he wearing today? “Purple pink and yellow; not unlike my Christmas socks,” he laughs.

But where did he purchase those festive socks on display in a recent rehearsal photo? “They were from Marks and Spencer’s,” he laughs louder.


Wonderland Rehearsals – Photo credit Darren Bell

We are talking ahead of the first run through of Nottingham-born playwright Beth Steel’s 2014 play, Wonderland. Her dad worked at Welbeck Colliery as a miner. It is a story set in the pits in 1983 during Thatcher’s government. “The lads are ready to get on stage,” he says. “It’s a complicated show… There are over thirty scenes. We are rehearsing in the former Barton’s Bus Garage because the set is so epic we couldn’t find a space big enough in the city centre to accommodate us,” Penford says.

Which makes Wonderland all the more welcome. It is representing the vital modern history of the local community on stage with compassion. His first show at Nottingham Playhouse includes actor Chris Ashby who previously played the lead The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and was cast through the Playhouse open auditions. “It was something that we consciously set out to do when casting the play,” Penford says. “I’m fortunate to have such a brilliant all-male ensemble, they have a real camaraderie on stage and off stage. Just over half of the cast are from the local region; two are from the North East, and Joshua Glenister who was a member of Nottingham Playhouse Youth Theatre. Most of the company have truly personal connections to the coal mine.”


Adam is a modest fellow. I ask him how he is getting on in his new role. “It’s interesting: there is no school,” he explains. “There are obviously a lot of similarities to being a freelance theatre director that come with the job, but it isn’t the same. You take comfort from the fact that previous artistic directors have all had to learn on the job. There is a massive support network of artistic directors that ring each other up for advice or guidance – not many people know about – that’s been really useful.”

What are his key priorities going forward? “Audience development, in terms of numbers and diversifying audiences,” he adds. “I’m hoping by programming work by artists like Mufaro Makubika a play set during the 1958 race riots in Nottingham in a historically working-class area of inner city Nottingham and set against the race riots will engage new and hard to reach audiences.”

In the era of Time’s Up and #MeToo, which strives for better treatment for all, especially women, Penford is aiming for a 50/50 gender split. “Gender balance is fascinating,” he begins. “It is something that I am certainly very sensitive to and aware of when I begin programming. We will be doing gender-blind casting for the next show that I’m directing; Holes which is a stage adaptation of Louis Sachar’s novel and I am delighted that we have Kindertransport by Diane Samuels and Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker which boast a fully integrated cast and creative team of disabled and non-disabled practitioners and is a co-production with Ramps on the Moon. So, it feels like a varied season featuring inclusive work by three female playwrights in my first season.”

How will he cater to his audience’s wide-ranging tastes? “You can’t please everybody. I knew that I wanted to do a musical in my first season,” Penford says. Regional theatre is facing colossal local authority cuts which make it harder to take artistic risks. But Penford isn’t going to let that limit his ambitions. “We hadn’t produced a lead produced a musical at Nottingham Playhouse for 18 years, I knew it needed to be a well-known title. We are a 750-seater venue and that it is a substantial amount of tickets to sell.”

“The fact that Sweet Charity has a female protagonist was appealing to me. It felt natural to offer Bill Buckhurst – the genius behind the pie and mash shop Sweeney Todd the opportunity to direct. I’m also really excited that Alistair David will choreograph and we are about to announce further casting for the role of Charity soon.”

Who is playing Charity? “I can’t say,” he says, laughing.

Come on give me a scoop, I say. “Ok… She is amazing,” he says.

Wonderland runs from Friday 9 February 2018 through to Saturday 24 February 2018.


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Director Adam Penford talks about Watership Down, The Boys in The Band featuring Mark Gatiss and more

Ahead of directing Mark Gatiss in ‘The Boys in the Band’ at Park Theatre, Adam Penford is taking on Watership Down at The Watermill. The talented director talks about the value of regional theatre and reveals that he is always dropping egg cups.

Adam Penworth

Adam Penford

You’re in rehearsals currently for Watership Down. How’s it looking?

We’re nearing the end of rehearsals and I’m having the best time. It’s an epic narrative for such an intimate venue, but I have a generous and talented company of actors and creative team, and we’re working together to find inventive and fun ways to tell the story. And the Watermill Theatre is so idyllic. Rona Munro (James Plays, NTS) wrote this adaptation for the Lyric Hammersmith 10 years ago, but Richard Adams, who wrote the novel, lives down the road and all the places referred to in the book are nearby – so it feels like we’re bringing the story home.

You are due to direct The Boys in The Band featuring Mark Gatiss at Park Theatre later this year. Will it be any good?

It’s a fascinating play and well overdue a British revival as most younger theatregoers don’t know it. It was one of the first overtly gay plays and was a controversial smash hit when it premiered off-Broadway in 1968. The premise is simple; a group of gay friends gather for a birthday party and after a lot of booze things unravel. A surprise visit by the host’s old college roommate – a straight man with a secret – tips things over the edge. Think WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, but camper. It was far ahead of its time so it’s dated very little, and yet it also looks back and plays tribute to the classic American voices of Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neill. It always divided the gay community as some felt it reinforced gay stereotypes, whereas others adored it for being simply honest, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out with a contemporary audience. It’s very witty, dramatic and entertaining – packed full of zingy one-liners.

What was the last show that you watched and enjoyed?
Showboat was terrific. It was exciting seeing Gina Beck and Rebecca Trehearn nailing those strong female roles. I’ve admired all the musicals Daniel Evans has directed and produced at Sheffield and can’t wait to see how he programmes both spaces at Chichester. It’s a pity the show didn’t find a London audience, but it’s a tough sell.

What is the best musical of all time?
Probably a Rodgers and Hammerstein, or a Sondheim, or GYPSY, or GUYS AND DOLLS. But everyone always says that. So one of my favourite shows is LEGALLY BLONDE. I directed a production a couple of years ago and there is not an ounce of fat on the bones of that show. Every lyric, musical phrase, and line of dialogue is driving the narrative and character development. All the tunes are hummable, the music perfectly captures the world of the story, and it’s genuinely funny and moving.

What was the last item of crockery you broke?

I always drop egg cups.

As well as working extensively at the National Theatre, what opportunities have you been afforded in the regions? [DEATHTRAP]

I directed a production of Deathtrap earlier this year at Salisbury Playhouse which we’re hoping to tour next year. I’d previously directed Stepping Out there and it’s a lovely venue with a loyal audience. Gareth Machin, (the Playhouse’s Artistic Director), has always been supportive, we met when he was working at National Theatre Studio and he gave me my first staff directing opportunity there. Growing up in the East Midlands, my first theatre experiences were all regional (Nottingham Playhouse, Derby Playhouse, Leicester Haymarket) so I feel very passionate about the value of local theatre and would like to do more.

What makes a good Director?

I don’t think there’s a single approach to directing. It’s such a personal thing and attempting to imitate another director’s method leads to confused work. My own approach is combining an instinct for the material with a lot of research, and this leads to a vision of how to best serve the play/story. I think being able to clearly articulate that vision, whilst remaining open to collaboration, has led to the work that I’d deem my most successful.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?

When I’m worrying about whether I should take on a project or not, Nick Hytner always tells me to just do it. His advice is to do as much of your own work as possible in the early stages of your career because it’ll make you a better director, and not to worry about trying to forge a particular career path, or how your choices and the resulting productions may be judged by the industry or press. It’s very liberating.

Can you tell us something SCANDALOUS?
Well I could tell you many things, but I’m obviously not going to.

What’s your favourite emoji?
The classic smiley. Although I still type it out laboriously like a computer illiterate fool : )