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Birmingham Rep announces Tom Hiddleston’s triumphant return to The Play What I Wrote

Tom Hiddleston

Artistic Director of The Rep and director of this 20th Anniversary Production, Sean Foley is delighted to announce that Tom Hiddleston is set to reprise his acclaimed appearance as the special guest star in the critically acclaimed production of The Play What I Wrote at Theatre Royal, Bath, the first venue on the show’s recently announced national tour. Both performances will be filmed for transmission on the BBC later in 2022. The transmission date will be announced in due course. 

Hiddleston first appeared in the show in Birmingham for the opening performance on 6 December and the production received universally glowing reviews.

“One of the most delightful stage comedy shows of the 21st century – you’ll laugh your head off.” The Telegraph
 

“An avalanche of laughs. Laughing so long and so loudly felt as energising and cleansing as going to the gym” The Guardian

When The Play What I Wrote opened in London’s West End, originally directed by Kenneth Branagh, every single review was a rave, every show a sell-out and it won every major theatre award. The Sunday Times called it “a triumph” and The Observer said “audiences weep with laughter”. Now a brand new production directed by REP Artistic Director Sean Foley and co-written by Hamish McColl, Sean Foley and, of course, Eddie Braben is bringing sunshine to Birmingham this Christmas.  

‘Thom’ has written a play, an epic set in the French Revolution called ‘A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple’. ‘Dennis’, on the other hand, wants to continue with their double act. He believes that if they perform a tribute to Morecambe and Wise, Thom’s confidence will be restored and the double act will go on. But first Dennis needs to persuade a guest star to appear in the play what Thom wrote…

With a mystery guest star at every performance, The Play What I Wrote is once again proving a massive hit with audiences and critics alike.

“Pure comic sunshine” The Daily Mail

Previous mystery guest stars have included Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Joanna Lumley, Daniel Radcliffe, Kylie Minogue, Nigel Havers, Jerry Hall, Sir Ian McKellen, Dawn French and Sting. 

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Top 5 Shows of 2021 (according to me)

2021. The year that tried to one-up 2020. Truly.

(I think being a neurotic, worrisome person slightly prepared me for it)

An extraordinary year for British theatre. Anyway, for my final blog of the last rollercoaster 12 months, I present my Top 5 shows of the year: 

1) Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club- Playhouse, London 

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club made every moment ring with significance and was brimming with menace and threat. Rebecca Frecknall’s starry and immersive production of the Kander and Ebb classic was, in short, theatre heaven. 

Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee and Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club / Marc Brenner

The in-the-round reconfiguration of London’s Playhouse theatre was kind of amazing. Eddie Redmayne as Emcee pulled the audience into a hedonistic milieu. 

Jessie Buckley’s vulnerable, edgy take reinvented Sally Bowles as a frightened and angry child. Then things got dark. 

A rising talent, Omari Douglas, shone. There’s also a wonderful performance from a pair of older actors as the ill-starred lovebirds Elliot Levey and Liza Sadovy as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. 

Alas, this was an unbelievable and electric occasion, only overshadowed by the sky-high £300 top-price tickets

Cabaret is at the Playhouse theatre, London, until 1 October 2022

2) Anything Goes – The Barbican, London 

Broadway star Sutton Foster starring as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s classic musical at the Barbican was just what the doctor ordered. 

Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney / Tristram Kenton

Gorgeous songs and dance and feisty performances from a brilliant cast made the screwball plot into an enchanting musical escape. 

Anything Goes was of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen and going by standing ovations (plural), it was for everyone else around me, too.

Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, who won a Tony for her 2011 Broadway staging, this new London production was a flat-out triumph. 

A lavish, joyful, and memorable piece of musical theatre, with solid turns from Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot. 

Anything Goes is playing on BBC Two on Boxing Day at 6.40pm. 

3) South Pacific – Chichester Festival Theatre 

This was a glittering, intelligent and radical reappraisal of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Daniel Evans’s production burst with energy as it foreground an anti-racist message, it marked the return of theatre in superb style. 

The company of South Pacific at Chichester Festival Theatre / Johan Persson

A strong cast was led by Julian Ovenden as the plantation owner Emile de Becque, and a pregnant Gina Beck. Rarely had the drama of the score sounded more immediate or more moving.

Evans directed an enchanted, threatening evening.

South Pacific will embark on a UK tour in 2022. 

4) The Play What I Wrote – Bimingham Rep 

Tom Hiddleston at Birmingham Rep was one of the most compelling events of my theatre year.

The A-lister provided palpable shock on opening night of this madcap revival. In the play, tensions arise between double act Dennis and Thom, as their aspirations start to diverge. During act 2 a surprise guest star arrives to be roasted by the pair. 

Thom Tuck as Thom, Tom Hiddleston as himself, and Dennis Herdman as Dennis

In this case, Hiddleston proved to be an extremely good sport, (“You might have seen my Coriolanus?”) and putting on a pink and blue dress with bows and a hoop skirt, along with a baroque style wig as he danced across the stage. 

A heartwarming tribute to Morecambe and Wise – the play was co-written 20 years ago by Sean Foley – the show generated the kind of hysterical laughter of which our theatre has lately been starved. 

At Birmingham Rep until 1 January.

5) Our Ladies of Blundellsands – Liverpool Everyman

Jonathan Harvey’s deliciously dark play featured an impeccably excellent Josie Lawrence as an agoraphobic Merseyside Norma Desmond. Nick Bagnall’s production was fast-paced and very funny without losing the pathos of guilty family secrets. 

Tonally, Our Ladies of Blundellsands cut an elegant path between humour and pathos. 

Josie Lawrence in Our Ladies of Blundellsands

In a strong ensemble, it was fascinating to realise that it is Harvey’s sublime dark wit that sheds more light on human desperation than anything else – it also emerges as Liverpool’s most entertaining and moving play for years– you could feel how much the creative team loved the material.

Frankly, I felt the same way. 

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THERE were, however, three shows I wish I’d taken a hand grenade to: Frozen the Musical (Theme Park theatre), Carousel at Regents Park Open Air Theatre (Skiffle band), and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella (Creatively bankrupt). 

For me, this year has been many things, but as we say goodbye to 2021 let’s just choose to remember it as a load of shit with some decent theatre. 

Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Let’s see how 2022 pans out, shall we? Cue violins.

Carl x 

Casting announced for the world premier of What’s New Pussycat? at Birmingham Rep

What's New Pussycat?

As well as announcing the full cast and creative team for the highly anticipated, brand new musical, What’s New Pussycat?, The REP has also released an exclusive first look video and images of the cast in rehearsals.

Inspired by the novel The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling,  this romantic musical comedy reimagines Fielding’s classic tale in London’s swinging sixties and sets the story to the iconic hit music of Sir Tom Jones

Written by the Tony Award winning Joe DiPietro (Memphis The Musical), with a stellar creative team including director Luke Sheppard and legendary choreographer Dame Arlene Phillips, get ready for music, mods and rocking romance when the show enjoys its world premiere at The REP from 8 October – 14 November

The cast will include Dominic Andersen as Sir Tom Jones, Bronté Barbé as Mary Western, Ashley Campbell as Mr Partridge, Julius D’Silva as Lord Allworthy, Rebekah Hinds as The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, Harry Kershaw as William Blifil, Kelly Price as Lady Bellaston and Melanie Walters as Mrs Western.

Tom FrancisNaomi KatiyoLemuel KnightsDavid Mairs-McKenzieLisa MathiesonFallon MondlaneJena PandyaNathan RiggOwen Saward and Carrie Willis will make up the ensemble.

The showwill be directed by Luke Sheppard, whose most recent production – the acclaimed & Juliet – has taken the West End by storm and won 3 Olivier Awards and 6 Whatsonstage Awards. He will be joined by choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge, Dame Arlene Phillips DBE.

The full world class creative team includes; Matt Brind (Musical Supervisor/Orchestrator); Jon Bausor (Set Design); Janet Bird (Costume Design); Akhila Krishnan (Video Design); Gareth Owen (Sound Design); Howard Hudson (Lighting Design); Annelie Powell CDG (Casting Director); Dale White (Associate Choreographer); Priya Patel Appleby (Assistant Director); and Josh Sood (Musical Director).

What’s New Pussycat? is set to the soundtrack of Sir Tom Jones’ greatest hit songs: Green, Green Grass of Home, It’s Not Unusual, Leave Your Hat On, Delilah, Mama Told Me Not To Come, Sex Bomb and, of course, What’s New Pussycat? 

Presented by Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with Flody Suarez, Joshua Andrews and Stuart Galbraith from Kilimanjaro Theatricals. Donna Munday will Executive Produce.

What’s New Pussycat? will enjoy its world premiere at The REP from 8 October – 14 November. Tickets are from £17.50 and are on sale now at www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/

In line with current Government regulations, The REP is now open to full capacity, but we continue to take a number of carefully managed steps and precautions to help audiences feel safe and enjoy their chosen performance. The wearing of masks is encouraged throughout the building and additional cleaning will continue.