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Casting announced for THE MIDNIGHT GANG at Chichester Festival Theatre

The Midnight Gang
The Midnight Gang

The Midnight Gang

Full casting has been announced for David Walliams’s THE MIDNIGHT GANG, adapted by Bryony Lavery with music and lyrics by Joe Stilgoe, which premieres at Chichester Festival Theatre from 13 October – 3 November, directed by Dale Rooks.

This inventive tale of fun, friendship and the importance of kindness, about a gang of children who each night escape from their hospital beds to make their dreams come true, is adapted from David Walliams’s biggest-selling children’s book of 2016. It’s recommended for everyone aged 7 and upwards.

Jennie Dale, currently playing ‘Parchester’ in Chichester’s hit musical Me and My Girl and known to a huge CBeebies’ TV audience as ‘Captain Captain’ in Swashbuckle, Shakespeare and The Snow Queen, plays the Matron. Dickon Gough makes his Chichester debut as the Porter; currently appearing in The Addams Family musical on UK tour, his credits also include The Pirates of Penzance at Regent’s Park. They are joined by Matthew Cavendish (Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Play That Goes Wrong), as Dr Luppers, Marilyn Cutts (Funny Girl, Wicked, Fascinating Aida) as Nelly, Tim Mahendran (Spring Awakening) as Raj and Lucy Vandi (School of Rock, Guys and Dolls) as Tootsie.

Playing the children of ‘The Midnight Gang’ will be Rafi Essex, Cerys Hill, Fibian McKenzie, Cody Molko, Tumo Reetsang, Jasmine Sakyiama, Anjali Shah, Albie StistedCooper Snow and Felix Warren.

A bang on the head during a cricket match at his boarding school has landed twelve-year-old Tom in the children’s ward of the spooky Lord Funt Hospital. Luckily, he’s not on his own with the child-hating Matron and the scary-looking Porter. George, Amber, Robin and Sally are in there too, and they’re not taking things lying down. When the lights go out and the clock strikes twelve, they’re off. But will they let new boy Tom join their forbidden midnight adventures through the hospital’s labyrinthine realm?

This new stage version is by Bryony Lavery, whose adaptations include Chichester’s hit family shows The Hundred and One Dalmatians (2014) and A Christmas Carol (2015), and the forthcoming world premiere adaptation of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones which tours the UK this autumn. Music and lyrics are by renowned musician and composer Joe Stilgoe, whose work also includes the songs for the 2017 theatrical adaptation of The Jungle Book.

Director Dale Rooks’s production of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild (Festival 2015) won the UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People; she later co-directed the play for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and a UK tour. Her most recent production at Chichester was Beauty and the Beast.

The Midnight Gang will be designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by James Whiteside, sound by Gregory Clarke and movement by Georgina Lamb.

 The Midnight Gang is sponsored by Jackson-Stops and Kenwood.

EVENTS

Pre-Show Talk with Bryony Lavery & Dale Rooks  Tuesday 16 October, 5.15pm

Free but booking essential.

 Post-Show Talk                                             Tuesday 30 October

Stay after the performance to ask questions, meet company members and discover more. Free.

Midnight Adventure                                      Saturday 3 November, 3pm

Explore what might happen beyond bedtime in a fun and practical workshop through craft, storytelling and character-based activities. Ages 5+ and their families.

Free but booking essential.

Joe Stilgoe & Friends                                   Thursday 1 November, 7pm

Join Joe Stilgoe and some special friends for a celebratory evening of music including songs from The Midnight Gang. Pyjamas welcome. Tickets £10, under 16s £5.

BOOKING INFORMATION

Box Office 01243 781312

Online cft.org.uk

Tickets £10 – £30. Family tickets: half price for up to four Under 16s attending with every full priced paying adult (excludes £10 & £15 tickets and Saturday evenings). Prologue tickets for 16 – 25 year olds for £5.

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Bryony Lavery: ‘I don’t know a woman who hasn’t got a Me Too story – myself included.’

Bryony Lavery in rehearsals

Bryony Lavery in rehearsals

The playwright Bryony Lavery, best known for her play Frozen, which originally premiered at the Birmingham Rep in 1998 and ran on Broadway in 2004 when it was nominated for a Tony Award for Best New Play is a cool customer. Frozen is currently on at the Theatre Royal Haymarket starring Suranne Jones.

We are having a coffee at the heart of London in a Caffe Concerto. “This is my first west end show!” she says. “I don’t think of myself as a west end playwright – so that’s really exciting – but really what’s exciting is the excellence of the whole team.”

At 71, she looks gorgeous, with sparkly blue eyes and a playful spirit. Despite being busier than ever and in the middle of a tech week. “A writer doesn’t have to be around in tech but I like going and hanging around. It’s when you suddenly realise the actors disappeared because they have dressing rooms. So, actually you sit in the auditorium with the technical crew and chew the fat,” says the Yorkshire born writer.

If a west end play wasn’t enough, Lavery co-wrote Brighton Rock, a new stage adaptation of Graham Greene’s classic 1930s novel. “My job is to transfer it from one medium to another and make it excitingly dramatic.”

“I really love adapting. I find it fascinating because it teaches you stuff that helps original writing and it spins my brain around because I don’t think I’m Graham Greene or David Walliam’s The Midnight Gang (Chichester) or Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons (Chester). Each has similarities that one has to address but I love it. If you are doing an original work you have to start choosing what you’re doing much earlier,” Lavery says.

Her commitment to international and regional work is remarkable. Does she enjoy writing for the regions? “I’m not a Londoner; I live in London but I came from the regions,” Lavery says.

“I don’t want theatre to be London-centric, I like doing work in the regions. I do think critics mostly judge work differently because it’s much easier to go one tube stop to the Donmar. Therefore that work gets esteemed more than the wonderful work going on in regional theatres.” She continues. “Because critics are snobs and lazy, bar a few honourable exceptions. Touring is tremendously hard work so anything that means people can walk to their theatre is great. I sound like Emily Pankhurst of regional theatre!” Lavery says, miming the act of gagging.

What does she think of Fake News? “I think I avoid the news…  But it seeps into the work in sub-textual things. I don’t think it’s my strength to write about Fake News or the current climate. I couldn’t bear to write about Brexit – I just couldn’t bear it.”

Is she still a feminist? “Feminist forever!” Bryony booms. “I’ve been one since I was born. You’d be an idiot, in my view, not to be.”

Bryony%20Lavery%20credit%20Scott%20Graham.jpg

Bryony Lavery: “Feminist forever!”

She supports the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements fighting against sexual harassment, she says, telling me, “I don’t know a woman who hasn’t got a ‘Me Too’ story – myself included. Men can have an inkling but can never fully understand that we’ve lived with this reality for so long. It’s so engrained because it requires men to give up power and nobody wants to give up power. I am watching it all with interest and hope with a lot of caution…” She peters out, lost in thought.

What does she think about music and drama falling to the lowest level in a decade as a result of the EBacc and education cuts? “When I was growing up the only theatre I saw was at Dewsbury Variety,” she recalls. “I used to get on the bus and see stuff touring at Leeds Grand. When I see work coming through NT Connections what that practice does for young people: their skill, their social acumen or their confidence. It’s a no brainer – let children learn… I’m getting incoherent with rage about it. What do I think about it? I think it stinks,” says Lavery.

She has a phenomenal sense of humour, so I ask her who would play her in a film about her life? “Here’s a story,” she says, smiling. “Jonathan Mumby and I were on holiday in Greece and in the sea playing a game called: ‘Casting The Biopic’ and we cast David Essex for his part and for me he suggested Linda Gray from the American soap Dallas… It made me laugh so much because it’s so wrong it’s right – I laughed so hard that I burst an ear drum,” she recalls.

Lavery is off to another meeting. “Next year I am trying to get a bit of a slow year,” she says, as she departs. “I have said that for the last ten years. I work quite fast but sometimes I have to say no – I say no to things that don’t excite me and I need to practice saying no a bit more.  I think I’ve gobbed on enough.”

Brighton Rock will open at York Theatre Royal from the 16 February to 3 March and then tours to Brighton, Colchester, Hull, Cheltenham, Winchester, Watford, Birmingham, Newcastle, Mold, Derby and Salford.

Frozen runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 21 February to 5 May.