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Critically acclaimed adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ classic returns to Southampton

A Street Car Named Desire
A Street Car Named Desire

A Street Car Named Desire

Nuffield Southampton Theatres’ (NST) co-production of Tennessee Williams’ timeless classic A Streetcar Named Desire returns to Southampton’s brand new city centre theatre NST City for its final run on 5-16 June 2018, following a critically acclaimed UK tour spanning eight counties and reaching an audience of over 18,000 over 8 weeks.

Every man is a King. Stanley is no exception, until one summer when his sister-in-law Blanche comes to stay. Anxious, seductive and fiercely clever, Blanche is just about keeping it together. Her arrival threatens Stanley’s entire way of life. As the summer heats up, and the games turn savage, a burning desire threatens to tear their world apart.

Chelsea Walker, winner of the 2017 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award, directs this bold new revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, set in modern New Orleans and featuring original music from up and coming jazz musician Nubya Garcia.

Chelsea Walker, Director of A Streetcar Named Desire said, “We’ve set our Streetcar in a contemporary New Orleans so we could explore just how it speaks to us now. I have also cast it to the characters’ ages in the script, which hopefully means an audience will be viewing some of those characters in a new light.

“The play treads a line between realism and expressionism, and I’ve pushed the expressionism to help the audience stay with Blanche… I hope Streetcar will spark debate about the world we live in now, and particularly about the way we treat people who we consider to be ‘outsiders’.”

Kelly Gough, Patrick Knowles and Amber James lead the cast, playing Blanche, Stanley and Stella, respectively. The cast also includes Nicola Agada (Women/Nurse), Will Bliss (Steve), Dexter Flanders (Mitch), Marai Louis (Eunice) and Joe Manjón (Pablo/Doctor/Paperboy).

Tickets for A Streetcar Named Desire are available from the Box Office by calling 023 80 67 1771 or online at nstheatres.co.uk.

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A chat under a bridge with Howard Brenton and Sam Hodges

The Shadow Factory is set in the autumn of 1940 during the Battle of Britain and is about the devastation reigned on Southampton, the home of the Spitfire. The play is written by theatre giant Howard Brenton and directed by the ambitious director Samuel Hodges.

The NST City is part of Studio 144, a new £28m venue in Southampton’s city centre. The building will include a 450 seat main house and a 135 seat studio, as well as screening facilities, rehearsal and workshop spaces.

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Howard Brenton and Samuel Hodges (obvs)

I went along to a have a chat with director of NST Samuel Hodges and playwright Howard Brenton on  a ramp in Southampton under the Itchen Bridge for the launch of the play.

Here is what we discussed.

Me: Hello! Are you both happy with how today has gone? 

Sam: I think it’s terrific – this is the perfect place for it. It’s beautiful and historic. It feels exiting; It’s suddenly got real.

Howard: It’s amazing to see this ramp we are standing on, they built sea planes in the 20’s and 30’s here and they rolled off this ramp.

Me: How would you describe your state of mind, Mr Hodges?

Sam: My state of mind is one of cautious excitement – I think it’s always that way with any new play at this point where you’re between a final draft and beginning of rehearsals and it’s all starting to shape up. On the other hand, we are desperate to get into this new building and start playing. I suppose there are quite a few unknowns: to go into a brand-new theatre and make a piece of brand new theatre is double unknown.

Howard: Well it’s great standing on this spot – I remember in the beginning I said yes to writing this play in a pub not far from here… Now we are standing on the actual site with the thing written and we are all ready to go.

Me: Is that how you get all your commissions, Sam? In the pub?

Sam: Yes. Absolutely.

Me: How would you describe The Shadow Factory in a nutshell?

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Sam: It’s a story about the community, it’s a story about the city and it’s a story that they will not have heard. I think as a theatre experience what they will get is something very unusual. Something with lots of design ,with projection, with flying bits ,with big community chorus, with movement and with music. I would hope it feel like something almost immersive.

Howard: I hope they will be entertained. This is a story of local people, a story that is not widely known, as Sam says. Shadow Factory is about people who did something extraordinary. It’s not to be sentimental about it because this is a very, very tough time. A lot of people thought they were going to lose the war. Nevertheless, they achieved this; 6 weeks from the factory being bombed – planes were being made in bits in the back streets. So, if people could do that 70 years ago, if we have to face a crisis in this country, and God knows we may well. What can we do? It can surprise us what we could do. I’d like people to take that thought out of the theatre.

Me: Is there anything that either of you would like to add?

Sam: Um. No. That’s’ fine.

The Shadow Factory runs at the NST City, Southampton from 16 February to 2 March.

 

Northern Ballet’s Beauty & The Beast comes to Mayflower Theatre from November 30th 2016.

Be transported to the heart of one of the world’s most famous fairytales as Northern Ballet brings Beauty & the Beast to Mayflower Theatre for the first time, with performances from 30 November – 3 December 2016. A kaleidoscope of colour and haute couture style costumes, Beauty & the Beast is a treasured classic for the whole family to enjoy.

Beauty and the Beast, NORTHERN BALLET

Beauty and the Beast, NORTHERN BALLET

Choreographed by Artistic Director David Nixon OBE, Beauty & the Beast tells the story of a vain and superficial Prince. Transformed into a Beast as punishment for his arrogance, his only chance is for true love to break the spell – but who could love a monster like him? Beauty & the Beast will take audiences on a journey into an enchanting world inhabited by fairies, goblins and sprites. Set to an infectious score played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, including music by Saint-Saëns, Bizet, Poulenc, Glazunov and Debussy, this magical family show proves that love conquers all.

David Nixon said: ‘Beauty & the Beast is a classic fairytale of good versus evil, exploring the concept of beauty on the inside and the outside. This is not an adaptation of the Disney version of the story – it is based on the original tale and will embrace the darker elements as well as the lighter moments.’

Tickets for Northern Ballet’s Beauty & the Beast (30 November – 3 December 2016) are on sale from Mayflower Theatre Box Office tel: 02380 711811 or online at mayflower.org.uk. Ovation Restaurant bookings: 02380 711833

Beauty & the Beast Production Credits

Directed and Choreographed by David Nixon OBE
Set Design                                               Duncan Hayler
Lighting Design                                     Tim Mitchell
Costume Design                                     David Nixon
assisted by Julie Anderson
Music                                                       Saint-Saëns, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc and Glazunov
Music Director                                       John Pryce-Jones
Music Arranged by                                John Longstaff
Played live by                                          Northern Ballet Sinfonia

 

SPYMONKEY’s The Complete Deaths, adapted and directed by Tim Crouch comes to Southampton

Spymonkey presents The Complete Deaths, adapted and directed by Tim Crouch at Nuffield Theatre from 11 – 15 OCTOBER 2016        

Following their critically acclaimed Oedipussy, the UK’s leading physical comedy company Spymonkey returns to Nuffield Theatre Southampton, 11-15 October, with The Complete Deaths; a sublimely funny tribute to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

SPYMONKEY'S The Complete Death

SPYMONKEY’S The Complete Death

 ★★★★★ “Deathly fun… The Complete Deaths is unadulterated theatrical playfulness.”

A Younger Theatre

★★★★ “Poignant and hilarious – a fabulous bloodbath” The Observer

★★★★ “Brilliantly ridiculous – Inspired pairing of Spymonkey and Tim Crouch” The Stage

Spymonkey perform all 74 onstage deaths in the works of William Shakespeare (75 if you count the black ill-favoured fly killed in Titus Andronicus) – sometimes lingeringly, sometimes messily, sometimes movingly, sometimes musically, and always hysterically. They range from the Roman suicides in Julius Caesar to the death fall of Prince Arthur in King John; from the carnage at the end of Hamlet to snakes in a basket in Antony & Cleopatra; from Pyramus and Thisbe to young Macduff. There are countless stabbings, plenty of severed heads, some poisonings, two mobbings and a smothering. Enorbarbus just sits in a ditch and dies from grief. And then there’s the pie that Titus serves the Queen of the Goths.

 “Seeing how the four clowns each have a different approach to the material is interesting: it is reflective of the way that people have different connections to death and different approaches to Shakespeare.” Erica Whyman, Deputy Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company.

 Performed by Spymonkey and adapted and directed by Tim Crouch (I, Malvolio, An Oak Tree, Adler & Gibb), this new show scales the peaks of sublime poetry, and plumbs the depths of darkest depravity.

Tickets are available from the Box Office 023 8067 1771 or online at nuffieldtheatre.co.uk.

LISTINGS INFORMATION:

The Complete Deaths

Adapted and directed by Tim Crouch

Dates: 11 – 15 OCTOBER 2016

Tickets: £10.00, £16.00, £20.00, £25.00

Suitable for ages 14+

 

Guest Blog – Beth Iredale’s ‘Dedication’ sketch review

Beth Iredale took part in the original Young Critics project at Theatre Royal Winchester in 2015. Her drawings are a very impressive critical response in the world of online noise.

We went to watch  ‘Dedication directed by Sam Hodges earlier this week at The Nuffield in Southampton.

To say Beth is a promising critical voice would be a gross understatement. Okay great.

You can check out an article she wrote (Exeunt) as well as her sketch reviews here  >> Edinburgh Festival Sketchbook .

Talking about the illustrations done for Dedication, Beth says: “These drawings are a visual expression of the play. This show is built around such passionate design, it seems only right to showcase it. Alex Lowde is on top form. The  illustrations are captioned with quotes from the show. “I’d rather use them to allude to the content instead of describing it” she says.

Sketch review by Beth Iredale of the play  Dedication at Nuffield Theatre in the gallery below:

SKETCH REVIEW – DEDICATION

You can follow Beth Iredale at:
Twitter @_BethLawless
Instagram _Bethlawless

You can also read my Sam Hodges interview here. Well done everyone.

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Sam Hodges: “New work doesn’t always succeed – but it is critical as it’s the way that theatre has to respond in a fresh way to what is happening today.”

Sam Hodges founded HighTide Festival Theatre in 2006. Fast forward to 2014 Sam Hodges took over as the artistic and executive director of the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.

In 2016, Nuffield is at an exciting time of transition. Under the leadership of Sam Hodges it has been reinvigorated as a producing theatre company for Southampton and last year won The Stage award for Best Regional Theatre. He himself has just been nominated Best Director at UK Theatre Awards.

Later this year Nuffield will open a second venue in Studio 144 – Southampton’s new £25M city centre arts venue. Champagne all round!

Dedication is a new play that tells the story of Shakespeare and the 3rd Earl of Southampton. What exactly did happen between them? A powder keg of sex, power and politics in Elizabethan England.

On the eve of press night he discusses life lessons, Southampton as a cultural hub and bringing Shakespeare magic to the stage…

Samuel Hodges

Sam Hodges

Hello Sam, first things first: can you tell us all about Studio 144
Studio 144 will be a stunning new venue at the heart of Southampton’s thriving cultural quarter. It will be our new home and  will include a flexible 447 seat main house theatre, a 135 seat studio, screening facilities, rehearsal and workshop spaces, a café bar and bistro.
This new venue will transform Nuffield’s ability to show new and exciting high quality professional work from local, national and international artists, built on the foundations of our commitment to extensive and accessible artist development and community engagement. It will also allow us to develop our programme to include dance, film and music.  As you can imagine this is a very exciting time for us, but also a great challenge.
We’re going to be running two venues, the new city centre venue at Studio 144 and our existing theatre on the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus so we are working hard to make sure that our programme can offer something for everyone. We want our audiences to feel at home in both our buildings and we have big ambitions as to how we want to achieve that.

Dedication

Dedication. Click on the image to book your tickets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can audiences expect from DEDICATION
A political thriller about what might have been. Sword fights, Elizabethan dancing, and a complete transformation of the auditorium into a space as you’ve never seen it before. We’re ‘casting’ the audience as the jury in a trial in which Shakespeare is being interrogated about his links to Southampton. It’s part love story, part adventure, part thriller.

Do you prefer the high level strategy director stuff or hands on stripped to the waist rehearsal room directing stuff? 
I love design – and am very much aesthetic led so I love those conversations about how the overall vision will look. But as a former actor, I do enjoy the process of developing the piece in the room as well – there’s nothing that beats an actor’s instincts and viewpoint as you shape a new play.

DEDICATION is an ambitious project. What have been the biggest challenges getting this off the ground? 
Probably the transformation of the auditorium and scale and intricacy of the set. There are literally loads of moving parts – and combined with the challenge of developing a new play, which relies entirely on an audience to truly test, we’ve had our hands full.

It would appear that audiences in Southampton are spoilt for choice for a good night out (The Mayflower, Nuffield, Stage Door) is this the case?
Completely the case although I think happily each venue offers quite a different flavour to Southampton. The Mayflower is obviously synonymous with big touring musicals, which it does very well, and it has started to do a bit of dance more recently. The Stage Door taps into that late-night cabaret feel – I’m a particular fan of their adult pantomime at Christmas! And then our focus is on drama and comedy – so something for everyone.

I noted with interest that you recently celebrated being Director at The Nuffield for three years. How would you describe your tenure? 
Extremely busy but very satisfying. I feel like we’ve achieved what we set out to do in this time which was to make Nuffield one of the national players, in terms of producing work. We have just announced our second London transfer in as many years, a UK national  commercial tour and we’ve been Regional Theatre of the Year,  – all big steps for the theatre. One of the most fulfilling parts of the job has been building a brilliant team around me – which makes the day-to-day a real pleasure. And having got to this point, the next three years are obviously going to be very focused on the new venue, which we feel ready for.

What is your favourite theatre in London? 
The Young Vic Theatre. It’s my kind of theatre. It mixes a strong European aesthetic with great British storytelling – a blend of what makes both traditions so unique. Yerma was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned in the past 12 months?
To make sure I do enough living outside of work to ensure that my work has something to be inspired by.

Is there anything that you’d like to add? 
The reason I commissioned this play is that I believe passionately in creating new work that aims to support Southampton in ‘telling its own story’. New work doesn’t always succeed – but it is critical as it’s the way that theatre has to respond in a fresh way to what is happening today. I’m not interested in just mounting a period historical piece – it’s only worth looking back to see what it says about today. I hope that Dedication can be Southampton’s contribution, not only to Shakespeare400, but to the wider catalogue of Shakespearean work. On a larger scale, though, I hope it also asks questions about the way that we mould history to our shape – that we think of it as a fixed point, whereas in fact it is only what is written down that lasts.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUT TICKETS FOR DEDICATION

Checkout the production images of Dedication

Mark Wheeller Interview: “The arts have a general thing of surviving no matter what… as well as a good thing that can be a bad thing… as with or without funding arts will thrive… because people enjoy participation.”

Mark Wheeller is a writer and part time Executive Director of Arts at the Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill and director of the Oasis Youth Theatre. Although his name is not well-known outside of schools and colleges, he is one of the most-performed playwrights in Britain.
He is a champion of young people’s work and theatre in education more broadly. I thought it would be nice to catch up with Mark to see exactly what’s happening. And I was right – it was very nice indeed.
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Mark at work

Hello Mark! What are you doing at the moment?
Literally at this moment I’ve just returned from a school who have some GCSE students working on one of my plays “One Million to STOP THE TRAFFIK” and I  was there to have a look at what they’d done and to offer them some ideas as to how they might improve their response to it. I haven’t seen or thought about that play for about six years and it was, as it nearly always is great to see fresh pairs of eyes on the play presenting it very differently from how we did. So it made me re-examine those words and find new things. I’ve also just bought a new car and for the first time have a hybrid car where is runs partly on electricity… this has led to a number of learning curves.

What is ‘I Love You Mum’ about? 
It’s the tragic story of Daniel Spargo-Mabbs a sixteen year old lad from Croydon who went to an illegal rave without his parents knowing, took MDMA, unknowingly a double dose and two days later his parents were at his bedside giving permission for the Dr’s to turn off the life support machine. Dan was a popular and able boy and it was a surprise to everyone that he had become a victim to MDMA.  His parents are determined that some good should come out of this dreadful situation and through the Foundation set up in his name (Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation) commissioned me to write a play telling the story. The original idea was that his school would put the play on but it soon became obvious that some distance (emotionally and geographically would benefit the project) and so my Oasis Youth Theatre were offered the chance to premiere the play. We have been working on it for the last year and a half.  It has been in incredibly powerful project to be involvement.  It has been about stickability rather than ability in terms of those who will be in it. They have had to be so committed over such a long period of time. We also have incredible back up with a professional set designer (Richard Long), musician (Paul Ibbott), who has written a musical underscore, and multi-media expert (Danny – Gagging for It – Sturrock).  This team have worked tirelessly to produce the most incredible support to our work and add so much to the final result. I think the professional Theatre would do well to compete with the time we have been able to find to put into the production… and therefore the result.

mw

Do you think about National Curriculum  potential when you’re writing? Of that catalogue of 100 plays you have, how many are mega successful? 
I never think about the National Curriculum. My productions have been written because I found it so hard to find scripts I liked for my Youth Theatre work.  It seemed a daunting task to find a script that was just what we need as a group. It seemed to be easier to write what I fancy directing and then, as they are brand new, everyone in the production feels a greater sense of ownership. It has been other peoples idea to include them in the curriculum.
It depends on the definition of “mega successful”. I have never had anything on the West End. I’d love that to happen. I have never had a professional adult group perform any of my plays in a major provincial Theatre. So… who has been performing my plays.  Mostly a few Theatre in Education groups (professional) touring schools, prisons or the workplace. Also, as a result of these groups drawing attention to my work Youth Theatres and school have picked up on my plays and presented their own versions of them.  In the late 1990s they started to be used in GCSE. A/S and A’Level exams (mostly unbeknown to me) and from that two (Missing Dan Nolan & Hard To Swallow) have been taken on as set texts by two of the four boards offering the new GCSE Drama (9-1) exam.  I guess that’s pretty successful to have these plays emerging from an unfunded provincial Youth Theatre where all the other contemporary plays have come from the professional world.  I’m very proud of that!
Numerically… I have some plays that have been performed (licensed performances) a massive number of times. Here’s my top 5 as of today 8/03/2016
1/ Too Much Punch For Judy (1998) 5,998
2/ Chicken (1992) 5,654
3/ Legal Weapon 1/2 ((1999) 2,546
4/ Arson About (2004) 1,442
5/ Hard To Swallow (1990) 365
(Amazing!)
Of all my others (there are 28 in all) only two have notched up more than 100 performances, but that’s partly the fact they haven’t (for the most part) been out as long!  I would be intrigued to know whether any of these would qualify as the most performed contemporary plays?

Are the arts doing enough to nurture and support young talent?
Not sure that “the arts” can do this.   People can do this… people who are in the arts.  I imagine they are.  Are those people given enough support/resources?  No.  The arts have a general thing of surviving no matter what… as well as a good thing that can be a bad thing… as with or without funding arts will thrive… because people enjoy participation.  I’d love to see a more foams programme that is well funded from the grass roots.  I think football has a great model, where, with football in the community there are lots of opportunities for young people. It would great for this to be applied to Theatre and the arts… but it’s beyond me to know how to organise this.

Do you think decent theatre needs an undercurrent of sorrow? 
It seems that mine does. I’d love to write a good comedy. I don’t have the ability. No I don’t think it needs it.  I think my work does it because that’s what I think I do best. As I say I’d love to be able to do a good comedy.  I have been so pleased to see my son Charlie working with his Barely Methodical Troupe on some wonderful comic moments, and my Daughter Daisy in her musical Theatre work being much more light hearted than my better known “stuff” is.  All power to them.

And what else do you have coming up this year?
I have two premieres in one month. I Love you Mum (The Brit School 29th March 3pm)  and Scratching the Surface at a One Act Play Festival in the Midlands on March 6th), which is about self harm.
In May I have been told there will be a premiere of my verbatim play Kindness – A Legacy of the Holocaust written with Voices Director Cate Hollis, who directs this production.
A couple of International Schools have asked me to visit them in the next academic year… which gif it happens will be very exciting.  I’ve never been to Malaysia… and before that my wife and I are off on holiday to Cypris where Daisy is singing in one of the Thompson Gold Hotels!   So… and exciting year in prospect.
Thanks for listening!

Adios, Mark!

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (Review)

The Mayflower

So, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang…

review1

The stage version of the iconic 1968 British film is not awful. The much-loved songs by Sherman Brothers and the sensational sets coupled with stunning special effects make for an entertaining experience. Oh, and there is a flying car.

The whole thing is efficiently directed by James Brining, Simon Higlett’s design evokes the charming spirit of the original film and some of the acting is good.  Special mention must go to the Simon Wainwright’s innovative video designs, that graphically recreate the high seas escape.

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The wheels start to come off once frankly terrible Michelle Collins and Phillip Jupitus appear as Baron and Baroness Bomburst. Their relentless jokes and hammy performances strain for a laugh. The biggest frustration is the pace. However, just revving up seems to take 50 minutes and when it does it sounds like a volcanic eruption. It goes on a bit. The sluggish first act drags along at a peristaltic pace before we finally get to see the car fly.

The final result is a musical that has all the motorised competence one expects of a show but very little feeling. The best performance comes from Jason Manford. It is Manford as Caractacus Potts, who provides the show with what it mostly lacks: heart and soul. There is, however, laughter to be had from Vulgarian spies Sam Harrison as Boris and Scott Page as Goran. Their physical comedy is well timed and genuinely entertaining. The biggest disappointment for me was Martin Kemp as the not-so sinister Childcatcher. His performance is top-to-bottom rubbish in terms of characterisation and villainy.?

The second act is a fiasco; a sloppy samba section and a reprise that runs like a Ford KA and corners like a Robin Reliant. The car flying is quite something but I was left feeling uninspired by Manford sauntering in and out of the vehicle as if he’d driven a milkfloat, yet this spirited production rarely takes itself too seriously.

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Movie-musicals are not usually a good idea. Let’s hope and pray we come across again someday a new musical based on an original idea. It’s probably somewhere approaching fun. The five year old in front of me seemed to be enjoying himself. Not great, not awful. Good at times in fact. I admire Chitty’s temperament. Maybe we could all learn from Chitty. Overall I’d give it a cautious thumbs-up.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs until Sunday February 21. Tickets: 023 8071 1811 or visit mayflower.org.uk