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UK public invited to perform with the BBC Singers in virtual event

On Tuesday 21 May at 7pm, singers of all abilities across the UK are invited to join the BBC Singers virtually, using the groundbreaking new SAFFIRE app 

The recorded performance will form part of a newly commissioned piece composed by BBC Singers’ Composer in Association Roderick Williams, which receives its world premiere at the BBC Singers’ centenary concert later this year. 

The virtual event is a collaboration between the University of York, BBC Singers, and BBC Research and Development, as part of a project designing technical approaches to creating inclusive and immersive musical experiences. The project aims to improve access to group singing so people can experience the benefits no matter where they are in the world. 

Members of the public are invited to visit https://saffire.york.ac.uk/ where they can sign up to the event, print and download the score and listen to sound files of the six parts in the choir. The SAFFIRE app is available to download now, onto a mobile device. At 7pm on 21 May, users will be able to login, select their part and join the virtual performance, which begins at 7.30pm. The app will provide the experience of singing live with members of the BBC Singers, who will be performing at the iconic BBC studios at Maida Vale. 

The performance will be recorded and the virtual singers will be played as part of the soundscape, forming part of a larger scale BBC Commission from Roderick Williams.  The piece receives its world premiere as part of a live performance from the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Singers centenary concert at the Barbican on 2 October. Singers of all abilities are invited to join the performance.  

Jonathan Manners, Co-Director and Producer, BBC Singers said: “I am thrilled that in the year we are celebrating 100 years of the BBC Singers, members of the public will have the unique opportunity to sing alongside us, virtually, through the SAFFIRE app. I know from experience that singing is a powerful way to build connections and community and I cannot wait to see it all come together at our centenary concert at the Barbican on 2 October. For those unable to join us in the concert Hall, it will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC Sounds”. 

Roderick Williams, Composer and Baritone, said: “Increasing access to classical music and especially singing is something I feel passionate about, so I am hugely pleased that anyone and everyone in the UK will have the opportunity to sing in my new piece, composed especially for the BBC Singers.” 

The project will be the first output of the CoStar LiveLAB, a brand new state-of-the-art research and development facility at Production Park in Wakefield, led by experts at the University of York. The lab, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, leverages virtual production technologies including computer generated imagery (CGI), spatial audio, motion capture and extended reality (XR) to create novel live performance experiences.  

Professor Gavin Kearney, Director of LiveLab, said: “This is a truly exciting partnership that will give members of the public a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a world-renowned choir in a performance that will be available to millions of people at the end of this year. For us as researchers, we can test this new technology as well as the experiences that people have using it, to see if this could be a way forward for opening up musical experiences to people who might not otherwise have access to it.”  

Research into virtual singing environments has already shown that virtual choirs provided a lifeline for many people during the pandemic by maintaining social connections, but that there was a unanimous sense of loss of the collective process of making music in real time due to the technical limitations of the internet.   

Experts at the University of York addressed this challenge by developing a virtual environment to allow participants to feel fully immersed within the sound of the choir and trialled the technology in care homes and at a National Trust exhibition, to positive responses from users. 

Professor Helena Daffern, Co-Director of LiveLab, said: “This new project with the BBC Singers will take our work into virtual singing experiences to another level.  We know that virtual choirs can provide a way of reaching people who have barriers to taking part in these social events, but we need more evidence to understand if virtual performances could have the same health and wellbeing impacts as they do in real life. 

“Most importantly, however, for this new project, we hope that people enjoy the experience of feeling immersed in the performance of this incredible choir in real-time and being created by such a renowned composer; it should be something that singers of all abilities will remember for a long time to come.” 

Every Prom is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds. Furthermore, £8 Promming tickets are available for every concert.
tickets are now on sale

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West End ticket prices are alienating an entire generation of audiences 🎭

TONIGHT at the Royal Albert Hall, London theatreland will gather for the annual Olivier Awards ceremony.

The Oliviers are seen as the most prestigious awards event in UK theatre.

To be eligible, shows must have played in a theatre that is represented within the membership of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT).

Pop your teeth-grinding guards in and gather round, because it’s time to talk about theatre ticket prices again. Long-suffering theatre fans know that sky-high ticket prices are now par for the course and £395 “package” seats are a complete norm for the London theatres.

In 2015, the most expensive ticket in the West End was £152.25 for The Book of Mormon. It’s more than doubled in less than a decade. 

In recent months actors Cush Jumbo, Ralph Fiennes, David Tennant, and Andrew Scott have hit out against high and elite theatre ticket prices. Some people seem perfectly happy that theatre is now a luxury item. But not me.

This week, Patti LuPone remarked: “I don’t believe how expensive the tickets are at the door. It’s become an elite sport. If you’re going to develop audiences, you have to get young people in the theatre, and they have to see more than Back to the Future.”

On Broadway, the most expensive tickets cost $599 (£480) for Merrily We Roll Along

According to the Broadway League, the average ticket price for a Broadway show has hit a new record high — last season’s (2022-2023) ticket prices corresponded to more than $128.

But if that’s what the markets will bear, what are you supposed to do?

Indeed, while three quarters of Britons are willing to go to the theatre, fewer than half have been in the last 12 months.

A recent survey by YouGov found that 41 per cent of Londoners had been to the theatre in the past year (nationwide it was 31 per cent).

How much is too much for a theatre ticket? During a cost-of-living crisis anyone using dynamic pricing, a pricing strategy that businesses use to gain increased profits by driving up prices during high demand, needs to examine what exactly they are contributing to UK Theatre.

Newsflash: The cost of theatre tickets is the main reason people don’t go.

So, what’s the answer? Will commercial theatre ever not use dynamic pricing? Short answer: No. Because it’s easier, because it’s a habit, because producers and theatre owners can’t think of anything more constructive to do, and because it gets them instant cash.

For example, leading player Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and their monopoly in the industry is harming customers and artists alike. Premium tickets for the Aladdin UK Tour at ATG’s Theatre Royal Glasgow are as much as £175.

What may sweeten the pill for theatregoers is that in some honest cases at least, the expensive premium seats are subsidising much cheaper tickets aimed at bringing in new, younger audiences.

Across the limited run of Jamie Lloyd’s Romeo & Juliet at the Duke of York’s Theatre, around 10,000 tickets for all tiers (including the front row) have sold out for £25 or less, 5,000 tickets were reserved for people under 30, key workers and in receipt of government benefits.

(Interestingly, Jamie Lloyd’s company recently became fully independent, after 10 years partnering with ATG.)

Up the road, at the Phoenix Theatre (ATG) Sonia Friedman recently revealed Netflix sci-fi prequel spin-off Stranger Things: The First Shadow is attracting “thousands of people who are coming to the theatre for the first time.”

Well, that’s great news.

There is a weekly TodayTix lottery for a dozen front-row ‘Shadow Seats’ at £19.50 each. That said, the venue is a 1,028 seat venue – so, around 1 per cent of seats are under £20 that 99.9999% people probably won’t win.

And if you want to sit in the stalls the cheapest seats are £75 — with a severely restricted view, because of the dreadful overhang from the level above. Top price tickets are as much £250. Of course, there is more price volatility, which can push prices higher due to a surge of last-minute demand.

Alas, despite rising wage bills, rampant inflation, dramatic energy costs, profits seem to be up for the usual suspects in the West End.

As for Andrew Lloyd Webber, recent LW Theatres’ accounts, reveal that sales rose by 19% to £190.7 million from £160.8 million in 2022, with the boost attributed to the end of pandemic disruptions.

In a report posted to Companies House LW noted: “We expect another full year of trading next year but anticipate our turnover and profitability will continue to be put under pressure by the cost-of-living crisis and high interest rates and the impact of these factors on consumer spending.”

Taking in the “broader economic environment”, the report emphasised LW Theatre’s aim to head off falling ticket sales by “continually monitoring and adjusting ticket prices”.

But let’s move on to Cameron Mackintosh Ltd – – that operates eight venues and produces Hamilton– the company saw turnover almost double year on year – to £186 million – Profit before tax was £45.5 million, compared with £18.9 million in 2022.

It was revealed recently that Delfont Mackintosh’s average ticket price for a play is £54. For a musical it’s £68.

Interviewed recently Cameron Mackintosh chirped, with all apparent sincerity: “You would be bloody lucky to get out of a decent restaurant, including a decent bottle of wine, for under £100. It is expensive … But it is not too expensive,”

Mackintosh added: “This is a very good system. This is capitalism working properly.” 

Honestly, no it is not.

In my wildest fantasies I’d like to think Sir Cameron would dwell on an irony here; in reality, people are contending with stagnant wages, high energy bills, staggering food prices and dreadful living standards — one in five tenants are now spending over half their salary on rent. 

Denying accusations of greed, SOLT responded to David Tennant’s criticism of “ludicrous” West End ticket prices, highlighting that average ticket prices have decreased when adjusted for inflation. Well, now. SOLT’s argument is irrelevant since pay does not go up by inflation.

The cheapest seats, which often have a restricted view, and induce vertigo increased by almost 13% this year compared with last. 

Of course, these conditions mean that rising ticket prices are alienating an entire generation of future audiences, it can’t just be left to the subsidised regional theatres to take moral responsibility for building tomorrow’s audiences

So how’s this for a plan? Transparent, clear up-front information about the cost of theatre – it would be a win for everyone.

It would demonstrate to the public how much it takes to get a show on. More schemes like Jamie Lloyd’s – ring fencing cultural opportunity for those from diverse backgrounds. 

And if Broadway publishes weekly grosses, what makes the West End so special not to?

But I’m not expecting two miracles in a week, ’cos all I’ve ever really wanted was West End theatre owners, producers and corporate companies like ATG to make theatre truly accessible. Theatre should be for everyone.

And the tragedy is that we all know it, and even the brilliant people who come up with the brilliant shows know it – but they’re still pushing premium prices because they think that it works in the very short term.

Yet in the long term, it really, really doesn’t – even the most shrewd producer should realise the damage that short-term financial gain does to public perceptions about theatre and who it is for. 

No doubt that well-oiled theatre PR machine will again defend sky-high ticket prices.

Ultimately, of course, one of the biggest questions for many remains: if theatre ceases to be a popular art for people in their twenties and thirties, will it become extinct for all but the wealthy?

Theatre is already being sidelined in favour of movies and gaming. The prominence of reviews and arts coverage is shrinking. Editors know that theatre is no longer an important part of the national cultural conversation. Yup, The Sunday Times now leads with only one theatre review and has all but given up on the idea of providing an overview of the theatre week in London.

Finally, change will not come from the generosity of those who profit from the existing state of affairs. It will emerge from the continued challenge of those who do not. 

Has the hour of need ever been greater?

The Olivier Awards will broadcast a highlights programme on Sunday 14 April at 10:10pm on ITV1.

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For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy writer and Director Ryan Calais Cameron’s vision is bold and unapologetic, weaving together a tapestry of vignettes that oscillate between introspection and explosive catharsis. 

Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s 1976 work For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Calais Cameron’s play opens with six young men: Tobi King Bakare, Shakeel Haakim making his professional debut, Fela Lufadeju, Albert Magashi, Mohammed Mansaray and Posi Morakinyo. 

This is a memorable piece about Black masculinity and Black life in Britain, the wounds and crises of class conditioned by the background weather of race and identity. The nature of manhood is one of Mr. Calais Cameron’s chief concerns.

It’s an entirely unique vision and wrongfoots us from the start. Exhilarating and emotionally rich exploration of masculinity, mental health and the six men’s relationship with black history. The production’s emotional intensity is all the greater for the fierce restraint that the actors—and the characters—display.

One is passed over by the girls playing kiss-chase. Another is subjected to a “routine check” by police in Hackney. There’s the one who accuses his educated friend of being “whitewashed” as he tries to fit in. This was exciting, unnerving, bristling with youth and volume. 

The crucial thing is that this play – now on its second West End run – is urging people to look hard at these profound issues around human behaviour, and really think about what makes people who they are. 

Here, too, the entire ensemble’s acting is elegant, emotional, and superb in all its impacted pain and ongoing struggles. The combination of artistry and emotional directness in this play is overwhelming to me.

Anna Reid’s fluorescent playground set and costume design is terrific. The music — hip-hop, R&B, astute classical sound design and composition by Nicola T. Chang — is both surprising and perfect. 

Lighting wise, Rory Beaton paints the stage not in the gritty, neorealist tones expected of such streetwise stories, but with the rich textures and saturated colours of a waking dream that uniquely mixes music, movement, storytelling, and verse.

Overall, this is a provocative piece of theatre that delves deep into the complexities of the black male experience. With raw honesty and poetic flair, the production navigates themes of identity, mental health, and systemic oppression with an unflinching gaze. 

Red Pitch, a piece about three Black teenagers first seen at the Bush, is running up the road at the new Soho Place theatre. Watching this at the Garrick Theatre I noticed how racially and socially mixed the audience was compared with nearly every other West End show. 

But we’re starved of these narratives in the West End and Calais Cameron’s raw drama showcases why they are so hugely important.

Considering this started life at the 80-seater New Diorama in 2021, it’s a stunning achievement but also proves theatre can flourish on the small scale, by commissioning fresh, interesting work that doesn’t rely on expensive production.

Late to the party, I know. Alas, I doubt that I will see a better play in the West End this year.

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy is at the Garrick theatre, London until 4 May

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OLD FRIENDS Celebrate SONDHEIM At The Sondheim, an All-Star gala in aid of the launch of The Sondheim Foundation

Stephen Sondheim. Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench. © CML

Cameron Mackintosh has invited many of Stephen Sondheim’s old friends to join him in celebrating his extraordinary talents and legacy at the theatre which was recently gloriously rebuilt in Sondheim’s honor. The all-star cast for OLD FRIENDS so far includes Michael Ball, Petula Clark, Judi Dench, Daniel Evans, Bonnie Langford, Adrian Lester, Damian Lewis, Julia Mckenzie, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Paige, Clive Rowe, Imelda Staunton and Hannah Waddingham. They will be joined by a featured company of West End stars, currently being finalised.

Stephen Sondheim. Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench. © CML

The evening, which takes place for one night only on 3 May 2022 at 8pm, will be staged by Matthew Bourne and Maria Friedman with choreography by Stephen Mear and a 26-piece orchestra conducted by Alfonso Casado Trigo.

Patrons can sign up for priority booking at sondheimoldfriends.com.  Tickets will go on sale on 15 March with Public Booking opening at 1pm.

Cameron Mackintosh said: It is impossible to overstate the influence and contribution Stephen Sondheim has made to Musical Theatre, both personally and professionally. He was as great a teacher as he was an incomparable writer and the Little Things that he did for so many people forged legions of friendships throughout his long life. I was lucky enough to be Steve’s friend and occasional collaborator for over 45 years since I first produced Side By Side By Sondheim and the Wyndham’s Theatre in 1976. It was a friendship full of laughter, gossip and glorious insightful camaraderie.

Steve was so prolific and profound as a writer that it’s impossible to put together a definitive list of his greatest songs, as everyone has their own favourites, so our choice of songs will purely reflect the joy and love I have for one of the greatest Broadway Babies of all time.”

All profits from the evening will go to the Stephen Sondheim Foundation, which the legendary composer and lyricist established under his Will to receive future income from his copyrights and intellectual property, with the proceeds to be used principally for the support of playwrights, composers, and lyricists in the early stages of their careers to assist in the development and advancement of their work, as well as for sustaining other aspects of the musical theatre craft and arts education.

Until the Stephen Sondheim Foundation has completed the process of its formation, the proceeds derived from this event will be held in trust by The Mackintosh Foundation (registered charity number: 327751) on its behalf.

LISTINGS INFORMATION     

Theatre:                   Sondheim Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6BA

Date:                       3 May 2022 at 8pm

Website:                  sondheimoldfriends.com

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National Youth Theatre and Contact, Manchester: Putting young people centre stage

With National Youth Theatre Chair Dawn Airey and Artistic Director Paul Roseby
With National Youth Theatre Chair Dawn Airey and Artistic Director Paul Roseby

In this age of extremes, I often find myself at the sharp end of funding squeezes, local authority cuts, and am continually alarmed by the devastating demise of arts in our state schools.

As you can imagine, it truly depresses me. 

So, I was delighted to be invited to a soft-launch of the National Youth Theatre’s award-worthy £4m refurbished premises on Holloway Road.

The National Youth Theatre’s HQ, Holloway Road, London

The organisation nurtured Daniel Craig, Helen Mirren, Zawe Ashton and many more of our theatre legends.

Speaking at the supporters event, dynamic NYT CEO and Artistic Director Paul Roseby said: “Cuts to the arts in our state schools have led to a significant pressure on organisations like ours that work with young people to bridge the gap. What’s going on across these revitalised spaces here are all about giving young people the chance to start again. Failure is what we are about, and we embrace that as much as success.”

He continued: “If you are a youth organisation you have to stick your neck out; it’s now more important than ever before.” 

Certainly, school reforms have caused pupils to move away from arts subjects such as dance, music and art, and towards more traditional academic subjects such as geography and English. What’s more, recent analysis of government data shows that the number of GCSE music and drama students has fallen by a fifth over the last decade.

Outside the M25, Manchester’s Contact Theatre on Oxford Road, closed in 2017 but has also just reopened following a £6m ‘youth led’ revamp. 

First established as a theatre in 1972, in 1999 Contact reinvented itself as a multi-disciplinary creative space specialising in producing work with, and providing opportunities for, young people aged 13 to 30. 

Contact Young Company, Everything All of the Time

What’s so brilliant about Contact is under Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Matt Fenton, this significant refurbishment was led by a dedicated team of young people at Contact – who had their say on everything from light fittings to consultations with the architects.  

Speaking at the Press Night of Contact Young Company’s excellent show Everything All of the Time, Fenton said: “Young people should have access to free, high-quality and world-class creative resources to express themselves, to find their politics, find themselves and to then go out into the world and do amazing things. Contact has always done that, but this building now allows us to do that at such a higher level.” 

The iconic Contact, Oxford Road in Manchester

There has been a radical growth in the knowledge economy and creative industries over the past decade. It goes without saying that an education that includes creative subjects facilitates critical thinking and increases emotional resilience.

Quite simply, it is a proven fact how small investments return massively more than was spent and the cultural impact it has on our children is huge. What might a viable, authentic, enduring kind of ‘levelling up’ look like?

Nobody I speak to understands what it means – despite the government’s levelling-up fund of £4.8bn, and places now bidding for help with “town and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural heritage assets”. 

Anyway, according to a recent report UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre cultural organisations across the UK save the NHS £102 million a year thanks to the physical and mental health benefits to attendees.

Remarkably, the report found that the NHS saves a yearly total of £11.91 for every person partaking in such an activity, from a reduction in GP visits and use of psychotherapy services.

But as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, the National Youth Theatre and Contact investing in these spaces for the next generation of dramatic talent offers us all hope. I left both occasions feeling a sense of optimism that I had not felt for some years.

There is an overwhelming sense, too, that we are at a turning point and that the arts can and must play a leading role in developing talent, protecting communities, as well as in fighting cuts in higher education and cultural education in schools.

It demonstrates, quite pertinently, that in order avoid widening inequality of access to the arts, that theatres across the country must enact their civic duty – not only to plug the gaps, but to truly level up every part of the UK.

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Bat out of Hell rocks Manchester Opera House

Bat Out of Hell is the first big musical to be staged at the theatre and it’s a night of delirious entertainment.

It’s a tale of unrequited love from different sides of the track, with a parent determined to keep them apart. Story wise, it is post-apocalyptic Peter Pan.

Jay Scheib’s totally electrifying production re-imagines the jukebox musical for these mad times.

If you saw the show in London you won’t be disappointed –  the flames, the cameras circling the stage, the video screen capturing and magnifying the action are all here. There’s no expense spared.

What’s more, this talented and vibrant cast navigate the luminescent and fast-paced production with high stamina and real flair. The songs are gloriously sung and the occasion allows everyone to let their hair down.

Glenn Adamson and Martha Kirby lead as Strat and Raven respectively, and are electric together. 

Glenn Adamson and Martha Kirby

Incredibly, Meatloaf’s three Bat Out Of Hell albums have sold a staggering 100 million copies globally. This lively and quirky show has been perfectly reconfigured for a UK Tour and features all the hits: Out Of Hell, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.

Jim Steinman’s soaring rock n roll anthems and Jon Bausor’s anarchic designs offer an extravagant sense of occasion, as well as a show with extremely high production values. The lighting and sound are world class here. 

It was great to see people having fun, and this high voltage and good-natured mega show is the perfect tonic to reinvigorate regional theatres and attract audiences back after a miserable 21 months. 

Vegas? Don’t bet against it. 

Bat Out of Hell runs at Manchester Opera House until 2 October and tours the UK through to November 2022.

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Our Voice – Arts Professional


Our Voice – an autobiographical theatre project for young Traveller girls-  is the most important thing that I have have done.

Despite the restrictions that the pandemic posed, we came together to deliver this female artist-led project and look forward to when we can create live theatre from these special stories together again. 

As theatre braces itself for the challenges ahead, it is time to talk about communities that we as a sector have excluded for too long.

Bryony Kimmings

Bryony Kimmings

The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, has meaningful and long-standing relationships with local Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities. Our Voice is a programme funded by Lancaster University and is free to all who take part. It aims to engage with young GRT people and their families and highlight available learning and career opportunities for them.

Originally intended to be in-person participation activities, these lively virtual workshops have been taking place throughout the lockdowns. They utilise drama and storytelling classes to share the rich culture and distinct histories of young traveller girls, especially those with little engagement or confidence when it comes to culture….

READ MORE ON ARTS PROFESSIONAL 

 

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Look Ahead: Theatre Streaming in March

At last! A roadmap – the prime minister has announced a timeline for when theatres and other live events venues may be able to reopen.

All being well, indoor and outdoor theatres will be allowed to reopen with social distancing from May 17.

Hmmmmmmmmm.

Anyway, here are some of the best shows streaming online now or later in March.

Whatever you decide to stream this month – please check out Richard Blackwood in Soho Theatre’s breathless reimagining of the tragic final hours of Christopher Alder’s life: Typical is a terrific and powerful monologue that deserves another life when All This is over.

Richard Blackwood in Typical

Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s Olivier Award winning Emilia will be streaming for all of March on a pay what you decide basis (from £1.00). A blazing take on Emilia Bassano, a 17th century poet who struggled to get her voice heard in a patriarchal world. Now you know.

Kiln Theatre is streaming a reading of new play Girl on the Altar by Marina Carr, streams for free on 5 March.

A new folk musical, by Robin Simões da Silva and Annabel Mutale Reed, Brother will be streamed live from Southwark Playhouse – the show follows a young transgender man finding his way in the world. Streaming live 5-6 March.

Recorded at the London Palladium and hosted by Sheridan Smith, Musicals: The Greatest Show featuredMichael Ball, Nicole Scherzinger and more belting West End classics with a couple of songs from recent British hits Six and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Not awful and still available on BBC iPlayer. 

Musicals: The Greatest Show – Layton Williams

The Barn Theatre in Cirencester’s latest digital offering is a multiple-choice cabaret featuring 14 musical performers. Conceived by Ryan Carter, The Secret Society of Leading Ladies is a clever concept; there are a possible 150 combinations in which to see a five-song concert. Available until 7 March.

The Old Vic has revealed two commissioned monologues created to mark International Women’s Day on March 8: Putting A Face On by Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Regina Taylor’s Aisha (the black album). Available on YouTube for free. 

Adam Kashmiry plays himself in excellent play Adam, the story of a transgender man who sought asylum in Scotland. Now, the BBC has teamed up with National Theatre Scotland for a specially crafted recording as part of the BBC Arts Lights Up for New Culture in Quarantine season. Following its BBC Four premiere, Adam will be available on BBC iPlayer.

The Whip, Juliet Gilkes’s resonant play about 19th-century slavery-abolition legislation, has had a new audio recording commissioned by the RSC. On YouTube until 16 March.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett and director by Tamara Harvey is a starry digital adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic with Gray depicted as an “influencer”. Streams 16-31 March.

Last year’s virtual celebration of the work of Stephen Sondheim, Take Me To the World is still available on YouTube – why not watch it again on Steve’s birthday, Tuesday  22  March. I’ll drink to that!

By the way, the original 1980 Broadway production of the Stephen Schwartz musical Pippin –  directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse  –is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

If you have a show streaming during the month of March or suggestions for my blog get in touch – this will be updated weekly. Cheers! E: mrcarlwoodward@gmail.com

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National Theatre to reopen with Death of England sequel Delroy starring Giles Terera


Today the National Theatre announces its commitment to begin creating new work again, with plans to resume socially-distanced live performances in the Olivier Theatre in late October.

A new one-person play, DEATH OF ENGLAND: DELROY, by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, will be directed by Dyer, and performed by Giles Terera. This follows on from Dyer and Williams’ play Death of England, which Dyer also directed, and which was performed by Rafe Spall to critical acclaim in the Dorfman Theatre, closing only weeks before lockdown.

The production team, together with Giles Terera, have been back at the National Theatre this week working on the play: the first artists to return to work in the building since it closed. The new play was commissioned by the NT’s New Work Department at the start of lockdown and written over the subsequent five months. It explores a different side of the Death of England story as it focuses on the character of Delroy, the best friend of Michael, the protagonist of the first piece.

London, 2020. Delroy is arrested on his way to the hospital. Filled with anger and grief, he recalls the moments and relationships that gave him hope before his life was irrevocably changed. This new work explores a Black working-class man searching for truth and confronting his relationship with Great Britain.

Delroy: Roy Williams, Giles Terera and Clint Dyer at the National Theatre ( Helen Murray )

Delroy: Roy Williams, Giles Terera and Clint Dyer at the National Theatre ( Helen Murray )

Government have now confirmed that indoor, socially-distanced performances can resume from this Saturday. Death of England: Delroy will begin performances in late October. Tickets will go on sale in September, when full details of the performance schedule, ticketing, and safety measures for audiences will also be available.

Speaking about the play Clint Dyer and Roy Williams said: “There’s a moment in Death of England at his father’s funeral where Michael tells Delroy, ‘you may act like us and talk like us, but you will never be one of us’. In telling Delroy’s story, we hope to take audiences on an illuminating journey into the Black British psyche and realities of a ‘tolerant’ England in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre said: “This week Death of England: Delroy will have its first workshop as we finally, carefully open the doors of the theatre to artists and put in place plans to start live performance again this Autumn.  Clint Dyer and Roy Williams have delivered another explosive piece of work; set during lockdown and charting its own fearless and provocative course through the same subjects as its prequel, and a very English reflection of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is so important for us to be welcoming artists back into the building again, and planning for doing the same for our much-missed audiences. The moment the incomparable Giles Terera steps out on the Olivier stage at that first performance will be an incredible one, and I’m thrilled to be reopening our theatre with such an important and timely piece of work.”

 

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Watermill Theatre announces outdoor summer season including actor-musician Camelot

Artistic Director Paul Hart and the team at Newbury’s The Watermill Theatre are thrilled to announce that, due to the progress with the government’s phased roadmap towards theatres re-opening to the public, they are now in a position to present a summer season of work outdoors. Audiences from far and wide will be able to enjoy two new shows from socially distanced tables, seating up to 4 people maximum, in the idyllic setting of The Watermill’s glorious gardens. A two-course pre-show dinner from the restaurant will be available to enjoy from 5.30pm, with evening shows starting at 7.30pm (Monday to Saturday), and cream teas available after matinée performances (Thursday and Saturday).

The first show will be a new three hander comedy version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes tale, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, devised by the company, with evening performances from 29 July – 8 August. This will be followed by a concert version of Lerner and Loewe’s CAMELOT, including actor-musicians, with evening performances from 17 – 29 August.

To ensure the safety of all, strict social distancing measures have been implemented, and this includes significantly reducing the number of audience members that can be welcomed onsite at any one time. There will be twenty tables available for each performance, which can each seat a maximum of four people from one party only. Tables are unreserved, and audiences will be able to select a table on arrival. Each table will be in its own 2msq area with space between neighbouring tables and aisles. Seats will be uncovered, and performances will go ahead whatever the weather. There will be hand sanitiser stations, a one-way system for accessing the toilets and signage to indicate routes and procedures. There will also be free onsite parking in the main car park.

The cast for THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is Victoria Blunt (previous credits at The Watermill: Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth), Rosalind Lailey (A Mini Summer Night’s Dream at the Watermill, The Railway Children, York Theatre Royal), and James Mack (previous credits at The Watermill: The Rivals, Journey’s End and Macbeth).

Casting for CAMELOT will be announced shortly.

Paul Hart said, “I’m so thrilled we’re able to bring you a summer season from our gorgeous gardens. The back lawn becomes Dartmoor in a bold and bonkers production of The Hound of the Baskervilles and I couldn’t think of anywhere more sublime to present Lerner and Loewe’s stunning score than ‘here in Camelot!’

I’m immensely proud of the team who have worked day and night to make this happen. I’ve been moved by theatres up and down the country working their socks off to create inspired work and community projects in impossible circumstances and I’m so looking forward to us conjuring some joy this summer. Come and join us for great theatre, al fresco dining, chilled rosé and the perfect location as the sun sets over the river- what could be more magical and frankly we all deserve it! And hopefully the rain will hold off…”