Southampton’s new theatre opens with the world première of Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory

Director of Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Samuel Hodges, today announced the inaugural production at NST City – the world première of Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory . Hodges’ production opens on 15 February, with previews from 7 February, and runs until 3 March. Further programming for the opening season at NST City will be announced shortly.

Autumn 1940. The Battle of Britain rages in the skies. Southampton is home to our only hope of victory: the Spitfire. But when the Luftwaffe drops 2,300 bombs in three devastating raids, the city goes up in flames and the Woolston Supermarine Spitfire factory is destroyed.  From the ashes, a story of chaos, courage and community spirit emerges.

This spectacular world premiere will open Southampton’s brand-new theatre, NST City, conceived by NST’s director Samuel Hodges and 59 Productions, the Tony Award-winning artists behind the video design of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Director Samuel Hodges said today, “I first heard about this story months after starting this job and was immediately struck by its significance. Not just for what it says about Southampton’s past, but as an example of what the future can be. We famously live in a particularly segregated country right now – and our political leaders do nothing to reassure us that cohesion and empathy will be at the forefront.

“This story is both epic in its power and impact, but also incredibly human – it’s about individuals coming together, overcoming personal bias and mistrust, to achieve something great on their own terms.

“Working with Howard, who has proven himself time and time again to be the master of this style, is an honour and a great statement of intent for this new theatre at the heart of Southampton’s fast-rising cultural quarter.”

Howard Brenton commented, “The creation of the shadow factories is an inspiring story from a frightening time, something for Southampton to celebrate.

“We may be uncertain about what is going to happen in the next few years.  But our present anxiety pales beside the dire straits the townspeople found themselves in during the September of 1940.  Their lives were torn apart – German bombing raids above, on the ground their work places requisitioned by the ruthless Ministry of Aircraft Production.

“But people responded with a mixture of courage, bloody-mindedness, anger and humour.  They made sacrifices, improvised – and six weeks after the big factory’s destruction Spitfires were being made in small places all over the town.

“I’ve written characters across the generations, with scenes in Government bunkers, the town and partying on the Common as bombs fall.  It was an extraordinary display of common determination.   If chaos returns to Britain, we should remember its example.”

Alongside the production, the company will mount The Shadow Factory Exhibition, giving audiences the opportunity to step into the stories behind The Shadow Factory in an installation featuring the visually stunning moving set designed by 59 Productions.

NST City is part of Studio 144, Southampton’s new £28M city centre arts venue situated in the heart of the city centre. This new venue will include a flexible 450 seat main house theatre, a 135 seat studio, screening facilities, rehearsal, workshop spaces and bar and restaurant managed by Southampton ‘s 2017 Business of the Year winner, Mettricks. NST City will transform NST’s ability to show high quality professional work from local, national and international artists and allow the programme to include dance, film and music.  The bar and restaurant, Tyrrell’s, will be themed on the 1950s former department store Tyrrell & Green which occupied the same site. NST will run the new city centre venue alongside its existing theatre on the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus.

Howard Brenton has written over 50 plays. His most recent credits include Paul (National Theatre), In Extremis(Shakespeare’s Globe and tour retitled Eternal Love), Never So Good (National Theatre), Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare’s Globe, plus revival and tour, winner of the Whatsonstage Best Play Award and UK Theatre Awards Best Touring Production), 55 Days (Hampstead Theatre), #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Hampstead Theatre), The Guffin (one act play, NT Connections), Drawing The Line (Hampstead Theatre), Doctor Scroggy’s War (Shakespeare’s Globe), Ransomed(one act play, Salisbury Playhouse), Lawrence After Arabia (Hampstead Theatre) and The Blinding Light (Jermyn Street Theatre). Versions of classics include The Life of Galileo and Danton’s Death (National Theatre) and Goethe’s Faust(RSC). Other adaptations include The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Liverpool Everyman and Chichester Festival Theatre) and Dances Of Death (Gate Theatre). His version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie is playing at The Theatre By The Lake, Keswick and will come to The Jermyn Street Theatre in November. For television, he wrote 13 episodes of the first four series of the BBC Television Drama Spooks (winner of the BAFTA Best Television Drama Series 2003).

Samuel Hodges is Director and CEO of Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST). His productions for NST includesDedication – Shakespeare and Southampton, following The Glass Menagerie in 2015. Previously he founded the HighTide Festival Theatre in 2007 and was the Artistic Director for five years, during which time he produced over 25 new plays, co-producing with the National Theatre, The Old Vic and the Bush Theatre, amongst others. Between 2012 and 2014, he ran the Criterion Theatre in London’s West End, for whom he curated a late-night programme and a one-off summer season of new work to celebrate the London Olympics.

59 Productions is the multi award-winning company of artists behind the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games and War Horse, the design and creative direction of the record-breaking David Bowie isexhibition, and video design of Christopher Wheeldon’s celebrated stage adaptation of An American in Paris (Tony Award in 2015). Led by directors Leo Warner, Mark Grimmer, Lysander Ashton and Richard Slaney, 59 Productions are world-leading specialists in design for stage and live events. They are the go-to team for generating creative and technical ideas to realise ambitious artistic projects across a range of disciplines: from architectural projection mapping to exhibition design, VR experiences to events, theatrical design to technical consultancy. In 2017, 59 Productions began producing its own theatrical work, opening its first full scale production, Paul Auster’s City of Glass (HOME, Manchester, Lyric, Hammersmith).  Current and upcoming projects also include, Oslo (Lincoln Center & National Theatre), The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (Santa Fe Opera), Marnie (The Met Opera & ENO), Reflections (a four-day projection-mapping event to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao) and A Perfect Harmony (specially-commissioned as the centrepiece of the weekend-long celebrations for the re-opening of Washington’s Freer|Sackler museums in October 2017).

Studio 144, Southampton’s ambitious new venue for theatre, visual art and film brings two world-class arts organisations – Nuffield Southampton Theatres and John Hansard Gallery, part of the University of Southampton – into the heart of the city centre for the first time, together with media and film specialists City Eye.



 The Shadow Factory                                                                                                                                       Listings

Studio 144, Above Bar, Southampton SO14 7DU

Box Office: 023 8067 1771 /

Monday – Friday10am – 6pm

Saturday10am – 4pm


16 Feb -2 Mar 11am -4pm (excluding matinee performance days and Sundays)

Step into the stories behind The Shadow Factory in this installation featuring the visually stunning moving set designed by 59 Productions, the Tony Award-winning design team behind the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. FREE


Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) is one of the UK’s leading professional theatre companies.  The Company is led by Samuel Hodges, supported by a team of associates: directors Blanche McIntyre, Natalie Abrahami, Michael Longhurst designer Tom Scutt and playwright Adam Brace, and develops and produces work with some of the UK’s most exciting and dynamic regional theatres.  NST won ‘Regional Theatre of the Year’ at The Stage Awards 2015 & Best Design UK Theatre 2015 (The Hudsucker Proxy).

Nuffield Southampton Theatres is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation and a registered charity, receiving additional core funding from the University of Southampton, Southampton City Council and Hampshire County Council.


In 1940, with the nation’s future hanging in the balance, men and women toiled 17 and 18 hours a day in Southampton to produce desperately needed Spitfire fighters. In September the Supermarine factory at Woolston was heavily bombed. Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Aircraft Production, immediately ordered a complete dispersal of the entire Supermarine works with many local garages and large store premises being requisitioned to help continue production.

Today Southampton City College’s Marine Skills Centre occupies most of the former Woolston Supermarine Works.


Studio 144 is led by Southampton City Council and has been supported by Arts Council England through their National Lottery-funded Capital programme, alongside the University of Southampton and Southampton Cultural Development Trust.  The project was born of the partners’ belief in the power of the arts to transform people, places and communities, and an understanding that cultural infrastructure capital is an important part of this.

The opening of Studio 144 is a high-profile addition to Southampton’s cultural scene and will be a keystone in the city’s tourism offer. The arts venue will employ around 100 staff, have a joint annual turnover of over £5 million, and will attract around 350,000 people a year. It is estimated that the development will drive an additional £21 million of visitor spend in the city each year.