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Joe McElderry returns as Joseph in 2017 tour

Joe McElderry in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (c)Mark Yeoman

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

JOE McElderry will once again play the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which visits New Wimbledon Theatre (January 31 to February 4) as part of the 2017 national tour.

McElderry’s title-role debut in the 2016 production of Joseph was his first major theatrical appearance and his performance was met with 5* reviews and standing ovations up and down the country.

Joe McElderry was just 18 when he won the sixth series of The X Factor having been mentored by Girls Aloud star Cheryl Cole and beating off fierce competition from Olly Murs and Stacey Solomon.

He soared to number one on the UK Singles Charts with his rendition of Miley Cyrus’s The Climb and his debut album, Wide Awake, went straight in at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart. He has since gone on to have two more Top 10 albums, and he became the first X Factor star to release four albums.

McElderry, who hails from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, is also the first and only celebrity to win three reality TV shows! He was crowned the winner of the second series of ITV’s Popstar to Operastar and became champion of Channel 4’s celebrity ski competition The Jump in 2014.

Having garnered sensational reviews and standing ovations at every performance since its inception over 36 years ago, Bill Kenwright’s ‘amazing’, ‘superb’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘brilliant’ production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s family musical has now sold an estimated 20 million tickets.

This vibrant and exciting retelling of the biblical story about Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colours sings out to young and old alike with a score which includes Jacob and Sons, Close Every Door and Any Dream Will Do.

The tour kicks off at GLive, Guildford in January 2017 before continuing to Wimbledon, Dartford, Hastings, Torquay, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Malvern, Shrewsbury, Bradford, Preston, Nottingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Londonderry.

The Girls - Phoenix Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE GIRLS, Gary Barlow’s musical based on the 2003 Calendar Girls film, will receive its West End premiere at London’s Phoenix Theatre in February 2017.

The Girls features original music by composer and musician Gary Barlow and lyrics and a book by the film’s original screenwriter Tim Firth.

The Girls is the real life story of a Women’s Institute group who decide to fundraise for a local hospital by posing for a raunchy-but-tasteful nude calendar. Inadvertently, the group become media sensations, and are soon hounded for their story.

A heart-warming story, The Girls follows the close friendships in the group, as well as the strained personal lives.

Based on the 2003 film which featured renowned actresses Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Linda Bassett, Annette Crosbie and Geraldine James, The Girls originally premiered as a play in 2015 at the Leeds Grand Theatre, and later at The Lowry in Salford in 2016.

Tickets are scheduled to go on sale in September 2016.

For more information, visit www.phoenixtheatrelondon.co.uk/the-girls/.

The Last Tango, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s final ever theatre show, runs at the Phoenix Theatre from September 22 to December 3, 2016.

Toy Soldier - Jack Studio Theatre

Toy Soldier

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

WHO Said Theatre is presenting Toy Soldier by Jonathon Crewe at the Jack Studio Theatre – from Tuesday, September 27 to Saturday, October 8, 2016.

I was just doing the job I was sent there for.

A servicewoman is on trial in a UK courtroom accused of war crimes: the torture and murder of an Iraqi civilian in a military detention centre.

As secrets about her childhood, her reason for joining the army and the affair that drove her to the very edges of her duty are revealed, the opposing lawyers build their cases around her.

But in a case where the system is on trial as much as the accused, will justice prevail or will the outcome be as obscured as the reasons for the war in the first place?

Crewe also directs a cast that includes Bianca Beckles-Rose, Louisa Smith, Stanley Eldridge and Bruce Kitchener.

Jonathon Crewe was shortlisted for a David Lean Award 2009 for his feature screenplay Donna4Eva and his short film American Gun, distributed by RenderYard, has been nominated for best short film in festivals across Europe and the USA. His work for radio has resulted in two feature length plays, Tangier and Toy Soldier, both broadcast on Resonance FM, with his third, Entangled, a science fiction drama featuring Jim Al-Khalili, due for release in late 2016.

Crewe currently teaches Screenwriting, Filmmaking and Creative Writing at the University of Surrey, where he has just completed his PhD in English and Creative Writing. He recently finished shooting his debut feature film, Face2Face, which is due for release in 2017.

Toy Soldier is Who Said Theatre’s fifth production and follows The Old Friend, Taking An Age, Mine and The Calm.

Produced by Louisa Smith, Toy Soldier is designed by Millie Ashdown.

Toy Soldier is suitable for ages 16+.

Tickets: £14, £12 concessions – available from the box office on 0333 666 3366 (£1.50 fee for phone bookings only) or online at www.brockleyjack.co.uk/.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.45pm.

Also at the Jack Studio Theatre: the world premiere of The Gospel According to Philip (August 30 to September 3) and The Awakening by Julian Garner (September 6 to September 24, 2016).

Ghost - The Musical on tour - final casting announced

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FINAL casting has been announced for Bill Kenwright’s new touring production of Ghost – The Musical, which runs at New Wimbledon Theatre from September 1 to September 10, 2016.

Joining previously announced Sarah Harding and Andy Moss will be Jacqui Dubois (People, Places & Things) as Oda Mae Brown, Sam Feriday as Carl, Leo Sene as Willie, James Earl Adair as the Hospital Ghost, Gary Lee Netley as the Subway Ghost, Tarisha Rommick as Louise and Simbi Akande as Clara.

Completing the cast will be Lori Baker, Ethan Bradshaw, Lauren Drew, Matthew Vinetot, Mike Ward and Kelly Hampson.

Previously Posted: Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding will make her stage debut playing Molly in Bill Kenwright’s new touring production of Ghost – The Musical, which runs at New Wimbledon Theatre from September 1 to September 10, 2016.

She will star alongside Andy Moss (Hollyoaks‘ Rhys Ashworth) as Sam.

Walking back to their apartment late one night a tragic encounter sees Sam murdered and his beloved girlfriend Molly alone, in despair and utterly lost. But with the help of a phony storefront psychic Sam, trapped between this world and the next, tries to communicate with Molly in the hope of saving her from grave danger…

Taking its inspiration from the classic movie, this innovative reimagining will feature an expanded book, new music and original staging.

The Double Academy Award-winning film was a huge success, both critically and at the box office, where it was the highest grossing film in the year of its release. It starred the late Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn and Whoopi Goldberg and was directed by Jerry Zucker.

The film’s most iconic and moving scene was famously performed to The Righteous Brother’s Unchained Melody, which also features in the musical version.

Ghost – The Musical will be directed by Bob Tomson, with choreography by Alistair David, design by Mark Bailey, lighting by Nick Richings and sound by Dan Samson.

Following the New Wimbledon dates, the tour will continue to Bristol, Birmingham, Sunderland, Blackpool, Cardiff, Manchester, Oxford, Dublin, Leeds, Edinburgh, and Nottingham.

Forced Entertainment to livestream their sell out Complete Works

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

Theatre news

THE boundary-breaking Sheffield based Theatre Company, Forced Entertainment, are to livestream their Complete Works: Take Top Shakespeare project over nine days following a sold out run at the Barbican earlier this year.

In Complete Works six performers create condensed versions of every Shakespeare play ever written, intimately retelling them using a collection of everyday un-extraordinary objects on the one metre stage of a table-top. The performances feature objects such as pepper pots, knives and forks and cheese graters in place of Shakespeare’s characters.

Complete Works will be presented at and livestreamed from Theaterfestival Basel from September 1 to September 9, 2016, giving those who weren’t able to get a ticket at the Barbican earlier this year the opportunity to see all of the hour-long pieces online.

Forced Entertainment is working in conjunction with the British Council who will livestream the performances on their site, in addition to the festival site and at www.forcedentertainment.com/livestreaming/complete-works-live-stream/.

Later in September, Forced Entertainment will become the first ever UK based recipients of one of theatre’s most prestigious awards, The International Ibsen Award, honouring extraordinary contribution to art and culture. Given every two years by the Norwegian government on Henrik Ibsen’s birthday, the prize is 2.5 million Norwegian Kroner, equivalent to around £200,000.

The first ever group to win the prize, Forced Entertainment join a distinguished list of previous winners including Peter Handke, Heiner Goebbels, Jon Fosse, Ariane Mnouchkine and Peter Brook. The ceremony will take place during the International Ibsen Festival at the National Theatre in Oslo from September 20 – 24 where Forced Entertainment will showcase a selection of their groundbreaking work including The Coming Storm, And On The Thousandth Night and The Notebook.

Ahead of the festival, Forced Entertainment have announced their intentions for the prize money. They said: “Forced Entertainment will invest monies from the International Ibsen Award in new opportunities for collaboration, training, knowledge exchange, mentoring and creative practice for artists in the field of contemporary performance. These additional projects lie outside the group’s regular programme of activity and will focus on creating opportunities for less established artists.

Making a dynamic contribution to the field of contemporary performance in this way, and turning the Ibsen Award into a generative force, the group hope to celebrate and strengthen the sector that has long inspired and sustained them, working to unlock the creative and subversive potential of performance in ways that benefit artists and audiences alike.”

The company has been making work since 1984 and is a key part of the contemporary European and UK theatre landscape, having shaped its development significantly over the last three decades. Their work is widely studied across UK and European university syllabuses as pioneering, trailblazing theatre.

Magnificent Bastard announce final extension dates for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

MAGNIFICENT Bastard have announced their final extension dates for Shit-faced Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Friday, September 2 at 9pm, and Saturday, September 3, Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10 at 7pm.

Previously Posted: Magnificent Bastard have announced extra dates for Shit-faced Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is now playing at Leicester Square Theatre until June 11. After a short break, it will continue at the venue from June 30 to August 27, 2016 (Thursdays to Saturdays only).

Previously Posted: Following sell-out runs at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe festivals, Magnificent Bastard Productions will be bringing their irreverent hit to Leicester Square Theatre for a seven-week run, their longest London lock-in.

Each night – from April 26 to June 11, 2016 – the company will be performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with one member of the cast toasting the bard’s 400th anniversary by playing their role completely, blisteringly drunk.

Producer and performer, Stacey Norris, said: “As we lay out the barmats and party hats for the Bard’s 400th anniversary, we’re delighted to be introducing a new generation of theatre goers to Shakespeare with an ale in one hand and a wine in the other and a vodka in the other, just the way he would have wanted. Our livers would like to remind our audiences to always enjoy Shakespeare responsibly.”

Artistic Director of Leicester Square Theatre, Martin Witts, said: “For the first time at Leicester Square Theatre we’re excited to be welcoming several actors who are actually sober. Please leave your horse at home and drink responsibly.”

The cast includes David Ellis, Lewis Ironside, Louise Lee, John Mitton, Stacey Norris, Beth-Louise Priestley, Saul Marron and Rob Smythson. Five actors perform each night on a rotational basis.

Sh*t-faced Shakespeare in numbers:

1. 6 Years old and still 0 deaths.
2. Over 250 shows performed in the UK and the USA.
3. Times the Dawson’s Creek theme tune has been drunkenly sung: 37.
4. 29 individual nipples displayed on stage (62% of them male).
5. Number of prosthetic limbs used during sword fights: 1.

Magnificent Bastard Productions was formed in 2010.

The production is suitable for ages 16+.

Tickets: £20.50 – £18.50. To book, call the box office on 020 7734 2222 or visit www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm.

Running Time: 70 minutes.

For more information visit www.magnificentbastard.co.uk/.

Also at Leicester Square Theatre: the world premiere of Jeepers Creepers, a play about comedy star Marty Feldman and his ambitious wife, Lauretta (January 18 to February 20, 2016).

Rehearsal images released for the Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy at King's Cross

Artists impression of Donmar King's Cross

REHEARSAL images have been released for the Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy at King’s Cross Theatre. To view them, click here.

Previously Posted: Artistic Director Josie Rourke and Executive Producer Kate Pakenham announced today that the Donmar will launch two ambitious seasons of work in London’s King’s Cross and in New York.

Beyond its Covent Garden home, the Donmar is opening a new, in-the-round, 420-seat temporary theatre at King’s Cross in association with Theatre Tracks, immediately adjacent to King’s Cross station and directly accessible from King’s Boulevard.

The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy – revivals of the sell-out Julius Caesar and Henry IV and a new production of The Tempest, all set in a women’s prison – will be directed by Phyllida Lloyd and star Harriet Walter in an all-female company, and will play a 13-week repertory season from September 23 to December 17, 2016.

On special Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy days, all three plays will be performed back to back.

The Donmar’s Young and Free Initiative

Young and Free builds on the success of the Donmar’s transformative Front Row ticket scheme. All of the front row for The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy will be free to 25s and under through the Young and Free initiative, with tickets being released throughout the run on a weekly basis.

Support from Delta Air Lines, the Official Airline Partner of the Donmar Warehouse, alongside funding from individuals and trusts and foundations, has made possible 20% of Young and Free tickets. The Donmar will challenge the public to make up the final 5% by ‘paying forward’ £20 tickets into the Young and Free initiative.

As part of Young and Free, the Donmar’s Education and Outreach programme will enable 2,300 students from targeted London state schools to see these productions. Alongside these free tickets are creative projects and free workshops, targeted at schools, youth groups, community centres and organisations working with young people at risk of offending, designed to inspire and empower young people with limited experience of Shakespeare performance.

The Donmar New York Season begins with Artistic Director Josie Rourke’s production of Privacy by James Graham, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which has just extended its run at The Public Theater. The Broadway transfer of Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses starring Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber and directed by Josie Rourke follows in October 2016 at The Booth Theater. And The Tempest, starring Harriet Walter and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, transfers to New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse in January 2017.

Artistic Director Josie Rourke said:

“It’s exciting when the Donmar’s productions have a life beyond the Donmar stage. We want to share the work made by artists on the Donmar stage and we want to do that with generosity, with resonance, and with inspiring partners. Over the next eight months, the Donmar’s work will travel from the stage at the Public Theater that launched Hamilton, to The Booth Theater on Broadway, to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn and into a purpose-built temporary theatre, right next to London’s King’s Cross.

“Although proud of this expansion, we’re most enthused about the launch of Young and Free. We’re living in a London where half our young people don’t attend a theatre, a museum or a music event each year. We want to make a quarter of Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy tickets free to those young people. We also hope that Young and Free will inspire seasoned theatre-goers to pay it forward, and we hope that young people, inspired by their generosity will walk through our doors to experience the Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy.

“I remember very clearly the furore created by the idea of an all-female Shakespeare, when Phyllida Lloyd first staged Julius Caesar with Harriet Walter in 2012. Phyllida Lloyd’s work with this diverse, all-female company has been genuinely ground-breaking and in the intervening four years, theatre has got into the fast lane of debate and change. It’s time, with these Young and Free tickets to join together our question about who gets to play these roles with a renewed mission for who gets to experience them.”

Holby City's Rob Ostlere stars in Confessional at Southwark Playhouse

Rob Ostlere

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING a critically-acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015, Tramp Theatre’s production of Tennesee Williams’ Confessional transfers to London – to Southwark Playhouse where it runs from Wednesday, October 5 to Saturday, October 29, 2016.

Tramp’s innovative, semi-immersive production reimagines Williams’ little known play in “Monk’s Bar”, a run-down British seaside bar on the Essex coast, frequented by life’s flotsam and jetsam. The audience are seated in the pub with the locals while the action kicks off around them.

Join the bar’s regulars over the course of one furious and fun evening, as a pair of strangers enters their world – and all hell breaks loose.

The action focuses around Leona Dawson, a caravan park beautician who discovers her layabout boyfriend has been cheating on her with her mentally ill best friend. To add insult to injury, it’s also the anniversary of her younger brother’s death.

With alcohol-fuelled emotions already running high, tensions increase when a pair of gay men come into the bar, one of whom reminds Leona of her dead brother, who was also gay. As Leona gets drunker she alternates between ranting at the regulars, bragging about her self sufficiency and her itinerant life in a caravan, and listening to the two strangers tell stories about the experience of being homosexual – something she knows will irritate her homophobic friends.

According to press material, Confessional is like an episode of EastEnders, written by Tennessee Williams!

Directed by Jack Silver, Confessional, Williams’ first play to feature an openly gay character, receives its London professional premiere at Southwark Playhouse.

Silver says: “You don’t know until the very end, which of your fellow drinkers/audience members has a speaking part. I want the audience to feel unsafe, I want them to have a physical reaction to the play which means something in their instinct compels them to watch. When you sit on the Underground and there’s a sketchy guy on the train, you have to watch him, even out of the corner of your eye. Because something deep within you says that if you don’t watch out, you might not be safe. I’m trying to recreate that instinct, to compel you to watch.”

Lizzie Stanton

The cast includes Lizzie Stanton, reprising her critically-acclaimed role as Leona, Rob Ostlere (best known for playing Arthur Digby for three years in Holby City and Waymar Royce in Game of Thrones), Gavin Brocker (Mapp & Lucia, Beautiful Thing), with Raymond Bethley, Simone Somers-Yeates, and AF McLoughlin also returning and newcomers Jack Archer and Alex Kiffin.

Tennessee Williams was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, and is considered one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century. After years of obscurity, he became suddenly famous with The Glass Menagerie (1944), closely reflecting his own unhappy family background. This heralded a string of successes, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959).

Produced by Remy Blumenfeld, Confessional has set design by Justin Williams.

Tickets: Previews (October 5 and 6): all tickets £12. From October 7: £20, £16 concessions. To book, call the box office on 020 7407 0234 or visit southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 8pm; Tuesday and Saturday matinees at 3.30pm.

The professional European première of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Allegro continues at Southwark Playhouse until September 10, 2016.

The Greater Game - casting announced

Casting news

CASTING has been announced for Michael Head’s The Greater Game, which runs at Southwark Playhouse from September 19 (previews from September 15) to October 15, 2016.

The line up includes Nick Hancock (as manager Billy Holmes), Charlie Clements (Captain Fred ‘Spider’ Parker), Danny Walters (wisecracking Nolan ‘Peggy’ Evans), Greg Baxter (Jimmy Hugall), Charlie Eales (teenage soldier), Peter Hannah (Richard McFadden), Michael Head (Herbert ‘Jumbo’ Reason), Will Howard (William Jonas), Connor Kelly (Charlie Reason), Patsy Lowe (Mrs Mac), Graeme McKnight ( George Scott) and Laura Webb (Mrs Jonas).

The Greater Game tells the fascinating true story of the 41 men who swapped the football fields of London for the battle fields of the Somme in 1916. East London football club Leyton Orient, then known as Clapton Orient, was the first team to sign up its players, staff and supporters to fight in the Great War. 41 men volunteered in all. Three of them never returned.

Based on the book They Took The Lead by Stephen Jenkins, this new play of love, friendship and loss tells both sides of the story from the flag waving patriotism to the conscientious objectors.

Nick Hancock is an actor and TV presenter known for They Think It’s All Over which he hosted for over ten years and Room 101 as well as acting roles in Mr Bean, Me, You and Him and the forthcoming Jo Brand Channel 4 comedy Damned in which he plays her ex-husband. He also appeared in the stage version of An Evening with Gary Lineker.

Charlie Clements is best known for playing Bradley Branning is EastEnders, a role he played for over four years and won numerous awards for. Earlier this year he starred as Henry VIII in Henry VIII And His Six Wives (Channel 5).

Danny Walters graduated from LSMT and is best known for playing Tiger Dyke in Benidorm as well as roles in Call the Midwife and Our World War.

The Greater Game is directed by Tilly Vosburgh and designed by Suzie Inglis, with lighting design by Ben Wallace and sound design by John Leonard.

Read more about The Greater Game.

Also at Southwark Playhouse: the professional European première of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Allegro (until September 10) and a new version of Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin (until September 3, 2016).

Harrogate - Royal Court Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING a sell-out run at HighTide Festival 2015, Al Smith’s seminal play, Harrogate, returns for a limited run at the Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) – from October 20 to October 29, 2016.

I dream about you young. When I’m asleep you’re as young as the girl I met.

Time passes. Roles Change. People become different versions of themselves. From lover, to father, to husband, one man craves the past but knows his desire for it will destroy his family.

A HighTide production, Harrogate is directed by Richard Twyman and designed by Tom Piper, with lighting by Natasha Chivers and sound by George Dennis. Associate Designer is Hannah Wolfe.

Post Show Talk – Al Smith in conversation – Tuesday, October 25. Free with a ticket to that evening’s performance.

The playwright talks with Royal Court Associate Director Lucy Morrison.

To buy tickets visit www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/harrogate/.