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The Diver - The Rag Factory

The Diver

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Helen Foster’s one-woman play, The Diver, transfers to The Rag Factory where it plays from October 2 – 5 and October 9 – 12, 2014.

In what is described as a playful and beautiful adventure story, deep-sea explorer Kate Plank attempts to walk the length of the ocean floor from England to New York.

The Diver is an intimate performance which investigates the everyday fear that keeps us from living the way we really want to.

Written and performed by Helen Foster, The Diver draws on clown, physical theatre, puppetry and music.

Helen Foster is an actor and improviser. She has performed internationally in both capacities and is known for her involvement in 30 and 50 hour Improvised Soap Operas in London, Liverpool, Bristol and Canada with Extempore Theatre, Die Nasty, and Impropriety.

With her training and experience in working interactively and through a range of disciplines, Helen Foster is interested in developing a direct, honest and playful relationship with her audience and in creating engaging, moving theatre with an open door to the ridiculous and sublime world of clown.

Following its run at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Diver has been reworked and is directed by Rocky Rodriguez Jr, Artistic Director of Craft Theatre.

The Rag Factory, 16-18 Heneage Street, London, E1 5LJ

Trafalgar Studios - Dickens double bill for Christmas

Miss Havisham's Expectations

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THIS Christmas, Trafalgar Studios 2 is presenting a double bill of solo Charles Dickens plays from December 12, 2014 (previews from December 9) to January 3, 2015.

Collectively entitled Dickens with a Difference, the plays are Miss Havisham’s Expectations starring Linda Marlowe (The World’s Wife, Berkoff’s Women) and James Swanton’s Sikes & Nancy.

In Miss Havisham’s Expectations Marlowe stars as the iconic jilted bride ‘Norma’ Havisham, forever in her wedding dress alongside the stopped clock and untouched cake. Here though, audiences are invited to share her side of the story and it’s one of passion, vengeance and more than a little magic.

The show, which had a successful run at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, is an original take on one of Dickens’ best loved novels. Drawing on the text of Great Expectations, biographical material from Dickens’ own life and original material by writer-director Di Sherlock, Miss Havisham’s Expectations is described as a roller-coaster ride through what it means to be a woman both then and now.

Sikes & Nancy is a play adapted and performed by James Swanton based on the legendary readings Dickens himself used to give. Swanton, dressed entirely in black, enacts the compelling and terrible story of Dickens’ most famous murder.

His performance sees him transform seamlessly from the revolting Fagin to the unfortunate Nancy; from the righteous Brownlow to the ferocious and terrifying Sikes – storytelling that is described as exciting, dark, physical and brutish.

Charles Dickens adapted Sikes & Nancy from the grislier material in Oliver Twist. These notorious readings shocked audiences into silence; women would scream and faint. Before one performance, Dickens vowed, ‘I shall tear myself to pieces’. In fact, it is now thought that the strain of the readings contributed to Dickens’ early death.

For more information or to book, visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/trafalgar-studios/.

Also at Trafalgar Studios: award-winning playwright Ayub Khan Din’s first play, East is East, starring Jane Horrocks (October 4, 2014 to January 3, 2015).

My Lifelong Love - An Evening With Georgia Stitt and Friends

Georgia Stitt

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING her sell-out concerts at St Paul’s Church in 2007 and The Hippodrome in 2012, American composer and lyricist Georgia Stitt returns to London to make her West End debut performing her new show, My Lifelong Love, at the Garrick Theatre on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

In the show, she will perform some of her best known songs from her albums This Ordinary Thursday, Alphabet City Cycle and, of course, My Lifelong Love, as well as from her shows Big Red Sun, The Danger Year, Mosaic and Samantha Spade: Ace Detective.

She will be joined by West End stars Simon Bailey, Norman Bowman, Cynthia Erivo, Jamie Muscato, Eva Noblezada and Caroline Sheen, as well as a choir from Arts Ed and her own ‘seriously cool’ five-piece band.

Georgia Stitt says she is thrilled to be back in London, the only city that might ever get her to leave her beloved New York. She performed here in 2012 at the Hippodrome (with songwriters Michael Patrick Waller and Scott Evan Davis) and in 2007 at St. Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge. Her songs have been part of Notes in Heels with Paul Spicer and Julie Atherton, and she has taught master classes at several of the finest musical theater schools in the UK.

Stitt wrote the original musicals Big Red Sun (Arlen Award winner with playwright John Jiler); The Danger Year (with Jamie Pachino); Samantha Spade: Ace Detective (for TADA Youth Theater with Lisa Diana Shapiro); Mosaic (for Inner Voices with Cheri Steinkellner); and The Water (with Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko).

She has released three albums of her music: This Ordinary Thursday: The Songs Of Georgia Stitt, (2007), Alphabet City Cycle (2009) and My Lifelong Love (2011). Her most recent orchestral piece, Waiting for Wings, co-written with husband Jason Robert Brown, was commissioned by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and premiered there in 2013 with conductor John Morris Russell.

Stitt was the music supervisor of the upcoming Anna Kendrick/Jeremy Jordan film The Last Five Years (to be released on Valentine’s Day 2015), she conducted Little Shop of Horrors on Broadway, wrote arrangements for Tony Bennett’s 80th birthday party, served as the vocal coach for America’s Got Talent, and played a nun in The Sound Of Music Live! on NBC TV with Carrie Underwood and Audra McDonald.

Simon Bailey most recently won rave reviews as Liam O’Deary in I Can’t Sing! at The London Palladium. His other credits include Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s Theatre and on tour), Marry Me A Little (St James Theatre), Passion (Donmar Warehouse), Parade (Southwark Playhouse), Les Misérables (Queens Theatre) and We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre). He was also a member of Teatro, the world’s first musical theatre supergroup.

Norman Bowman has recently returned from New York, where he appeared in Kenneth Branagh’s epic production of Macbeth. He also appeared in Michael Grandage’s Henry V at the Noel Coward Theatre. His musical theatre credits include Finding Neverland (Leicester Curve), Mack Sennet in Mack & Mabel (Southwark Playhouse), End Of The Rainbow (UK tour) and Parade (Donmar Warehouse).

Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo is currently in rehearsal for Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female production of Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse. She most recently appeared in the sell-out European première of Dessa Rose at Trafalgar Studios, played the lead in I Can’t Sing! at the London Palladium and gave a breathtaking performance as Celie in The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory. She has also played Deloris in the UK tour of Sister Act: The Musical.

Jamie Muscato has recently finished playing Eddie Birdlace in the critically acclaimed Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse. He has also appeared in The Light Princess (National Theatre), Rock Of Ages (Shaftesbury Theatre), Love Story (Chichester Festival Theatre/Duchess Theatre), Les Misérables (international tour) and Spring Awakening (Lyric Hammersmith).

At the age of 18, Eva Noblezada is currently making her professional and West End debut as Kim in Miss Saigon after being spotted when she reached the finals of the National High School Music Theater Awards in the USA.

Caroline Sheen has appeared in the original casts of Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward Theatre) and The Witches Of Eastwick (Theatre Royal Drury Lane), has played both Eponine and Fantine in Les Misérables (Palace and Queens Theatres), Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium) and the title role in Mary Poppins, both here in the UK and on the US tour, where she won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress in a Visiting Production. Most recently, she appeared in Putting It Together at St James Theatre.

My Lifelong Love is produced by Danielle Tarento (Dogfight, Titanic).

Tickets: £15 – £45. To book, call 0844 482 9673 or visit www.nimaxtheatres.com/.

Time: 7.30pm.

The West End transfer of Kander and Ebb’s award-winning and final musical The Scottsboro Boys opens at the Garrick Theatre on October 20, 2014, following preview performances from October 4.

Julius Caesar - Saatchi Gallery and Chelsea Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

PROUD Haddock is presenting its first production, Julius Caesar, at two London venues – at the Saatchi Gallery for one night (Thursday, October 2) and Chelsea Theatre (November 3 to November 15, 2014).

This will be the first time the Saatchi Gallery has played host to a dramatic production.

Julius Caesar follows the tale of a group of conspirators who devise a plan to remove Caesar from power. This exciting new interpretation will retain the original text but place the story against a backdrop of modern day politics.

Focusing on the themes of spin, betrayal, backstabbing and power, rarely has a 16th Century play been more relevant in modern society.

Drawing inspiration from popular television shows such as House of Cards, Homeland and The Thick of It, the work will allow the audience to witness behind the scenes politics and draw strong parallels between today’s political situation and the story of Julius Caesar.

The cast includes Ed Sheridan (Judges’ Award for Acting at the National Student Drama Festival) as Marc Antony; Adam Blampied (part of the award-winning sketch troop the Beta Males) as Brutus; William Findley (WhatsonStage award-winner) as Cassius; Alexander McMorran (Thomas in the UK premiere of Venus in Fur, Tristan Bates Theatre) as Caesar and Tracey Pickup (The Duchess of Venice in Lazarus Theatre Company’s The Merchant of Venice) as Portia.

They are joined by Rebecca Livermore (Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Young Shakespeare Company) as Calpurnia; Mark Lawson (Gareth in Health & Safety, Old Vic Tunnels) as Octavius; James Lorcan (nominated by Richmond Upon Thames Arts Council for Best Actor 2014) as Casca; James Sindall (The Dirty Talk, Edinburgh Festival 2014) as Decius and Vyvyan Almond (Oxford Revue) as Soothsayer.

Proud Haddock aim to build a reputation as a company that truly celebrates the work of seminal playwrights from Great Britain. Planned future work will include the staging of plays from Alan Bennett to Jez Butterworth. The company will aim to share these great stories with different cultures and communities in the UK and across the world.

Tickets (for Chelsea Theatre): £15 – available online at www.proudhaddock.com/.

Vibrant 2014 - Finborough Theatre

Vibrant 2014

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

NOW in its sixth consecutive year, Vibrant 2014 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights runs at the Earls Court venue from November 2 to November 20.

Described as an annual explosion of new writing, this year’s festival, featuring 15 staged readings of new works by 15 UK and international playwrights, discovered, developed or championed by the Finborough Theatre, is part of the 20 Premieres season.

As always, Vibrant 2014 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights offers an eclectic idiosyncratic selection of new plays from both established and first time writers, aged from 20+ to 70+. They include dramatists from Australia, the United States, Canada, as well as from different parts of England including Cornwall, the North East, the East Midlands and Earl’s Court itself.

This festival also includes more female playwrights than ever before, work from South Asian, East Asian, British-Lebanese and Australian Aboriginal playwrights, work from the local community, and new plays from Finborough’s Channel 4 Playwright-in-Residence and all three Playwrights-on-Attachment.

Concentrated solely on full length works for the stage, Vibrant 2014 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights continues to introduce audiences to some of the fascinating diverse vibrant voices nurtured at the venue.

As West London’s original new writing festival, the Vibrant festivals have included 79 new plays, 21 of which have gone on to be produced in full productions at the Finborough Theatre, including Mirror Teeth by Nick Gill, The Man by James Graham, And I And Silence by Naomi Wallace, Black Jesus by Anders Lustgarten, Carthage by Chris Thompson and Nona Shepphard and Craig Adams’ musical version of Thérèse Raquin.

Vibrant 2014 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights is again curated by Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson, winner of The Writers’ Guild Award for the Encouragement of New Writing, and twice winner of the OffWestEnd Award for Best Artistic Director.

Playwrights for 2014

Satinder Chohan, Henry Darke, Steven Hevey, Ross Howard, Kevin Kautzman, Nakkiah Lui, Louise Monaghan, Carmen Nasr, Amy Ng, Sarah Page, Sharon Pollock, Paul Roberts, Chris Thompson, Jane Wainwright, Ben Weatherill and The Earl’s Court Local Community.

Directors for 2014

Jennifer Bakst, Daniel Burgess, Suba Das, Simon Dormandy, Robert Hastie, Zoe Lafferty, Alex Marker, Anna Marsland, Laura McCluskey, Caitlin McLeod, David Mercatali, Max Pappenheim, Vik Sivalingam, Alex Thorpe and Chris White.

For Vibrant 2014‘s full programme visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2014/vibrant.

Also at Finborough Theatre: Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel (September 30 to October 25) and the first professional UK revival in over 50 years of Julian Slade’s musical Free As Air (October 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21, 2014).

East is East tours to Birmingham, Richmond and Manchester

Theatre news

FOLLOWING its run at Trafalgar Studios as part of Jamie Lloyd’s second Trafalgar Transformed season, Ayub Khan Din’s critically acclaimed play, East is East, will tour to New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham (January 14-17), Richmond Theatre (January 19-24) and the Manchester Opera House (January 26-31, 2015).

East is East stars multi award-winning stage and screen star Jane Horrocks (Annie Get Your Gun, Young Vic, Sunshine on Leith, The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, Absolutely Fabulous) as Ella and award-winning playwright, Ayub Khan Din, as her husband George.

Ayub Khan Din said: “It’s great that we are touring East is East – I believe it’s really important that London shows can be seen all over the country. I’m particularly proud to be playing the Opera House in Manchester, a theatre I used to pass every day on the bus on my way to a job I hated, little thinking that one day my own play would be gracing its stage!”

Jane Horrocks said: “I’m so thrilled to be taking Ayub’s brilliant play, East is East, out on the road! I haven’t been on tour for a long time, and it’s always fun taking a show out of the West End, especially one as funny as this, that remains as relevant today as when it was written in the nineties. Birmingham, Richmond and Manchester are you ready for the arrival of The Khans!”

And Jamie Lloyd, Artistic Director of Trafalgar Transformed, said: “Following the success of the tour of The Pride, I am excited that another production from the season, East Is East, can reach many more new audiences within the UK. It is a timely and hilarious play, and it is great that the original cast will be playing in these three venues early in 2015.”

East is East is Ayub Khan Din’s semi-autobiographical account of British Asian life in the 1970s and the clash of cultures between a multi-cultural family growing up in Salford.

Pakistani chip-shop owner George Khan – “Genghis” to his kids – is determined to give his children a strict Muslim upbringing against the unforgiving backdrop of 1970s Salford. Household tension reaches breaking point as their long-suffering English mother, Ella, gets caught in the cross fire – her loyalties divided between her marriage and the free will of her children.

Read more about East is East.

Billy Elliot - encore screenings announced

Billy Elliot poster

Theatre news

THIS weekend, a record breaking twenty-five former and current Billy Elliots came together on stage in a specially choreographed mash-up finale of Billy Elliot the Musical. This unique performance was broadcast live to eight countries from the show’s West End home at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

All three original Billy Elliots – James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower – took part in a spectacular finale as the broadcast, the widest ever cinema release of a live event, hit number one at the UK box office.

Two special screenings of Billy Elliot the Musical Live also took place at the historic Easington Social Welfare Centre, formerly the Easington Colliery Miners’ Institute, one of the settings for Billy’s inspiring story.

Fourteen years ago, the BAFTA award-winning film, Billy Elliot, was released in UK cinemas. The story of a young boy’s struggle against the odds to make his dream come true was subsequently brought to life on stage in Stephen Daldry’s internationally award-winning production which continues to thrill audiences in the West End eight shows a week.

NB: In addition to the live broadcast, Billy Elliot the Musical will be screened to a further nine countries across four continents and, due to huge public demand, encore screenings will take place in 350 cinemas throughout the UK on October 2, 3, 4 and 5 (see local cinema listings for details). Also, Billy Elliot the Musical Live will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on November 24, 2014.

Billy Elliot is currently booking at the Victoria Palace Theatre until December 19, 2015.

Read more about the live broadcast.

Grimm Tales - The Bargehouse

Grimm Tales

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THIS autumn, Philip Pullman’s compelling Grimm Tales returns in a brand-new immersive theatre experience that will plunge adults and children alike into the subversive world of the Brothers Grimm.

From November 21, 2014 to February 15, 2015, this exciting production will take over the sprawling Bargehouse on London’s South Bank, bringing another selection of delightfully twisted tales to life.

…Nibble, nibble, little mouse,
Who is nibbling at my house?
Don’t be frightened, my little dears! Just come inside, my darlings…

Adapted from world-renowned author Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Director Philip Wilson (the former Artistic Director of the Salisbury Playhouse), there will be unnervingly intimate encounters with unforgettable characters from the tales, before audiences are left to fend for themselves in the folkloric surroundings where music seeps from the sinuous corridors and every corner offers an opportunity of dark discovery.

From the infamous to the unfamiliar, the tales coming alive this November will be The Frog King or Iron Heinrich, Hansel and Gretel, Thousandfurs, Faithful Johannes, The Goose Girl at the Spring and The Three Little Men in the Woods.

For twelve weeks the lofty Bargehouse – a building which has long cast its shadow across the Oxo Tower Wharf – will be totally transformed, its derelict labyrinthine chambers becoming an inspired world of overgrown forests, slaughterhouse kitchens, crumbling industrial castles and dilapidated attic ballrooms.

Guided by 16 storytellers audiences will be forced to shift between voyeur and adventurer, never fully able to orientate themselves inside the structure’s towering layers.

Pullman said of the adaptation: “When I saw this team’s previous production at Shoreditch Town Hall, I was thrilled with the vividness and fidelity with which they’d carried the tales from the page to the performance space. Imagination, wit, a mastery of all the theatrical possibilities of lighting and costume and make-up and the simple magic of transformation all combined in an experience that was a joy to encounter. I’m sure the venerable Brother’s Grimm themselves, if they could see it, would be as delighted as I was.”

The production team behind the Grimm Tales run at Shoreditch Town Hall in Spring 2014 return in full for this brand-new celebration of live story-telling.

The Old Vic Tunnel’s Valerie Coward, with 20 years of experience producing immersive theatre shows, will produce, along with Executive Producer Cat Botibol, Creative Development Director for agency pd3, an award-winning creative company lauded for its work in culture marketing and bespoke branded experiences.

Set and costume design is by Tom Rogers (Moominland Winter and Happy Days: A New Musical, National Tours), lighting is by Howard Hudson (La Cage Aux Folles, Aarhus, Denmark, Cornelius, 59E59, New York, In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse) and sound and music are by Richard Hammarton (The Crucible, Old Vic, Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Young Vic, Fault Lines, Hampstead Theatre).

Grimm Tales is suitable for adults and brave children aged 8 and over. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets: Adults: £45; Children under 16: £20; Family Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children): £125; Students (NUS Card holders) and Groups (10+): £25. Additional booking charges may apply.

The Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH

The Glasshouse - Tristan Bates Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IN THE 100th anniversary year of the outbreak of World War I, acclaimed emerging company Grindstone is presenting the world premiere of Max Saunders-Singer’s emotional new drama The Glasshouse at the Tristan Bates Theatre.

Based on extensive research into true stories of soldiers on the front lines, this powerful new work exploring a rarely seen side of trench warfare runs from October 28 to November 22, 2014.

Confined in a cramped, makeshift prison on the back line of the Somme, two men stand charged with cowardice and desertion. Trapped inside the damp, cold and oppressive walls of this ‘Glasshouse’, a beautiful friendship crystallizes between them. But how long can friendship last? And how much can a man withstand before he breaks?

Following the intertwined stories of the misfits, idealists and tragic victims who pass through this hastily constructed trench prison cell, The Glasshouse is described as a moving, blood-pumping and powerfully original new play.

Through these stories, it also shines a stark new light on the effects of ‘Shell Shock’ and failures in the treatment of so called ‘Cowards’ and ‘Conchies’ who were unable or refused to fight.

Directed by Sebastien Blanc, The Glasshouse will be vividly staged in a claustrophobic, immersive style in the intimate Tristan Bates Theatre. Blanc’s previous credits include his acclaimed revival of Howard Korder’s Boy’s Life, which transferred to the Kings Head Theatre in 2013 following a hit run at the Etcetera Theatre, and MOJO at The White Bear which garnered over six 5 star reviews and an Off West End Award nomination.

Playwright Max Saunders-Singer’s last play, 500 Miles, was a triumph at the Edinburgh Festival and received three NSDF writing commendations.

Grindstone’s previous work includes the world premiere of new musical RIP by Sonnie Beckett and Joe Morrow.

Tickets: £16, £14 concessions. Previews (October 28 – 31) £12. To book, call the box office on 020 7240 6283 or visit www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Sunday at 3pm.

Nicole Scherzinger to make West End debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats

Nicole Scherzinger

Preview by Jack Foley

NICOLE Scherzinger is to make her West End stage debut as Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical Cats.

The show itself will be returning to the West End for a strictly limited run at the London Palladium from December 6, 2014.

Based on T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the original creative team – director Trevor Nunn, associate director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, designer John Napier and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber – are reunited to bring Cats back to the West End for Christmas.

Final casting will be announced shortly.

On joining the West End production, former Pussycat Doll turned X-Factor judge Scherzinger said: “I am really thrilled to be making my West End debut in such an iconic show and I couldn’t be more excited. To have the opportunity to work with Andrew, Trevor and Gillian is a dream come true.

“I grew up listening to Andrew’s extraordinary music and was lucky enough, a couple of years ago, to record Cats’ beautiful song Memory. Andrew’s score is breathtaking and I am truly honoured to have been asked to take part in what I know will be a very special time in my career. I can’t wait to begin rehearsals.”

The West End cast for Cats includes Cameron Ball (Macavity/Admetus), Kathryn Barnes (Tantomile), Cassie Clare (Cassandra), Ross Finnie (Skimbleshanks), Charlene Ford (Bombalurina), Adam Lake (Alonzo), Paul F Monaghan (Bustopher Jones/Asparagus/Growl Tiger), Joel Morris (Carbucketty), Natasha Mould (Jemima), Benjamin Mundy (Coricopat), Joseph Poulton (Quaxo/Mistoffelees), Nicholas Pound (Old Deuteronomy), Sophie Ragavelas (alternate Grizabella), Clare Rickard (Jellylorum/ Griddlebone), Adam Salter (Bill Bailey), Laurie Scarth (Jennyanydots), Nicole Scherzinger (Grizabella ), Hannah Kenna Thomas (Victoria/White Cat), Callum Train (Munkustrap), Zizi Strallen (Demeter) and Dawn Williams (Rumpleteazer) who are joined by swings Ryan Gover, Barry Haywood, Alice Jane, Grace McKee, Dane Quixall and Libby Watts.

Tickets for Cats are from £20 with top price seats at £59.50 and children’s tickets at half price for Monday to Thursday performances.

During the run at the London Palladium, the Val Parnell Bar will be open for children to enjoy the full Cats Experience. This will include the opportunity to be transformed by professional make-up artists into one of the show’s infamous cats.

To find out more, or to book tickets, visit the website or call the box office on 0844 874 0667.

Cats will run at the London Palladium from December 6, 2014 until February 28, 2015.

Please note: Scherzinger will perform the role of Grizabella from December 6, 2014 until February 7, 2015. In addition, she will be releasing her latest album on Sony Music in the autumn.