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Courting Drama - Southwark Playhouse

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THEATRE Renegade has announced the fifth installment of its Courting Drama series in its new venue, Southwark Playhouse – on September 14, 2014.

Courting Drama is a chance to see new material from eight fresh and exciting writers and directors, with a new selection of creatives taking part every four months.

The process starts with a group of writers and directors speed dating to find a new collaborative partner that will help them bring a short piece of new writing to life. Those new partnerships and the pieces they create and mould together over a three-week period are then performed live for audiences.

For their next installment, Theatre Renegade will be working with a whole new cohort in an exciting new space at Southwark Playhouse after four successful installments at the Bush Theatre.

Selected works from past Courting Drama productions can be found in Volume 1 of Courting Drama, the first in an anthology published by Playdead Press in October 2013 and available at the National Theatre Bookshop, Foyles, Samuel French and Amazon.

Previous writers and directors involved in Courting Drama have worked with or are working with companies such as Hampstead Theatre, Bush Theatre, The Lowry, Royal Court Theatre, Young Vic, Southwark Playhouse and Punchdrunk.

Tickets: £10 – available from the box office on 020 7407 0234.

Time: 7pm.

Running Time: 120 minutes (including intermission).

Also at Southwark Playhouse: the European premiere of the musical Dogfight (until September 13, 2014) and the UK premiere of Tony Award-nominated Broadway comedy drama Next Fall (September 24 to October 25, 2014

Casting announced for the Almeida's Our Town

Almeida Theatre

Casting news

CASTING has been announced for the UK premiere of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which runs at the Almeida Theatre from Friday, October 10 to Saturday, November 29, 2014.

The line up includes David Cromer, who also directs, as Stage Manager, Rashan Stone, Matthew Jacobs-Morgan, Daniel Kendrick, Anna Francolini (Mrs Gibbs), Kate Dickie, David Walmsley, Jessica Lester, Arthur Byrne, Laura Elsworthy, Richard Lumsden, Christopher Staines, Annette McLaughlin, Sidney Cole, Michael Ajao, Simon Lennon and Paul Bigley.

Described as a deceptively simple story, Our Town exposes the stark truth of human existence as two people fall in love, marry, and live out their lives as a small American town becomes an allegory for everyday life.

David Cromer is an award-winning actor and director. His critically acclaimed production of Our Town ran for more than a year at Barrow Street Theatre in New York City, garnering not only a 2009 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Revival but also a 2009 Obie Award for Best Director.

As an actor, his theatre credits includes Our Town (New York/Chicago/LA/Boston) and A Raisin in the Sun (Broadway).

As well as Victor/Victoria in which she played Victoria Grant/Count Victor Grazinski (Southwark Playhouse), Anna Francolini has also appeared on stage cross-dressing in a musical in The Ballad of Little Jo, starring in the title role as Jo Monaghan, a young woman who lived as a man in the silver mines of Idaho in the 1890s.

She has also appeared in two acclaimed Stephen Sondheim productions at the Donmar Warehouse – Sam Mendes’ production of Company in 1995 (as Marta) and Michael Grandage’s production of Merrily We Roll Along in 2000 (as Gussie).

Her other stage roles include the Baker’s Wife in the Royal Opera House production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Jean Brodie in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton (winner of the 2009 TMA Award for Best Performance in a Play), and Maria Callas in Martin Sherman’s Onassis in the West End.

For more information, call the box office on 020 7359 4404 or visit

Shakespeare in Love continues into 2015

Casting news

LEE Hall’s stage adaptation of Shakespeare in Love has extended its booking period at the Noel Coward Theatre – until January 10, 2015. Tickets for the new dates will be available to the public from September 1, 2014.

Previously Posted: Anna Carteret (as Queen Elizabeth) and Paul Chahidi (Henslow) will join previously announced Tom Bateman and Lucy Briggs-Owen in the cast of Lee Hall’s stage adaptation of Shakespeare in Love, which opens at the Noel Coward Theatre on July 23, 2014 (previews from July 2).

Anna Carteret has worked extensively with Peter Hall and has been a regular player with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her more recent theatre work includes Uncle Vanya (Vaudeville Theatre), Tom and Viv (Almeida Theatre), Nathan The Wise (Hampstead Theatre), Absolutely! (perhaps) (Wyndham’s Theatre) and Salt, Root and Roe (Donmar Trafalgar).

Her television credits include Juliet Bravo, The Palliser, Sherlock Holmes and Peak Practice.

Paul Chahidi’s theatre work includes Twelfth Night and Richard III (Shakespeare’s Globe, West End and Broadway) and Privacy (Donmar Warehouse). On screen, he has appeared in Him & Her, Casualty, The Hour, Ladies of Letters and The Day of the Triffids.

Also joining the cast of Shakespeare in Love are Ian Bartholomew (as Tilney), Tony Bell (Ralph), David Ganley (Burbage), Richard Howard (Sir Robert De Lesseps), Harry Jardine (Sam), Abigail McKern (Nurse), David Oakes (Marlowe), Patrick Osborne (Mr Wabash), Alistair Petrie (Wessex), Doug Rao (Ned Alleyn), Ferdy Roberts (Fennyman) and Colin Ryan (John Webster).

They are joined by Daisy Boulton, Ryan Donaldson, Janet Fullerlove, Sandy Murray, Timothy O’Hara, Thomas Padden, Elliott Rennie, Charlie Tighe and Tim Van Eyken who will also be musical director.

Plagued by debt, tormented by writer’s block and in desperate need of a new hit, promising new playwright Will Shakespeare finds his muse in the form of passionate young noblewoman, Viola De Lesseps.

Their forbidden love soon draws everyone, including Queen Elizabeth herself, into the drama and inspires Will to write the greatest love story of all time, Romeo and Juliet.

Read more about Shakespeare in Love.

Theatre company map stories of happiness in South East London

Theatre news

INTERACTIVE theatre company Invisible Flock are mapping stories of happiness across the country and inviting South East London to share stories for three weeks in the heart of Deptford at Deptford Lounge (August 18 to September 5, 2014).

The stories will be added to a national archive of happiness, and in collaboration with band Hope and Social, will inspire the creation of Bring the Happy live performances at the Albany (September 11 to September 13 at 7.30pm).

Based around a very simple question – What is your happiest memory? – Invisible Flock in alliance with the band Hope and Social create a three-dimensional map of people’s most blissful moments followed by a live set from the band, containing brand new material inspired by each location’s contributions.

Bring the Happy asks people to place a moment of happiness onto a map of their town or city. Invisible Flock have been asking passers-by in towns throughout the UK to describe their key moments of happiness, where it happened and how happy it made them. Each individual memory is then marked onto a large scale map evolving into a 3-D landscape over a three week period.

Running alongside the mapping and performances, Deptford Lounge has curated evenings of free music and spoken word and an exhibition designed to create new happy Deptford moments. Local photographer Anita Strasser exhibits Deptford High Street, a collection of images and stories from Deptford High Street, and music on Friday evenings comes from local musicians including Young Causeway, Cassie Graves and Glenn Munson.

Following the three weeks of mapping, the memories will be used to inspire Hope and Social and Invisible Flock’s live performances at the Albany during a three-night residency. The result is an extravagant portrait of happiness where the audience is invited to toast, dance, laugh and cry during an emotional roller coaster of an evening.

Speaking about the project, Invisible Flock’s Richard Warburton said:

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to spend time talking to people in Deptford about their happiness. Without exception, each time we have the privilege to talk about happiness with hundreds of people, the relationship they have with place and their personal geography, our map of the world is immeasurably illuminated and enriched. It is genuinely exciting awaiting the transformation of our maps from an unpopulated landscape into a cityscape of meaningful moments and memories.”

And Gavin Barlow, CEO and Artistic Director, The Albany, said:

“We’re thrilled to have this exhilarating and uplifting performance coming to Deptford. We are excited to have a project that connects two of our sites, the Deptford Lounge and the Albany, and we’re looking forward to our local community not only being able to watch the performances but also help to create them.”

Bring the Happy is suitable for ages 12+.

Tickets (for Bring the Happy at the Albany): £12, £10 concessions, £5 mapping participants (subject to availability). To book, call the box office on 020 8692 4446 or visit

For more information visit

Hampstead's Seminar extends run

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

HAMPSTEAD Theatre’s forthcoming production of Theresa Rebeck’s biting comedy, Seminar, has extended its run by two weeks – until November 1, 2014.

And joining Roger Allam in the cast are Bryan Dick, Rebecca Grant, Oliver Hembrough and Charity Wakefield, who recently appeared at Hampstead in The Blackest Black.

Previously Posted: Terry Johnson will direct Roger Allam in Theresa Rebeck’s biting comedy, Seminar, at Hampstead Theatre – from September 25 to October 18, 2014.

Four aspiring young writers have paid big bucks to seek wisdom at the feet of the fearsome Leonard (Allam) – once a celebrated novelist, now a cantankerous editor, teacher and grandstanding chronicler of third-world war zones…

Under Leonard’s recklessly brilliant but brutally unorthodox tuition, competition for his approval is intense and the students clash. Alliances are made and broken, tactical schemes are hatched. Just how far are they willing to go to make it to the top?

Seminar is described as a sparkling cocktail of ambition, power and lust – one with an unexpected kick. Creator of the hit television series Smash, Theresa Rebeck’s previous plays include Dead Accounts and Mauritius.

Terry Johnson returns to Hampstead Theatre following his critically acclaimed Hysteria last year starring Antony Sher. His other recent hits at Hampstead also include Race by David Mamet and Old Money starring Maureen Lipman.

Olivier Award winner Roger Allam’s recent theatre credits include Henry IV Parts I & II and The Tempest (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Uncle Vanya (Chichester Festival Theatre). He has also appeared in the films The Iron Lady, Tamara Drewe and The Queen.

Seminar will be designed by Lez Brotherston, with lighting by Howard Harrison. Full casting will be announced shortly.

iAm - Kensal House Community Rooms, Ladbroke Grove

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

S.P.I.D. and The Bush Theatre are presenting iAm, a fast paced, interactive show about our attachment to technology, at Kensal House Community Rooms, Ladbroke Grove – from September 30 to October 25, 2014.

Created by Mel Cook and Helena Thompson, iAm explores our attachment to technology by giving audiences the chance to experiment and compete in a series of group activities. Mixing immersive theatre and interactive games in a near future scenario, the piece addresses issues like morality and community in a digital age.

The audience are invited to an intimate focus group. Only a select few have been allowed in to test a cutting edge new product – the iAm. Could it be the next big thing? But as the eager guinea pigs sign their non-disclosure agreements, someone throws a spanner in the works. The company’s latest recruit has ethical concerns: aren’t iAms entitled to certain rights? Technology is about to take on a life of its own.

Co-creator Helena Thompson said: “Most of us have accepted technology as a practical way of improving daily life. Yet we’ve all caught ourselves shouting at Siri or berating Sat Nav as if they were humans. The gadgets we rely on play a more emotional role than we like to admit.”

S.P.I.D. (Specially Produced Innovatively Directed) uses immersive arts events to bring people together. They create participatory drama shows which happen all around. The charity has won Fringe Report’s Best Outreach Award, the Apollo Award for youth work and a Young People Now award. S.P.I.D have also collaborated with the National Theatre, the Gate and Riverside Studios.

Co-creator Mel Cook is an experiential theatre maker. She has created festival work for Latitude, Glastonbury, LIFT, and Hide & Seek, and developed site-sympathetic work for Shunt Vaults, BAC, V&A, and The Lowry. She is associate director for S.P.I.D. and Coney. She has been a finalist for the James Menzies Kitchen, ITV, C4, Arches, Bankside, and Leverhulme directing awards.

Co-creator Helena Thompson founded S.P.I.D. in 2005. Her previous shows Bluebeard’s Wives (ICA, 2003) and Open House (selected as Festival Highlight of the Year by The List and Time Out, 2005) are published by Plays International. She was on the National Theatre’s attachment scheme and has been commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and The Bush Theatre.

iAm is suitable for ages 7+.

Tickets: £9, £6 concessions – available on 020 8743 5050 or online at

Times: Tuesday and Wednesday at 1.30pm; Thursday to Saturday at 7.30pm.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

Arts Council England announces support for Black Live

Theatre news

ARTS Council England has announced support for Black Live from its Strategic Touring funds.

Black Live is a pioneering national consortium of eight regional theatres led by Tara Arts, committed to effecting change for BAME touring theatre through a sustainable three-year programme of national touring, structural support and audience development.

Black Live is a partnership of Tara Arts, Derby Theatre, Queen Hall (Hexham), the Lighthouse (Poole), Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds, Theatre Royal Margate, Stratford Circus (London) and Key Theatre (Peterborough).

Black Live expects to work with emerging and established BAME companies across England to commission and tour high quality productions to the consortia theatres over the coming three years.

Black Live will shape a dynamic national programme of mid- and small-scale tours. Its structured audience development and community engagement programmes will include live digital streaming and cinema relay.

The ACE said:

“Tara Theatre is an Asian-led London based theatre company that champions creative diversity through cross-cultural theatre. The title of the successful project is Black Live, a three year programme working with eight regional theatres in England…The aim will be to increase and sustain audiences beyond the life of the project, connecting artists of diverse backgrounds with new audiences throughout England.”

Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles - anniversary performance

Theatre news

A VERY special performance of Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles will take place on Wednesday, August 27, the anniversary of Brian Epstein’s death.

The play, which is about legendary music manager Brian Epstein, is currently midway through a six week run at Leicester Square Theatre and ends on Saturday, September 6, 2014.

The two-hander, starring Andrew Lancel and Will Finlason, imagines the brilliant but troubled man’s drug-fuelled final days whilst looking back upon his illustrious adult life and meteoric career – from his drama school days to managing the world’s biggest pop group.

Forty seven years on the play will be performed the very night that Brian Epstein was found dead in his London apartment on August 27, 1967 of a concluded accidental overdose at the age of 32. Epstein would have celebrated his 80th birthday this coming September 19.

A special post show Q & A will take place on the evening of August 27 hosted by TV presenter and showbiz reporter Neil Sean. On the panel will be actors Andrew Lancel and Will Finlason, Co-producer and Director Jen Heyes and Joe Flannery, lifelong friend and business partner of Brian Epstein. The Q and A will discuss his life and contribution to popular music.

A special show and Q & A ticket of £20 per person is available on this evening when quoting EPSTEIN20.

To book tickets for Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles call 08448 733433 or visit Tickets can also be obtained by visiting the box office in person.

Read more about Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles.

A commemorative Heritage Foundation Blue Plaque was unveiled on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at the London offices of Epstein’s company NEMS.

Theatre503 - Autumn 2014

Cinderella and the Beanstalk

Season preview

THEATRE 503 has announced its programme for Autumn 2014 and it includes:

1. The London transfer of Bruntwood Prize Winner Anna Jordan’s acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe hit Freak, which runs from September 2 to September 27. Tickets: £15, £12 concessions.

Georgie is 30 with dirty secrets. She drinks in her bedroom and hides from the sun. Leah is 15 with teenage dreams. She practices her cum face and Veets. A lot. All-meat, all-sex, all vulnerable, all-powerful. There’s a first time for everything… Isn’t there?

Freak is presented by Theatre503 and Polly Ingham Productions.

2. Three short plays by celebrated writer Samantha Ellis – Starlore for Beginners and Other Plays, running from September 3 to September 20. Tickets: £12, £10 concessions.

Can a former lover upend your new relationship from beyond the grave? What do you do if you’re accused of witchcraft? And how do you cope when your own brain turns against you? Ellis explores these and other questions in what are described as quirky, fascinating and personal stories.

Acclaimed playwright Samantha Ellis’ other works include Cling To Me Like Ivy (Birmingham Rep) and the biblio-autobiography How To Be A Heroine (Chatto & Windus).

Jim Russell directs.

3. The world premiere of Blind Eye by Susannah Finzi, which runs from September 30 to October 25. Tickets: £15, £12 concessions.

It’s 1982 and three people are on the brink – a lawyer with a high profile case, an old man with a mission and a peace negotiator with a secret. Their lives are about to change. None as they intend.

Blind Eye is described as a compelling story of international law and personal morality, and how past bad acts infect present day relationships. Finzi’s ambitious debut play, it is directed by Benet Catty.

4. A festival of plays, talks and performances exploring the Latin homeland of Brazil – Red Like Embers: Contemporary Voices From Brazil – from October 28 to November 1. Tickets: £12, £10 concessions.

Brazil: the home of the carnival and a hot-bed of political protest, a land of natural beauty with a history of brutality. Theatre503 and CAL Arts present this festival of plays, talks and performance from the sensual heartland of Latin America. Erupting from a diverse cultural heritage, these vibrant and often violent stories, a blend of religion, sexuality and politics, will showcase the work of many playwrights, both new and established, that have never been seen outside their homeland.

5. Theatre503 Futures participant Stuart Slade’s first play Cans, staged with a full production – from November 4 to November 29. Tickets: £15, £12 concessions.

Jen’s Dad is dead. To make matters worse, Uncle Len has made it his mission to help her get over it. Hiding from a very hostile world in a very shitty garage, Len and Jen down cider, drown mice, talk crap, mend cats, share painful secrets, tell appalling jokes, and try to work out whether either of them has any kind of future whatsoever.

Dan Pick directs.

6. A Christmas family pantomime with a twist, Sleeping Trees’ Cinderella and the Beanstalk directed by Tom Attenborough, which runs from December 2 to January 10, 2015. Tickets: £15, £12 concessions.

Cinderella and the Beanstalk, a festive treat for those who love a Christmas panto and for those who don’t, follows Cinderella on a perilous adventure as the scheming Rumple Stiltskin blackmails the would-be princess into retrieving the coveted golden eggs from the top of the beanstalk.

Three performers recreate every character you’d expect to find in a Pantomime, as well as some you might not… singing, dancing and fighting their way through ninety minutes of ‘panto pandemonium’.

For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on 020 7978 7040 or visit

Theatre503’s West End Season at Trafalgar Studios continues with the transfer of Chris Urch’s 2013 hit Land Of Our Fathers.

Flowers of the Forest - Sophie Ward leads cast

Flowers of The Forest

Casting news

FILM, television and stage actress Sophie Ward will lead the cast for the eightieth anniversary production of John van Druten’s Flowers of the Forest, which runs at Jermyn Street Theatre from September 25 (previews from September 23) to October 18, 2014.

1934 – A nation still suffering from the effects of the last war is looking for ways to avoid another.

Bedford Square, London. In their beautiful and tasteful home, Naomi and Lewis Jacklin live a contented, if unromantic, life of luxury. But when her disapproving sister Mercia arrives unexpectedly one evening with some of Naomi’s old belongings, memories of the past, long since forgotten, flicker to life.

Flashback to a vicarage in Sussex in October 1914, and a final dinner before the men leave for conflict…

Flowers of the Forest is a timely reminder of the brutal effects of war and the fragility of peace.

Directed by Anthony Biggs, the play is a time-shift work, switching from the beginnings of the first major conflict of the Twentieth Century to the period after – a time of reflection, with wounds still raw and the commitment to “never again” still strong.

Flowers of the Forest explores themes of memory, loss and enduring love within a context of a world learning from past mistakes and searching for peaceful solutions as storm clouds gather once again on the horizon.

John Van Drutten was one of the most popular playwrights of the inter-war and early post-war periods and was best known for his works Bell, Book and Candle, which was later made into a film starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, and his adaptation of Goodbye To Berlin by Christopher Isherwood – I am a Camera. His other work includes Young Woodley and London Wall> as well as the screenplay for the film Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton and Angela Lansbury.

Although Sophie Ward is perhaps best known for the film Young Sherlock Holmes directed by Barry Levison, she has also appeared on screen in Out of Bounds, Book of Blood, Return To Oz, Little Dorrit and The Haunting of Julia (film); Holby City (as Sophie Byrne) and the acclaimed mini-series A Dark Adapted Eye with Helena Bonham Carter (TV).

Her stage work includes seasons at Glasgow Citizens Theatre in which she notably starred as Ophelia in Hamlet, Amanda in Private Lives and Queen Elizabeth in Don Carlos.

Anthony Biggs became Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre in January 2013. His previous productions at the venue include the recent South African Season, The Potsdam Quartet, the UK premiere of Ibsen’s St John’s Night, Charles Morgan’s The River Line, Ibsen’s Little Eyolf and the recent revival of Frederick Lonsdale’s On Approval.

Completing the cast of Flowers of the Forest are Patrick Drury, Victoria Rigby, Mark Straker, Gareth McLeod, Debra Penny, Max Wilson, Alwyne Taylor, Gabriel Vick and Daniel Fine.

Presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd, Flowers of the Forest is designed by Victoria Johnstone, with lighting by Charlie Lucas and sound by Gareth McLeod.

Tickets: £22, £18 concessions. Earlybird offer: all tickets £17 if booked before September 8. To book, call the box office on 0207 287 2875 or visit

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3.30pm.

Flowers of the Forest is part of Jermyn Street Theatre’s Autumn 2014 season.