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Shuler Hensley stars in The Whale at Theatre Royal Bath

The Ustinov Studio. Photo credit: Robert Hollingworth.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AWARD-winning Broadway actor Shuler Hensley will star in the UK premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, which runs at the Theatre Royal Bath (Ustinov Studio) from May 3 (previews from April 26) to June 2, 2018.

Directed by the Ustinov Studio’s Artistic Director Laurence Boswell, the play is the huge-hearted and fiercely funny story of a father’s final chance at salvation, and of finding hope and beauty in the most unexpected places.

Charlie, a reclusive online writing instructor, lives marooned on a couch. Weighing in at six hundred pounds, he is slowly eating himself to death. But redemption may be within reach as he tries to reconnect with his estranged, sharp-tongued daughter as a conveyor belt of visitors – welcome and otherwise – move through his living room. Can any of them help him to see a future?

Shuler Hensley won both the Olivier Award and Tony Award for his role as Jud Fry in Oklahoma, starring alongside Hugh Jackman. His Broadway theatre credits include No Man’s Land/Waiting for Godot (Cort Theatre), Young Frankenstein (Hilton Theatre), Tarzan (Richard Rodgers Theatre) and Les Miserables (Imperial Theatre). Most recently, Shuler starred in the original West End production of Young Frankenstein (Garrick Theatre).

Laurence Boswell is an Olivier Award winner, Artistic Director of the Ustinov Studio and an Associate Artist of the RSC. His recent productions include The Mentor, A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Theatre Royal’s Main House, and Trouble in Mind, The Mother, Intimate Apparel and The Spanish Golden Age Season in the Ustinov Studio.

Samuel D. Hunter’s playwriting credits include A Bright New Boise (Obie Award, Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), The Few, A Great Wilderness, Rest, Pocatello, Lewiston, Clarkston, and most recently, The Healing and The Harvest.

Image: The Ustinov Studio. Photo credit: Robert Hollingworth.

NB: No performances from Monday, May 21 to Saturday, May 26.

Tickets: £22.50, £17.50 discounts (Preview performances and Mondays, all seats £15). To book, call the box office on 01225 448844 or visit

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.

Lyric Hammersmith announces refurbishment of Main House auditorium and Studio

Lyric Hammersmith

Theatre news

THE Lyric Hammersmith has announced plans to refurbish the theatre’s 550 seat Victorian auditorium, which has not been fully refurbished since 1979, and to modernise its Studio theatre.

The theatre’s Main House auditorium will temporarily close after Fatherland on June 23, 2018 and reopen on October 5, 2018 with the Lyric and HOME co-production, o t h e l l o m a c b e t h.

The Lyric reopened in April 2015 following a highly successful multi-million pound redevelopment that added a major new extension to the west of the main building, the Reuben Foundation Wing, and refurbished the foyer spaces. The refurbishment in 2015 did not include the Lyric’s two performance spaces, which now require work to maintain safety; improve accessibility, audience comfort and experience; and preserve the heritage of the Frank Matcham designed Main House auditorium.

In addition, as the Lyric’s new business model evolves and mindful of the static funding environment, the Lyric has identified a number of smaller investments that will improve organisational sustainability through reducing energy use, maintaining technical standards in support of artistic excellence and enabling additional and essential commercial income generation going forward.

The Main House auditorium refurbishment will include plasterwork and ceiling repairs, and redecoration; replacement of seats with like for like (fully removable in the stalls to increase the number and vary the locations of access positions); replacement of carpets and book rail; new and upgraded lighting positions; new access doors with swipe-card security; and general redecoration.

The Studio will receive a modernisation and complete rewiring for the first time since its initial build in 1979, including installation of a higher capacity retractable seating stand to enable more flexible and intensive use of the space; installation of a low energy lighting grid and fixtures; repairs to floor and redecoration; installation of swipe-card security and remodelling of the existing entrance to add profile to the studio programme.

The project is estimated to cost a total of £780,000 which has been part funded by Arts Council England, Foyle Foundation, SUEZ Communities Trust, The Wolfson Foundation and the Lyric Hammersmith’s own contribution. The Lyric are also launching a Name a Seat appeal which offers patrons the opportunity to have their own name on a seat plaque for a donation of £1,000 in the Main House or £500 in The Studio.

Sian Alexander, Executive Director at the Lyric said: “The Lyric plays a key role in the cultural and educational landscape of West London and beyond. The refurbishment of our performance spaces is a strategic investment in the Lyric’s infrastructure looking after the building’s extraordinary heritage, giving our audiences a first class experience and bringing our technical capabilities into the 21st century. It is part of our long-term plan to renew the Lyric for future generations.”

Also at the Lyric Hammersmith: Sean Holmes’ dynamic re-imagining of Sean O’Casey’s revolutionary masterpiece The Plough and the Stars (until April 7) and the Lyric Hammersmith and Filter’s critically acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream ( April 13 and 14, 2018).

Casting announced for the Bishopsgate Institute's production of West Side Story

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE Bishopsgate Institute has announced casting for their production of West Side Story, which will be performed in the 120-year-old Great Hall from June 26 to July 1, 2018.

The role of Maria will be played by Emily McDouall, with James Gower-Smith as Tony, Victoria Greenway as Anita, Luke Leahy as Riff, Christopher Georgiou as Bernardo, Stephen Hewitt as Doc, Drew Paterson as Krupke, Will Howells as Schrank, Claire Pattie as Velma, Lauren Pears as Anybody’s and Marsha Blake as Somewhere Girl.

The rest of the cast includes The Jets, who are: Callum Walsh (Snowboy), Joshua Yeardley (Action), Charlie Smith (Baby John), Glen Jordan (A-Rab), Chris Hughes-Copping (Big Deal), Ben Woolley (Diesel), Adrian Hirschmuller, Lora Jones, Jessie Davidson (Graziella), Tess Robinson, Caroline Scott, Sofia Sjostrand, Jennifer Thompson, Rachel Wheeler and Martha Stone.

While The Sharks include: Francois Vanhoutte (Chino), Dan Davies, Motohiro Okubo, James Monz, Leoncio Hernandez, Chloe Heatlie, Mariana Alfaro, Lois Howarth, Beatrice Mori, Paris Evans, Vicky Gkioni and Gamze Ozen.

West Side Story is set on the streets of New York’s Upper West Side and explores the rivalry between two gangs, The Jets and The Sharks. Amidst all the gang warfare, Tony from The Jets falls in love with Maria, who is the sister of the leader of The Sharks. The dark themes, sophisticated music score and electric writing bring the story of Romeo and Juliet into the 20th century.

The Bishopsgate Institute production of West Side Story, with full orchestra, will celebrate the centennials of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, who composed West Side Story, and of Jerome Robbins, who directed and choreographed the original production.

This high-quality amateur production is presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) and ties in seamlessly with themes highlighted in Bishopsgate Institute’s special collections and archives which contain images and materials exploring cultural tensions and post-war daily urban life in both New York and London.

The piece is based on a conception of Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

This production is under amateur licence and the actors are amateurs, but the creative team and the orchestra are multi-award nominated professionals who have been invited to ensure the highest quality of experience for the cast and audience, in line with Bishopsgate Institute’s philosophy.

Produced by Francesca Canty for the Bishopsgate Institute, West Side Story will be directed by Toby Hine and choreographed by Lemington Ridley, with musical direction by Ben Ferguson and lighting by Jack Weir. Associate Musical Director is Ashley Jacobs.

NB: The Sharks are still recruiting, so if any male actor-dancers would like to be seen for these roles that could not make the recent auditions, please email

Tickets (on sale from 9am on Monday, March 19, 2018): £25, £19 concessions. To book, call the box office on 020 7392 9200 or visit

Times: 7.30pm, with weekend matinee at 2.30pm.

Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH

Old Fools - production images released

Frances Grey and Mark Arends

Casting news

PRODUCTION images have been released from the world premiere of Tristan Bernays’ Old Fools. To view them, click here.

Previously Posted: Casting has been announced for the world premiere of Old Fools. Writtten by Tristan Bernays and directed by Sharon Burrell, it runs at Southwark Playhouse from Wednesday, March 14 to Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Old Fools is a surprising, touching and often humorous tale about a couple, one of whom is living with Alzheimer’s, and their enduring efforts to hold their relationship together through the years.

Mark Arends plays Tom, with Frances Grey as Viv.

Mark Arends played the title role in Hamlet, receiving a commendation in the Ian Charleson Awards, directed by Kelly Hunter at Trafalgar Studios. His credits elsewhere include A Dream Play, The UN Inspector, The Cat in the Hat and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast (National Theatre), Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC), Early Bird (Royal Court) and Winston Smith and Marianne Dreams (Almeida Theatre).

Frances Grey recently played Hermione in The Winter’s Tale (Lyceum Theatre). Her other theatre credits include Alan Aykbourn’s Neighbourhood Watch (Tricyle Theatre), Dear Uncle (UK tour and New York), Relocated (Royal Court Theatre) and Platonov (Almeida Theatre). On TV, she was DS Kate Beauchamp in all three series of Messiah and she will next be seen as Lydia Gould in BBC1’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence.

Tristan Bernays said: “My grandpa had Alzheimer’s and my biggest fear about growing old is the same may happen to me. We all know somone who’s been affected by Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Maybe it will happen to us one day. I wrote Old Fools to confront this fear head on – yes, it’s a play about the disease, but more importantly it’s about the people behind the disease. How we cope when someone we love disappears little by little. How we must never forget the wonderful person they once were – even if they are not there any more.”

Old Fools has movement direction by Lucie Pankhurst and lighting design by Peter Small. Sound designer and composer is Christopher James Ash, and casting director is Sophie Parrott.

Read more about Old Fools.

Image: Frances Grey and Mark Arends. Photo credit: Lara Genovese @ Naiad Photography

Hackney Empire appoints new senior management team

Theatre news

FOLLOWING a major restructure earlier in the year, Hackney Empire has today (March 16, 2018) announced the new senior management team with Jo Hemmant as Executive Director and Yamin Choudury taking up the role of Director of Artistic Programme.

The pair will work together with the Hackney Empire team to maintain a vibrant and resilient organisation that embraces current and future challenges and opportunities to serve its audience and community.

Their aim will be to build upon the achievements of the theatre in recent years, developing ambitious programmes that acknowledge Hackney Empire’s legacy of championing diverse creativity and nurturing the next generation of artists and audiences.

Jo Hemmant has been at Hackney Empire since 2012 as Director of Operations and Deputy CEO. More recently she has been acting Chief Executive of the theatre. Prior to this, she was a producer at London 2012 Festival (as part of the Cultural Olympiad).

After twelve years as theatre officer at Arts Council England leading on the development of disability and deaf theatre, she worked at Improbable and as a freelance producer with such companies and artists as Theatre Centre, 20 Stories High, Mat Fraser, Clerkin Works and Fingersmiths. She started her career as an actor, touring nationally and internationally for a range of companies.

Jo Hemmant said: “I am delighted to be taking up the position of Executive Director at Hackney Empire. I have had the privilege of working with an extraordinary and dedicated team at Hackney Empire over the last five years delivering work of excellence and entertainment. It is with great pride and pleasure that I take up the position to lead this team with Yamin Choudury, Artistic Director of Programming, and our Board on the next stage of Hackney Empire’s exciting journey.”

Yamin Choudury first worked at Hackney Empire in 2003, most recently as Executive Producer of Creative Learning since 2017. With a background in inclusive theatre, his work is primarily based around the concept that everyone has something to share, but not all have the ability to share it. An award-winning arts practitioner and workshop director, he has, for over ten years, been supporting the next generation of creative producers and artists to discover and assert their voice. His previous roles have included Creative Director of International Village in Australia and China and Youth Theatre Director of Haringey Shed.

The programme over the next few months includes a collaboration with the Royal Opera House on Mamzer, visits by Russell Brand and David O’Doherty, Lesley Garrett in Welsh National Opera’s Rhondda Rips it Up, this year’s annual pantomime, Aladdin, as well as the dynamic Youth Programme working with thousands of young people throughout the year. The RSC’s current acclaimed production of Hamlet runs until March 31.

Yamin Choudury said: “Hackney Empire has been a constant presence in my life since I was 18 years old and has a powerful legacy of supporting and nurturing the next generation of creatives and artists to have not only a better understanding of the industry, but also to have the tools and knowledge to create potent and definite impact. I have been able to learn from and work with some of the best and I look forward to now working alongside an incredible team to ensure that Hackney Empires’ ethos of diversity, understanding and community, being at the heart of the organisations creative process, is able to flourish.”

Chair of the Trustees Delphine Brand said: “The board of trustees are very excited about the appointments of Jo and Yamin who combine years of experience with tremendous dedication to Hackney Empire and its wider community. Together, they embody the values of quality, diversity and engagement that Hackney Empire stands for. We look forward to the new creative impulse they will undoubtedly spark together.”

The King and I - new casting and final booking period extension announced

Casting news

FURTHER casting has been announced for the West End transfer of the Tony Award-winning and critically acclaimed Broadway production of The King and I, which opens at the London Palladium on July 3, 2018, following preview performances from June 21.

Dean John-Wilson, who starred in the title role of Disney’s original West End production of Aladdin, and Na-Young Jeon, Fantine in Les Misérables in the West End and Gigi in Miss Saigon on world tour, will play the young lovers, Lun Tha and Tuptim.

They will join Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara as Anna, Tony and Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe as The King and Tony award-winning Ruthie Ann Miles as Lady Thiang.

It has also been announced that the London Palladium engagement will extend for a final three weeks until Saturday, September 29, 2018. This is the very last opportunity West End audiences will have to see the Broadway stars reprise their original roles on the London stage, as Kelli O’Hara will return to Broadway to star in Kiss Me Kate and Ken Watanabe has filming commitments.

Five extra matinees on Thursdays (August 30 and September 6, 13, 20 and 27) have been added to the London Palladium performance schedule. This follows continued unprecedented demand for tickets, with early performances already sold out. Much like it’s acclaimed 16 month run at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater and record-breaking sold out USA tour, The King and I is tipped to be London’s must-see musical of 2018.

Dean John-Wilson played the title role in Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre and was a semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008. His other theatre credits include: Miss Atomic Bomb and Songs For a New World (St James’ Theatre), Aquino in Here Lies Love (National Theatre), Tim Rice’s From Here to Eternity (Shaftesbury Theatre) and Sister Act: The Musical (UK Tour).

Netherlands born Na-Young Jeon played Gigi in the international tour of Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Misérables in South Korea and in the West End. Her other theatre work includes Esmerelda in Notre Dame de Paris in South Korea and Bianca in Kiss Me Kate in Amsterdam. She has also appeared on screen in Conny and Clyde and Van Hier Tot Tokio (TV); The Calling and Hitomi (film).

With music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, this masterpiece – one of their finest works – boasts a score featuring such beloved classics as Getting To Know You, Hello Young Lovers, Shall We Dance, I Have Dreamed, and Something Wonderful.

Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, whom the imperious King brings to Siam to tutor his many wives and children.

Acclaimed Tony Award-winning Bartlett Sher directs.

Read more about The King and I.

Schism - Park Theatre


Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AEGIS Productions in association with Park Theatre are presenting Schism, a stunning play from disabled playwright, Athena Stevens – from May 16 to June 9, 2018.

Questioning the power dynamics between male and female, and disabled and non-disabled, at its heart Schism is a play about two people finding each other, which questions the point where dreams and relationships become unrealistic or out of date.

Failed architect Harrison had plans to end his life. The last thing he needed was Katherine, a young student with cerebral palsy, breaking into his house begging for his help…

As their chaotic first encounter turns into the beginning of a twenty-year relationship, the unlikely couple grow to realise that they are capable of either building something great together – or absolutely destroying each other.

Schism, which was first performed at the Finborough Theatre, is written and co-performed by playwright Athena Stevens, who, like her character, has cerebral palsy. She said:

Schism took me years to write because I needed to understand the unhealthy power dynamics I was being asked to accept as a woman. People would set me up on a pedestal and call me ‘inspirational’ until I would ask to be their equal.

“To have a woman with a disability call you out for discrimination, or promoting an unhealthy power dynamic, or to say ‘your actions are hurting me’ throws a lot of people into shock. They get defensive and start gas-lighting because it’s easier to brush things under the rug than to take responsibility for their actions. So the question that this play presents is ‘how long do I hold onto the hope people will change and when do I need to let go and live my life without those people?”

Athena Stevens’ previous plays include The Amazing Vancetti Sisters (Tristan Bates Theatre) and Detours Ahead (Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago). Her first online series Day of Small Things was commissioned as a full length documentary by Channel 4. She is currently on the Channel 4 screenwriters course, as well as a playwright in attachment for the Finborough Theatre.

Stevens’ acting credits include Schism (Finborough Theatre), The Amazing Vancetti Sisters (Tristan Bates Theatre) and The Death of Hector (Sadler’s Wells). In 2016, she was elected the national spokesperson for equality in the media for the Women’s Equality Party. And in 2017, she was named a member of the Shakespeare’s Globe Creative Council, and will be directing there later in the year.

Jonathan McGuinness will be playing the role of Harrison. His many theatre credits include Bodies and The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas (Royal Court Theatre), Imogen (Globe Theatre), Four Minutes Twelve Seconds (Hampstead Theatre), The Oresteia (Almeida Theatre), Love’s Sacrifice, Comedy of Errors, The Tempest and Twelth Night (RSC) and Once in a Lifetime, Playing with Fire and The U.N. Inspector (National Theatre).

His television work includes Holby City, Wolf Hall, The Bletchley Circle, Silk, Casualty, Robin Hood, The Catherine Tate Show, A Touch of Frost, In Search of the Brontes, The Convicts and Have Your Cake and Eat It.

Schism is directed by Lily McLeish, who is a creative fellow of the RSC, associate director to Katie Mitchell and is the director of Fizzy Sherbet, a new writing initiative for women playwrights.

For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on 020 7870 6876 or visit

Victim - King's Head Theatre


Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

MARTIN Murphy’s award-winning 2017 Edinburgh hit, Victim, is transferring to London – to the King’s Head Theatre where it runs on selected dates between March 31 and April 21, 2018.

Victim, a one woman show performed by Louise Beresford, explores the power struggle between prison guard and criminal following the arrival of a notorious inmate.

It throws audiences inside the prison walls and minds of officer Tracey and inmate Siobhan, exploring the dynamics of life inside a women’s prison.

Victim is presented by Bruised Sky Productions and follows on from their Offie nominated play Villain. Other productions include Lads, Manor and Animal Bordello by Sexy Beast writer David Scinto.

Louise Beresford’s theatre credits include Lady Macbeth in Macbeth in Pitch Black with The London Theatre Company (St James Theatre), Goneril in King Lear with Lazarus Theatre Company (The Space), Julia in The Crazy Locomotive (The Cockpit), Laura Lee in Battle Lines for Raising Dark Theatre Company (The Finborough Theatre), and Berthe Morisot in Madame Manet for Rough Haired Pointer (Tabard Theatre).

Beresford has appeared in comedy shows at Leicester Square Theatre, Theatre 503 and Soho Theatre and is part of comedy group Lead Pencil who have appeared on BBC Radio 4 and Comedy Central.

Martin Murphy’s plays include Worlds (VAULT Festival, 2017), Villain (Underbelly, 2016), Manor (Soho Theatre, 2009) and Barren (Old Vic Theatre, OVNV 24 Hour Plays, 2006). He also wrote the short film Poisoned and numerous other short plays at venues including the Liverpool Everyman Theatre and the Old Vic.

As a performer Murphy is half of the musical comedy double act Pistol and Jack who have performed at a large number of venues including Secret Garden Party, Assembly Edinburgh, Nu:Write Festival Zagreb and Soho Theatre.

For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on 0207 226 8561 or visit

We Can Time Travel - Shoreditch Town Hall

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AWARD-winning musician and Kneehigh Associate Dom Coyote is presenting We Can Time Travel at Shoreditch Town Hall – from April 24 to May 5, 2018.

Storytelling and gig combine in this contemporary sci-fi fairy tale inspired by H.G Wells’ 1895 novella The Time Machine.

In his first solo piece, musician and theatre-maker Coyote takes us on a joyous journey through time with a wakeup call to stop our chaotic present becoming a dystopian future. This lyrical new work, part sung, part spoken, to a back drop of 80’s synths and drum machines, is a story of adventure, hope and the secret societies that meet in the pub on the corner.

Dom Coyote’s last show, Songs for the End of the World, a rock n’ roll gig-theatre piece inspired by David Bowie and Philip K Dick, won a Vault Festival Origins Award 2016.

Since he was a boy, Coyote has been receiving messages – solitary fragments of a voice echoing through time and space. His Grandfather’s incredible recordings of the world are the only remaining connection he has to his favourite relative, who died mysteriously at sea.

Sifting through the recordings, like sonic photographs, Coyote unknowingly discovers the key to time travel… Desperate to save him, and armed with a home-made time machine, Coyote returns to the day his Grandfather is lost, he finds himself in the future witnessing the last days of sunlight.

With a music style reminiscent of alternative pop classics from Kate Bush and poetic storytelling with the political dynamism of Kate Tempest, We Can Time Travel is a playful contemporary fable for our times and a loving homage to the music and blockbuster movies that inspired a generation – from Back to the Future to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

We Can Time Travel is a sound and storytelling journey, to remind us of the urgency of living in the now.

Dom Coyote said: “I am a huge sci-fi fan. For me, the best science fiction sheds a light on the present day. It holds a mirror up to society. The last few years have seen monumental shifts in our world: Brexit, the refugee crisis, to name but a few. It’s an epic, frightening time and it keeps on coming. I wanted to make something about the pace of change, and how to regain hope, to believe that we can change the future and learn from our past…”

We Can Time Travel is written and devised by Dom Coyote and Rich Rusk, who also directs, and is designed by Ruth Shepherd, with lighting design by Christopher Swain.

We Can Time Travel will also visit South Street Arts, Reading on April 18 and Folkestone Quarterhouse on April 20.

The World Goes ‘Round - The Songs of Kander and Ebb - Stockwell Playhouse

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE Stockwell Playhouse and Stuart Saint are presenting The World Goes ‘Round – The Songs of Kander and Ebb from Wednesday, March 28 to Sunday, April 1, 2018.

The World Goes ‘Round is a stunning revue of the songbook from the multi-Tony-award-winning team responsible for legendary scores such as Cabaret, Chicago, Flora the Red Menace, The Rink, The Act and Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Filled with humour, romance, drama, and nonstop melody, The World Goes ‘Round features unforgettable numbers including All That Jazz, Coloured Lights, Maybe this Time, Cabaret, Arthur In The Afternoon, New York, New York and many more.

The World Goes ‘Round stars Katy Baker, who won an OFFIE 2013 for her portrayal of ‘Flora Meszaros’ in Flora the Red Menace. She is joined by Daniel Hall (My Land’s Shore), Suzanna Kempner (Assassins, Brexit) and Georgina Nicholas (When Midnight Strikes).

The World Goes ‘Round is directed and choreographed by Stuart Saint, with musical direction by Carol Arnopp and sound and lighting by Martin Bristow.

Tickets: £17, £14 consessions. To book, call the box office on 020 7720 6897 or visit

Times: 7:30pm on March 28, 29, 30, 31 and April 1; 2:30pm on March 31 and April 1.