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Fifteen plays and musicals make up The Reaction Season at Jermyn Street Theatre

Season preview

FIFTEEN plays and musicals, 12 of them one-act and based around themes of reacting and re-enacting, will make up The Reaction Season at Jermyn Street Theatre.

Running from April 10 to August 18, 2018, the season includes the first complete London revival since 1936 of Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30.

Tonight at 8.30 and Tomorrow at Noon – a cycle of 12 one-act plays arranged into four trios – will play in repertory.

Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 features nine one-act plays ranging from music-hall pastiche, to light comedies, to heartbreaking drama. These have been arranged into three trios entitled Secret Hearts, Nuclear Families, and Bedroom Farces, with the chance to see all three trios (nine plays) in a single day on Saturdays and Sundays.

Tom Littler directs Tonight at 8.30, and the theatre’s Deputy Director Stella Powell-Jones directs Tomorrow at Noon. Casting will be announced shortly.

TONIGHT AT 8.30 runs from April 10 to May 20, with Bedroom Farces comprising We Were Dancing, Ways and Means and Shadow Play; Secret Hearts made up of Star Chamber, Red Peppers and Still Life; and Nuclear Families including Family Album, Hands Across the Sea and The Astonished Heart.

BEDROOM FARCES

I knew marrying you was a mistake seven years ago – but I never realised the thoroughness of the mistake until now. Affairs of the heart, the bed, and the chequebook are wittily and touchingly captured in this trio of plays, containing some of Coward’s most popular music.

We Were Dancing, a comedy featuring Coward’s song of the same title, is set on an idyllic island, where the guests of a country club are enmeshed a complex web of extra-marital affairs.

Ways and Means is a comedy about the bohemian Stella and Toby, who go from villa to villa on the Côte d’Azur. But when they cannot pay their gambling debts, they plan to make an easy fortune…

Shadow Play is a ‘musical fantasy’. Peppered with songs and dances including Play, Orchestra, Play, it is a moving portrait of a marriage under strain.

Running time is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes, including an interval.

SECRET HEARTS

I know that this is the beginning of the end – not the end of my love for you – but the end of our being together. Secret dreams, unfulfilled ambitions and impossible desires: this trio of two plays and one musical comedy has everything from outrageous farce to heartbreaking romance.

Star Chamber is a comedy about a charity committee meeting, set in a theatre and peopled by outrageous characters.

Red Peppers is a riotous tribute to music-hall and finds George and Lily Pepper battling with tiny dressing rooms, a grumbling audience, and a drunken pianist.

Still Life, set in a station refreshment room where Laura meets Alec, was later immortalised as Brief Encounter.

Running time is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes, including an interval.

NUCLEAR FAMILIES

You’d better come and dine tonight – I’m on a diet, so there’s only spinach. The glitter of middle-class life is exposed as the thinnest of façades in these three plays, ranging from laugh-out-loud comedy to mesmeric drama.

Family Album is a social comedy wickedly poking fun at Victorian sentiment. The Featherways family have gathered to mourn their father. But the siblings are not on their best behaviour.

Hands Across the Sea is a glittering comedy reminiscent of Hay Fever in which naval officer Peter Gilpin and his wife ‘Piggie’ are the most eccentric party hosts in London.

The Astonished Heart is a gripping drama of secrecy and betrayal in which a brilliant psychiatrist, Christian appears to have the perfect life. Then he meets Leonora…

Running time is approximately 2 hours 30 minutes, including an interval.

TOMORROW AT NOON, three new one-act plays reacting to Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 by Jenny Ayres, Emma Harding and Morna Young, runs from April 24 to May 15.

She’s been coming here every Sunday for the past fifty years and he still hasn’t turned up.

The playwrights of these three funny, moving and provocative plays were chosen from 390 entrants to write a contemporary female response to Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30.

Jenny Ayres’ Glimpse is inspired by Coward’s Still Life. It is the story of a woman whose history holds too much for her to leave behind. In a world that never stops, are we brave enough to wait? What might we glimpse if we miss the train?

Emma Harding’s The Thing Itself reacts to Coward’s Shadow Play. When the sun fails to come up one morning, Vic and Simone must face the dark. But what emerges from the shadows? Truth or illusion?

Morna Young’s Smite is inspired by Coward’s The Astonished Heart. It is a story of buried answers, blind hearts, and life after loss.

Running time is approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, including an interval.

The Reaction Season also includes Stitchers by Esther Freud, Boo Killebrew’s highly praised The Play About My Dad and Hymn to Love, which re-enacts the life of Edith Piaf. Read more

Speaking about The Reaction Season, Tom Littler said: “This is the most ambitious season in our 24-year history, and I am incredibly grateful to all of the people who have helped to set it up. I am very excited to be directing the whole of Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 – in our intimate studio space, I think these plays can be revealed as works of extraordinary insight, wit, and emotional impact. Although each trio stands alone, I hope people will come to experience the full breadth of this remarkable cycle, which I count as Coward’s finest achievement. And I cannot wait to see how the three playwrights of Tomorrow at Noon react to Coward.

Esther Freud’s Stitchers and Boo Killebrew’s The Play About My Dad are both remarkable, fierce, funny works that I couldn’t put down and so looking forward to seeing on stage. And Hymn to Love is not just a delight for any lover of Edith Piaf, it’s a serious piece of art in its own right, made with deep integrity and performed by the remarkable Elizabeth Mansfield. Everything here reacts to everything else; the plays sit in a lively conversation with each other, and I hope audiences will be along to see everything in the season and join in that conversation.”

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