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Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be - Jessie Wallace and Gary Kemp lead cast

Jessie Wallace

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

BAFTA nominated for her role as Pat Phoenix in The Road to Coronation Street, Jessie Wallace (EastEnders‘ Kat Moon) as Lil and Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet, The Krays, The Bodyguard) as PC Collins will lead the cast in Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, which runs at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from May 20 (previews from May 8) to June 8, 2014.

Olivier and Tony Award-winning director Terry Johnson (Duck House, La Cage Aux Folles, End of the Rainbow, Little Voice) will direct a cast that also includes Sarah Middleton (as Rosie), Ruth Alfie Adams (Brenda), Will Barton (Percy)and Suzie Chard (Betty), with further casting to be announced shortly.

This famous show was initially developed in 1959 by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop Company at Theatre Royal Stratford East, before transferring to the West End’s Garrick Theatre, where it ran for 886 performances and won an Evening Standard Award for Best Musical. The show launched the career of Barbara Windsor and the title song was recorded by Max Bygraves.

Coinciding with Joan Littlewood’s Centenary, and alongside a new production of Oh What a Lovely War, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be returns to the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2014 in a new version by Olivier-nominated Elliot Davis (Loserville, Soho Cinders).

Set at the end of the 1950’s, preceding the birth of rock and roll and the Beatles, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be is a witty and warm-hearted musical set within an East End underworld of gamblers, spivs, prostitutes and Teddy boys.

Written by ex-con Frank Norman, the show tells the tale of Fred, a loveable rogue, who comes out of prison to find he is not quite the king of the manor he once was.

Kerry Michael, Artistic Director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East said: “In celebration of Joan Littlewood’s 100th birthday year, we’re looking forward to reviving this populist classic. It’s an exciting contrast to Oh What A Lovely War and demonstrates the great breadth of work undertaken by Joan and her Theatre Workshop Company.”

Fings was initially discovered by Joan Littlewood, who began directing the show as a play, before engaging the legendary writer and composer Lionel Bart to write songs for the show. Known for his seminal work on Oliver! (written three years after Fings), Bart grew up in London’s East End and was renowned for his use of cockney wit and charm within his songs.

Now, with support from both the Lionel Bart Foundation and Samuel French Publishers, the award-winning composer and writer Elliot Davis has adapted the original Frank Norman script with new material and songs from the hugely popular and commercial Lionel Bart songbook, including If I Say I Love You Do You Mind?, the hit number Bart penned for Anthony Newley, Living Doll and Sparrers Can’t Sing, a song he wrote for the 1963 Joan Littlewood directed film of the same name.

When asked to describe Fings, Joan Littlewood replied: “Guys and Dolls but with its flies undone.”

Elliot Davis said: “Our production hopes to make Fings find its rightful place in the catalogue of Great British Musicals. Ultimately the goal is to take this production on a National UK tour for the benefit of audiences across the whole of the UK!”

Produced by the Theatre Royal Stratford East, Elliot Davis, Paul Tyrer and Jamie Clark for The Booking Office, and Ros Povey Productions, Fings has set and costume design by William Dudley and choreography by Nathan M Wright.

Tickets: £7 to £38, with concessions available on all performances. To book, call the box office on 020 8534 0310 or visit www.stratfordeast.com/.