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Royal & Derngate announces Christmas double bill for its Made in Northampton 2018 season

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

As the venue’s Christmas 2017 productions of The Jungle Book and The Singing Mermaid tour the UK, Royal & Derngate’s Artistic Director James Dacre has announced two world premiere productions for the venue’s Made in Northampton Christmas line up this year.

They are The Worst Witch and The Everywhere Bear.

The Royal’s Christmas Show for 2018 will be an original story for the stage by Emma Reeves (Royal Television Society Award for Best Children’s TV Programme and 2017 British Screenwriters Award for Best Children’s Programme) based upon Jill Murphy’s beloved series of classic novels The Worst Witch (November 27 to December 30).

The production will be directed by Theresa Heskins (2017 UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People).

The Worst Witch is the story of an ordinary girl who finds herself in an extraordinary place: a school for witches. Now in her final year, accident-prone Mildred Hubble and her fellow pupils leave a trail of mayhem behind them as they find themselves at the centre of a battle that’s being fought for their future.

The Worst Witch is co-produced with Kenny Wax Family Entertainment, Novel Theatre and Nica Burns and will embark on a major national tour after its run at Royal & Derngate.

Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch stories have sold more than five million copies and been made into films and TV series by HBO, ITV and CBBC. Jill Murphy said: “My first trip to the theatre aged four, opened up a magical world – so real to me, that I had to be restrained from climbing onstage to help the children in peril! My mum was quite cross with me, but I never wanted the show to end and sang the songs loudly all the way home on the bus.

“Imagine how proud I feel, all these years later, seeing my own Mildred Hubble on stage with all the characters from Miss Cackle’s Academy. I still feel thrilled to bits when I go to the theatre and I just know The Worst Witch is going to be a magical production.”

Emma Reeves added: “We’re creating a brand new story as well as revisiting moments from the books. Jealous Ethel Hallow is out to spoil Mildred’s fun, and Miss Hardbroom is opposed to all fun in general. But, without giving too much away, Mildred faces a greater danger than she ever imagined as an old enemy returns, with a plan for revenge that could threaten not just the Academy, but the whole world… “

As well as The Worst Witch, Reeves’ screen writing credits include Eve, The Dumping Ground, Young Dracula and The Story of Tracy Beaker. Her stage work includes the Olivier Award-nominated and critically acclaimed adaptation of Hetty Feather (UK tour and West End).

The production will be directed by Theresa Heskins, Artistic Director of the New Vic Theatre, Staffordshire, who said: “This year, when we’ve seen the start of a rebalancing of power within our society, it feels like an important time to be creating a play about young women who are learning, collectively and individually, to use their power; and the danger if they decide to use it not for good but for ill.”

Heskins’ past productions include The Snow Queen which won the 2017 UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People. Her wonderfully inventive and hugely popular production of Around the World in 80 Days was nominated for the same award, in both 2015 and 2017, and will tour to America in 2019.

Furthering Royal & Derngate’s commitment to making work in their Underground Studio to introduce young audiences to the magic of immersive theatre, the venue will also be staging another world premiere for Christmas 2018, with an adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb’s The Everywhere Bear (November 29 to January 6). It transfers to Northampton for the festive season after playing at its co-producing venues Polka Theatre and Little Angel Theatre.

This captivating and beautiful story springs to life with rhyme, original music and delightfully expressive puppets in an exciting production, adapted and directed by Polka Theatre’s Peter Glanville (Moominsummer Madness, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, 2014 OFFIE for Best Production for Children for Peter Pan). With music composed by Julian Butler, it’s aimed at under 7s and their families.

For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk/.