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The Royal Duchess Superstore - Half Moon Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

LOUD Talkin’ is presenting The Royal Duchess Superstore, Mile End born-and-bred writer Jonny O’Neill’s debut play, at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse – from September 9 to September 21, 2014.

Described as bracing and honest, The Royal Duchess Superstore tells the story of Terry, recently returned to East London following a long stretch in prison.

The play highlights the changes that have taken place in his local area and Terry’s struggles to cope with his new environment, typified by the fate of his favourite pub, the Royal Duchess, which has become a corner shop.

In this tale of old East End wide boys and new school Bangla boy hustlers, Terry will be played by Mark Wingett, known for his roles in Quadrophenia, EastEnders and The Bill, where he played PC Jim Carver for 11 years.

Wingett will be joined by Avin Shah, whose work has included performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre; Wendy Morgan whose acting career has spanned 38 years including five years with Peter Hall’s company, where she received Olivier and Evening Standard Award nominations; and Jude Monk McGowen, recently seen in Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man.

Prior to the Half Moon Theatre dates, The Royal Duchess Superstore will open at The Broadway in Barking (September 4 to September 6).

Jonny O’Neill’s script for The Royal Duchess Superstore was developed from the Broadway Barking’s new writing programme and developed into a full production under the direction of Artistic Director Karena Johnson. The show marks the first time the theatre has staged a full length play from its popular Script This evenings, where audience members vote on their favourite extract.

The Royal Duchess Superstore was a hit with audiences including Sadie Frost, who praised the scratch performance in a column for Harper’s Bazaar. A graduate of the University of East London’s MA in writing, O’Neill has since been invited to write for EastEnders, and his first storylines will air in September.

O’Neill said: “I wanted to write a play where the impact of the vast cultural changes in East London were forced upon somebody who’s incapacity to change and grow would cement his displacement from a place he once called home.

“For a man in his 50’s, whose very existence centred on his violent reputation and what East London was before he went to prison, returning home to find your local pub is now a convenience shop run by a new kind of East London gangster, and your reputation counts for nothing, is the ultimate wakeup call and encapsulates one of the murkier strands in the changing landscape of modern day East London.

“I’d like the audience to be challenged by Terry and his very existence in a world which has left him behind. As a product of East London I have witnessed the evolution of the area and as a result have encountered people, much like Terry, who have been left behind.”

The Royal Duchess Superstore is directed by Karena Johnson, Artistic Director of The Broadway in Barking since 2009, the only black woman in the country to run a theatre and founder of production company Loud Talkin’. Design is by Susannah Henry.

The Royal Duchess Superstore is suitable for ages 18+.

Tickets: £14, £12 concessions – available from the box office on 020 7709 8900 or online at www.halfmoon.org.uk/.

Times: 8pm (not Mondays), 5pm Sundays.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

Half Moon Theatre, 43 White Horse Road, London, E1 0ND