Everyone knows the story of Annie, don’t they? Well not quite, somewhere along the line Annie had passed me by and I went to Hull New Theatre with only a vague idea of what I was going to see and I have to admit with the feeling that this maybe wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. So what did I make of it? I was blown away by the sheer talent on stage, the music, the costume, the choreography, it was absolutely wonderful and had a sheer joy that left me with a huge grin on my face.
Annie is set in New York in the early 1930s and is the story of an eleven year old girl who was left at an orphanage as a baby by her parents, unfortunately for Annie, Miss Hannigan is in charge of the orphanage and makes the girls lives a miserable one. Despite this Annie retains a cheerfulness and optimism about her life, sure that her parents will come back for her. Annie goes to the billionaire Mr (Daddy) Warbucks for Christmas and her life changes for ever, cue happy ending, though not without a few hitches along the way!
The stage set is simple but very effective, with the lighting being used to excellent effect to provide the drabness of the orphanage and contrast it with the brightness of Daddy Warbucks, and with a nod to the Art Deco period for the mansion. The costumes were incredible, from the drabness of the orphans and the homeless, to the 1930’s radio and film stars to the luxury of the party dresses for Annie’s party.
Last night Annie was played by Taziva-Faye Katsande and what a talented young lady she is, with the most stunning voice. Her performance of Tomorrow was superb. She was completely believable, whether she was in the orphanage or at Daddy Warbucks, a talent to watch out for in the future.
Anita Dobson plays Miss Hannigan to perfection, the audience hated her from the minute she walked on the stage! She is a drunken, child hating woman with an eye to the main chance and plays up to the audience beautifully. Her facial expressions are brilliant, she really shows what her character is thinking.
Alex Bourne is everything Daddy Warbucks should be, he oozes power but quickly shows his gentler more compassionate side as he gets to know Annie. He has a lovely voice and I particularly liked the duet with Annie Something was Missing.
Richard Meek as Rooster and Jenny Garner as Lily added the nastiness needed with their plan to defraud Daddy Warbucks. Jenny Garner was particularly believable as the gal with her eye on the main chance!
Last night the orphans were played by “Team Chrysler”, Orla McDonagh, Kacey Agwuegbo, Siena Austen, Drew Phoebe Hylton, Lyla Toplass and Fifi Bloomsbury-Khier, and what a team they were. A cracking performance from all of them, sheer exuberance and enjoyment flew from the stage. Their performance of Hard Knock Life and the reprise of You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile were outstanding.
The entire cast was fabulous and the choreography was stunning, the tap dancing, the performances in the mansion, the homeless, the radio programme, I was enthralled and loved it all! The live music just added to the whole experience.
So to sum up, this is a fabulous night out at the theatre, full of joie de vivre, with stunning music and choreography performed by an outstanding cast. I’ll certainly be going to see Annie again – now I know what I have been missing!
On sale to Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patrons scheme members 11am, Fri 5 Apr.
Groups on sale 11am, Mon 8 Apr.
General on sale 11am, Fri 12 Apr.
Cameron Mackintosh announced today that his acclaimed production of the Boublil and Schönberg musical, Les Misérables will return to Birmingham Hippodrome from Tue 30 Jun – Sat 18 Jul 2020. Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patrons scheme members will enjoy priority booking from 11am, Fri 5 Apr 2019.
The musical opens its near sell-out run at the theatre today where it will play until Sat 11 May, check the box office daily for returns and single seats.
Since Cameron Mackintosh first conceived this new production of Les Misérables in 2009 to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary it has taken the world by storm. Originally touring the UK throughout 2009/10, and concluding with 22 performances at the Barbican, this production was hailed by audiences and critics alike. The current tour opened in Leicester in November last year and has already played sell out runs in Dublin, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Inspired by the hugely successful movie version starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne, this brilliant new staging features scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. The production has been a global success story having being seen across the globe in North America, Brazil, Mexico, Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, Manila, Singapore, Dubai and Broadway.
Boublil and Schönberg’s magnificent score of Les Misérables includes the songs, I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Stars, Bring Him Home, Do You Hear the People Sing?,One Day More, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Master Of The House and many more. Seen by over 120 million people worldwide in 52 countries and in 22 languages, Les Misérables is undisputedly one of the world’s most popular musicals.
Fiona Allan, Birmingham Hippodrome Artistic Director and Chief Executive said; “A show of the phenomenal appeal of Les Misérables comes along only a few times in your life: its enduring popularity and beloved status with audiences is incomparable. So much so, we are planning to bring it back to Birmingham again in 2020. So for those who missed out on tickets this year – or those who want to see it again – this is another opportunity to catch the world’s favourite musical. My advice – Book early!”
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Les Misérables is written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg and is based on the novel by Victor Hugo. It has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and original French text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, additional material by James Fenton and original adaptation by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. The original Les Misérables orchestrations are by John Cameron with new orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker. The production is directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, designed by Matt Kinley inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo with costumes by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter, musical staging by Michael Ashcroft and Geoffrey Garratt, projections by Fifty-Nine Productions and music supervision by Stephen Brooker and Graham Hurman.
Les Misérables will return to Birmingham Hippodrome from Tue 30 Jun – Sat 18 Jul 2020. Birmingham Hippodrome Friends and Patrons scheme members will enjoy priority booking from 11am, Fri 5 Apr 2019. Groups on sale 11am, Mon 8 Apr 2019 and general on sale from 11am, Fri 12 Apr 2019.
To book tickets visit birminghamhippodrome.com or call 0844 338 5000 (4.5p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge).
The JMK Trust, in partnership with BirminghamRepertory Theatre, today announce that Will Ashford receives the inaugural JMK Bob Carlton Bursary, which through the generous support of Bob’s family, will fund a role as an Assistant Director at Birmingham Rep. This bursary has been established in Bob’s name as an opportunity for a new director with a connection to the Midlands, where Bob hailed from.
As the recipient of the £2,350 bursary, Will takes on the role of assistant director for Artistic Director of Birmingham Rep Roxana Silbert’s upcoming production of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, adapted by Ursula Rani Sarma. This opportunity will provide an invaluable learning and training opportunity, gaining new skills and insights into the production process.
Emily Carlton, Bob’s daughter, said today, “This grant means so much to us. Dad believed passionately that the arts should be accessible to everyone, and was saddened by a growing culture of unpaid work across all creative industries, that can make these careers unthinkable for those without personal connections or a financial safety net. He would have been delighted to see a programme that gives talented young people, outside of London, their first chance. A lot of people have given very generously in his memory, and it is the perfect tribute to his life and ideals.”
Will Ashford added, “As a young director, I am extremely grateful to have received such a necessary bursary at this crucial point in my career. It has provided me with a real sense of financial security, to enable me to work on the production to the best of my ability, without the distracting stress of needing to supplement my income to make this role financially viable. I’m enormously grateful to the JMK Trust, whose sense of care and responsibility to the younger generation is second to none. They get what it is to make theatre, and their faith in me is providing an invaluable opportunity to enter into a career in professional theatre.
“It’s also an extraordinary opportunity to work with Roxanna and the team at Birmingham Rep on this compelling story – the journey these women undertake is a distillation of many different female journeys and voices that have been unfairly silenced.”
Stephen Fewell, Chair of the JMK Trust, said today, “The JMK Trust began life as a memorial for our friend. It has survived and grown not just by association with the phenomenal theatre directors it’s supported, but by the financial support of farsighted friends- at first of James, but then of the idea itself; that access to leadership roles in the creative arts should be open to all, irrespective of economic or social background.
“This legacy funding, creating paid opportunities as it commemorates Bob- a director of singular enterprise and inclusive verve, is something we are honoured to efficiently oversee. As all of the JMK’s work can only go ahead if we attract the necessary funds that same year, we hope the Bob Carlton Award inspires not only aspiring directors, but the creative-thinking generosity it embodies.”
Roxana Silbert said, “Birmingham Rep is delighted to be hosting this new bursary, and to continue the work we share with The JMK Trust in developing talented new artists. We are particularly pleased to have Will join us on this production, not only because he shows real potential, but also for the insight he can bring to the story.”
The JMK Trust was founded in memory of James Menzies-Kitchin, a young director of great promise who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 28, to give opportunities to theatre directors of similar ability and vision. Each year it gives one prestigious award to enable an outstanding applicant aged 35 or under to create their own production of their choice of classic text. Its intensive development and selection process has itself given powerful impetus to the best theatre practitioners of the future. Previous winners have become major players in British theatre, including Thea Sharrock, Orla O’Loughlin, Bijan Sheibani, Joe Hill-Gibbins, Natalie Abrahami, Roy Alexander Weise and Polly Findlay.
The expanding National Directors Programme provides year-round training, mentoring, bursaries and support for directors of all ages. The current partners in the programme are Bristol Old Vic, Tobacco Factory Theatres, HOME in Manchester, Royal and Derngate Northampton, Salisbury Playhouse, Traverse Edinburgh, Birmingham Rep, Northern Stage, Nuffield Theatres Southampton, Reading Rep, Sherman Cymru and Leeds Playhouse. The programme at each partner venue is run by the JMK Trust’s five Director Practitioners – who are established, locally-based directors. They curate the Programme for their region, working with their nearest partner venues to tailor the work to the needs of local directors. An essential network seeking talent from across the UK, the Programme feeds into the JMK Award, enabling a truly national reach.
Bob Carlton was a writer and director who shared Dennis Potter’s faith in the power of popular song within drama, most famously expressed in his show Return to the Forbidden Planet, which won the Olivier award for best new musical in 1989. Billed as “Shakespeare’s forgotten rock’n’roll masterpiece”, it grafted nearly 30 great hits on to plot and dialogue based on The Tempest.
As a young director he cut his teeth at Coventry, Lancaster and the York Theatre Royal, before taking over the London Bubble theatre, which toured the outer boroughs in a tent, offering productions aimed at younger audiences and non-theatregoers.
There he wrote Return to the Forbidden Planet, pioneering the actor/musician show. There were London runs in 1992 for From a Jack to a King (based on Macbeth) and in 1993 for Lust, a Heather Brothers musical based on Wycherley’s The Country Wife.
Bob’s commitment to popular theatre resumed at the Queen’s theatre, Hornchurch, east London, which he ran from 1997 to 2014, winning improved backing from the Arts Council, the local authority and audiences, retaining Shakespeare, Brecht and pop music as his guides. A lifelong socialist, he believed that the theatre should be accessible in all ways.
The JMK Trust is supported by Philip Hooker, the Martin Bowley Charitable Trust, the Carne Trust, The Leverhulme Trust, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, Arts Council England, Directors Charitable Foundation and other individual donors.
WEST END LEGEND RUTHIE HENSHALL & MARISHA WALLACE WILL HOST THE NEXT
CAST ALBUM KARAOKE NIGHT ON 10 APRIL
Music and lyrics by seven-time Grammy Award-nominee Sara Bareilles Book by Jessie Nelson Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly Directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus
The hosts of the next Waitress LondonCast Album KaraokeNight have been announced today. Marisha Wallace, who plays Becky in the show, will host the post-show event alongside West End legend and Olivier-winning actress Ruthie Henshall (Evita, Chicago) on Wednesday 10 April. Audience members can sign up before the show for the chance to sing one minute of any song from Waitress – live on stage at the Adelphi and accompanied by the show’s musical directorKatharine Woolley.
Waitress celebrated its official opening night on 7 March and the Tony-nominated musical bySara Bareilles is now booking to 19 October.
London’s brand-new smash hit musical comedy Waitressstars the sensational Katharine McPhee (Scorpion, Smash) as Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams her way out of a loveless marriage. When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life gets complicated. With the support of her workmates Becky and Dawn, Jenna overcomes the challenges she faces and finds that laughter, love and friendship can provide the perfect recipe for happiness.
Brought to life by a ground breaking, female-led creative team, the hit show features an original score by 7-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (Love Song, Brave), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus(Pippin, Finding Neverland) and choreography by Lorin Latarro. The production is currently touring the US and has also announced it will have its Australian premiere in 2020 at the Sydney Lyric Theatre.
Alongside Katharine McPhee as Jenna, Waitress stars Jack McBrayer as Ogie, Marisha Wallace as Becky, Laura Baldwin as Dawn, Peter Hannah as Earl, David Hunter as Dr. Pomatter and Shaun Prendergast as Old Joe.
The full company includes Kelly Agbowu, Laura Baldwin, Piers Bate, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Michael Hamway, Peter Hannah, David Hunter, Stephen Leask, Jack McBrayer, Chris McGuigan, Katharine McPhee, Olivia Moore, Nathaniel Morrison, Sarah O’Connor, Leanne Pinder, Shaun Prendergast, Charlotte Riby, Marisha Wallaceand Mark Willshire.
On its Broadway opening, Waitress was nominated for four Outer Critics’ Circle Awards, including Outstanding New Broadway Musical; two Drama League Award Nominations, including Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical; six Drama Desk Nominations, including Outstanding Musical; and four Tony Award Nominations, including Best Musical.
In the first glimpse of Park Theatre’s new season, the theatre can reveal initial star casting for their World Premiere murder mystery Whodunnit [Unrehearsed],in association with Avalon.Every night, a different guest performer will step onstage to join the rehearsed ensemble of a scripted murder mystery play, having attended no rehearsals, read no script, nor received any direction. Armed only with a hidden earpiece to receive instructions, they will endeavour to solve the crime in real time.
An isolated manor, a storm brewing and a stranger at the door. The clichés flow as freely as the suspicious liquor in the library, but this murder mystery spoof has one hell of a twist.
Whodunnit [Unrehearsed] not only features the voices of Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench, but also a different celebrity in each performance stepping in as the Inspector, without any rehearsal and without ever having seen the script. Gargantuan guests at Park Theatre including: Clive Anderson, Gillian Anderson, John Bishop, Gyles Brandreth, Marcus Brigstocke, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow, Ronan Keating, Damian Lewis, Maureen Lipman, Joanna Lumley, Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, Catherine Tate, Tim Vine and Ruby Wax will all have their lines fed to them live on stage via an earpiece as they attempt to crack the case, avoid the furniture and stagger their way to justice. More guest performers for Park Theatre are yet to be announced.
Gillian Anderson said:“I’m performing at Park Theatre to help raise funds for the charity. With no public subsidy, they need to fundraise over £250,000 a year just to keep the doors open. The monies raised from this production’s higher ticket prices will support their core ambition to present accessible theatre over the coming years and to further their work with the local community. A number of £10 day tickets will also be available. I do hope people will come and enjoy, and reap the benefit of supporting this fantastic cause.”
Tim Vine said: “I’m really looking forward to this unique theatrical experience. To be honest, I’m often on stage with no idea what I’m supposed to be doing and a strange voice in my head, so this ought to be a piece of cake.”
The play will be narrated by the voices of Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench. After a two week run at Park Theatre, Whodunnit [Unrehearsed] will transfer to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Edinburgh guests are yet to be announced.
Artistic Director, Jez Bond, said:“We’re very fortunate that the leading actors in our country understand the power and importance of smaller scale theatres and the challenges they face. Performing across the run are a mixture of those who’ve supported us since the building was a hard-hat site and those who’ve come to know us more recently. I am grateful to everyone who has donated their time to help raise vital funds by performing this show – and am thrilled they’re so up for it!”
New Victoria Theatre, Woking – until Saturday 6th April 2019
Review by Heather Chalkley
A true homage to 80’s music and youth culture, Producer Mark Goucher brings you a classic love story of breaking up and making up. Maggie Thatcher’s Britain created business opportunities for the young and holidays abroad suddenly became available to an up and coming generation of ‘yuppies’. This comes through in the music. Woven into the score is a range of favourites including Oops Upside Your Head, Making Your Mind Up and Relax!
The costume and set took me right back to that era, along with the big hair and bright colours! Joe McElderry (Garry) sewed the piece together and got the audience up and dancing. The strong voices of Cellen Chugg Jones (Olly) and Karina Hind (Lorraine) really stood out, with lovely harmonies. The star of the show for me was Kate Robbins (Consuela), with a great voice and on point comedic timing. Her repertoire of impressions was hilarious – not many people can have a fair go at both Cilla Black and Tina Turner! The ensemble did a great job creating the 80’s atmosphere, bringing the positive, pioneering energy to their dance, that was coursing through the veins of most young people at that time.
Particularly those who remember the 80’s, this is a fun, feel good, night of entertainment and a chance to capture a glimpse of your youth. Or if you just love 80’s music the party atmosphere runs from the beginning right through to the end and everyone is encouraged to join in.
The Lowry, Salford Quays – until Saturday 6th April 2019
Reviewed by Julie Noller
The Girl on the Train has pulled to a stop in Salford Quays as part of it’s UK wide tour and it’s definitely a catch it if you can play for you will not be disappointed.
I had previously read Paula Hawkins bestseller back in 2015 after it had been recommended as part of another phenomenon that is Richard and Judy’s Book Club. It was a book of second guesses, suspense, isolation and rebirth in an era of mental health awareness. Directed by Anthony Banks and adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, it is edge of the seat theatre with superb polished acting. It more than does justice to a wonderful novel. The sets are simple but effective, from the fast changes of drab alcoholic Rachel’s flat to the nice houses of suburbia. All mixed in with high speed train journeys, we’ve all been on a train; gazing out of the window into the yonder, daydreaming. Whizzing past houses and lives we know nothing about but somehow day in day out they merge in with own existence. I took my teenage daughter and she loved it gasping at times, she didn’t know what to expect. I purposefully hadn’t explained the story line, we spent the interval discussing the plot and what may have actually happened. It’s fair to say there are lots of different curve balls and conclusions to keep you guessing until the stories end.
The story is a brilliantly dark one, it is a warts and all tale of a young woman’s sadness, how her life has spiralled out of control. It’s her fight against self loathing, hatred of those things and finally like a phoenix she rises from the ashes. Infatuated with a young couple she watches from her daily commute to nowhere, she longs to be in their perfect life; they just so happen to live next door to her ex-husband, but not everything is as rosy as that fantasy life.
Samantha Womack is simply divine as Rachel Watson, she seamlessly without us noticing transitions from sad pathetic alcoholic, meekly moving as D.I. Gaskill states from being a Waitrose alcoholic to a paper bag one, touching on his own demons; Rachel is slurring, being sick in an old pizza box, her self care is non existent hence the same clothes daily, living only for that train journey and her next drink, suffering blackouts and a patchy memory. It’s apparent that she is a highly intelligent woman but lonely, without friends. Who could blame her for living life in a fantasy world with the perfect Jess and Jason. Jess is actually Megan seen on stage in flashbacks with Kirsty Oswald in the part. The thing you notice about Megan is possibly more to do with Rachel’s state of mind. Her dress is a light bright orange summer one, and it slowly changes almost unnoticed at first to eventually change to black, perhaps because she loses her life or perhaps as a nod to her own state of mind and depression; can any of us actually understand how the person next to us is thinking or feeling?
Oliver Farnworth is poor confused Scott Hipwell, Megan’s husband, he is immediately under suspicion has us guessing what he has done to his missing wife. John Dougall is D.I. Gaskill, a police officer with the human touch, a man who appears to raise suspicion on everyone, somewhat pities Rachel and yet holds her woman’s intuition in high opinion, somehow everyone is happy to talk to the drunk as if she isn’t a threat. Adam Jackson-Smith is Tom Watson a man who at first is understanding of his ex wife and her need in him, the late night phone calls, he checks on her almost too many times. Then when she begins to pull away from him and begins to establish friendships in unusual places with different men from Scott to Kamal Abdic (Naeem Hayat) the psychiatrist who has his own demons.
It starts to clear for the audience there are control issues at play. The big difference from the book is how the humour shines throughout in a very British manner. It eases the tension allows us to catch our breath and relax before changing track again and like a train journey you don’t actually know which platform you end up standing on. All the actors bring their characters sense of need brilliantly to life, you would think even the most self assured would trundle along easily; however it brings us to the conclusion that it is quite often the opposite. A little bit of self belief is all it takes to help yourself as in Rachel’s case she finds a purpose in life, she chases away her demons and finally in those moments of clarity during her blackouts. She finds a way through her very own black hole. Rachel is a little bit of us all, amateur detective, getting it wrong on her journey to self discovery.
PUBLIC BOOKING OPENS 8 APRIL 2019 FOR WEST END PRODUCTION OF
D E A R E V A N H A N S E N
ADDITIONAL TICKETS RELEASED
Public booking for the West End production of Dear Evan Hansen opens next week on Monday 8 April 2019 at 10am BST. The Production will release additional tickets following a sell-out priority booking period.
Dear Evan Hansen will begin previews at the Noël Coward Theatre on Tuesday 29 October 2019 with opening night on Tuesday 19 November 2019 at 7pm. Casting will be announced at a later date.
The winner of six Tony awards including Best Musical, as well as the 2018 Grammy award for Best Musical Theatre Album, Dear Evan Hansenis directed byfour-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif and features a book by Tony award-winner Steven Levenson and a score by the Tony, Grammy and Academy Award-winning composers of The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul.
A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed he could have. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to finally fit in. Both deeply personal and profoundly contemporary, Dear Evan Hansen is a new musical about life and the way we live it.
Reuniting the original Broadway creative team for this West End production, Dear Evan Hansen is produced by Stacey Mindich and features scenic design by David Korins, projection design by Peter Nigrini, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, and hair design by David Brian Brown. Music supervision, orchestrations and additional arrangements are by Alex Lacamoire. Ben Cohn is the Associate Music Supervisor. Vocal arrangements and additional arrangements are by Justin Paul. Danny Mefford is the choreographer. Casting by Jill Green Casting. Sash Bischoff, Adam Quinn andDanny Sharron are the Associate Directors. Judith Schoenfeld is the Production Supervisor. US General Management 101 Productions, Ltd. Adam Speers is Executive Producer.
Dear Evan Hansenhas won the Drama League Award for Outstanding Musical Production and for the off-Broadway production, two Obie Awards, a Drama Desk Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Helen Hayes Awards. The Grammy Award-winning Original Broadway Cast Recording ofDear Evan Hansen produced by Atlantic Records, was released in February 2017, making an extraordinary debut on the Billboard 200 and entering the chart at #8 – the highest charting debut position for an original cast album since 1961. The album went on to win the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album and recently became only the third cast recording this decade to go gold. A new deluxe version of the cast recording, including six bonus tracks and a pop cover from Katy Perry of Waving Through a Window is now available digitally.
Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre to great critical acclaim on 4 December 2016 where it has broken all box office records and recently celebrated its two-year anniversary. A record-breaking US national tour launched in October 2018 and is currently touring North America and new production opened in March 2019 at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre.
Theatre Noël Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4AU
Directed by Josie Daxter; Composer: Steffan Ress; Set Design: AbbyandAlice
Lighting Design: Matt Whale; Sound Design: Chris Murray; Costume Design: Chloe Doherty
Design Consultants: Elise Edge and Harriet Darling
A secret London location
10 May – 30 June 2019
Following the sell-out success of The Great Christmas Feast, The Lost Estate today announces its latest experience, The Lost Love Speakeasy. Written by award-winning playwright Juliet Gilkes Romero and set within an illicit world built by designers Abby and Alice, it is a Jazz Age tale that sweeps audiences from the African American fishing villages of South Carolina to the glittering lights of Broadway. Woven into the story are classic songs from the era arranged by SteffanRees, and decadent plates from Temper Restaurants’ Executive Chef Neil Rankin each inspired by this epic journey.
The Lost Love Speakeasy stars Samson Ajewole (Shorty) and April Koyejo-Audiger (Stella). It features music from The Lost Love Rhythm Kings, led by Jamie Cullum’s MD, RorySimmons, flamboyant prohibition cocktails and dancing till late. Opening at a secret London location on 14 May, with previews from 10 May, and running until 30 June.
It is summer 1929, just months before the end of the Jazz Age.
The Lost Love Speakeasy is Manhattan’s hottest joint, famous for its jazz and glamour, kitchen and cocktails and, above all, its legendary discretion. Stella, the Lost Love’s patroness, together with her house band, The Lost Love Rhythm Kings entertain Hollywood A-listers, sports stars, mobsters and struggling artists alike, creating the city’s most infamous and desired nights out.
Things have gone from strength to strength for Stella. But tonight a ghost from her past appears, conjuring memories of a lost love in the heartlands of the Deep South. As New York is replaced by South Carolina, it turns out Stella was not always the glamorous star she is today…
Enter Manhattan’s infamous secret speakeasy, dress to the nines for one glittering, illicit night and become the beautiful and damned of 1920s New York. Indulge in food from the streets of Manhattan, sip illicit prohibition cocktails and lose yourself in a heart-breaking tale from the height of the Jazz Age.
William Kunhardt, Artistic Director of The Lost Estate, said today, “From Gershwin to Berlin to Armstrong, we’ve always wanted to tell a story with the music of the Roaring ‘20s. When we discovered Neil’s open-fire cooking and fell in love with Juliet’s writing, we knew we had everything we needed to create that experience. We hope – as with all our work – that guests will enjoy both a brilliant night out, live art of the highest quality and a deeply moving story.”
Juliet Gilkes Romero is a playwright and journalist. She has reported for the BBC from countries including Ethiopia, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Her theatre credits include Upper Cut, Razing Cane – which was shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, At the Gates of Gaza – which won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Best Play Award in 2009, Bilad Al-Sudan and the forthcoming The Whip (RSC). Her television credits includeSoon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle. She is also under commission with the Stephen Joseph Theatre and Eclipse Theatre.
Samson Ajewole plays Shorty. His theatre credits include The Comedy About a Bank Robbery (Criterion Theatre), Damn Yankees (The Landor Theatre), The Life (English Theatre, Frankfurt) and La Cage Aux Folles (UK tour).
April Koyejo-Audiger plays Stella. Her credits include Porgy and Bess (English National Opera) and A Yoruba Opera (Opera in the City Festival). As a soloist she has performed at venues including London Coliseum, Sadler’s Wells, Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Centre, Westminster Cathedral, and the Dutch National Opera.
Josie Daxter directs. As Revival Director her credits include The Magic Flute (Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam/English National Opera/Aix-en-Provence Festival) and A Dog’s Heart (Dutch National Opera/English National Opera/La Scala, Milan/Opéra de Lyon); and as Assistant Director, The Rake’s Progress (Dutch National Opera/Aix-en-Provence Festival). Her Movement Direction credits include Why is the Sky Blue? (Southwark Playhouse) and James and the Giant Peach (West Yorkshire Playhouse).
Neil Rankin is London’s leading open fire cook. He is Executive Chef of Temper Restaurants Group, a series of barbecue joints filled with smoking open fire pits, mouth-watering tacos and steak, heady mezcal and fine wines. Rankin honed his skills in many of London’s leading Michelin starred kitchens. He then rose to the top of the open fire scene as Head Chef at both Pitt Cue Co. and The Smokehouse in Islington. He has an Observer Food Award, a place on BBC’s Great British Menu and is author of Low and Slow: How to Cook Meat.
Presented as a work-in-progress, The Wolf Inside Me is a work commissioned by the Blue Elephant following consultation with the theatre’s Youth Board members, aged 8 to 16.
As usual, the young people come up with more mature, socially important and community-minded ideas than the older generation would credit them with, resulting in this study of teenage loss and grief. Director Sepy Baghaei, dramaturg Grace Chapman and actors/devisers Elizabeth Schenk and Sean Stevenson spent a week on the concept, and the showings became largely improvised following a set structure. Of course, this means that there is an inherent freewheeling style at times, and some awkward pauses and overlaps, but these fit the mental and social states of the two characters.
Between scenes where Hannah (Elizabeth Schenk) and Connor (Sean Stevenson) meet at the observatory, they are isolated in their own grief, Connor’s grief voiced by his electric guitar, and Hannah’s by her constant failed attempts to voice her ideas about Pluto’s existence. The repeated, often uncomfortable accompaniment of the guitar is an effective ad affecting way of demonstrating Connor’s mental state, as in his day to day existence he seems to have put up a barrier of not seeming to care about the world. The contrast between his own music and the melody he plays that his mother wrote is a lovely light detail adding to the complicated pieces of his feelings. Although it is obvious very quickly that Hannah is dealing with a recent and raw loss, Connor’s loss is revealed more subtly and gradually. Hannah is frantically searching for answers and reasons in her coursework and trivial things, echoing her desperate need for answers to the big question – why did her dad have to die? Both actors capture the confusion and anger of the characters beautifully without overdramatising or trivialising the issues.
A fantastic analogy often used is that children jump in and out of puddles of grief, while adults are swept along in a deep river of grief. Teenagers, trying their hardest to be independent and mature often find it hard to talk about their feelings and well-meaning people expressing sympathy is the last thing they need. Hannah and Connor’s characters demonstrate this in a well-judged and empathetic way that is ripe for further development. The play currently runs at about 45minutes, ending after the pair open up honestly about some of their feelings. It would be interesting to follow the characters meeting up over time to watch their relationship grow. Ideally this would involve them beginning to chat about becoming comfortable and able to speak to other people close to them about their grief and begin to share more with them, leading to a gradual reduction of the pair’s need for each other and a fading, but never disappearance of the pain of the electric guitar.
A promising and exciting beginning for an important and relevant project.