Following the cancellation of VAULT Festival, it is today announced that the world première production of Ella Dorman-Gajic’s Trade will open at Omnibus Theatre on 15 February to 19 February, as one of 11 productions rescheduled at the venue. Directed by Maddy Corner the cast is Tanya Cubric (Jana), Ojan Genc (Stefan/Nikola) and Eleanor Roberts (Katarina/Elena). Set in Serbia, Bosnia and the UK, Trade is a thought-provoking, unflinching new play exploring morality and power within the European sex-trafficking industry.
Trade was shortlisted for the 2020 Snoo Wilson Award and Slam Soaps New Writing Competition (out of 1,500 entries). It was developed at Drama Centre London and streamed online to an overwhelmingly positive response. All performances will also be captioned in English and Serbian.
10% of all ticket sales will go to Unseen, a leading UK charity fighting modern slavery.Today, over 20 million people are trafficked around the world. That number is higher than in all of history. 70% of those are female. This brave new play puts a brutal underground world centre stage.
A post-show discussion will take place on 19th February at 3.30pm. This will be with playwright Ella, Tanya and 2 people from the linked charity Unseen, Olivia Charlton and Eva Daly who are from the support services team, and work directly with survivors at Unseen.
‘I could tell you I had no choice. I could tell you I’m innocent. But I know that wouldn’t be completely true’
Jana is on the cusp of adulthood; she’s started dating her first boyfriend and is getting ready to leave war-torn Serbia, to provide for her family. However, when she wakes up in a basement in Bosnia, it becomes clear to Jana that life doesn’t always follow the plans we make for it.
Ella Dorman-Gajic is a playwright, poet and performer of Serbian and Austrian heritage. Her writing has been described as “impassioned” by The Guardian. She is a member of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, alumna of Apples & Snakes Writing Room, New Writing South’s Young Writers and was Broken Silence Theatre’s first Writer in Residence. Her work has been staged at the Arcola Theatre, Camden People’s Theatre, The Old Red Lion and Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This is her debut full-length play.
Tanya Cubric plays Jana. For theatre her credits include XOX (Cambridge Junction), A Splintered Woman (Theatre503), Extra Terra (BAC/Monofest, Izmir), The Chemsex Monologues (Oscar Wilde Theatre, Berlin); and for television Bloods, We Hunt Together, Automat and The Tunnel.
Ojan Genc plays Stefan, Nikola, Man 1 & 2 and this will be his professional stage debut. His television credits include Angela Black, Hollyoaks and A Touch of Cloth.
Eleanor Roberts plays Katarina, Elena, Girl & Minna. For theatre her credits include The Lesser Bohemians (Zabludowicz Collection).
Maddy Corner is a director and theatre-maker from South London. Her work is inherently political, with a strong emphasis on female experience and telling underrepresented stories. Her theatre credits include SHE. (theSpace, edinburgh),and Mother [singular] (Director, Platform Southwark), Do You See Me? (Assistant Director to Kane Husbands), This Restless House (Assistant Director to Owen Horsely).
Serbian captions are translated by Zorica Agbaba.
1 Clapham Common North Side, London SW4 0QW
15 – 19 February 7pm and 2.30pm matinee on Saturday
New York / London (January 31, 2022) – The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize today announces 10 Finalists for its prestigious playwriting award, the oldest and largest prize awarded to women+ playwrights – now in its 44th year . Chosen from a group of over 160 plays submitted from around the world, the 2022 Finalists are:
Chiara Atik (US) Poor Clare
Daniella De Jesús (US) Get Your Pink Hands Off Me Sucka and Give Me Back (FKA Columbus Play)
Sarah Hanly (Ireland) Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks
Zora Howard (US) BUST
Sonya Kelly (Ireland) The Last Return
Benedict Lombe (UK) Lava
Joanna Murray-Smith (AU) Berlin
Kae Tempest (UK) Paradise
Lauren Whitehead (US) The Play Which Raises the Question of
What Happened in/to Low Income Black Communities between 1974 and 2004 And Hints at Why Mass Incarceration is Perhaps a Man-Made Disease
And Highlights the Government’s General Lack of Empathy for Poor People of Color
And Dispels the Notion that Our Condition is Our Fault
And Helps Make Visible Why We Riot When We Mourn
And also Tells the Story of Anita Freeman
& her Kids
Amanda Wilkin (UK) Shedding a Skin
The Winner, to be announced in April, will be awarded a cash prize of $25,000, and will receive a signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Each of the additional Finalists will receive an award of $5,000.
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to celebrate women+ who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Women+ includes women, transgender, and non-binary playwrights. Each year, artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre are invited to submit plays. Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that selects the finalists. An international panel of six judges then selects the winning play.
Judges for the 2022 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are: star of stage and screen, actor/writer /producer Adjoa Andoh (UK); noted playwright and associate artistic director of Center Theatre Group, Luis Alfaro (US); writer, director, and artistic director of the Unicorn Theatre, Justin Audibert (UK); winner of multiple Olivier and Tony Awards for lighting design, Paule Constable (UK);); stage, film and television star Saidah Arrika Ekulona (US); and Obie and Lilly award-winning director, actor and musician, Whitney White (US).
Leslie Swackhamer, Executive Director of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, said, “this has been a phenomenal year for new voices in playwriting. Two of our finalists are debut plays, and nine are first-time finalists for this Prize. All of the plays are highly theatrical and probe the burning issues of our times.”
Since the Prize’s founding in 1978, over 470 plays have been honored as Finalists. Many have gone on to receive other top honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Eleven Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist playwrights have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The Prize has also fostered an interchange of plays between the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and other English-speaking countries.
Past winners of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize include Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s Cullud Wattah, Lynn Nottage‘s Sweat, LucyPrebble’sA Very Expensive Poison, Jackie Sibblies Drury‘s Fairview, Annie Baker‘s The Flick, Caryl Churchill’s Fen and Serious Money, Marsha Norman’s ‘night,Mother, Paula Vogel‘s How I Learned to Drive, Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Katori Hall‘sHurt Village, Wendy Wasserstein‘s The Heidi Chronicles, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night, Sarah Ruhl‘s The Clean House,Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti‘s Behzti (Dishonour), Jennifer Haley’s The Nether, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, and Moira Buffini‘s Silence.
ABOUT THE FINALIST PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS
Chiara Atik (US) Poor Clare
Submitted by New York Theatre Workshop
Poor Clare tells the story of a rich girl in 1211 Italy, who happily spends her days concocting elaborate hairstyles and dutifully going to church. But everything changes when a lunatic named Francis starts ranting in the town square. Based on the true stories of Saint Clare and Saint Francis of Assisi, Poor Clare asks the question: why do some people have so much, and some have so little? And what are you willing to do about it? Poor Clare premiered at the Echo Theater in Los Angeles in the Fall of 2021.
Daniella De Jesús (US) Get Your Pink Hands Off Me Sucka and Give Me Back (FKA Columbus Play)
Submitted by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Solandra, a modern Dominican-American student is alone in the throne room of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand when their portraits come alive, poking and prodding and ready to party like it’s 1492. Meanwhile, on the island of “Hispaniola,” Higuamota and her family prepare for her cousin Nana’ni’s hair-cutting ceremony, when they spot a fleet of “spacecrafts” carrying pink-skinned ghosts headed towards them. As Higumota struggles to save her community from invasion, Solandra contends with her racial identity and attraction to white men in this dark comedic exploration of the insidiousness of colonization.Get Your PinkHands Off Me Sucka and Give Me Back (FKA Columbus Play)is the winner of the 2020Burman New Play Award.
Sarah Hanly(Ireland) Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks
Submitted by the Royal Court Theatre
Saoirse Murphy moves from one chaotic world to another. From her Catholic school in County Wicklow to a new exciting life in London. She’s had a taste of freedom and she’s making the most of it; but underneath it all she’s struggling to manage big secrets, and there’s only one person she can talk to. Hanly’s debut play, Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks premiered at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in October 2021. The Sunday Times praised it as “a searingly frank account of female sexuality and shame”. The play in which the playwright also starred, is for a solo performer, and is co-produced by the Royal Court Theatre, London, and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. It will open at the Royal Court Theatre in February 2022, again starring Hanly.
Zora Howard (US)BUST
Submitted by the Flea Theater and Ojai Playwrights Conference
Retta and Reggie are enjoying their usual evening on the porch not minding their own business when Poof! Mr. Woods, a longtime neighbor, disappears into thin air… Or does he explode? The story goes viral. Panic ensues. Why are these Black people going missing all willy-nilly? And when they go, are they gone for good?
Someone in this play should likely try to figure that out.
Sonya Kelly (Ireland) The Last Return
Submitted by The Druid Theatre
Once upon a dreary night, five desperate strangers wait in line for a last-minute ticket to the final performance of Oppenheimer’s sold-out smash hit, Return to Hindenburg, the hottest show in town. All they have to do is cross their fingers, be patient and wait their turn. But with more people waiting than tickets available, this is no time for patience, this is time for war. Who will triumph? Who will fail? And who will receive… The Last Return? A searing commentary on conflict, peace, and the pursuit of territory at any cost, The Last Return was developed by Druid Theatre. A full production has been postponed a number of times due to Covid restrictions, with plans to reschedule ongoing.
Benedict Lombe(UK) Lava
Submitted by Bush Theatre
When a woman receives an unexpected letter from the British Passport Office, she is forced to confront an old mystery: why does her South African passport not carry her first name? Playful and lyrical, moving from Mobutu’s Congo to post-Apartheid South Africa, Ireland and England. A one-woman play, Lava is a story about unraveling the patterns of chaos across history – questioning nationhood, narratives, and the process of naming the unnamable. Lava premiered at the Bush Theatre in Summer, 2021. The Arts Desk praised this “incendiary debut play…a full-bodied poem of red-hot protest, carefully modulated with humour to grip and persuade”.
Joanna Murray-Smith (AUS) Berlin
Nominated by Melbourne Theatre Company
An intense contemporary two-hander set in a Berlin loft. When a young Jewish foreigner and a captivating German waitress spend a night together, they discover that as they fall in love and lust, the ghosts of history must be confronted. Funny and volatile, the play explores the dangerous territory of whether a line can be drawn in the present regarding crimes of the past. Lauded as “vital, intimate and sexy” (The Sydney Morning Herald), Berlin premiered in the Spring of 2021 at the Melbourne Theatre Company.
Kae Tempest (UK) Paradise
Nominated by National Theatre
A dynamic reimagining of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, Paradiseis set on a ravaged island whose residents make their lives amidst the rubble of civil war, extreme weather events and un-recyclable refuse. A wounded solider, abandoned in this wreckage and left alone for a decade, is suddenly required to rejoin the fight. A young soldier is tasked with bringing the outcast home – if they don’t succeed, the war is lost. Featuring an all-female cast of 13, Paradise premiered at the National Theatre in 2021.There are currently planned productions in translation in Italy and France.
Lauren Whitehead (US)The Play Which Raises the Question of
What Happened in/to low Income Black Communities between 1974 and 2004
And Hints at Why Mass Incarceration is Perhaps a Man-Made Disease
And Highlights the Government’s General Lack of Empathy for Poor People of Color And Dispels the Notion that Our Condition is Our Fault
And Helps Make Visible Why We Riot When We Mourn
And also Tells the Story of Anita Freeman
& her Kids
Nominated by Sundance Institute Interdisciplinary Program (FKA Theater Program)
It’s just the story of a Black american mother tryin to keep her kids safe during the War on Drugs in the Midwest, USA. Anita tries everything to keep her family well fed and free but despite her efforts, she still loses everything, and the story ends in the most american way: with loss, destruction and unbridled rage.
Amanda Wilkin (UK) Shedding a Skin
Nominated by Soho Theatre
Shedding a Skin is a one-woman play about finding kindness in unexpected places. A play about connecting with what our elders can teach us – new skin honouring old skin. A play about joy, healing, and protest. And having a good belly laugh. Winner of the Verity Bargate Award, Shedding a Skin was performed by the playwright for its premiere at Soho Theatre, opening to 4* and 5* reviews in summer 2021. It is being revived in March 2022 and the playwright is currently developing the script for television.
Spellbinding dark fantasy adaptation of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber on tour Spring 2022 Wednesday 23rd March – Saturday 14th May 2022
Award-winning Proteus Theatre will embark on a UK tour this Spring with their lauded adaptation of Angela Carter’s collection of short stories The Bloody Chamber (and Other Stories). An erotic, heady and feminist re-telling of Angela Carter’s dark fantasy fairy tales, the production is performed using aerial circus, visual physical theatre, gothic design and a haunting soundscape. The Bloody Chamber is a visually decadent and surprisingly funny reimagining of some of the most famous folk and fairy tales in Western culture. These are the stories our mothers told us. And all the ones they didn’t dare…
Following a successful run in Worthing last June, this adaptation translates Angela Carter’s feverdream style to the stage. Step into wonderland with this surreal and poetic fantasy world, empowering women through discussions of sexuality and fearlessness.
Leading the cast will be Rosie Rowlands (Red Palace, Shotgun Carousel; The Little Mermaid, Metta Theatre), Megan Brooks (Squeezy Green’s Compendium of Games, The Wardrobe Theatre; Igloo, Bristol Old Vic), Ashley Christmas (Crimes on the Coast, tour; The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Hull Truck Theatre), Anesta Mathurin (Aida, ENO; The Way Out, BBC4) and Lorraine Moynehan (Devisor: Nights at the Circus, Kneehigh; Trapeze, English National Ballet)
Proteus Theatre are working with leading figures in the circus industry to choreograph the piece including Mimbre’s Silvia Fratelli, Charlotte Mooney from Ockham’s Razor and Tamzen Moulding, the Artistic Director of Inverted Theatre. The Bloody Chamber also features an original soundtrack with musical direction, arrangements and sound design by Max Reinhardt (BBC Radio 3 Late Junction) and original composition by Paul Wild who worked with Proteus on Macbeth.
Director Mary Swan comments, Like so many female writers Angela Carter has long been overlooked in the canon of great British literature, but happily this is finally beginning to change. Using circus as the chief physical language of the piece enables us to create the surreal, Eschertype worlds of the castle in The Bloody Chamber, the landscapes of Wolf Alice and the nightmarish home of the vampire in The Lady of the House of Love. Her work is sadly more relevant now than ever; the advice contained in the tales to young women is all too reminiscent of the list published by the Metropolitan Police in 2020 following the murder of Sarah Everard. The Reclaim the Night movement started in the late 1970s when Carter was writing The Bloody Chamber, prompted by outrage at the murder of women on Britain’s streets, and that we are still marching in 2022 is a depressing validation of all the warnings contained within these tales.
Infused with comedy, acrobatic spectacle, and an incredible message for all those watching (★★★★★, West End Best Friend).
A diverse mix of vaudeville, burlesque and circus, but essentially a celebration of women (Theatre South East).
Pulse Records Limited in association with Bill Elms present
HELEN FORRESTER’S SMASH-HIT
‘TWOPENCE TO CROSS THE MERSEY’
RETURNS IN A BRAND
NEW STAGE PRODUCTION
UK Premiere Tour to visit 14 venues nationwide during Autumn 2022
The brand new stage production of Helen Forrester’s Twopence To Cross The Mersey is embarking on its first major UK national tour this Autumn.
Twopence To Cross The Mersey UK Premiere Tour 2022 will open on Tuesday 6 September at the New Brighton Floral Pavilion in Wirral and then go on to tour a further 13 venues nationwide through to mid-November.
The tour will visit venues in Rhyl, Stockport, Crewe, St Helens, Blackpool, Warrington, Darlington, Halifax, Croydon, Coventry, Bolton, and Southport, before closing in Liverpool.
The new touring production of Twopence To Cross The Mersey is produced by Rob Fennah and Lynn McDermott for Pulse Records Limited in association with Bill Elms and Directed by Gareth Tudor Price. Full cast to be announced.
About the show –Twopence To Cross The Mersey is a stunning period drama set in the early 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression.
In 1931, Helen’s spendthrift father was declared bankrupt forcing the family to leave behind the nannies, servants, and beautiful middle-class home in the gentler South West of England. With nothing more than the clothes they stood up in, the family of nine took the train to Liverpool where they hoped to rebuild their shattered lives. It came as a terrible shock to find the thriving, wealthy port Helen’s father remembered as a boy, the place his own father made his fortune, had long since gone.
While 12-year-old Helen’s inept parents searched unsuccessfully to find work, she was taken out of school to look after her six younger siblings and the full burden of keeping house fell on Helen’s young shoulders. Having never had to manage a family budget in their previous life, the Forresters found themselves relying on meagre hand-outs from the local parish, charity organisations, and the kindness of strangers.
At the age of 14, Helen had finally had enough of her miserable existence and so began a bitter fight with her mother and father to attend evening school in an effort to educate herself and make her own way in the world. But Helen’s parents had no intention of releasing their unpaid slave. They had other plans for their selfish daughter.
Millions of people around the world know Helen Forrester’s life story told through her best-selling volumes of autobiography,Twopence To Cross The Mersey, Liverpool Miss, By The Waters Of Liverpool, and Lime Street At Two.
Helen’s literary achievements were celebrated in 2020 when an iconic Blue Plaque was unveiled at the late author’s family home in Hoylake, a place which featured heavily in her work.
Playwright and producer Rob Fennah explained: “In 2020 we embarked on a UK Tour of By The Waters Of Liverpool – sister show to Twopence – which was brilliantly received, but we were forced to cancel after just two weeks due to the pandemic. We tried to reschedule but Covid restrictions kept getting the better of us. It was during this period I decided to rework the Twopence To Cross The Mersey script, include some new scenes and give it a fresh look.
“Helen’s army of loyal readers will be interested to know that, when she was still with us, Helen and I shared many letters and lengthy telephone conversations about her life story. There were some real gems in amongst those conversations which I have now written into the new scenes – fascinating memories of the late author that didn’t find their way into her books.”
Helen Forrester’s son Robert Bhatia said: “The partnership between playwright Rob Fennah and my mother Helen, and her legacy, has been outstanding. I saw the play during its last tour and the portrayal of my mother was utterly convincing.”
Co-producer Bill Elms added: “Twopence To Cross The Mersey is one of those very special pieces of theatre which is just a real pleasure and absolute privilege to be part of. Helen Forrester’s books are gritty but so heartwarming at the same time. Her life story really captures audiences and we are incredibly excited to take the play on its very first national UK tour. Theatregoers who may have seen earlier versions can look forward to the new production and set, and we’ll be announcing the cast very soon. For fans who have never experienced the play, this is a chance to really feel Helen’s words brought to life from the page to the stage.”
Co-producer Lynn McDermott concluded: “This new adaptation of Twopence To Cross The Mersey also features a sizeable chunk from Liverpool Miss, Helen’s second volume of autobiography, so newcomers to Helen’s story will get a complete picture of her early years in Liverpool.”
This year’s nationwide tour of Twopence To Cross The Mersey will be followed by a tour of By The Waters Of Liverpool in Spring 2023.
Adapted by Rob Fennah · Directed by Gareth Tudor Price
Produced by Pulse Records Limited in association with Bill Elms
Runaway international hit, THE CHOIR OF MAN’s limited season at The Arts Theatre in London’s West End will play its final performance on Sunday 3 April 2022.
THE CHOIR OF MAN’s West End season follows three sell-out seasons at the Sydney Opera House and multiple sold-out US and European tours.
THE CHOIR OF MAN is the best trip to your local you’ll ever have, featuring amazing reinventions of folk, pop, Broadway and rock chart-toppers from artists including Guns ‘N’ Roses, Fun!, Adele, Avicii, Paul Simon, Sia and many more. It’s a party, it’s a concert and it’s a lock-in like no other.
The cast of nine multi-talented guys combine beautiful harmonies and foot-stomping singalongs with world-class tap dance and poetic meditations on the power of community. This is a riotously feel-good homage to that gathering place we’ve all missed so much over the past year: the pub, complete with a real working bar on stage.
The cast stars Tom Brandon as the Hard Man, Miles Anthony Daley as the Romantic, Daniel Harnett as the Joker, Alistair Higgins as the Maestro, Freddie Huddleston as the Handyman, Richard Lock as the Beast, Mark Loveday as the Barman, Ben Norris as the Poet and Tyler Orphé-Baker as the Pub Bore. Also in the cast are Matt Beveridge and George Bray.
The band features Jack Hartigan as guitarist, Zami Jamil plays the violin, Emmanuel Bonsu as drummer and Caleb Wilson as bassist.
THE CHOIR OF MAN is created by Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay, directed by Nic Doodson, with musical supervision, vocal arrangements and orchestrations by Jack Blume, movement direction and choreography by Freddie Huddleston, monologues written by Ben Norris, scenic design by Oli Townsend, lighting design by Richard Dinnen, costume design and associate scenic design by Verity Sadler, sound design by Sten Severson, casting by Debbie O’Brien. Associate Choreographer is Rachel Chapman and Associate Musical Director is Hollie Cassar.
The show is produced by Immersive Everywhere, Nic Doodson, Andrew Kay, Wendy & Andy Barnes and AK Theatricals.
WITH BOOK & LYRICS BY BILL AUGUSTIN AND MUSIC BY ANDREW ABRAMS
AT THE TURBINE THEATRE FROM 18 FEBRUARY – 16 APRIL 2022
Grabbing the pom-poms and playing the high school senior who just loves cheerleading, Megan Williams, will be Alice Croft. The rest of the cast is completed by Oliver Brooks (Dad/Larry), Edward Chitticks (Jared/Rock), Damon Gould (André), Tiffany Graves (Mary Brown), Jodie Jacobs (Mom/Lloyd), Lemuel Knights (Mike), Evie Rose Lane (Graham), Harry Singh (Jalal), Jodie Steele (Kimberly/Hilary), Aaron Teoh (Dolph) and Kia-Paris Walcott (Sinead).
Paul Taylor-Mills & Bill Kenwright, in association with Adam Bialow, by special arrangement with LIONSGATE®present But I’m A Cheerleader: The Musical, based on the LIONSGATE® motion picture, directed and story by Jamie Babbit and screenplay by Brian Wayne Peterson. First presented as part of MTFestUK 2019, this will be the first fully commissioned musical discovered at the new musical festival, to be presented on stage.
But I’m A Cheerleader: The Musical, has book and lyrics by Bill Augustin, music by Andrew Abrams and direction by Tania Azevedo. Musical direction and orchestration by Josh Sood withchoreography by Alexzandra Sarmiento and set and costume design by David Shields. Lighting by Martha Godfrey and sound design by Christ Whybrow. This new musical will run at The Turbine Theatre from 18 February – 16 April, with press night on 23 February 2022.
But I’m A Cheerleader: The Musical is the story of Megan, an all-American high school cheerleader who has the perfect life.
That is, until she finds out her friends and family suspect her of being a lesbian and send her packing to ‘True Directions,’ a rehabilitation camp to set her straight. It is at this camp, under the strict tutelage of headmistress Mary Brown that Megan meets Graham, a sexy tomboy who shows her exactly what her ‘true direction’ is. Hilarious, irreverent and full of heart, But I’m A Cheerleader: The Musical is a quirky coming-of-age comedy about sexual awakening and self-realization.
In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the motion picture, LIONSGATE® has released But I’m a Cheerleader: Director’s Cut with special features that include never before seen deleted scenes, an audio commentary, Jamie Babbit’s student film Discharge, and three new featurettes, including the “But I’m a Cheerleader Class Reunion” reuniting the cast for the first time in 20 years. The motion picture cast included RuPaul Charles, Clea DuVall, Natasha Lyonne, Cathy Moriarty and Michelle Williams. The Director’s Cut is available on Blu Ray and video on demand for rent or purchase (UK rating of 15 and US rating of Not Rated).
Northern Ballet has announced Federico Bonelli as the Company’s new Artistic Director.
Federico is currently a Principal dancer at The Royal Ballet where he has enjoyed a career at the highest level, dancing the company’s leading roles. He trained at the Turin Dance Academy and danced with Zürich Ballet and Dutch National Ballet before joining The Royal Ballet in 2003. He has performed as a guest dancer with many leading companies around the world and has received several awards.
In 2019 Federico graduated from the Clore Leadership Programme (The Clore Fellowship) and he is a non-executive director and member of the Board of Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA). He curated the programme for The Royal Ballet activities in Doncaster as part of the Doncaster Creates festival, prior to its pandemic postponement and has coached Royal Ballet repertory, helping to nurture and develop the high standards of the company’s dancers. He co-facilitates The Royal Ballet’s Inclusivity Focus Group and is a member of the external steering group of Chance to Dance, The Royal Ballet’s outreach talent development programme that aims to remove the barriers to a diverse talent pipeline into vocational training and the ballet and dance profession.
On announcing the appointment Sir David Wootton, Chairman of Northern Ballet, said:
‘The Board of Northern Ballet is delighted that Federico Bonelli is joining us as Artistic Director. Succession to David Nixon OBE, after the massive achievements of David’s 21 years as Artistic Director, has required and received a prolonged, thorough, wide-ranging and diverse search, supported by the best advice, which has resulted in an appointment of the highest quality.
Federico joins us at the height of his career as a dancer with The Royal Ballet and he will bring to us the benefit of his experience there and at his previous companies, his manifest wish to establish a career with us in artistic leadership and a clear vision for the artistic future of Northern Ballet, enhancing and building on its classical foundations and taking us forward with new perspectives and new ideas.
I am grateful to those of my Board colleagues who have worked hard on this search, to the Northern Ballet dancers and staff who have also been involved, to our advisers and to Arts Council England for their engagement in the process. We are all very pleased with this appointment, which will do so much to set the direction for the brightest of futures for Northern Ballet.’
Federico himself said:
‘I am thrilled to be joining Northern Ballet as its new Artistic Director and I can’t wait to begin working with this exceptional group of dancers and creatives. Through its history and most recently under David Nixon’s distinguished directorship, Northern Ballet has rightly been renowned for its bold approach to narrative ballet, and it is an honour to build on this legacy.
We are at an exciting moment for the Company, which is based in Leeds and across the north, yet rooted in the whole of England and the UK. I cannot wait to leverage its wide-ranging touring to connect with wider audiences and bring outstanding ballet to as many people as possible.
I have been very impressed by the Board and team’s vision and I am excited to lead on how best to bring a diversity of perspectives and experiences represented in the stories we tell on stage. I can’t wait to bring my ideas and contribution to the Company’s vibrant offering and propel it to its future successes.’
Mark Skipper, DL, Chief Executive of Northern Ballet, added:
‘I could not be happier with the appointment of Federico Bonelli as Northern Ballet’s new Artistic Director. I am delighted that an artist of his calibre will be joining us in this role and look forward to working with him to take Northern Ballet to even greater heights over the coming years.’
Last year Northern Ballet announced that Artistic Director David Nixon OBE would be stepping down after more than 20 years at the helm. Federico will now begin to work closely with colleagues at Northern Ballet on vital future planning alongside fulfilling his existing commitments with The Royal Ballet. His tenure will begin formally on 1 May
PATRICK DUFFY TO STAR IN NEW DRAMA AT DARLINGTON HIPPODROME IN MARCH
Dallas legend Patrick Duffy (The Man from Atlantis, Step by Step) and Linda Purl (Happy Days, Homeland) fly in from Hollywood to star alongside Gray O’ Brien (Peak Practice, Coronation Street), leading the cast in an exciting new production of the classic Broadway thriller Catch Me If You Can.
The play will embark on a nationwide tour in February and will stop off at Darlington Hippodrome in March. Adapted from Robert Thomas’s French play Trap for a Lonely Man, this highly entertaining mystery has inspired three successful screenplays.
Inspector Levine is called to a house in the remote Catskill mountains to investigate the disappearance of newly married Elizabeth Corban. But when Elizabeth suddenly turns up, her husband seems surprised – and this is only the beginning of a truly baffling train of events, in which nothing is what it seems and no-one is as they appear. Will this extraordinary sequence of surprising twists and turns lead to a murderous conclusion?
Patrick Duffy is known to audiences around the world for his twelve years in the role of Bobby Ewing in the primetime TV drama Dallas. Other notable roles include Mark Harris in NBC’s Man from Atlantis, Frank Lambert in the ABC sitcom Step by Step and Stephen Logan in CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful. On stage, he played Serge in the award-winning West End production of Art.
Linda Purl’s numerous screen roles include Ashley (Fonzie’s girlfriend) in Happy Days, Helene in the American version of The Office, Charlene Matlock in the legal drama series Matlock, and Elizabeth Gaines in Homeland. Her stage appearances include the international tour of Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners, Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (Rubicon Theatre, California) and, most recently, Rosemary Clooney in Tenderly at the New Vic, Santa Barbara.
Gray O’Brien is best known for his portrayal of villainous Weatherfield businessman Tony Gordon in Coronation Street, as Dr Tom Deneley in Peak Practice and as Dr. Richard McCraig in Casualty. He played Milo Tindle in Sleuth at the West End’s Apollo Theatre.
We caught up with Patrick Duffy to talk about his new stage role as Daniel Corban :
What can audiences expect when they come to see Catch Me If You Can?
It’s different from the type of plays I did in school, in college and during my theatrical training. I did all the traditional things. We went through medieval morality plays through Shakespeare and the classics but I’ve never done one of these wonderful Agatha Christie-type whodunnits before, where the plot isn’t solved almost until the curtain comes down. It’s a great new rhythm for me to be in but it’s very similar, interestingly enough, to the sitcom world that I was in for seven years when I did Step by Step with Suzanne Somers because everyone is telling one level of lie to the other person and the plot gets reconciled in the last few minutes. And it’s great fun playing both sides of the character – the villain and the hero – until the audience finds out which side is the real one. I’ve never done something like this in front of an audience, especially a British audience, in my life before.
How would you sum up the character of Daniel Corban?
He’s one of the Mad Men. He’s from that era of advertising executives in the 60s, a womaniser, very good at what he does but at the expense of probably every relationship he’s ever been in. He’s Bobby Ewing with no morals.
Does the play present any specific challenges for you?
First of all it’s the rigours of it. I never leave the stage for the entire play and it’s exhausting but in an interesting way. Physically I’m not as exhausted as I am mentally and vocally. So I have to marshal my forces and live like a monk for the duration of the run, but that’s OK because it all serves the play.
The play premiered on Broadway in the 1960s but does it feel timely now?
I’d say it’s more timeless the way that a lot of great plots are. I don’t want to sound pompous but there are only about ten plots in the theatrical world and Shakespeare did all of them. It’s all about nuance; you put it in a different suit of clothes and set it in a different time period. The play is dated because we’re doing it a la the 60s but it’s not dated in terms of the content and thrust at all. It’s a timeless tale of duplicity and intrigue, and in the midst of it all there’s a comedy element which makes it extremely enjoyable.
Your co-star is also your partner Linda Purl [who plays Margaret Corban]. Have you worked together before?
We did a TV movie together last year [Doomsday Mom], which was after we’d fallen in love and were living with each other. But this is the first time I’ve been on stage with her and it’s frightening because she is such a consummate stage actress. She has such an amazing work ethic and such professionalism so when we got this job together I got cold feet at first. It’s daunting but also inspiring.
You became a couple after chatting on Zoom during lockdown. Do you think it would have happened under other circumstances?
I would tend to say, based on the almost two years we’ve been together now, that yes it would have because of the attraction, the pull and compatibility that we have for each other. All of those elements dictate to me that yes under any circumstances we’d be together, but I don’t know how long it might have taken. This was a great hands-off getting to know each other. There was never a time during the four-plus months we were communicating that I ever had to think ‘Gosh, it’s our third dinner. Do I kiss her and say goodnight?’ None of that played into it. I didn’t even know what her hand felt like. But we got to know each other on such a deep level that when we did meet in person we’d covered all of that territory and we were ready for this relationship. I think we’d have been ready at any point but this way is perfect. We’re two old ponies in the show now and we blend together extremely well.
You’ve done so much high-profile TV work in the likes of Dallas and Man From Atlantis but what have been your personal favourites over the years?
This sounds so trite but every one has been my favourite because they happened in sequence and always at the perfect time in my life. My first big job was Man From Atlantis when I was 25 years old; I was in good shape so I played a superhero. Then when I started Dallas it was much more what I had been trained to do on stage, playing the hero and the young leading man. Not only that but I worked with a person who on the first day of the read-through became the best friend I think I’ve ever had, namely Larry Hagman. Doing that show was 16 years of nothing but frivolity and fun. I loved doing Step by Step with Suzanne because again we were best friends. So each job in sequence has been the perfect next building block.
You appeared in the West End in Art. How do British audiences compare to those in your American homeland?
I’m gonna get killed in America for saying this but British audiences are dedicated theatregoers. People in America tend to go to see plays and shows in places like New York, Los Angeles and maybe Chicago but it seems like everybody in the UK knows theatre. They know ballet, they know opera, they know dramatic theatre, musicals and panto so they’re well-tuned to the theatre experience. They’re not going in on a learning curve and I find that really wonderful. British audiences to me are the quintessential audience to play to or to play with, I should say.
Is this your first time touring the UK? And what are you most looking forward to about it?
Yes, this will be the first time. I’m looking forward to travelling around the country, although this play is all time-consuming and as I say I’ll be living like a monk for 22 weeks. I’ll go to the theatre, spend every ounce of juice I’ve got, then recuperate until it’s time to go to the theatre again. I won’t get to do as much sightseeing as I’d like but the beauty is that we’re in a new town every week and we’re driving ourselves so we’ll get to see a lot of the countryside.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on the road without?
Linda! Also, I’ve been a Buddhist for 50 years now and I practice every day so I carry a small altar with me. Wherever I am I set up my little Buddhist altar and I do my morning and evening prayers. That’s something I do no matter where I am, whether I’m in England, the States, anywhere. And I’m a minimalist when I travel. Give me a couple of pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts; if I don’t have to go to formal dinners or do interviews I could live out of a small suitcase.
Catch Me If You Can runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Monday 14 to Saturday 19 March. To book call the Box Office on 01325 405405 or visit www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk
The Menier Chocolate Factory, in association with Sonia Friedman Productions, today announces the world première of a brand-new show Maria Friedman & Friends – Legacy, celebrating the brilliance of Marvin Hamlisch, Michel Legrand and Stephen Sondheim. Friedman performed with each multiple times, becoming a much-lauded interpreter of their works. Now with friends old and new, she explores their legacies, delighting fans and bringing new audiences to the work of these titans of 20th century musical theatre. The production opens on 8 March, with previews from 3 March, and runs until 20 March, for a strictly limited season of 19 performances only. Booking opens today for supporters of the Menier, with public booking opening on 2 February at 9am.
Maria Friedman said today, “This event was brought about by a desire to sing, to share and to join together in celebration of some of the greatest composers of our time. These past two years have starved us of the connection and depth of emotion that brilliant music and song can evoke – and we want to bring that back in the beautifully intimate space at the Menier, and enable audiences to revel in the legacy of my much missed friends, these extraordinary artists – Hamlisch, Legrand and Sondheim. I can’t wait to share it with you.”
Three-time Olivier Award winner Maria Friedman was a friend of and collaborator with these extraordinary composers. This unique event will see her showcase many of their greatest works – including Broadway Baby, Send in the Clowns, A Piece Of Sky, At The Ballet and Nothing – with entertaining and personal memories that make a Friedman cabaret a night to remember.
Collaborating with musical director and pianist, Theo Jamieson, and with fellow performers Matthew White, Ian McLarnon, Alfie Friedman and Desmonda Cathabel, and a choir from the Royal Academy of Music, this show promises to be a celebration worthy of some of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Jamieson will be accompanied by Paul Moylan on Double Bass, and Joe Evans on Percussion.
Maria Friedman & Friends – Legacy sees Friedman and the Menier renew their collaboration following the critically acclaimed Maria Friedman Re-arranged – which transferred to the West End, her appearance as Golde in the Menier’s production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Playhouse, and of course, Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, which saw her make her directorial debut, and also transferred to the West End, winning the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Revival of a Musical and the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical.
Maria Friedman is a three-time Olivier Award winner for Maria Friedman By Special Arrangement at the Donmar Warehouse (1995), Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Fosca in the West End production of Stephen Sondheim’s Passion (1996), and for Ragtime (2003), and nine-time Olivier Award nominee. Her other theatre credits include Fiddler on the Roof, Merrily We Roll Along, Blues in the Night, Chicago, The Witches of Eastwick, Anna in The King and I at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Lady in the Dark. In 2004 she originated the role of Marian Halcombe in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White, both in the West End and on Broadway. She is regularly associated with the work of Stephen Sondheim, having performed principle roles in Merrily We Roll Along, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George, as Mrs Lovett in concert performances of Sweeney Todd (Royal Festival Hall), as Sally in Follies (Palladium) as well as other concert performances as Desiree Armfeldt, Countess Charlotte Malcolm and Petra in A Little Night Music. She also appeared in New York, Washington and the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday. She has performed her critically acclaimed one-woman shows – Maria Friedman – By Special Arrangement and Maria Friedman – By Extra Special Arrangement in venues around the UK and in New York including several seasons at the Café Carlyle, and has most recently performed her new solo show From the Heart to sell-out audiences at Crazy Coqs. She has featured on many cast recordings and released several solo albums including Maria Friedman, Maria Friedman Live, Now and Then, and Maria Friedman Celebrates The Great British Songbook. On screen, her roles include Elaine Peacock in EastEnders, Trish Baynes in Casualty, Red Dwarf, the Narrator in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (DVD), and the Mother Abbess on ITV’s Sound of Music Live. In 2013, she made her directorial debut at the Menier Chocolate Factory with Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. Her other directing credits include High Society (The Old Vic), Stepping Out (Vaudeville Theatre) and the world première of the new musical Dusty (Theatre Royal Bath). During lockdown, Friedman and Adrian der Gregorian launched Doorstep Productions to take live musical theatre to front doors across the UK and the company continues to entertain guests at parties and events all over the country.
MENIER CHOCOLATE FACTORY
53 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU
Until 28 February 2022
MARIA FRIEDMAN & FRIENDS – LEGACY
3 – 20 March
Box Office: 020 7378 1713 (£2.50 transaction fee per booking)
The second play in Arrows & Traps Dyer’s Hand season charts Cecilia Payne’s ground-breaking academic career at Harvard University. The touching nurturing relationship between Payne and Gustav Holst that frames the first play in the season bookends this play, tempting any audience members who have not yet seen Holst to book their tickets straight away.
Beginning with a scene that will raise the audience’s hackles, the brave new world Cecilia (Laurel Marks) finds herself in when she arrives at Harvard – no servants, no outdated rules, women working in the sciences – is represented by jazz and blues music. This shiny sense of empowerment soon dissipates as Harvard’s attitude to women scientists is revealed – to let them work quietly with no acknowledgement. Allowed to research the stellar spectra, Cecilia discovers that the stars are composed mainly of Hydrogen and Helium, but her conclusions contradict the findings and theories of the scientific establishment, and she is told to label her findings spurious.
Writer and director Ross McGregor excels in writing strong women characters without idealising them, and in this play it is very clear who are the smartest people in the room. Laurel Marks’ adult Cecilia, with shades of the emotional and social outcast schoolgirl beneath the frustrated but stoic academic, is finely nuanced and utterly charming. Lucy Ioannou and Cornelia Baumann, as Adelaide Aimes and Annie Jump Cannon, are the dream team of support systems, with Ioannou’s lively and extraverted Aimes bringing Cecilia out of her shell, and Baumann’s Cannon championing her cause amongst killer one liners. Cecilia’s ground-breaking future being marked by Cecilia’s gradual costume change from resembling Cannon in Edwardian dress to more progressive modern dress is a lovely touch. Edward Spence is lots of fun as Donald Menzel, Toby Wynn-Davies, so tender as Holst, is a calm and controlling bully as Russell, and Alex Stevens veers between loveable and slappable as Harlow Shapley. The scene where the two convince Cecilia to alter her thesis is skin-crawling good, with their reasonable sounding arguments and emotional blackmail becoming more and more targeted at Cecilia’s weak spots.
This is a more linear play than Holst, but the design by Odin Corie, Jonathan Simpson, Andrew Lax and Douglas Baker still provides moments of magic. The title cards are still there to keep track of events and the musical choices are wonderful. Even in a play about science, there is time for some beautiful and emotional movement scenes. There is lots of dialogue about astronomy, but it is all vital to the plot, peppered with one-liners and balanced well with Cecilia’s personal story.
The Stars Are Fire is an outstanding tribute to Cecilia Payne’s career and legacy – an inspirational story performed by a heavenly cast with wit, charm and passion