RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company present William Shakespeare’s



Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier Award-winning theatre company will join forces with RADA for a co-production of Hamlet, to support the transformation of RADA’s Chenies Street site in London, further developing the Academy as a world-leader in dramatic arts training.

The production will feature RADA alumnus Tom Hiddleston in the title role and will play a strictly limited three week run at RADA’s 160-seat Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre from 1-23 September 2017.

All funds raised will support the RADA Attenborough Campaign, which aims to raise £20 million, enabling the regeneration of the Academy’s Chenies Street premises.

RADA’s new premises will provide RADA’s first on-site accommodation for students. RADA already supports 70% of students on its core programmes financially, and such new accommodation will further remove financial barriers to training.

The regeneration, which will also include a new library and enhanced archive, will convert the listed Drill Hall to become a flexible, 250 seat public theatre, named the Richard Attenborough Theatre.

The acting company and creative team are made up from members of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company and RADA.  They are Ayesha Antoine (Rosencrantz / Bernarda), Lolita Chakrabarti (Queen Gertrude), Nicholas Farrell (King Claudius), Sean Foley (Polonius / Osric), Tom Hiddleston (Hamlet), Ansu Kabia (King Hamlet / Player King / Gravedigger),Caroline Martin (Horatia), Eleanor de Rohan (Guildastern / Marcella / Priest), Irfan Shamji (Laertes / Player Queen) and Kathryn Wilder (Ophelia). Hamlet will be designed by James Cotterill with lighting design by Paul Pyant (both RADA graduates) and sound design by Paul Arditti and Christopher ReidLucy Bevan and Emily Brockmann are casting directors for the production.

RADA and the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company are also delighted to work with colleagues from many other parts of the industry, as well as current RADA Technical Theatre Arts Students.

To ensure that the ticket release is fair, a ballot will open at midday on 1 August, which can be entered online until 6pm on Sunday 6 August, and by phone from midday on 1 August until 5pm on 5 August (lines are open daily 10am – 5pm). Successful applicants shall be notified by or on 8 August and will then have 48 hours to book their tickets on 9-10 August.

Selected at random, all successful ballot applicants are guaranteed the opportunity to purchase a maximum of two tickets within the allotted 48 hour booking window. Tickets for specific dates however cannot be guaranteed and all dates are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Purchases will be limited to a maximum of two per person across all performances. No tickets to be sold by third parties and resale of tickets is strictly prohibited. To help prevent the chance of resale, customers will only be able to collect their tickets on the day of the performance (60 mins before the show begins). Bookers must bring relevant documentation to collect their tickets, and photo identification will be required for under-25s bookers to gain access to the auditorium.

Additionally, no returns shall be offered for the production. Consequently there will be neither a returns queue, nor day tickets available to purchase for Hamlet at the RADA box office in person or online.

Twenty percent of tickets will be priced at £15 and are only available to audiences aged 25 and under. A further twenty percent will be priced at £45, with the remaining tickets at £95.

As this is a fundraising event, the decision has been taken to offer no free tickets to media. Any journalist wishing to purchase a ticket will be able to enter the ballot. This is in an attempt to create a level playing field and to raise as much money as possible for the RADA Attenborough Campaign.

Edward KempDirector of RADA, said: “We’re thrilled that Kenneth Branagh returns to RADA to work with graduates of the Academy in support of our capital campaign. At RADA our close links with the industry are a vital part of the training, and we’re committed to maintaining these links in an ever-changing industry. This is a wonderful opportunity for actors from our graduating third year, as well as our current technical theatre and stage management students, to work alongside immensely talented professionals – forming a collaboration of artists that brings together a wealth of experience and exuberant young talent.”

Kenneth Branagh said: “I believe Shakespeare and RADA are very good things. This production celebrates both. We bring actors, writers, directors and technicians from last year’s KBTC Garrick season, and team them with RADA graduates past and present, together with artists from the larger creative world to explore Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play speaks as loudly as ever to our volatile world and we are proud to have Tom Hiddleston lead an exciting group of actors, as he plays the title role for the first time. This work has been in discussion and planning over a period of years. To find its expression at, with, and for RADA, is a privilege.”

Tom Hiddleston said: “Hamlet presents almost limitless possibilities for interpretation. I can’t wait to explore them, with this great cast, at RADA. Kenneth Branagh and I have long talked about working on the play together, and now felt like the right time, at the right place. To be guided through it by him as a director, an expert and a friend, is our great good fortune. The performing arts exist to bring people together, not to break or keep them apart. I hope the funds raised by the production will help RADA continue to provide a wider field of equal opportunity to train actors, stage managers and technical theatre artists, from every background, to a standard of excellence and professionalism. We need to keep the doors open for everyone.”



By William Shakespeare

Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre
Malet Street

Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm from 1 – 23 September
Matinees at 2.30pm on 2, 9, 16, 23 September

Box Office (Cambridge Live) 01223 357 851

Tickets £95, £45 and £15 for under-25s
No credit card or booking fees

Accessible seating is available at all performances.

The run will also include accessible performances, details of which will be announced shortly; patrons are encouraged to provide access requirements when registering for the ticket ballot.

The Wipers Times Q and As – with writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman

The Wipers Times Q and As – with writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman


What first sparked your interest in The Wipers Times, Ian?

(Hislop) I was presenting a documentary about the First World War and I came across a reference to The Wipers Times and there was a joke quoted from one issue. I followed it up and I could see that it made the most brilliant story which was much too good to be used in a mere documentary.

(Newman) I’d never heard of The Wipers Times but what was so extraordinary about it was that the fact that it was original source material, written on the frontline by troops on active service. What stood out was that it was genuinely funny and that the jokes had survived the test of time. We wanted to revisit the material in some way so we wrote a three page document about how we’d recreate the theatre of war. We put the idea of making a film about The Wipers Times to the BBC and we then heard nothing – for ten years!


Why did you have such trouble trying to sell the idea?

(Hislop) Even our wonderful producer David Parfitt thought that nobody was interested in the First World War.

(Newman) David was quite honest about it. In the current climate – this was in 2003 or so, nobody was interested in the subject. Then during the following years, along came Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, War Horse at the National and then the West End and then the Spielberg film. Even David produced Parade’s End which was set at the time of the First World War. Paradoxically this revival of interest in the period worked against us. Who’d want to put on a play or make a film set in World War One when Birdsong and War Horse had been so successful? Then, completely out of the blue, we got a commission to make a drama documentary about The Wipers Times for the BBC as one of the programmes marking the centenary of the war.


Do you think that you had such trouble because you were concentrating on a very different aspect of the First World War?

(Newman) That’s exactly right. The whole experience of World War One has been coloured by the poets publishing in the 1920s and the memoirs and dramas written in the 1930s. Audiences had seen things explode before and they were looking for a different experience. What The Wipers Times was doing at the time was putting a smile back on people’s faces.

(Hislop) Sometimes you get the impression that nobody ever laughed during the period between 1914 and 1918. The soldiers fell on The Wipers Times like thirsty men finding water in the desert.


How would you describe the material in The Wipers Times?

(Hislop) It’s a very good mix. I’d say that the material written by other ranks lacked the elegance of the pieces submitted by the officers. You get the sense from the images of two very different worlds, of different versions of what was happening. On the face of it, it is all jolly poems and spoofs but it is also very subversive. There is a letter from a reader, asking for advice. Is it permissible, he asks, to shoot a superior officer? He receives the reply that it is, given extenuating circumstances. I feel as if Nick and I are kindred spirits of the editors, Jack Pearson and Fred Roberts. They are our heroes, eking out this wonderful newspaper under incredibly difficult circumstances.

(Newman) The war is treated in a quintessentially British way. There are jokes about the Germans—about the Kaiser’s little Willie (i.e. the Crown Prince) and so on. But there’s no malice in it. If anything the soldiers reserve their malice for their own superior officers and for the pointlessness of it all.


You eventually got your film made. Why did you then want to adapt this story for the stage?

(Hislop) All the way through the process, we’d always thought of it as a play.

(Newman) The film got such a fantastic response that we felt that it wasn’t going to represent the end of the story, after all. We’d written our first play, A Bunch of Amateurs, as our first attempt at writing for the stage which had been produced at the Watermill Theatre near Newbury. That had gone down so well that the Watermill told us that if there was anything else we wanted to do, they’d be interested in seeing it. So we suggested joining forces on The Wipers Times.


What happened to your two heroes, Fred Roberts and Jack Pearson?

(Newman) During the period after the film came out, we were sent much more material, including a memoir by Roberts. But what had happened to Pearson was a complete mystery.

(Hislop) I was convinced that he’d disappeared but I happened to mention what I was looking for to a member of the amazing team who’d worked on my Who Do You Think You Are? and within a day she’d found Jack. He’d survived the war and worked as a civil engineer. He had travelled out to Argentina on a P&O ship where he’d got married and then settled down.

(Newman) We then heard from Pearson’s granddaughter who sent us a piece he’d written about the experience of Ypres but which was too late for inclusion in the film.


How did the families react to the play?

(Hislop) I was the initial contact and I spoke to Roberts’ grandchildren when they saw the play at the Watermill. They told us that we’d got “Pops” off to a tee. Pearson’s granddaughter was very moved. She said that the play helped her gain a better understanding of her grandfather. When as a child she’d ask him about his experience of the war, he joked that he had such long legs, he could easily run away from the Germans.


There were a number of other trench journals, apart from The Wipers Times. What made it so special?

(Hislop) It was funnier – and ruder! I have a friend who is a Captain in the Royal Engineers and she brought a party of her sappers to see the show. I was a little worried about how it would go down with the men but she reassured me. She said that the way the guys were represented was exactly how the guys behaved. And that’s the same now.


Which injustice has been righted as a result of The Wipers Times?

(Newman) When the film was shown, an email arrived from John Witherow, the editor of The Times, congratulating us. I then took the opportunity to point out to John that neither Pearson nor Roberts had received the proper recognition of an obituary in The Times. A fortnight later we received an e-mail with the brief instruction to look in the next day’s newspaper. And there they were. It had been a travesty of justice that they had been overlooked and now justice had been done. Sometimes satire can do something good.

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s Satirical Play comes to Richmond

Comes to Richmond theatre, Tue 26 – Sat 30 Sep
Monday, 31 July 2017: Following a sold-out UK tour in 2016 and a fast-selling limited season in the West End, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s The Wipers Times will once again tour the UK this autumn, stopping at Richmond Theatre on Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 September. A projected press review performance date is set for Tuesday 26 Sep at 7.30pm.
A stage adaptation of their award-winning BBC film, this production tells the true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme, interspersed with comic sketches and spoofs from the vivid imagination of those on the front lineThe production originally launched one hundred years after the Battle of the Somme and publication of The Wipers Times. Ian Hislop has most recently taken part in the Passchendaele 100 celebrations this past weekend in Ypres, Belgium where he introduced a sketch from the play.
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman said: Following an amazing audience and critical reaction in the West End which was almost over the top, The Wipers Times is on manoeuvres again around Britain. We look forward to sharing the remarkable trench humour of the Wipers Times with new theatre-goers around the country.”
In a bombed out building during the First World War in the Belgian town of Ypres (mispronounced as ‘Wipers’ by British soldiers), two officers discover a printing press and create a newspaper for the troops. Far from being a somber journal about life in the trenches, they produced a resolutely cheerful, subversive and very funny newspaper designed to lift the spirits of the men on the frontline.
Defying enemy bombardment, gas attacks and the disapproval of many of the top Brass, The Wipers Times rolled off the press for two years and was an extraordinary tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
The Wipers Times is directed by Caroline Leslie, designed by Dora Schweitzer, with lighting design byJames Smith, sound design by Steve Mayo. The composer is Nick Green, and Musical Director Paul Herbert. The Wipers Times is the second collaboration between The Watermill Theatre and Trademark.  A Bunch of Amateurs, also by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, was produced at The Watermill in 2014.