Mercury Theatre, led by Executive Director, Steve Mannix and Executive Producer, Tracey Childs, today announces its opening season in the company’s extensively refurbished venue, which will reopen next month after two years of closure following the Mercury Rising transformation, a 3-year campaign which raised over £11.3 million to reimagine the theatre and improve accessibility throughout.

The season opens in July with Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville, directed by the company’s Creative Director Ryan McBryde, followed in October by the UK premiere of Merlynn Tong’s Antigonedirected by Dawn Walton OBE.

Also launching this season is Mercury Originals, a programme of ground-breaking new plays, showcasing the voices of local writers. The first production is a world première of Sirens by award-winning playwright, Kenny Emson, with future productions to be announced.

The year concludes with the return of pantomime, Aladdin by Andrew Pollard and directed by McBryde, with Great British Pantomime award-winning Antony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Superville, further casting to be announced.

The Mercury have commissioned Joel Horwood to write an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Green Mile which will receive its world premiere on the Colchester stage in 2022, ahead of a national tour. Further details will be announced in due course.

Mercury Theatre also welcome a variety of touring productions including The War of the WorldsTell Me on a SundayAnd Then There Were NoneDragons and Mythical Beasts, and The Jolly Christmas Postman.

The refurbished venue includes a transformed bigger, brighter foyer space which is open all day with a new café bar, redeveloped main auditorium with additional seats, new rehearsal room, revamped and extended backstage facilities, improved interval experience by doubling the number of loos, and most importantly for the first time the building will be accessible throughout. The new community space and dance studio is equipped to support the best new talent, and in addition, the company continues its commitment to sustainability including through the introduction of a ‘Bring your own cup policy’ to reduce single-use plastic, as well as increasing the buildings energy efficiency with the expansion of LED lighting, converting to 100% renewable electricity and the implementation of solar panels.

Executive Director, Steve Mannix, today said, “Having come so far in such a challenging period we are incredibly grateful that we are now in the very final stages of fully completing this vital transformation to this wonderful theatre and are incredibly excited to be planning for our reopening in June. We are beyond thrilled that we are so close to welcoming our audiences and returning to making a vital contribution to the local economy of Colchester.

“We are extremely thankful to our funding partners and we look forward to working in partnership with Colchester Borough Council, other local arts and heritage organisations and the local business community to help the town’s economy recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

The public have been incredibly generous in their support of our fundraising efforts throughout our Mercury Rising campaign, for which we truly thank them. We continue to value this wonderful support and will need our local community behind us more than ever as we open our doors and provide a true Mercury welcome!”

Creative Director, Ryan McBryde, also commented, “We can’t wait to put on a show and welcome everyone to come and see all of our new facilities and events. We’re looking forward to reinventing old stories and conjuring up bold, new ones. Stories that electrify, stir and enrich; stories from fresh voices that demand to be heard; stories that enable us to identify with one another.

“It’s not just about the shows! We want to breathe life into our spaces all day long. We want to see parents’ enjoying coffee and cake in our café bar whilst their toddlers enjoy morning story-time, we want to see our senior citizens learning to Lindy Hop in our brand new dance studio, school choirs singing their hearts out on the terrace, families picnicking in the Roman wall garden, professionals hot-desking in our office, and our young company rehearsing in the creative learning space.”

Amy Vaughan, Director, East of England, Arts Council England, added, “The Mercury has gone through an absolutely amazing transformation thanks to National Lottery funding. I’m excited by its reopening plans, which really help establish it as much more than ‘just’ a theatre – creating a welcoming hub for the community to enjoy, whether they are seeing a performance or not. I look forward to seeing the space come to life with visitors from near and far.”

The revitalisation has enabled the Mercury Theatre to expand its community and engagement work with its Taking Part activities,including a 10-week acting programme, an intergenerational community choir, a musical theatre dance class and family sing-a-longs. They also launch Senior Social Club, a weekly inclusive space, for those over 55, to forge new friendships whilst participating in creative classes. Mercury Young Company (MYC) returns with an additional age group, 18-25, and they introduce new activities for young people including Tots classes, weekend drop in sessions and summer school opportunities.

In addition, the company’s Artist Development Programme continues with How To, monthly masterclasses led by professional theatre practitioners; Connects providing a regular space for is art professionals to connect; and Reads, supporting new writers, and providing a platform to share new work.

The building has been converted by Phelan, and is designed by Colchester Borough Homes and Purcell.

Supported by Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council, Essex Country Council, South East Local Enterprise Partnership and European Regional Development Fund, plus generous public and private donations.

Colchester Borough Council has been a key partner in the success of the Mercury Rising project providing £1.5 million towards the initiative, securing £4m of Arts Council Funding and working with the Design Team from Colchester Borough Homes, who also managed the delivery of the improvement works.

Additional support from other funders included – Essex County Council (£1 million), South East Local Enterprise Partnership (£1 million), the European Regional Development Fund (£978,000), NESTA (£400,000), over £600,000 from national and local Trust and Foundations and £665,000 from local residents, audience members and sponsors.

The project has also benefitted from support from the Government’s Kickstart Cultural Recovery Fund (£864,000).

The building opens for the first time to the local community for a special weekend of events on 26 and 27 June.

Priority on sale for supporters is Thursday 27 May at 10.30am

General on sale Tuesday 1 June 10.30am

Mercury Theatre presents


By Ken Ludwig

Directed by Ryan McBryde; Design: Amy Jane Cook; Lighting Design: Johanna Town

Video Design: Louise Rhoades-Brown; Sound Design: Steve Mayo

30 July – 22 August 2021

40 characters. 5 actors. 1 madcap adventure for the world’s most famous detective!

This is a thrilling new look at Sherlock Holmes. On the murky moors of Devonshire, heirs to the Baskerville name are being killed, one by one. Some say it’s a family curse. Some say it’s a murderous hellhound. Some say it’s a load of old nonsense. A case like this can be solved by only one man…or…actually…two – so don your deerstalkers because Holmes and Watson are on the case!

This fast-paced, laugh out loud comedy sees our intrepid duo try to crack their most notorious case with the help of a tangled web of clues, silly accents, disguises and deceit as five actors deftly portray more than forty characters. Will our heroes discover the truth in time? Will they fall foul of the demon hellhound? Will they get all the costume changes right?

Ken Ludwig’swork has been produced been performed in over 30 countries in more than 20 languages including in the West End and on Broadway. His writing credits include Dear Jack, Dear Louise – winner of the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical, Moon Over BuffaloTwentiethBe My BabyShakespeare in Hollywood – winner of the Helen Hayes Award for Best Play of the Year, Lend Me a TenorCrazy For You – winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and Olivier Award for Best New Musical, A Comedy of TenorsThe Gods of ComedyA Fox on the FairwayLeading LadiesMurder on the Orient Express and The Game’s Afoot – winner of the Edgar Award for Best Mystery of the Year. His stage adaptations include The Three MusketeersThe Adventures of Robin Hood and Treasure Island. He was also awarded the Edwin Forrest Award for Contributions to the American Theater. 

Creative Director of Mercury Theatre Colchester, Ryan McBryde directs. His theatre credits for the company include Moll Flanders and Pieces of String – nominated for Best New Musical at the UK Theatre Awards. Other theatre credits include Romeo and Juliet (Theater Trier, Germany), Love on the LinksBefore the Party (Salisbury Playhouse), The Invisible Man (Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch), The House of Mirrors and HeartsThe Jabberwocky (Arcola Theatre), Saturday Night Fever (Theatre Royal Bath/UK tour), Angus Thongs, and even more Snogging (West Yorkshire Playhouse), A Day at the Racists (Finborough Theatre), On the 20th Century (Union Theatre) and Hamlet – The Musical (Royal & Derngate, Northampton/Richmond Theatre).

Mercury Theatre presents

The UK Première of


By Merlynn Tong after Sophocles

Director: Dawn Walton OBE

1 – 16 October 2021

A city which belongs to just one man is no true city.

In a war-torn city, two brothers lie dead: one hailed and buried a hero, the other denounced as a traitor, his body to be displayed as a warning to anyone daring to defy the new leader, Creon, who is ruthless in her grip on power.

A grieving, defiant Antigone strikes out against Creon’s brutal regime in a furious act of civil disobedience which will have devastating consequences for them both. The conflict between these fierce, bold women forces them, and those around them, to question their ideas of family and morality, as well as the nature of justice and leadership.

Merlynn Tong credits as a playwright include Good GriefMa Ma Ma Mad and Blue Bones – winner of the Matilda Award for Best New Australian Work. As an actor her credits include, White Pearl (Sydney Theatre Company/National Theatre of Parramatta), The Shot (Queensland Theatre), The Lost Lending Library (Punchdrunk/Imaginary Theatre), Viral (Gold Coast Arts Centre) and Straight White Men (La Boite Theatre).

Dawn Walton OBE directs. She is Founder, and former Artistic Director and Chief Executive, of Eclipse Theatre, the UK’s principal Black-led national production company..Her theatre credits include Salt (Royal Court Theatre/Schaubühne, Berlin/Public Theater, New York), The Gift (Theatre Royal Stratford East/Belgrade Theatre/UK tour), Red Dust Road (National Theatre Scotland/Home), Black Men Walking (Royal Court Theatre/Royal Exchange Theatre/UK tour), The Princess and the Hustler (Bristol Old Vic/UK tour), A Raisin in the Sun (Sheffield Theatres/Uk tour), One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show (Tricycle theatre/UK tour), Michael X (Tabernacle), There’s Only One Wayne Matthews (Sheffield Theatres), The Hounding of David Oluwale (West Yorkshire Playhouse – TMA Award nomination for Best Director), Oxford Street (Royal Court Theatre – Olivier Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre), 92.3FM (Royal Court Theatre and UK tour) and Winners (Young Vic). She developed, produced and directed ‘10by10’ a series of 10 short film dramas for the digital arts platform The Space (ACE/BBC).

Mercury Theatre presents



By Kenny Emson


28 October – 6 November 2021

Rory and Gemma break in to the Mersea Island RNLI station on Halloween in 1987. He wants to run away to London. She wants him to notice that she’s not drinking. Over the course of the next thirty-four years the consequences of that night will tear their lives apart. This haunting new play explores themes of belonging, family ties and forgiveness.

Kenny Emson is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Previous winner of the Mercury Theatre playwriting prize, his credits for the company include Plastic (also Old Red Lion).. His other credits include Rust and Terrorism (Bush Theatre). He has also received the Adopt a Playwright Award and the Adrienne Benham Award. His screenwriter credits include The Last Hours of Laura K – BAFTA nomination for Digital Creativity, and The Coming of Mr Quin. He has also written on Doctors and EastEnders.

Mercury Theatre presents


By Andrew Pollard

Director: Ryan McBryde; Design: Diego Pitarch; Lighting Design: David W Kidd

Musical Director: Nick Barstow; Choreographer: Donna Berlin; Magic Advisor: Michael J Fitch


27 November 2021 – 16 January 2022

Journey with us to distant shores where the penniless Aladdin dreams of winning the heart of the rebellious Princess Jasmine. When he is tempted by an evil sorcerer with the promise of untold riches, our young hero finds himself trapped in the Cave of Wonders with nothing but his wits and a battered old lamp. Little does he know that it’s contents will change his life for ever.

Will Aladdin defeat the wicked sorcerer? Will the Princess Jasmine ever notice him? And will the Genie of the Lamp make all of his wishes come true?

Great British Pantomime award-winning ugly sisters, Antony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Superville will be unleashed on Colchester once again, and after a year off they’re chomping at the bit to release even more panto madness on unsuspecting audiences.

Hop aboard your magic carpet for a hilarious, funpacked adventure full of song, dance and all the usual Mercury magical mayhem!

Andrew Pollard is a writer and actor. His writing credits include Cinderella, Peter Pan: A New Adventure, Puss in Boots (Greenwich Theatre) and Beauty and the Beast (Salisbury Playhouse).His acting credits include Educating Rita (Duke’s Theatre/New Vic Theatre), Around the World in 80 Days (New Vic Theatre/Cadogan Hall), Diana of Dobson’sTalentGhostsFar From the Madding CrowdWhere Have I Been All My LifeSpring and Port WineThe Admirable CrichtonThe RivalsAlphabetical Order (New Vic Theatre), Life’s a Drag (Contact Theatre), Peter Pan in Scarlett (New Vic Theatre/Oxford Playhouse), The Ladykillers (Hull Truck Theatre/New Vic Theatre), Hay Fever and Perfect Days (Oldham Coliseum).


The Mercury Theatre is an artistic powerhouse in the East – a vital, vibrant, welcoming centre of culture for the people of Colchester, Essex and beyond. Since 1937, we’ve been on an ongoing mission to put theatre at the heart of the local community, reaching audiences of all kinds with productions that inform, entertain and exhilarate.

And we never stand still… Mercury Rising has been at the heart of our efforts to modernise our much-loved theatre, to keep it relevant, compelling and captivating for 21st-century audiences. This project was possible with support from Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council, Essex County Council, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the European Regional Development Fund and multiple trusts & foundations. And, of course, the local community.

Mercury Theatre 


Balkerne Gate, Colchester CO1 1PT

Box Office: / 01206 573948



30 July – 22 August 2021

Relaxed: 18 August at 2.30pm

Touch Tour: 19 August at 1pm

Audio Described: 19 August at 2.30pm

Captioned Performance: 20 August at 7.30pm


1 – 16 October 2021

Relaxed: 13 October 2.30pm

Touch Tour: 14 October 1pm

Audio Described: 14 October at 2.30pm

Captioned Performance: 15 October at 7.30pm


28 October – 6 November 2021

Press Night: 2 November at 7.30pm


27 November 2021 – 16 January 2022

Relaxed: 12 December at 12pm & 6 January at 2pm

Captioned Performance: 7 January at 7pm

Touch Tour: 8 January at 11.30am

Audio Described: 8 January at 1pm

BSL Interpretation: 15 January at 1pm