STARLIGHT EXPRESS VISIT DOWNING STREET ON BEHALF OF THEATRE SECTOR

Starlight Express cast skate to Downing Street to call on the new Government to create the conditions for theatre to thrive

It’s curtain up on a new government and yesterday a Starlight Express cast member, in collaboration with Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, rolled down to Westminster to set out the conditions that will enable theatre to thrive.  

You can watch the video here: https://x.com/SOLTnews/status/1810667091999219963

Skating past Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on behalf of our sector, Harrison Peterkin, who plays Lumber in the acclaimed musical now playing at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, took time out from performing eight shows a week to choreograph this special delivery. 

Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre’s letter to Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer MP, outlines what’s needed for British theatre to survive and thrive, and how we work in partnership to help his Government promote growth and kick down barriers to opportunity: 

Dear Prime Minister, 

The power of theatre to promote growth and break down barriers to opportunity   

On behalf of the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre congratulations on your electoral victory. We are the membership organisations for theatre producers, managers, owners, and operators in London and across the UK. As you will know some of our member venues – including Donmar Warehouse and Gillian Lynne Theatre – are in your own constituency. 

Theatre is special – an economic powerhouse, delivering transformative social good, embedded in communities across the country. World-class productions developed in the UK enable us to stand out on the world stage. Our sector is well placed to work with you to help implement your missions, particularly regarding kick starting the economy and breaking down the barriers to opportunity.  

As you saw during your recent visit to the Lyric Hammersmith, who are one of our members, theatres deliver incredible projects for their local communities. They also support local economic growth: for every £1 spent on a theatre ticket £1.40 is spent in the local area.   

The UK’s world-class theatre sector promotes Britain globally via our phenomenally successful exports. The Lion King as a film franchise has grossed $1.6bn worldwide but is far outstripped by the Lion King theatre franchise which has grossed $9.3bn, for example. 

We look forward to collaborating with you and your team across Government to create the conditions for theatre to thrive, so we can help boost the economy and improve equality of opportunity. Please find enclosed a summary of the policy proposals we’ve made to your departments.    

We look forward to working with you.  

Kind regards, 

Claire Walker and Hannah Essex  

Co-CEOs, Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre 

Annex: Policy proposals to ensure UK theatre kick starts the economy and breaks down barriers to opportunity  

Policy Proposal  Labour Mission and government departments 
Theatre for Every Child: Expanding cultural access and young people’s engagement by funding a theatre visit for every child before they leave school.  Breaking down barriers to opportunity Department for Culture, Media & Sport Department for Education    
Investment in buildings: A sustainable system for investment in theatre buildings, ensuring cultural infrastructure can deliver transformative social good and local growth in communities, and enabling theatres to reduce their carbon footprint. Kickstarting economic growth and making Britain a clean energy superpower Department for Culture, Media & Sport Department for Energy Security & Net Zero   
Public investment: A strategic review public investment in the arts to achieve the most effective results for taxpayers.   Kickstarting economic growth Department for Culture, Media & Sport 

Concept album of new British Musical drops

West End talent record

Complete Work concept album of

THE STATIONMASTER

Alex Young – Nigel Richards – Nicola Sloane – Jessica Sherman

“The greatest unknown musical in the history of British musical theatre”

The thrilling new British musical THE STATIONMASTER has recorded an album of The Complete Work with top West End talent, to be released on Friday 26 July 2024, giving free access on all major digital platforms (including Spotify and YouTube) – so all can fall in love with one of the most hauntingly beautiful musical theatre scores.

THE STATIONMASTER has a book by Susannah Pearse and music and lyrics by Tim Connor, inspired by Horváth’s Judgment Day translated by Christopher Hampton. With thrilling orchestrations by Drama Desk Winner and Tony nominee Jason Carr.

1955. A small close-knit provincial community in The Lake District. THE STATIONMASTER tells the dark tale of railway stationmaster, Thomas Price, and the secret kiss with Anna that causes him to miss a crucial signal. The resulting train crash kills 12 people. How far will Thomas go to cover up his fatal mistake? So, start the lies, the dangerous gossip and the guilt as all their provincial lives speed to a tragic collision…

  • Stage favourite Alex Young plays Anna. Alex is currently starring as Virginia Creel in Stranger Things: The First Shadow in the West End. Her meteoric musical theatre career includes acclaimed performances that have taken her from the RNT, The Almeida, The Crucible Sheffield and into the West End including Cold War, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Follies, Showboat, I Can’t Sing and Terry Giliam’s Into The Woods.

Alex Young says ‘This piece is a sumptuous, sweeping, ambitious and epic new musical. Anna is a delicious part. Complex, flawed, occasionally uningratiating, but beautifully accessible. I’m so pleased that after many years knowing her, I’ve had the chance to play her in this terrific recording.’

  • Nigel Richards plays the railway stationmaster, Thomas Price, the pillar of the local community. Nigel’s West End musical theatre credits alone include: The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Blood Brothers, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Martin Guerre, Ayckbourn/Lloyd-Webber’s By Jeeves, Bob Wilson’s iconic production of Tom Wait’s The Black Rider, the title role in Floyd Collins, and Kurt Weill’s Songs From A Hotel Bedroom at the ROH.

Nigel Richards says ‘Being part of The Stationmaster has been one of the most creative, empowering and thrilling projects to work on. The role of Thomas is the most beautifully written, nuanced, emotionally electric and morally ambiguous parts I have ever played. With this recording, I hope to show the world that this piece is the greatest unknown musical in the history of the British musical theatre.’

  • The merciless local village gossip Mrs Deakin is played by Nicola Sloane, a West End stalwart, currently starring in the original cast ofStanding At The Sky’s Edge. Nicola‘s credits in the West End alone include Backstairs Billy, The Sound of Music, Acorn Antiques, A Little Night Music, Spend Spend Spend, Martin Guerre, Les Misérables, London Road, Enter the Guardsman.
  • The award-winning Canadian actress Jessica Sherman plays the stationmaster’s unhappy wife Catherine Price. Jessica’s roles in London and Canada include Dear Evan Hansen originating the role of Heidi Hansen in Canada and winning, Best Actress, Toronto Critics’ Choice, Rock’n’Roll – Royal Court/West End, Kelly V Kelly, The Sound of Music, Harley Quinn in Batman Live – World Arena Tour.

Composer and lyricist Tim Connor says:’Working on The Stationmaster with Susannah Pearse has been a joyous collaboration. We wrote the four leads with Nigel Richards, Alex Young, Jessica Sherman and Nicola Sloane in our mind’s eye; so, to have captured their definitive interpretations in this amazing studio recording: The Stationmaster is stupendously out in the world! The Complete Work concept album is just the beginning for audiences, performers and producers alike to discover The Stationmaster.

There has always been an industry buzz from professional musical theatre afficionados about the score and the story of THE STATIONMASTER – with its anthemic songs including the showstopping ballad Anna sung by the stationmaster as he dreams of a life with Anna; or Anna’s passionate song desperate to change her repressed life and Run Away; and the scene setting, rhythmic and rumbling The 6.59 with no mistaking a steam train is hurtling down the track.

The new British musical THE STATIONMASTER will move and entertain. Created by Stiles and Drewe Prize-winning songwriter Tim Connor and librettist Susannah Pearse, The Complete Work concept album is released via Auburn Jam Records.

Cast: Nigel Richards as Thomas Price – The Stationmaster, Alex Young – Anna Cartwright, Jessica Sherman as Catherine Price, Nicola Sloane as Mrs Deakin, John Coates as Martin Cartwright, Kailun Dennie as Davey, Abiona Omonua as Mrs Teasley, Rhys Jennings as Inspector / Joe / Judge / Ghost, Adam Stickler as Mr Teasley / Sargeant.

Ensemble: Tomas AlemanKatherine DouglasShannon HerbertJoe PartridgeKatie RoughKirsten RuthSamuel TrotmanAndrew Kenny.

Production team: Orchestrator Jason Carr (Drama Desk Winner and Tony nominee, Fiddler on the RoofLa Cage Aux Folles), Conductor Chris Guard (The Time Traveller’s Wife), Director Emma Kilbey (Zog, Zog and the Flying Doctors, Young Frankenstein, Donna Macbeth for the Verona Shakespeare Festival, Bryony Lavery’s A Wedding StoryFame for Theatre Workshop, award-winning Steal Compass), Music production, sound design, recording, mixing and mastering Joe & Nikki Davison for Auburn Jam Music.

THE STATIONMASTER, the gripping new musical drama. Lies have consequences – and a lie can escalate out of control….

THE STATIONMASTER

drops on Friday 26 July 2024

Available free on all major digital platforms (including Spotify and YouTube)  

Digitally as The Complete Work

(the full concept album, capturing the entire show – all the scenes and songs)

Digitally as The Original Cast Album

(songs only)

PLUS

2CD limited edition print run as The Complete Work

(the full concept album, capturing the entire show – all the scenes and songs)

(£15 + P&P direct from the creatives: [email protected])

Queen starring Sara Crowe, Grace Darling and the voice of Prunella Scales announces further dates

Queen

starring Sara Crowe, Grace Darling and the voice of Prunella Scales

announces further dates at the Tabard Theatre from 4-7 September

following July previews and its Edinburgh Festival Fringe run

Queen – a play written entirely in Queen Victoria’s own words, taken from her letters and journals – will return to the Tabard Theatre in London from 4-7 September following previews there on 28 July and a run at the Assembly Rooms at Assembly Festival, Edinburgh, from 1-25 August. 

Starring Sara Crowe, Grace Darling and the voice of Prunella Scales, and directed by 
Denise Silvey,Queen is a revival of Katrina Hendrey’s acclaimed one-woman show An Evening With Queen Victoria which Prunella performed for 28 years, starting at the Old Vic in 1980. The play was a world-wide success, on radio and film. Now adapted and re-titled Queen by writer Julian Machin, this production incorporates a recently-made voice over of Prunella Scales as the elderly monarch whose recorded words are interlaced into the action. 

Queen also features masterfully-chosen music (by the late Richard Burnett) recorded by 
Michael Dussek on an 1822 grand piano by Muzio Clementi.

Queen is presented by Chronicles of Ikaro in Association with Cahoots Theatre Company.

Julian Machin said: “Following the death of Elizabeth ll, who based her reign on Victoria’s, the play has come into its own. It’s so insightful, because it’s all in her own words and acts like a prism through which the entire modern monarchy can be seen.”

Denise Silvey said: “It really is like a prequel to The Crown.”

To book tickets, visit Tabard Theatre: https://tabard.org.uk/whats-on/queen/

Assembly Festival: https://assemblyfestival.com/whats-on/565-queen

-LISTINGS-

Show Information

Event title: Queen

Event type: Theatre (Historical, Spoken word)

Company name: Chronicles of Ikaro in Association with Cahoots Theatre Company Ltd

Duration: 60 minutes

Age Rating: 8+

Event Warnings: None

TABARD THEATRE

Venue: Theatre At The Tabard, Bath Road, London, W4 1LW.

Dates (2024): 28 July at 3pm and 6pm; 4-6 September at 7.30pm; 7 September at 6pm

Accessibility:  Row H, the back row, is high bench seating. The auditorium has steps up the centre aisle, so book at the front for anyone who may have difficulty with steps or heights

Box Office: https://tabard.org.uk/whats-on/queen/

ASSEMBLY FESTIVAL – EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE

Venue: Assembly Rooms, Drawing Room

Dates (2024): 1-25 August 

Time: 1pm

Box Office: https://assemblyfestival.com/whats-on/565-queen

A Jaffa Cake Musical to collect Jaffa Cakes for the Edinburgh Food Project

A Jaffa Cake Musical to collect Jaffa Cakes for the
Edinburgh Food Project

Gigglemug Theatre are partnering with the Edinburgh Food Project on their latest show A Jaffa Cake Musical. The production is inspired by the 1991 tribunal which determined once and for all whether a Jaffa Cake is in fact a cake or a biscuit. The multi-award winning company, who created hit shows Scouts! The Musical, RuneSical & Timpson: The Musical, are asking their audiences to bring Jaffa Cakes to the performances this Fringe.

Edinburgh Food Project runs seven food banks across the city, supporting over 6,000 people each year with emergency food and other essential items. Working toward ending the need for food banks, Edinburgh Food Project also runs an accredited Money Advice Service to help with benefits, budgeting and debt.

August should be a time when the toughest decision any of us has to make is which show to see. Too many people are facing the devastating choice between paying their bills or buying food and realising that they can now no longer afford either. In August 2023, 1743 emergency food parcels went out to people in crisis, to supply them with the essentials they urgently needed. Every food parcel that goes to someone struggling to afford food includes a packet of biscuits. A biscuit is more than a simple treat to go with a cup of tea; it also provides an important energy boost and is a good source of fibre. Adding Jaffa Cakes to a food parcel provides a much-needed pick-me-up for people in crisis.

Artistic Director of Gigglemug Theatre, Sam Cochrane, said “Our shows are all about escapism, we know that’s needed now more than ever, but it’s truly amazing when an opportunity comes by to use our work in a way that actively helps people in need. We’re asking audience members to bring a pack of Jaffa Cakes with them to the show – heck, bring two! One to munch on whilst watching and one for the Edinburgh Food Project. A Jaffa Cake Musical debates whether a Jaffa Cake is a cake or a biscuit, everyone has their own opinion, but one thing we can all agree on is that no one should have to go hungry this August.”

Fundraiser for the Edinburgh Food Project, Calypso Coulton, said “We’re delighted that Gigglemug Theatre will be collecting Jaffa Cakes at A Jaffa Cake Musical! As we put together food parcels, we’ve had our own internal debate about whether Jaffa Cakes are biscuits or cakes. But regardless of how you categorise them, we’re thrilled to have this tasty treat as a way to brighten up someone’s day. Whether you’re a ‘biscuit believer’ or a ‘cake convert’, every packet donated makes a real difference to someone struggling to afford the essentials. We’re grateful for this tasty collaboration!”

Tickets: https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/jaffa-cake-musical
Twitter, Facebook & Instagram: @TheGigglemug Website: gigglemugcomedy.com

Carmel Dean announced as composer of The Ghost and Mrs Muir Musical

Carmel Dean announced as composer for
musical adaptation of acclaimed novel The
Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Carmel Dean (music director/arranged: Funny Girl (revival), Broadway; The Notebook, Broadway) will be writing music and lyrics for London’s up and coming musical adaptation of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

The acclaimed romantic-fantasy novel The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R.A Dick is being adapted for the stage as a new musical. Carmel comments, Being asked to write the score for this much beloved book is truly a dream come true. The story is sweeping and epic, full of mystery, humour, and of course romance, and lends itself perfectly to being musicalized for the stage. I can’t wait to bring it to life in collaboration with the rest of this brilliant and passionate team!

Producer Scott Ihrig (Producer, Drama Club Productions, Drama Club Camp, and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular) comments Carmel brings strong women to life in music and on the stage. These are the type of stories the world needs more of these days – and I’m excited to be working with such an amazing team of women writers to bring this book to a new medium and new audiences.

Under the direction of Kenneth Hoyt (The Blue Hour of Natalie Barney, Arcola; The Sea Plays, Old Vic Tunnels, Founder and Artistic Director Provincetown REP) this exciting project will see a full read through in London in September 2024 before it takes to the stage in 2025. The show’s book comes from novelist and playwright Penelope Faith (Novels: Hello, Mr Magpie / From A Past Life. Plays: Nothing To See Here, Arcola / Not Now, But Now, Canal Cafe Theatre. Audio: Dark Shadows, Dr. Who, Big Finish). Richard Roland (Broadway’s Follies, Scarlet Pimpernel, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, Prof. of Musical Theatre at Indiana University) serves as Associate Director with Raymond Sage (B’way Camelot, Beauty and the Beast, Artistic Director-Penn State NU Musical Theatre Festival , Prof of Musical Theatre- Indiana Univ) as Creative Consultant.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a timeless ghost-infused romance between newly widowed Lucy Muir and the ghost of Daniel Gregg, a sea captain. Through this uncommon companionship, Mrs. Muir learns to find liberation from her grief and loneliness, showcasing the boundless nature of true love, and its ability to transcend this life and beyond.

The show is adapted from the original novel of The Ghost and Mrs Muir that was written by Josephine Leslie in 1945. She wrote under the pseudonym R.A Dick, taking the initials from her sea captain father Robert Abercromby. It was generally accepted that male novelists had a greater chance of having their work published with an increased likelihood of both sales and success.

The story was an immediate sensation and was quickly acquired by 20th Century Fox. The film starred Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. It is widely considered to be one of the most classic love stories of all time and the film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The novel was adapted several times as a radio play, most interestingly in a 1951 version starring Charles Boyer and Jane Wyatt. It was re-imagined once again into a well-loved TV series in 1968.

Further information is available at www.theghostandmrsmuirmusical.com.

Bonnie Langford and Jac Yarrow to join the West End production of LES MISÉRABLES for 4-weeks only

CAMERON MACKINTOSH
WELCOMES

BONNIE LANGFORD AS ‘MADAME THÉNARDIER’
AND
JAC YARROW AS ‘MARIUS’

TO THE WEST END PRODUCTION
OF

LES MISÉRABLES

AT THE SONDHEIM THEATRE

FOR 4-WEEKS ONLY

15 JULY – 10 AUGUST 2024

PRIOR TO THEM JOINING THE CAST OF THE WORLD TOUR OF
LES MISÉRABLES
THE ARENA SPECTACULAR

Cameron Mackintosh is delighted to welcome Bonnie Langford and Jac Yarrow into the West End production of Boublil and Schönberg’s worldwide phenomenon LES MISÉRABLES, for four-weeks only from 15 July to 10 August 2024, prior to them joining the cast of LES MISÉRABLES THE ARENA SPECTACULAR,which embarks on its highly anticipated World Tour from 19 September 2024.

Bonnie Langford as Madame Thénardier and Jac Yarrow as Marius will join the current cast of LES MISÉRABLES at the Sondheim Theatre including Milan van Waardenburg as Jean Valjean, Stewart Clarke as Javert, Katie Hall as Fantine, Amena El-Kindy as Éponine, Lulu-Mae Pears as Cosette, Luke Kempner as Thénardier,and Djavan van de Fliert as Enjolras.

Will Callan as Marius, and Claire Machin as Madame Thénardier will be returning to their roles from 12 August 2024.

The company is completed by Annabelle Aquino, Hazel Baldwin, Brad Barnley, Michael Baxter, Emily Olive Boyd, Rosy Church, Ben Culleton, Matthew Dale, Matt Dempsey, Sophie-May Feek, Matt Hayden, Tom Hext, Christopher Jacobsen, Jessica Johns-Parsons, Yazmin King, Sam Kipling, Anouk van Laake, Harry Lake, Sarah Lark, Ellie Ann Lowe, Ben Oatley, Adam Pearce, Jordan Simon Pollard, Jonathan Stevens, Phoebe Williams and Ollie Wray.

Bonnie Langford’s most recent appearance in the West End was in Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends at the Gielgud Theatre, having also appeared in the Gala cast of the show at the Sondheim Theatre. Her many other West End credits include Miss Evangeline Harcourt in Anything Goes, Roz Keith in 9 to 5 The Musical and Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street. She created the role of Rumpleteaser in the original production of Cats and starred as Roxie Hart in Chicago, in both the West End and on Broadway,

Bonnie made her theatre debut in the West End at the tender age of seven in Gone with the Wind at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The following year she played ‘Baby June’ in Gypsy opposite Angela Lansbury at the Piccadilly Theatre, making such an impact that the producers took her to America with the show for a highly successful run on Broadway. For this performance, at the age of ten, Bonnie was nominated for a Drama Desk Award.

Equally successful on stage and television, Bonnie won a British Soap Award for her role as Carmel Kazemi in EastEnders and most recently reached the final of ITV’s The Masked Dancer. Bonnie also appeared in the 2006 series of ITV1’s Dancing On Ice, skating her way to the final and returned for the All Stars season in 2014.  Her other television credits include The Catherine Tate Show and BBC’s Doctor Who where she has just returned to her role of the Doctor’s assistant, Melanie Bush.

Jac Yarrow made his professional and West End debut as the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, for which he was nominated for the 2020 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical, the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actor in a Musical and won The Stage Debut Award for Best West End Debut. He reprised the role of Joseph for the UK and Ireland Tour of the show and a run at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre. He was most recently seen in Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends at the Gielgud Theatre and as Pippin in Pippin – 50th Anniversary Concert at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

LES MISÉRABLES will enter its 40th record-breaking year in London this October. To kick off the celebrations, the show will embark on its first World Tour with the highly anticipated LES MISÉRABLESTHE ARENA SPECTACULAR, that commences in the UK in September, and will over the next year visit Belfast, Glasgow, Sheffield, Aberdeen, Manchester, Newcastle, Luxembourg, Geneva, Trieste, Milan,  Copenhagen, Oslo, Zurich,  Gothenburg, Stockholm, Malmö, Amsterdam before moving to Australia, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and beyond, with more worldwide destinations to be announced. Simultaneously, and for the first time ever, 11 leading amateur companies in the UK will present their own staging of the full show across the country in 2025.

The staged production continues to triumph around the globe with local language productions currently on or in preparation, and it continues to break box office records on tour in the US. Earlier this year, the remastered and remixed Oscar-winning movie was released again in several countries around the world.

Boublil and Schönberg’s magnificent iconic score of LES MISÉRABLES includes the classic 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. Several of its songs have become real life anthems of revolution wherever in the world people are fighting for their freedom. Seen by over 130 million people worldwide in 53 countries and in 22 languages, LES MISÉRABLES is undisputedly one of the world’s most popular musicals.

LES MISÉRABLES

Sondheim Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6BA

Currently booking until 29 March 2025

Prices: Tickets from £25 – No booking fee applies

Box Office: 0344 482 5151

Website: www.lesmis.com

Social Media:
www.facebook.com/lesmisofficial/
www.twitter.com/lesmisofficial
www.instagram.com/lesmizofficial
www.tiktok.com/@lesmisofficial
#LesMiz

‘FOREVERLAND’  Emma Hemingford will premiere at Southwark Playhouse

OVO PRESENTS, THE WORLD PREMIERE OF:

FOREVERLAND

Shortlisted for The Papatango Prize for New Writing in 2021

Southwark Playhouse Borough
2nd – 19th October 2024
 

https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/productions/foreverland

“In Foreverland Emma has created a gripping and insightful dystopian drama that proved incredibly popular with our reading team and was well deserving of its place on the shortlist” 

 Papatango New Writing Prize 2021

“This is for her, really.

She’s the one we’re doing this for”

In the very near future, Alice and Jay decide to undergo a new form of gene therapy. One which will indefinitely extend the length of their lives.

They’re optimistic, hoping their decision will lead to perfect careers, the perfect relationship, and most of all, a perfect family.

Life’s good. And you can’t get enough of a good thing, right?

OVO is delighted to announce that new play ‘FOREVERLAND’ by upcoming playwright Emma Hemingford will premiere at Southwark Playhouse Borough (The Little) for a three-week run, from 2nd – 19th October 2024. ‘Foreverland’ isa gripping drama tackling the future of biotechnology and what it might mean to ‘cure’ death, and truly live forever. Grounded in the inter-generational story of one family’s love and loss, the play raises the universal questions; what makes a good life? How far would we go to be with our loved ones? How do the decisions of one generation affect the lives of the next?

‘Foreverland’ imagines a near future in which immortality has become possible for the privileged elite, adding a new and intriguing layer to the concept of the ‘haves and the have nots’. This dystopian projection is far closer to our lived reality than we may realise: a recent boom of Silicon-Valley investment in longevity medicine has caused leading scientists to predict that the first generation of people to live for hundreds of years, or even thousands, has already been born[1].

In the past, the world has welcomed medical advancements that extended the human life-span; but is there a line that should never be crossed? ‘Foreverland’ asks; what would vastly extended human life-spans mean for social change, or for interpersonal relationships? 

Tackling a fascinating subject, and one which is both appealing and terrifying in equal measure, ‘Foreverland’ challenges audiences to open up ideological conversations around the issue, borne of witnessing the characters’ intimate dialogues, as their lives look set to be transformed.

More than an exploration of the future of biotech, the play is also a timeless parable with an intimate focus on one family. ‘Foreverland ‘invites audiences to reflect on the deeply ingrained desire for control over our bodies, our lives, and our deaths. 

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/live-longer-longevity-stem-cells-ageing-a8332701.html

The Magic Flute Review

Forum Theatre, Malvern – 5th July 2024

Reviewed by Courie Amado Juneau

5*****

Mozart at Malvern. What a treat! Not only that but the Age of Enlightenment mysticism of The Magic Flute, his last opera (from 1791).

The story is a convoluted concoction that’s, frankly, barking (in an entertaining, pantomimic way). Then again, considering that a magic flute helps protect Prince Tamino from dangers in tasks to prove his worth during his quest to save the Queen of the Night’s daughter from the clutches of Sarastro, her rival…

The first surprise tonight was no orchestra pit. The orchestra were assembled in a semi-circle at the rear of the stage, with just a single player for each instrument! As the overture struck up the hall was filled with glorious music, perfectly balanced. To have a fully fledged opera played with such reduced forces and for it to not jar is testament to the band and their Musical Director Orlando Jopling (also playing the tinkly keyboard).

Tamino (Richard Dowling) gave us delicious velvety tones and he and Natasha Page (playing Pamina) made a very convincing and likeable pair. Her quiet notes (especially) took the breath away with an ethereal beauty! The aria “Oh, I feel it, it is gone” was (for me) the emotional high of the entire piece as it embodied that universal human feeling of your partner’s love slipping away.

Gareth Brynmor John as Papageno provided a commendably multi-faceted characterization. I loved his comedic timing throughout and his “A girl or a woman” was very emotional. His duet: “Pa… pa… pa…” with the wonderful Eleanor Sanderson-Nash playing Papagena was another of the night’s undoubted highlights – the pair combining beautifully.

Luci Briginshaw gave us a hissable, fleshed out Queen of the Night. Her famous aria “Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart” was spellbinding and (to my admittedly wooly ears) she hit all those stratospheric notes. Her opposite number, Sarastro (Edward Hawkins) was impressively sonorous and a commanding presence befitting his status in the story.

This piece is heavily symbolic of Mozart’s Masonic beliefs. The number 3 features prominently with trios (ladies; Eleanor Oldfield, Martha Jones, Abbie Ward and men; Lachlan Craig, Henry Wright, Ben Thapa) propelling the story along at key moments. All were masterful in their parts.

The staging was stark with modern costumes courtesy of Sophie Lincoln giving the production a nevertheless sumptuous feel. This concentrated the attention on the singers whilst also giving the musicians amongst us the rare opportunity to watch the orchestra.

I generally prefer to see operas in their original language as the metre scans better (and it’s what the composer intended after all) but this translation (into English) from Jeremy Sams was adroitly done and I quickly got over myself and revelled in the spectacle.

This highly imaginative opera is, at heart, about the human condition and some very lofty ideals – like love. So, there’s much to warm the heart here – far beyond the perfection of the musical score (which is enough all by itself). I saw Wild Arts before and they were sensational. They were again tonight in a production that was innovative, fresh and delightful and which I wholeheartedly recommend.

A MONSTER CALLS REVIEW

EVERYMAN THEATRE, LIVERPOOL – FRIDAY 5TH JULY 2024

REVIEWED BY MIA BOWEN

5*****

Andrew AB Photography

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is one of my favourite books, so when I received an invitation to the Everyman Theatre to watch a stage adaptation, I eagerly accepted! Witnessing a novel being brought to life on stage can be a truly transformative experience. I had also seen the film in the cinema back in 2016. I remember it being a significant release, with its enchanting CGI scenes and moving story. Therefore, this theatre production held a lot of excitement for me.

The story revolves around Conor, a 13-year-old boy who is feeling isolated and lonely. He is facing bullying at school and struggling to come to terms with his mother’s battle with cancer. In addition, his relationship with his grandmother is strained, and he feels disconnected from his father. Conor is dealing with a lot of challenges. When a monster resembling a yew tree visits Conor at seven minutes past midnight, it disrupts his life by sharing three stories with him, one each night. On the fourth night, Conor must share a true tale with the monster.

As the book was aimed at young adults, I felt it was perfect for the YEP Actors 18-25 Company, under the direction of Nathan Crossan-Smith, to stage this production.

Finn Kearns portrayed Conor, while Kieran Gregory took on the role of Harry, the bully. Their boundless energy captivates the audience from start to finish. Kearns portrayal is sincere, taking us along on his journey with every word. You can truly feel the ups and downs of emotions that a young person would experience, and he gave an outstanding performance, especially considering the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

Indeed, the entire cast was outstanding, comprising a fantastic group of young performers. Niamh Parrington and Moli Wyn portrayed Conor’s grandma and mother brilliantly, delivering emotive performances. An essential element of the play is getting the monster portrayal right, which could easily have gone awry. However, the innovative use of ropes and pipes, along with performers altering their voices through a microphone to deepen them, effectively brought the monster to life in a unique and compelling way.

The experience I had last night gives just a glimpse of what to expect from the upcoming generation of actors, creative and technical teams. It has left me feeling extremely excited about the future of live theatre! Brace yourself for tears!

All White Everything But Me Review

Live Theatre, Newcastle – until Saturday 6th July 2024

4****

Reviewed by Sandra Little

This one woman play, written and performed by Kemi-Bo Jacobs and directed by Becky Morris was first performed at Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle in 2022. It charts the life and career of Althea Gibson, who was born to sharecroppers in South Carolina in 1927. Althea became the first black tennis player to win at Wimbledon in 1957 and despite this remarkable achievement her story has remained virtually untold.

The first taste of success for Althea came when she was 12 and won a local paddle tennis competition; she then went on to achieve further success after being coached by Buddy Walker. Althea eventually left her home in Harlem to take up the offer of a scholarship in Florida. At 22 Althea was the National Indoor Tennis Champion, but despite her talent and success, she was not allowed to play in “all white” competitions. After sending off numerous applications Althea was eventually allowed to participate in American Tennis Association competitions, however she was not allowed to attend social functions! After winning Wimbledon in 1957 Althea returned to America to a ticker tape parade and at the age of 28 she turned professional.

This high energy one woman performance by Kemi-Bo Jacobs not only highlights Althea’s talent and determination to win tennis competitions but also her struggles to overcome the barriers she encountered due to the racism which existed in America at the time. There is mention of the death of her friend for example, and reference to the murder of Emmett Till who was lynched for whistling at a white woman .

The set for this play is very simple, consisting mainly of a white rocking chair and white tennis balls We are told that tennis balls at the time of Althea’s success, “like everything else,” were white. Yellow tennis balls were not introduced at Wimbledon until 1986. Althea’s costume for this performance is also white.

Whilst the dialogue throughout this this 70 minute performance was extremely fast paced, and packed with interesting information, I would have preferred the pace of delivery to be a little slower in some parts. I feel that a more varied pace would have enhanced the impact of some very powerful statements.

This play does come with a warning about the material including discussion of racial insults and physical abuse however I felt that both issues are addressed sensitively. Although this play coincides with Wimbledon fortnight it is not primarily a play about tennis; it is more about the forgotten story of a talented woman who had to battle against strongly held racist views to achieve her success. It also raises the question, “Why has this woman’s story been overlooked for so long?”

Running time is 70 minutes with no interval