Around the World in 80 Days comes to Cadogan Hall

The New Vic Theatre’s celebrated production of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days adapted by Laura Eason and directed by Theresa Heskins arrives at London’s Cadogan Hall, as part of a major six month tour.

Around the World in 80 Days first premièred at the New Vic Theatre in 2013 followed by a successful season at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester in 2014. This production has been nominated for both the UK Theatre Awards’ ‘Best New Production’ and the Manchester Theatre Awards’ ‘Best Show for Children and Families’.

The mysterious and fabulously wealthy Phileas Fogg wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days. Join Fogg and his loyal valet, Passepartout, as they voyage from the misty alleys of Victorian London to the exotic subcontinent and the Wild West in a race against the clock.

An ensemble cast of 8 play over 125 characters in an imaginative and physically inventive high-spirited escapade including six trains, five boats, four fights, three dances, two circus acts and an elephant!

Theresa Heskins is currently Artistic Director of the New Vic Theatre. Recent directing credits include, The Snow Queen, Peter Pan in Scarlet, Kiss Me Quickstep, Robin Hood & Marian, Dracula, The Borrowers, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Widowers’ Houses, A Christmas Carol, Far from the Madding Crowd and Where Have I Been All My Life? In 2015 she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of the Arts for services to theatre and for her cultural contribution to North Staffordshire.

The UK tour of Around the World in 80 Days reunites original cast members Andrew Pollard (Phileas Fogg),Michael Hugo (Passepartout), Dennis Herdman (Inspector Fix), Pushpinder Chandi (Mr Naidu) and Kirsten Foster (Mrs Aouda). They are joined by Matthew Ganley (Colonel Proctor), Simi Egbejumi-David (Captain Speedy) and Joey Parsad (Miss Singh).

Around the World in 80 Days is at Cadogan Hall from 2 August until 2 September.

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Brand New Production of Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness For the Prosecution’ to open on the South Bank This Autumn

A major new production of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution is to open on London’s South Bank this October in a unique court room setting inside County Hall.  Lucy Bailey (Comus, The Graduate, Titus Andronicus) will direct this gripping tale of justice, passion and betrayal, with the audience thrillingly placed in the thick of the action in a spectacular location. This will be the first major London production of a play written by Agatha Christie to open since the 1960s.

Director Lucy Bailey at The Chamber in London County Hall. Photo by Helen Maybanks

Leonard Vole is accused of murdering a widow to inherit her wealth. The stakes are high. Will Leonard survive the shocking witness testimony?  Will he be able to convince the jury of his innocence and escape the hangman’s noose?

Witness for the Prosecution was one of Agatha Christie’s favourites of all her works.  In her autobiography, she said: ‘One night at the theatre stands out in my memory especially; the first night of Witness for the Prosecution. I can safely say that that was the only first night I have enjoyed…. It was one of my plays that I like best myself.’ 

The new production has been developed with the support and involvement of the Christie family. Christie’s Great Grandson and Executive Chair of Agatha Christie Ltd, James Prichard said “It is really exciting to see this innovative approach to one of my great grandmother’s best plays. The amazing setting of County Hall will help raise the production to great heights, and with Lucy Bailey directing it will be a must see theatre event. This show will help demonstrate that Christie’s works are as relevant today as they have ever been, and 21st century London is in for a treat.”

Witness for the Prosecution is part of an exciting new wave of adaptations of Christie’s work on stage and screen that are giving audiences a fresh perspective on her canon. It follows the highly acclaimed BBC One adaptation of the short story which aired last Christmas and starred Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough and Kim Cattrall, as well as the BBC’s And Then There Were None which starred Aidan Turner, Charles Dance and Sam Neill. The BBC has commissioned seven new adaptations with the first of these, Ordeal By Innocence going into production this summer. In November, 20th Century Fox’s feature film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express will be released, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. The all-star cast also includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Tom Bateman, Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr, Sergei Polunin and Lucy Boynton.

Witness for the Prosecution will run from 6 October – 11 March 

Review: “Intricate drama” ★★★★ Punts, Theatre503

Like eating, sleeping and defecating, having sex is a basic human need, especially if you’re a young man. But when, if ever, is it appropriate to facilitate someone else fulfilling this need?

Sarah Page’s delicate new play Punts at Theatre503 delves into this question and also examines the transactional value of the act of copulation and its impact on female empowerment.

Jack is 25 and has learning disabilities. His parents feel sure his confidence and self-worth will be improved if he gets his end away like his brothers and his friends at the rugby club. They employ a prostitute (a punt), a hand-picked female sex worker of around the same age to do the deed, but the rendezvous has a profound affect on the family’s stability.

The intricate drama makes us scrutinize the question of consent; Jack (Christopher Adams) has an inability to read people and so does he really possess the power to say no, or have his parents, who are trying to compensate for their own relationship pressures, simply coerced him into losing his virginity?

The arrival of the lady of the night, Julia (Florence Roberts) makes them question their own intimacies and past decisions; Antonia (Clare Lawrence-Moody) had their son at just nineteen and so missed out on a university education and Alistair (Graham O’Mara) appears to yearn for the bygone wild days of youth.

Julia’s fiery independence also threatens Antonia’s very safe way of life in suburban London and exposes the inadequacies she feels as a homemaker.

Setting the play in an area of affluence is a masterstroke as it removes the idea that sexual transactions only occur in the more seedy areas of our societies and as Julia assures barrister Alistair “you’ve met a prostitute before.”

It’s a tricky subject matter, but Page’s play finds the humour within it, while adroitly examining the moral dilemma.

Punts is at Theatre503 until 24 June 

Review: “An insightful and relevant work” ★★★★ Kiss Me, Trafalgar Studios

Over 700,000 British men died in World War I. With an outbreak of Spanish Flu killing millions more after the fighting had finished, Britain was left with a vastly depleted male population.

The consequences of this devastating loss of life were felt for many years and master storyteller Richard Bean explores the terrible legacy in his play Kiss Me at Trafalgar Studios.

We meet Stephanie (Claire Lams) over a decade after the end of the war, a widow who became a lorry driver to help the effort on the home front. At 32 she is seen by society as past it, but longs for a child and thanks to a fairly cloak and dagger scheme by a local doctor, is given the chance to conceive. She is visited by a travelling impregnating machine in the shape of Dennis (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) who has taken it upon himself to repopulate London because as he says “Turkey basters don’t work” and after fathering over 200 children, he is doing fairly well.

But the underlying reasons behind his sexual prowess realistically stem from his survivor’s guilt and in finding a kindred spirit in Stephanie, the purpose of his vocation is thrown into question.

Despite being set in 1929, the themes of human displacement and a desperate search for a reason for existence feel impeccably relevant. The nervous ramblings of Stephanie when they first meet – allowing too much of herself to be exposed and filling any empty space with meaningless chatter – is something I’m sure many of us have experienced on a first date. But, this is supposed to be more of business transaction and that further generates the debate over whether there is a difference between having sex and making love.

Bean has become more well-known in recent years for his crowd-pleasing comedies – including the hugely popular One Man Two Guvnors – but this return to small-scale intimate drama is a welcome one. His script is filled with amusing interludes, but at all times maintains an underlying feeling of desperation.

Claire Lams is totally captivating as Stephanie, cutesy and self-deprecating, while maintaining a forthrightness by illustrating the rise of female empowerment, something that was very much in its infancy in the 1920s.

Ben Lloyd-Hughes is more reserved and makes it clear from his stiff posture and stand-offish body language throughout that this is a man who is tormented by his past and is determined not to let anyone crack his armour.

At just 70 minutes, you are definitely left with unanswered questions and it wouldn’t hurt to explore some of the issue and characters a little deeper, but this play is, nevertheless, an insightful and relevant work, which is worth a look.

Kiss Me is at Trafalgar Studios until 8 July 

Broadchurch star, Olivia Colman to star in Mosquitos at the National Theatre

Olivia Colman will star in the National Theatre production of Mosquitoes in the Doorman Theatre.

Alice is a scientist. She lives in Geneva. As the Large Hadron particle collider starts up in 2008, she is on the brink of the most exciting work of her life, searching for the Higgs Boson.  Jenny is her sister. She lives in Luton. She spends a lot of time Googling.  When tragedy throws them together, the collision threatens all with chaos.

Mosquitoes by Lucy Kirkwood will have its world premiere in the Dorfman Theatre in July with Rufus Norris directing. The cast is Amanda Boxer, Olivia Colman (Jenny), Cait Davis, Vanessa Emme, Yoli Fuller, Paul Hilton, Joseph Quinn, Sofia Stuart and Olivia Williams (Alice).  Designed by Katrina Lindsay, lighting design by Paule Constable, music by Adam Cork, sound design by Paul Arditti and video design by Finn Ross & Ian William Galloway.

Mosquitoes is at the National Theatre from 18 July until 28 September 

We talk to Ben Lloyd-Hughes about Kiss Me at Trafalgar Studios

Following a critically acclaimed run at Hampstead Theatre, Richard Bean’s two-hander Kiss Me has transferred to Trafalgar Studios and with the pairing of Claire Lams and Ben Lloyd-Hughes reprising their roles, the thought provoking 1920’s drama promises to be another hit, writes Nicky Sweetland.

Set post World War I, when Britain is reeling from the loss of so many men, the story follows Stephanie, a 32-year-old widow, desperate for a child. Her plight is recognised by Dennis, who has taken it upon himself to impregnate husbandless women.

Ben Lloyd-Hughes told us, “This play asks the questions about what this scenario would be like and what happens if they also have a connection.”

But, Ben’s character isn’t just an opportunistic Lothario and Ben explains, “You’ll really find out what’s going on inside his head and his justification for doing it. There’s a lot more hidden there and there’s a lot more to do with the war and his own guilt”

Film fans know Ben Lloyd-Hughes for his role in the dystopian action thriller Divergent, but the actor is perhaps most recognised for his portrayal of Josh Stock in the television series Skins. Ben previously appeared in the West End transfer of the Royal Court’s production of Jumpy.

I ask Ben what it’s like to be returning to the role he left behind last year. “It’s been a joy to reconnect not only with Claire [Lams] and our director, Anna [Ledwich] but also just with the text itself and to re-find it, recreate but also find new things about it. Anna has encouraged us to treat this as something new while also honouring how successful and great it was last time.”

Writer, Richard Bean is best known for his seminal work, One Man, Two Guvnors, a play, which is defined as a bawdy crowd pleaser. Kiss Me is a much more potent project and tackles some modern issues under the guise of a historical drama.

“The play talks a lot about feminism and female empowerment because this was a time when there was still a lot of sexism.” Ben explains, “Everything was still behind closed doors, but at the same time – because of the war – a lot of the women were having to do the men’s jobs and so it actually led to a lot of female empowerment.”

Kiss Me is at Trafalgar Studios until 8 Jul 

Theatre News: Glenda Jackson will portray Stevie Smith in Dead Poets Live at Print Room at the Coronet

Print Room at the Coronet have announced their Autumn/Winter season and it includes the return of the sell-out Dead Poets Live series.

Former MP, Glenda Jackson recently returned to the stage in King Lear at the Old Vic

The first of these events will feature Glenda Jackson reading the role of North London poet Stevie Smith (1902-71), having portrayed her on-screen in the 1978 film ‘Stevie’.

Jackson recently returned to the stage for the first time in over 25 years to play King Lear at the Old Vic.

All proceeds from the evening will go to refugee charity Safe Passage. An additional two Dead Poets Live events are programmed, with full details to follow.

Other highlights from the schedule include the Coronet Winter Festival and the transfer from Theatre Royal Bath of Trouble in Mind, directed by Laurence Boswell.

Further details can be found on the website 

Theatre News: The Great Gatsby immersive theatre experience returns to secret central London venue

Following a sell-out run at VAULT Festival, The Great Gatsby returns to London tonight, transforming a secret location into an unseen world through the back of Jay Gatsby’s drugstore. Due to popular demand the run is also extended, with tickets now on sale for all performances until Sunday 10 September.

‘The honour would be entirely mine if you could attend my little party.’

Yours Sincerely,
J Gatsby

It’s the roaring twenties – an era of bootleg liquor, red hot jazz and hedonistic pleasures. Jay Gatsby has invited you to one of his infamous parties and that’s not an invite you want to turn down. Step through Gatsby’s drugstore and into a secret world where the cocktails flow, the music plays, and once the party is in full swing there’s more than a chance of a little scandal.

In this heart-racing immersive adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal jazz-age novel, you are in the heart of the action. Guests are encouraged to pick out your best dress, dust off your tux, and watch as one of the greatest stories of the 20th Century unfolds around you in this unique theatrical performance.

Presented by The Guild Of Misrule and The Immersive Ensemble, this smash hit production draws together creatives from Secret CinemaLes Enfant TerriblesThe Flanagan Collective and Belt Up Theatre.

The Guild of Misrule also launched today; Gatsby Lates – themed late-night parties – fortnightly on Fridays and Saturdays from Friday 23 June. Featuring live music, DJs, unexpected performers, and a bar open until 2.00am, Gatsby Lates are where the unruly come together and the party doesn’t have to stop.

“We’re delighted we have found an exciting new location for The Great Gatsby after its sellout run at VAULT Festival, where audiences will once again immerse themselves in Gatsby’s glittering world”, says Brian Hook for The Guild of Misrule. “There has been an overwhelming response to the show, and rather fittingly the public now has to ‘know a guy who knows a guy’ to get a ticket in June.”  Hook continued; “we’re thrilled to be opening the doors at our new secret location until September, and also adding Gatsby Lates performances”.

The Great Gatsby is directed by Alex Wright with choreography by Holly Beasley-Garrigan, and design by Casey Andrews. Based on the novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, it is written by Alex Wright and The Original Company. It is presented by The Guild of Misrule with general management by Hartshorn-Hook Productions.

The cast features Ollie Tilney (Jay Gatsby), Louise Williams (Daisy Buchanan), Thomas Maller (Tom Buchanan), Dan Dingsdale (Nick Carraway), Holly Beasley-Garrigan (Jordan Baker), Veronica Hare (Myrtle Wilson), Phil Grainger(George Wilson), Imogen Little (Kitty), alongside an ensemble including Jessica Guise, Toby Gordon and Ollo Clark.

The Great Gatsby is running at a secret location in central London until 10 September. Details will be given to ticket buyers www.OfficialGreatGatsby.com

Theatre News: Hampstead Theatre announce two world premiere productions as part of their Autumn season

Hampstead Theatre will host the world premieres of two plays as part of its Autumn season.

The first will be Prism, based on the life of legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff, written and directed by Terry Johnson and will star Robert Lindsay and Claire Skinner.

Robert Lindsay will star in Prism at Hampstead Theatre

This will be followed by the world premiere of Nicholas Wright’s The Slaves of Solitude, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Patrick Hamilton and will be directed by Jonathan Kent.

The first production of Simon Gray’s Cell Mates since 1995 will also be staged and directed by Artistic Director Edward Hall who comments, “I’m extremely proud to announce such an exciting body of work at Hampstead Theatre this autumn. With two world premieres on the Main Stage, Terry Johnson’s Prism and Nicholas Wright’s adaptation of The Slaves of Solitude, and a long overdue revival of Simon Gray’s Cell Mates, our aim is to continue to provide endless nights of top quality and entertaining theatre for hundreds of thousands of theatregoers. I’m personally looking forward to Gray’s gripping espionage thriller and I hope to help it gain its rightful place in the repertoire as a serious, brilliant piece of British drama.

Prism 6 September – 14 October

Slaves of Solitude 20 October – 25 November

Cell Mates 30 November – 20 January

Theatre News: Laurence Fox will star in The Real Thing at Rose Theatre Kingston

Theatre Royal Bath Productions, Cambridge Arts Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston have announced Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing will embark on a limited UK Tour from September, starring Laurence Fox and directed by Stephen Unwin. The production will open on Wednesday 6 September in Cambridge before touring to Bath and Kingston.

Laurence Fox will star in The Real Thing at Rose Theatre Kingston

The Real Thing was first staged in London’s West End in 1982 and subsequently transferred to Broadway where it went on to win multiple awards including the Tony Award for Best Play in 1994 and, 16 years later, the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Stoppard’s poignant classic offers an intellectual and entertaining examination of infidelity.

Henry is the smartest and sharpest playwright of his generation. His wife, Charlotte, an actress has been appearing in a play by Henry about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Max, her leading man, is also married to an actress, Annie. When Henry’s affair with Annie threatens to destroy his own marriage, he realises life has started imitating art. But are they really in love? Is it the real thing?

Laurence Fox is best known for his role as DS James Hathaway for seven series of Lewis. Other television roles include A Room With A View and Wired with film credits including Gosford Park and Becoming Jane. Fox’s theatre credits include Strangers on a Train (Gielgud Theatre) and Our Boys (Duchess Theatre).

Tom Stoppard is a multi-award winning playwright with many notable plays including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are DeadArcadiaThe Coast of Utopia, The Hard Problem and The Invention of Love. Stoppard also co-wrote Shakespeare in Love which won the Academy Award for best screenplay.

Stephen Unwin founded English Touring Theatre (ETT) in 1993 prior to becoming Artistic Director of Rose Theatre Kingston for five years. Unwin’s credits for Theatre Royal Bath include Moon Tiger starring Jane Asher and Present Laughter starring Samuel West and Phyllis Logan.

The Real Thing will run at Rose Theatre Kingston from Monday 2 – Saturday 14 October