We talk to Jack Ellis about the ultra scary ‘Wait Until Dark’ at Richmond Theatre

Audrey Hepburn earned an Academy Award nomination for the 1967 psychological thriller Wait Until Dark, writes Nicky Sweetland.

But fans of the film will soon be able to experience Fredrick Knott’s terrifying play – upon which the screenplay was based – when a new production embarks on a nationwide tour next week.

The play, which is set amidst the social turbulence of 60’s London, stars Oliver Mellor (Coronation Street) and Karina Jones (The Vagina Monologues and Crystal Clear) alongside Jack Ellis (Prime Suspect and Bad Girls) who took some time off from rehearsals to tell us about the new production.

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The play follows the story of Suzy, a blind woman who, left alone in her apartment, becomes embroiled with a group of conmen hatching an elaborate scam and Jack explains, “It’s a fantastic piece made better by the fact that we have Karina Jones, who is a blind actress, playing the Audrey Hepburn part. I think it’s the first time it’s ever been done. I think, were we to do it with a sighted actress, it might be slightly dated but having Karina adds a huge amount of poignancy and a totally different feel. It underlines disability and our attitudes towards disability.”

With her husband removed from the house, Suzy is left to fend for herself but with the phone line cut and the house plunged into darkness, how will she outwit her tormentors?

“Weirdly she becomes more and more resolute as the play unfolds.” Jack said.

Jack Ellis is perhaps best known for playing the dastardly prison guard Jim Fenner in the ITV television series Bad Girls. His previous theatre credits include A Clockwork Orange, Richard III and Hamlet (all for the Royal Shakespeare Company) but he was most recently seen onstage in the acclaimed UK touring production of Shawshank Redemption.

Jack, once again, portrays an unsavoury character in the new stage production of Waiting For Dark, which is often quoted as one of the top 100 scariest films of all time.

“Fans of the film will love it, but I think they’ll get a lot more from it. The film is just a scary film and this has got a lot of comedy in it as well.” Jack tells us, “It’s a bit like the Woman in Black, meets Hustle, meets Harold Pinter, meets the scariest film you’ve ever seen, particularly at the end.”

Waiting Until Dark will run at the Richmond Theatre from 4 – 9 September 

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Martin Shaw returns to the Richmond Theatre

Martin Shaw leads the cast in the timely UK premiere of Gore Vidal’s award winning political thriller about ambition, political scandal, ruthlessness… and the race for the white house.

Written before the battles of Trump vs Clinton and May vs Corbyn, Vidal’s drama of dirty politics never seemed more real or relevant. At a time of political chaos, The Best Man mirrors the often surprising results of campaigning and the unscrupulous world of politics.

Two opposing presidential party candidates are neck and neck in an unscrupulous battle for the nomination. The only thing that separates the esteemed ex-Secretary of State and his newcomer populist opponent is an endorsement from a respected ex-President. But where does compromise end and corruption begin? And who in the end will be proven to be “the best man”?

One of the UK’s most respected actors, Martin Shaw, rose to stardom in the late seventies in The Professionals, launching a career that has hardly seen him out of the limelight. He is best known for starring in the multi award winning BBC drama Judge John Deed and more recently Inspector George Gently. On stage, his revelatory performance as Lord Goring in Peter Hall’s production of An Ideal Husband earned him a Tony nomination and the coveted New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Other West End triumphs include the acclaimed Twelve Angry MenAre You Lonesome Tonight? and A Man For All Seasons. He returns to the stage in a role made famous by Henry Fonda in the award-winning film adaptation of The Best Man.

Born into a distinguished political family, Gore Vidal was a prolific writer known for the waspish wit, which peppered his essays, novels, screenplays and Broadway plays. Among his most famous works are Myra Breckinridge and Lincoln. The Best Man premiered on Broadway in 1960 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, including ‘Best Play’. Vidal adapted it into a film with the same title in 1964 starring Henry Fonda,Cliff Robertson, and Lee Tracy who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the crafty ex-President. The play received a major revival on Broadway in 2012 starring James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury, and earned two Tony award nominations including ‘Best Revival of a Play’.

The Best Man will visit Richmond Theatre as part of its UK tour from Monday 2nd – Saturday 7th October prior to a West End run. 

Cel Spellman joins the cast of Talk Radio at the Old Red Lion

Cel Spellman (Host of the Sunday Chart Show on Radio 1; Cold Feet, ITV; Cucumber, Channel 4) will join the cast of Talk Radio at the Old Red Lion.

He will costar alongside George Turvey (No Villain, Old Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios; Batman, Live arena tour; Artistic Director of PapaTango theatre company), Andy Secombe (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones; Mr Gillie, Finborough Theatre) Molly McNerney and Matthew Jure (Grantchester, ITV; Downton Abbey, BBC1; The Great Train Robbery, BBC1 and EIFF Best Actor in a Feature Film nominee 2017) in Eric Bogosian’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, thirty years after its inaugural production in New York.

Barry Champlain is abrasive and forthright, the ultimate devil’s advocate, willing to argue just about any point. He lives for his radio show and the minor fame it brings him but his on-air persona is just that: a persona. Barry despises the people he talks to every day; he loathes their views and he abhors their adoration.

His listeners think they know him but Barry is not even sure he knows himself. He is careless and cold with his lover Linda, downright ugly to his best friend and collaborator Stu and spiteful of his producer, the man who made him, Dan. But above all, he detests himself for the lie he is living.

While freedom of the press has always been viewed as important, Bogosian’s play highlights that, in the wrong hands, this freedom can be used to baffle and create prejudice. In a post-truth age of fake news and continued attacks against the press, this landmark hit has never felt more relevant.

Director Sean Turner comments, I’m elated by the cast we’ve put together. Cel is an extraordinary talent and having a bona fide radio guy in the cast helps too! Matthew is going to be a phenom in the central role and I’m thrilled to be building on previous work with George and Andy. Molly is a rare find – she’s going to be huge.

Talk Radio will run at the Old Red Lion from 29th August – Saturday 23rd September

Casting News: Full casting announced for Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Lyric Hammersmith

Full casting has been announced for Simon Stephens’s new version of Anton Chekhov’s highly renowned play, The Seagull, directed by Artistic Director Sean Holmes. Lloyd Cooney plays Jacob, Nicholas Gleaves plays Boris Trigorin, Lloyd Hutchinson plays Leo and Raphael Sowole plays Simeon. They join the previously announced Adelayo Adedayo, Michele Austin, Paul Higgins, Lesley Sharp, Cherrelle Skeete, Nicolas Tennant and Brian Vernel.

Unrequited love. Creative jealousy. Guns. Vodka. And Art.

Chekhov’s celebrated masterpiece is given vibrant new life in this dynamic new version by Olivier-award winning playwright Simon Stephens directed by Sean Holmes.

Switching effortlessly between the ridiculous and the profound The Seagull forensically examines the transcendence and destructiveness of love. The burning need to create Art and how harshly that need can be crushed permeates this classic play.

Adelayo Adedayo, Michele Austin, Lloyd Cooney, Nicholas Gleaves, Paul Higgins, Lloyd Hutchinson, Brian Vernel, Nicolas Tennant, Raphael Sowole, Cherrelle Skeete join the previously announced Lesley Sharp as Irina Arcadian.

Casting News: Full casting announced for Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing

Full casting for Tom Stoppard’s poignant classic The Real Thing has been announced, directed by Stephen Unwin, which today began rehearsals ahead of its limited UK tour from 6 September.

As previously announced Laurence Fox will star as Henry in the production. He will be joined by Adam Jackson-Smith as Max, Rebecca Johnson as Charlotte, Santino Smith as Brodie, Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Annie, Venice Van Someren as Debbie and Kit Young as Billy.

The production will open on Wednesday 6 September in Cambridge before touring to co-producing venues Bath and Kingston, with national press night on Wednesday 20 September at Theatre Royal Bath. It will then visit Malvern, Edinburgh, Brighton and Guildford.

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).

Adam Jackson-Smith recently starred in The Dresser (UK Tour; Duke of York’s) alongside Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith. Other stage credits include The First Man (Jermyn Street Theatre) and Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre).

Rebecca Johnson’s extensive theatre credits include All Our Children (Jermyn Street Theatre), Present Laughter (Theatre Royal Bath), Wendy and Peter (RSC) and Twelfth Night (Sheffield Theatres / ETT).

Santino Smith trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama where credits included All That I amThe Narrative, The Rover and The Taming of the Shrew. 

Flora Spencer-Longhurst’s stage credits include A Christmas Truce and Much Ado About Nothing & Love’s Labour’s Lost (RSC), Once (Phoenix Theatre) and Titus Andronicus (Globe Theatre).

Venice Van Someren most recently starred in Gabriel (UK Tour). Other credits include Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down (Theatre N16), Punk Rock (Theatro Technis) and The Cherry Orchard (Boris Shchukin Institute).

Kit Young recently graduated from RADA where credits included The OresteiaRomeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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 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.

The production will have set and costume design by Jonathan Fensom (Farinelli and the King, Duke of York’s; Journey’s End; West End Broadway – Tony Award nomination for Best Scenic Design) and lighting by Tim Mascall (I Loved Lucy, Arts Theatre; The Importance of Being Earnest, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre).

http://www.theatreroyal.org.uk

Casting News: Terence Wilton and James Byng to star in The Woman in Black

Now celebrating its 29th year, Susan Hill’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK at The Fortune Theatre is still scaring the socks off London audiences and from the 29th August the play will star Terence Wilton as ‘Arthur Kipps’ and James Byng as ‘The Actor’.

Terence Wilton’s recent theatre credits include ‘Lord Lonsdale’ in “William Wordsworth” (Theatre By The Lake); “Cat On A Hot In Roof” (Theatre Royal Northampton) and “The Sound of Music” (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre). For the RSC he recently played ‘Baptista Minola’ in “The Taming of the Shrew”. His television credits include “Revelations – End Of Days”, “The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross”; “The Forsyte Saga”; “Inspector Alleyn Mysteries”; “Henry VI part 1”; “Some Distant Shadow”; “Dial M for Murder”; “Vanity Fair” and “Doctor Who”.

 

James Byng’s previous theatre credits include ‘Toulouse-Lautrec’ in “Moulin Rouge!” (Secret Cinema); ‘Edgar Rychenkov’ in “Noël” (National Opera House, Ireland); “Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales” (Bargehouse, South Bank); ‘Group Captain Mandrake’ in “Dr Strangelove” (Secret Cinema); ‘Nick Willow’ in “Carries War” (UK Tour); ‘Posner’ in “The History Boys” (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Theatre Royal Bath UK Tour); ‘Frodo’ in “The Lord of the Rings” (Theatre Royal Drury Lane); “Les Misérables” (Palace Theatre); “Oliver!” (London Palladium); “Hey! Mr Producer” (Lyceum).

Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s best-selling novel, THE WOMAN IN BLACK tells the story of a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over his family by the spectre of a ‘Woman in Black’. He engages a young actor to help him tell his story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. It begins innocently enough, but as they delve further into his darkest memories, they find themselves caught up in a world of eerie marshes and moaning winds. The borders between make-believe and reality begin to blur and the flesh begins creep.

http://thewomaninblack.com

Luxe Performance bring Funeral Meats to the King’s Head Theatre

Award-winning company LUXE Performance will present a one-act play exploring the legacies of same-sex marriage, immigration, fame and inherited mental illness called Funeral Meats at the King’s Head Theatre later this month.

Luke and Laura are brother and sister; they reunite at their famous mother’s funeral after many years apart, following a bitter break-up with Luke’s husband Felix.  An old intimate friend of their mother is there to complete the party, and as the evening draws on she reveals her own vein of intrigue. With the arrival of Felix at the wake, and while the alcohol flows, a story saturated with recrimination, revelation and revenge is revealed.

Featuring Helen Adie, Cradeaux Alexander, Luca Pusceddu and Ramona Von Pusch, the world premiere of this fascinating play is being produced as part of the King’s Head Theatre’s Queer Festival, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the sexual offences act in 1967 and eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Funeral Meats is at the King’s Head Theatre from 8-13 August. 

The Cunning Little Vixen comes to the Arcola Theatre

Director Guido Martin-Brandis will bring an innovative new production of Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen to the Arcola Theatre as part of the Grimeborn Festival 2017.

Guido Martin-Brandis will be joined by veteran theatre maker Alexander McPherson, who was head of design at the Bristol Old Vic, and Theatre Royal and has designed shows for the Welsh National Opera, Opera North and Scottish Opera. The pair join forces again after the success of their 2016 collaboration for BBC Young Musician of the Year winner, Grace Evangeline Mason’s debut opera The Yellow Wallpaper.

The Cunning Little Vixen is the story of a young Vixen growing up in the parallel worlds of animals and humans, after having been brought home by a forester. Featuring dance, masks and puppetry and video projections to depict the animal world, this show will mix art forms to reach new opera audiences, young and old.

Sung in English with a brand new chamber arrangement, the cast features some of the UK’s most promising young artists, including Alison Rose, who in June 2017 made her Garsington debut and will debut at the ENO next season, having sung as a soloist in the Last Night of the Proms 2016 and recently sponsored by the Glyndebourne New Generation Programme at the National Opera Studio.

Guido Martin-Brandis, director, said:

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be launching our new Opera company, aptly named The Opera Company, with which we plan to produce shows at the very highest level of what fringe opera can achieve.The Cunning Little Vixen is not only a delightful opera with strong storytelling elements and stunning music, it’s also given the entire cast plenty of scope to explore working with the Meisner technique, physical theatre, choreographers, dancers and puppets. It’s been a thrill to work with Alexander McPherson who brings so much experience to the project. On a personal note, I’m also eager to join the Grimeborn festival as a director, having worked as an assistant the previous two seasons and have always admired the high quality of work they produce.”

The Cunning Little Vixen will be at the Arcola Theatre on 31st July, 1st, 3rd, 4th August 2017 

Rhys Ifans will play Scrooge at the Old Vic this Christmas

Rhys Ifans will star in the Charles Dickens’ timeless classic A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic. The new adaptation by Jack Thorne will be directed by Matthew Warchus and open at the South London theatre on 29 November.

On a bitter Christmas Eve night a cold-hearted miser is visited by four ghosts. Transported to worlds past, present and future, Ebenezer Scrooge witnesses what a lifetime of fear and selfishness has led to and sees with fresh eyes the lonely life he has built for himself. Can Ebenezer be saved before it’s too late?

Rhys Ifans’ work as an actor encompasses stage, television and film. His theatre credits include King Lear (The Old Vic), Protest Song, Volpone and Under Milk Wood (National Theatre), Don Juan in Soho, Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Bad Finger (Donmar Warehouse) and Beautiful Thing (Duke of York Theatre). Film includes Snowdon, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Dominion, Len and Company, Under Milk Wood, The Replacements, Notting Hill (BAFTA nominated) and he will be appearing in The Parting Glass later in 2017. Television includes Berlin Station, Not Only But Always (BAFTA Award for Best Actor) and Shakespeare Shorts.

Rhys Ifans performed opposite Glenda Jackson in King Lear at the Old Vic

A Christmas Carol will begin previews at the Old Vic Theatre on 18 November and run until 20 January 2018

Casting News: Cressida Bonas and Peter Hamilton will star in Mrs Orwell at The Old Red Lion

This summer, the world premiere of Mrs Orwell starring Cressida Bonas (Doctor Thorne (ITV), Gatsby (Leicester Square Theatre), An Evening with Lucien Freud (Leicester Square Theatre)) and Peter Hamilton Dyer (Twelfth Night and Richard III (Broadway for Shakespeare’s Globe), A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation (RSC), Genius: Einstein (Fox 21 Television)) will be brought to life at the Old Red Lion. This exciting play is based on actual events.

They will be joined by Rosie Ede (Doc Martin, Call The Midwife and 1984 (West End)), Edmund Digby Jones (The Crown, (Netflix), Quacks (BBC), Outlander (Sony Pictures)) and Robert Stocks (Jeeves and Wooster A Perfect Nonsense (World Tour), Get Santa (The Royal Court), Animal Farm (Italian Tour)).

Cressida Bonas will star in Mrs Orwell at the Old Red Lion

University College Hospital, London, 1949. George Orwell is in the last chapter of his life with a severe case of Tuberculosis. He still believes he has at least three novels in him so to keep his morale up he promptly proposes to friend Sonia Brownell (played by Bonas), a 30 year old assistant magazine editor. When Sonia learns that she is his only hope, she must decide whether to succumb to the advances of Lucien Freud or enter a platonic marriage with one of the country’s most renowned writers.

The production will explore the private side of one of the most public icons of the 20th century. This theme of public and private contrasts will be reflected in the staging by having a built in hospital corridor behind Room 65, the hospital room where the action takes place.

Director Jimmy Walters comments, “As Proud Haddock moves into new writing territory I can think of no better script to start with first than Tony Cox’s Mrs Orwell.   Orwell couldn’t be more relevant today and we will give the audience a glance into the private life of one of the most public figures of his generation. Tony’s writing dances between hilarity and poignancy and is by far the best script I’ve read in recent years. I really can’t wait for audiences to see it.”

Proud Haddock return to the Old Red Lion following the sold out run of A Naughty Night with Noel Coward in 2015. Other productions include Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus (Finborough Theatre), John Osborne’s A Subject of Scandal and Concern (Finborough Theatre) and William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Saatchi Gallery).

Mrs Orwell will run at the Old Red Lion Theatre 1 – 26 August