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Jul 18th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Of Mice and Men

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Kosovar in New York

John Steinbeck’s play, which he adapted from his novel, is a poignant narrative about human connections among people leading lives of what is wont to be called quiet desperation.


James Franco as George and Chris O’Dowd as Lennie, photo Richard Phibbs.

Sensitively directed by Anna Shapiro, it tells the story of George (James Franco), a California ranch worker who in the Depression has hooked up with Lennie (Chris O’Dowd) a mentally retarded fellow who is too strong for his own good.

They work as itinerants on farms and ranches. They stay together out of undefined affection that defeats the loneliness that would otherwise engulf them. The play was first produced on Broadway in 1937.

Franco as George is tough, strong and silent but also sad and weary. O’Dowd’s Lennie is big and hulking, but with a voice is that is soft and cracking. Both of them show gentle sides. They give memorable performances.

George complains how Lennie ruins his life. They have to leave the places they work, because Lennie is always getting into trouble. But Lennie giggles about them looking out for each other. It’s Steinbeck’s metaphor for people taking care of one another to defeat the wretchedness of lives destroyed by economic conditions.

When they arrive at a new ranch, they are directed to beds in a bunkhouse. They set by Todd Rosenthal exudes grunginess. They run into Curley (Alex Morf), the misnamed close-cropped son of the boss, who is suffused with anger and hostility. He is especially miserable, because his new wife (Leighton Meester) is tarty and flirty with the ranch workers, but pays no attention to him.


James Franco as George and Jim Norton as Candy, photo Richard Phibbs.

Family is missing all around. George says, “Guys like us that work on ranches is the loneliest guys in the world. They ain’t gotno family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch and work up a stake and then they go in to town and blow their stake. And then the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothin’ to look ahead to.”

“But not us!” Lennie declares. “And why? Because… because I got you to look after me…. and you got me to look after you… and that’s why!”

George and Lennie dream they will save to buy a farm with animals and a garden.

Candy (Jim Norton) an old man with a blind, lame sheepdog he’s had since he was a pup mourns when the animal is put to death by one of the ranch hands, because he is useless. Candy wants to join the imagined farm, because he is afraid he won’t be able to get any more jobs and “I won’t have no place to go.”


Chris O’Dowd as Lennie and Leighton Meester as Curley’s wife, photo Richard Phibbs.

A black worker (Ron Cephas Jones) is also lonely, segregated in his own small shack. With no one to talk to, he reads books. He’d join the farm, too.

The wife complains there are no women to talk to. Her fantasy is to get into the movies.

Will any of their dreams be realized?

Alas, Lennie’s strength is inversely proportion to his intelligence. He likes to pet animals, but handles them too roughly. That’s the “mice.” In the end, men and their dreams are also destroyed. It was what the Depression did. The play is important not only for the history it tells, but because it reminds us what life is like for many people of that underclass today.

Of Mice and Men.” Written by John Steinbeck; directed by Anna D. Shapiro. Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street, New York City. Opened April 16, 2014; closes July 27, 2014.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop ( .  

Jul 9th

Forbidden Planet Returns!

By Cameron Lowe
25 years after Captain Tempest and his crew first journeyed into hyperspace, and 14 years after the last UK tour, Olivier Award-winning rock spectacular Return to the Forbidden Planet is back and exploding onto stage in a major new 25th Anniversary production.
Return to the Forbidden Planet

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and packed with rock n’ roll classics including Great Balls of Fire, Good Vibrations, Heard It Through the Grapevine and Born To Be Wild, Return to the Forbidden Planet is a musical of meteoric proportions that will be remembered for light years to come. With stunning special effects, a brilliant cast of actor-musicians, a mad scientist, a huge green-tentacled monster and a rock ’n’ roller-skating robot, your in-flight entertainment is guaranteed! So fasten your seatbelts, set your ray guns to stun and prepare for blast off!
“Deliriously addictive”

Return to the Forbidden Planet opened at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre in September 1989, where it ran for over 1500 performances and won the 1990 Olivier Award for Best Musical (sorry Miss Saigon, spaceships trump helicopters!).
Forbidden Planet Returns

The original design team return to recreate their award-winning original production, helmed by writer by Bob Carton, who directed the West End production and as artistic director of Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch now returns to direct this highly anticipated 25th Anniversary tour.
Bob Carlton said today: “It was an incredible time when Return to the Forbidden Planet landed in West End, in what was a vintage year alongside shows such as Miss Saigon and Buddy. And it’s thanks to the audiences, who took it to their hearts and rocked out every night, that it became such a cult success. I can’t wait to bring it back 25 years later, to introduce it to a whole new generation and to reunite with original fans of the show. I’m thrilled to be able to return to the Forbidden Planet, along with the original design team, and get reacquainted with Captain Tempest and his crew once more!”
Return to the Forbidden Planet is directed by Bob Carlton and choreographed by Frederick ‘Frido’ Ruth, with musical direction by Greg Last. It is designed by Rodney Ford with lighting design by Mark Dymock and sound design by Rick Clark.
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Jul 9th

Tribute to Mallard Steams onto the Stage

By Cameron Lowe
A composer and writer, whose work has been performed across the world in everything from festivals to fields, has turned his attention to the stage - and the story of one of the world's most famous trains.

Newcastle-based, award-winning John Kefala Kerr has created numerous works for orchestras, ensembles and choirs and has collaborated with artists in dance, theatre, fine art and animated film worldwide.
And this month, his latest work, Steamsong; an hour-long multi-media opera inspired by the 1938 Class A4 Pacific train, Mallard, is due to have its world première in the North East.
Seventy five-years-ago, the Doncaster-built train broke the world speed record for a steam locomotive - and broke its way into the hearts of schoolboys and train lovers across the world.
Now a star exhibit at the National Railway Museum, York, Mallard hit the record breaking speed of 126mph on the East Coast Line with driver Joseph Duddington at the wheel - and it was a remark made by Joseph at the time that inspired Steamsong.
"He said `I gave Mallard her head and she jumped to it like a live thing,'" said John. "That made me think, not about what separates living beings from objects - but what connects us to them and, in this case, it was steam. 
"Steam, like human breath, is wispy and ephemeral, yet it can provide enough force and pressure to power a huge, heavy train like Mallard to phenomenal speed and our fragile breath powers our lungs in the same way."
As well as providing a poetic tribute to Mallard, Steamsong uses the concept of steam and breath to link a number of figures and events from 1938, from Albert Einstein to the victims of the pre-war Nazi pogroms.
Not only has John provided the score for the show - which uses a combination of music, theatre, song, digital sound and projected video - but he also wrote the libretto, drawing inspiration from time spent at The National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham.  
"I was composer in residence there," he said, "and they were incredibly generous in letting me talk to volunteers and visitors, so I got a very real sense of the emotions Mallard, in particular and steam trains, in general, generated in people." 
Steamsong will be performed by a cast of 10 singers and a seven-strong instrumental ensemble at the Gala Theatre, Durham on 12 and 13 July at 7.30pm.
Featuring, among other instruments, a violin, accordion, harp and tuba, it is expected to be a highlight of the Brass: Durham International Festival which takes place at venues throughout the city between 11 and 20 July.
For further information about Steamsong contact
Jul 7th


By Cameron Lowe
Review by Graham Clarke

As musicals go it does not get any brighter or more uplifting than this international touring production of Mama Mia!

Mamma Mia in Blackpool

The film version of this his show was built around major stars such as Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth who were chosen for their acting  and being able to add star names to the film rather than their singing ability. In this production, it is the strong vocals, dancing and chemistry between the main characters that give it that added sparkle.
Since the film was taken from the show it is not surprising to see that the storyline is very familiar. Bride to be Sophie Sheridan (Niamh Perry) is due to get married to Sky (Bart Edwards).  She is unsure who her father could be; is it builder Sam Carmicheal (Richard Standing), City Financier Harry Bright (Keiron Cook) or Australian traveller Bill Austin (Michael Beckley)? Whilst looking through one of her mother's old diaries she decides to invite them all to her wedding, under the false pretence that is her mother, Donna (Natalie Langston) who has sent out the invitations.
Set on a Greek island, the lighting and the azure blue and ghost white that are prevalent throughout the show bring Mediterranean sunshine into Blackpool.
The Abba songs fit perfectly into the dialogue of the show and it feels like they were written for this superb production.
Providing some humour and well-timed jokes are Donna Sheridan's friends Rosie (Sue Devaney) and Tanya (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Devaney plays the role Julie Walters played in the film. This is a hard act to follow but Devaney pulls it off with ease. 
The choreography is tighter than a Scotsman's wallet: the scene where all the cast perform Voulez Vous at the end of the first act is performed with the precision of Strictly Come Dancing finalists.
As in the latter part of Abba's career the songs in the second part of the show become more solemn as the story unfolds and the wedding day approaches. There is a twist in the tale, though, and the ending might not be what you expect.
The show ends as the audience are brought to their feet for Mama Mia!, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.
With the show running until 14 September, it is definitely worth a trip over the Pennines to witness this entertaining, dazzling and uplifting show. Would I recommend it? In the words of an Abba it: I Do, I Do, I Do.
Tickets are available from and
Jul 3rd

Tynesiders 'Laffalang' for Charity

By Cameron Lowe
A Summer Laffalang is guaranteed to bring fun and raise money for South Tyneside charity Cancer Connections.

Written by Ed Waugh, co-writer of international comedy hits Dirty Dusting and Waiting For Gateaux and writer of Dracula: Die Laughing and the Christmas Laffalang, the Summer Laffalang will be produced and directed by Gareth Hunter whose most recent show The Fifteen Streets received rave reviews at the Customs House.
The Summer Laffalang will be performed at the Westovian Theatre in Ocean Road, South Shields, on Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26, and feature comedy sketches performed by top actors from the region.
One of the sketches will be Bobby Elliot, a piece written by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood and performed to laughter and high praise at the 2014 Sunday for Sammy shows at Newcastle City Hall in February.
Other rib-tickling Summer Laffalang subjects include the Great North Run, No Holidays this Year, The Unluckiest Man in the World, The Blaydon Races and other off-beat sketches and monologues specially written for this hilarious extravaganza.
Micky Cochrane, the rising star of North East stand-up comedy, will host the event.
Gareth Hunter, explained: “Following the huge success of the Xmas Laffalang at The Stand in Newcastle last December, which raised £1400 for St Oswald’s Hospice, we wanted to put on the Summer Laffalang in our own borough for a local charity and we are delighted to be associated with Cancer Connections.”
The Harton Lane-based charity supports people diagnosed with cancer and their families.
Cancer Connections co-founder and services manager Deborah Roberts said: “Dealing with cancer is stressful and upsetting. People need laughter and this will be an ideal tonic. The Laffalang will be a fantastic show. We would encouraged people to come along to help the work of Cancer Connections and to have a great laugh at the same time.”
The Summer Laffalangs are on Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £10 and can be obtained from the Westovian Theatre, Ocean Road, South Shields (opposite the new Haven Point sports centre) answerphone 0191 4560980, the Tourist Information Centre in Haven Point sports centre, South Shields (0191 424 7788) or via Cancer Connections (0191 4565081) or via 07751246176.
Jul 1st

One Man, Two Guvnors at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe
The National Theatre treat the UK to a second tour of their highly acclaimed comedy One Man, Two Guvnors.
One Man Two Guvnors
As we took our seats in the auditorium we were entertained by “The Craze”; a talented 60’s style skiffle band who set the scene nicely for the 1963 based madness to follow. Gavin Spokes (as Francis Henshall) led the cast as the titular “man” bringing the nigh on 300 year old text of Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters” (almost) up to date. Henshall left carnage in his wake in his desperate attempts to secure (first) some food for his belly and (second) the affections of the remarkably endowed Dolly (comically portrayed by Eastenders star, Emma Barton). With unrelenting manic energy he delivered an action packed storyline which featured some of the most impressive physical comedy I have ever seen – particularly from Michael Dylan playing 87 year old Alfie! At one point, so much “pain” seemed to be inflicted on stage that the audience appeared to be rolling around in sympathetic agony (or, perhaps, rolling off their seats with laughter).
There were plenty of laughs, too, from the pacey script by Richard Bean featuring some excellent character contrasts and witty dialog which truly wrung every last chuckle from the base concept. Some of the action onstage escalated so quickly that it had the audience first gasping and then guffawing in the same breath. Excellent performances from the character cast included a somewhat underused Shaun Williamson (as Charlie Clench) and a ridiculously entertaining OTT Actor turn from Edward Hancock (as Alan Dangle).
The suitably solid scenery was changed behind some nice additional turns from “The Craze” who were joined by various members of the cast to produce a nice variety of numbers (songs by Grant Olding). Altogether this made a highly entertaining evening which I must highly recommend to anyone who has ever enjoyed a laugh.
Listings Information
One Man, Two Guvnors
King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Mon 30 June – Sat 5 July
Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Jun 11th


By Cameron Lowe
By Lucy Komisar in New York
Michael Shannon as Berenger delighted by the Radiant City, photo Gerry Goodstein.
Ionesco’s absurdist satire is a vivid dark commentary on the popular refusal to acknowledge the horrors of the rise of Naziism. And the belief of some Germans that Hitler was ushering in an era of shining, sparkling glory. They could ignore that some people were disappearing, perhaps murdered.
Director Darko Tresnjak’s staging is part straight, part bizarre, to make every line resonate in contemporary reality.
Berenger (a too naïve Michael Shannon), Ionesco’s Everyman, gets off a wrong bus he rode to the last stop. A civil servant (a properly officious Robert Stanton), tells him he is in the Radiant City which he, the architect, built. He says how wonderful it is.
Berenger declares, “I just knew that in the middle of our gloomy city, right in among all our sad, dark neighborhoods full of mud and dirt, I would find this bright, beautiful area, not rich or poor, with these sunny streets, these avenues streaming with light.”
Robert Stanton as the architect, photo Gerry Goodstein.
We don’t see it – the green lawn, the flowers he remarks on. The set is an open space into which we pour our imaginations. Then the architect gets a phone call from his secretary Dennie (Stephanie Bunch) to say she is quitting. She can’t take it. When she arrives, Berenger quickly falls in love with her.
He wants to move to the wonderful place. But the architect informs him that the people who live there want to leave. They go out only in groups of ten or fifteen. And even that doesn’t necessarily reduce the danger.
There is a murderer stalking the populace. He kills three people a day. Everybody in the neighborhood knows him. He meets people at the bus stop in the guise of a panhandler and latches onto them. When they arrive at the lagoon, he offers to show them the photo of the Colonel. When they look over to see better, he pushes them in.
The architect invites Berenger to a café for some wine. There is a cry, and the next victim is killed. It’s someone we know.
Shannon appears a bit too wide-eyed and flakey as Beringer, and the hour of the first act could be cut, condensed. (When the original Paris director wanted to cut the play, Ionesco refused.)
But in the second act, the symbolism thickens, or darkens. Berenger has a room in a building whose concierge (the delightful Kristine Nielsen) is a quirky, grimacing, philosophizing character. She is cantankerous: “These days, there’s just too much education, if you ask me. That’s why everything’s gone downhill. Even sweepin’ the stairs is harder than it used to be.”

Berenger discovers that everybody knows about the killings, they have for years. When he returns to his cluttered room, he discovers that his friend Edward (the excellent Paul Sparks), has somehow gained entrance. 

Edward is a white-faced fellow with a sharp noise, black coat and weird demeanor. Sparks creates a chilling character. Berenger tells Edward about the killings and says, “what amazes me is that you’re no longer upset by this. I’ve always believed that you were a sensitive, humane man.”
Edward has a large satchel which he clumsily knocks against a table, dumping a sheaf of photos of a colonel on the ground. Berenger notes, “It’s an army officer with a handlebar mustache, and epaulets – a colonel with all his decorations.” He declares, “The monster’s things! These things belong to the monster! It’s extraordinary.” There are children’s watches and a diary and writings of the criminal’s philosophy.
He makes no connection to Edward. The people who saw the evidence of Hitler’s crimes also discounted them.
Suddenly, everything comes together in a third act that begins powerfully with a rally led by Ma Piper (Nielsen) in a military uniform decked with medals. Flags have the image of a white goose. A large poster of a goose is on the wall. She declares, “You can trust me to drive the chariot of state, which is drawn by my geese. Vote for me. Put your trust in me. My geese and I claim the right to govern you….Good people, you’ve been deluded. We’re going to de-delude you!” Nielsen is a brilliant fascist “Pied Piper,” subtle, soothing, then aggressive.
Her followers wear black arm bands emblazoned with a goose, and they punch the air in salutes. We recall that Edward wears a black armband. The crowd shouts, “Hooray for Ma Piper. Hooray for the geese.”
Ma Piper says, “I’ll change everything. To change everything we don’t need to change anything. We don’t change things, we change their names. The old delusions couldn’t stand up to psychological and sociological analysis. The new delusions will be unshakable. It will only have misunderstandings. We will perfect the lie.”
We’re going to de-alienate humanity! To de-alienate humanity, we must alienate each individual – and there will be free soup for everybody!
She pledges, “We will never persecute anyone, but we will punish….We will not colonize the people but occupy their lands to liberate them! ….Forced labor will be called volunteer work. War will be called peace, and everything will be changed, thanks to me and my geese!”
And suddenly, she declares, “And as for the intellectuals – We’ll teach them to do the goose-step! Hooray for the geese!” And, “We only have to take a few steps backward to be at the forefront of history!” So now it’s clear. Where are the protestors?
A man, a hero, comes, and says “The hero battles against his time and creates a different time.” “Down with Ma Piper” he says.
And Ma Piper declares, “Me and my geese, we’ll distribute all public funds! We’ll all share equally. I’ll take the lion’s share for myself and my geese.”

He shouts, “And freedom for critics!” Of course, they will beat him up. And the police and military arrive.
In the dénouement, Berenger finds himself alone with “the killer,” a man in a slouch hat whose face we never see, who he tries to persuade against hatred. “I’m determined not to give up on you,” says Berenger. “We can both speak the language of reason, I thought I sensed that, the cerebral kind. You deny love, you suspect charity, they don’t compute in your calculations, you think charity’s just a big fraud!” Still the naïveté of liberals. And he goes on.
This part of the play again is too long and repetitious. And the killer’s repeated sniggering (he has no other lines) gets tiresome.
Forget such quibbles. “The Killer” is not performed frequently. If you care about political theater, you must see it.
“The Killer.” Written by Eugène Ionesco; directed by Darko Tresnjak. Theatre for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn. (Nevins or Atlantic Avenue stops on subway.) 866-811-4111. Opened June 1, 2014; closes June 29, 2014.

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Jun 3rd

Tonight's The Night at King's Theatre, Glasgow 

By Cameron Lowe
Ben Elton and Rod Stewart form an unlikely collaboration to produce a rockin' comedy musical that unashamedly entertains and features over 20 of Rod's greatest hits.
Tonight's the Night

Running like something of a cross between "Jekyll and Hyde" and 50s classic musical "Damn Yankees" the story follows young Stuart (Ben Heathcote); a painfully shy garage attendant in present day Detroit.  Stuart is desperately in love with Mary (Jenna Lee-James) and makes a deal with the Devil (Tiffany Graves) to trade his soul for that of his idol Rod Stewart - after all, Rod was never shy with the ladies!  However, as is the way with Satan, all does not work out as promised and Stuart is torn between his sweet likeable self and the unfaithful, irresponsible babe-magnet that he perceives Rod Stewart to be.  His rock and roll lifestyle has the effect of disillusioning his friends but they eventually rally round to try to snap him out of whatever has changed his character.
Ben Heathcote was outstanding in this leading role.  His voice had that great ‘Rod Stewart' gravelly rock quality and his overwhelming character marked this young man out as a star of the future.  Jenna Lee-James gave a sympathetic performance as Mary and her rich voice had character and power.  Rosie Heath excelled as Dee Dee delivering a pure country soprano which had the audience holding their breath!  Tiffany Graves, reprising her role as Satan / Baby Jane, blew the audience away with raw power and a wicked soul.  And yet, with all this talent on stage, Ricky Rojas still managed to steal every scene he was in as the irrepressible - and aptly named - Stoner.
The production design was worth a mention as the band took centre stage on a purpose built mezzanine to deliver more than 20 Rod Stewart classics including Maggie May, Baby Jane, Hot Legs, Do Ya Think I'm Sexy and Sailing.  Lighting, too, was excellent with several effects bringing the audience into the action.  
Unfortunately, for a fuddy duddy theatre lover like me, the over eager audience sang over the top of a beautifully rendered solo "I Don't Want To Talk About It" by Andy Rees as Rocky.  All was forgiven, though, when, at the end of the show, I joined over 2,000 Glaswegians wearing white sailor's "pork pie" hats (issued by theatre staff) and waved my arms in the air singing "Sailing" at the top of my lungs.  It's a tough job ….
King's Theatre Glasgow
Mon 2 - Sat 14 Jun 2014
Mon - Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Jun 3rd


By Cameron Lowe
Thirteen Premieres, including Eight World Premieres
Traverse Presents Unfaithful by Owen McCafferty and Spoiling by John McCann
Traverse Breakfast Plays Back on the Menu as Traverse commissions Six New Plays from former Traverse Fifty writers
Sunday 27 July – Sunday 24 August, 2014
Traverse Theatre Edinburgh

The Traverse is delighted to announce its 2014 Festival programme. Over four weeks, the Traverse Theatre will host nineteen shows and events with eight World Premieres, two UK Premieres, two Scottish Premieres, and a European Premiere.
Speaking about her third programme as Artistic Director for the Traverse Theatre, Orla O’Loughlin said, “Embodying the spirit of the Festival all year round, The Traverse continues to be a unique landmark on Edinburgh’s cultural landscape and is the beating heart of new writing in Scotland. This August we are proud to present and produce a Festival programme which celebrates some of the most compelling theatrical voices from the UK and beyond.” 
The first of four Traverse Theatre Company productions presented this Festival is the World Premiere of Unfaithful, by Fringe First award-winning playwright Owen McCafferty. Directed by guest director Rachel O’Riordan who is the newly appointed Artistic Director of Sherman Cymru, Unfaithful is a stark and searing glimpse into the reality of relationships following two couples, Joan and Tom, Tara and Peter as they struggle to comprehend their roles as lovers, partners and individuals. As Tom and Tara face the tedium of daily life, the impulse of the moment distracts them from the inevitable emotional fallout. Performed as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (3 – 24 Aug).
Heartfelt political satire, Spoiling is the Traverse Theatre’s second World Premiere this Festival. Written by emerging playwright and former Traverse Fifty writer John McCann, Spoiling imagines a newly independent Scotland with the Foreign Minister Designate preparing to deliver a keynote speech in front of the world’s media. Directed by Traverse Artistic Director, Orla O’Loughlin and starring Gabriel Quigley, a familiar face to the Traverse stage, Spoiling will be Orla’s first Festival production for the Traverse 2 stage. Originally developed during the Traverse Fifty project, the piece first appeared in a triple bill scratch performance during 2013’s Write Here, the Traverse New Writing Festival, and returns as a full length piece as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (1 – 24 Aug).
Traverse Theatre Breakfast PlaysTraverse Breakfast Plays is back on the menu this Festival. Six plays are set to have their World Premiere as part of the popular script-in-hand breakfast slot during the Traverse Festival. Commissioned following the Traverse Fifty project, the six – Tim Primrose (Broth), Sylvia Dow (Blinded by the Light), Martin McCormick (The Day the Pope Emptied Croy), Alison Carr (Fat Alice), Molly Innes (Mother Ease) and Lachlan Philpott (Walter) – were announced as the playwrights for this year’s Breakfast Plays at the end of 2013. Each Traverse Breakfast Play has only two performances on the same day over the last two weeks of the Festival, (12 – 24 Aug).
Following a sell-out run in March, the popular verbatim piece Bloody Trams will return to the Traverse 2 stage this August. A public response to one of Edinburgh’s most contested and emotive debates over the last decade, two actors will recreate the opinions of the People of Edinburgh incorporating tram passenger interviews and stories from Edinburgh Festival visitors, with composer and pianist David Paul Jones performing live accompaniment and original songs, (5 – 10 Aug).
The Theatre’s main house, Traverse 1, also plays host to writer, director and performer Valentijn Dhaenens with the UK Premiere of the political and personal drama SmallWar. Alone on stage, Valentjin Dhaenens tells the tragic fate of those who are forced to live in the wake of man as a belligerent creature in war. The noble, heroic, exalted side of war gets ample coverage; SmallWar investigates the reverse side of the medal, the clash between underlings and the massive structures crushing them, (3 – 24 Aug). Premiering to sell-out Fringe audiences in 2012, SmallWar’s partner piece BigMouth offers a platform to leaders through history and from across the world, people who invariably spurred masses on to war: praising the fallen and smooth-talking their families and loved ones. The Traverse offers Festival audiences a second chance to see this critically-acclaimed performance for three nights only, (19, 21 & 23 Aug).
One of comedy’s elder statesmen and all-round arty mischief-maker, Mark Thomas returns to the Traverse Festival with his World Premiere, Cuckooed. Revisiting his theatrical roots with a comedy of betrayal, Mark Thomas tells his true story of how Britain’s biggest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, came to spy on a comedian in this tale of hubris, planes, demos and undercover deceit. This show is personal, political and, as usual, incredibly funny, (3 – 24 Aug).
This year, the Traverse Theatre also welcomes two shows from Irish companies. From TheEmergencyRoom and Galway International Arts Festival comes the highly-praised riverrun, an adaptation of the voice of the river in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake devised, directed and performed by acclaimed theatre artist Olwen Fouéré, (3 – 24 Aug). Directed by Ben Kidd, Dead Centre present the UK Premiere of LIPPY by Bush Moukarzel and Mark O’Halloran, an interpretive piece that tells the true story of four women dying in a starvation pact, meditating on the inexplicable fact of death and this event that took place behind closed doors and without explanation, (6 – 24 Aug).
After their successful 2013 Festival with Long Live The Little Knife, Scottish company Fire Exit return to Traverse 2 with the World Premiere of Horizontal Collaboration, written and directed by multi award-winning ‘theatrical maverick’ David Leddy, (1 – 24 Aug). An intense live drama where sex, power and politics collide with emotion, seduction and destruction, the piece is performed daily by new actors who never see the script in advance. Four U.N. lawyers have been brought in at short notice to read pre-prepared texts in an explosive tribunal. They are reading blind and have no idea what happens next.
Fire Exit also introduce new downloadable drama, City of the Blind, an epic political thriller available anywhere via smartphone or tablet. Available online via, this online experience is an emotionally complex and intellectually provocative piece. Throughout six thirty-minute-long chapters, you can follow U.N. investigator and whistleblower Cassie Al-Khatib caught in a web of surveillance, violence, and counter-intelligence. Created over three years and featuring thirty performers recorded in sixteen different locations, City of the Blind is ground-breaking production for small-scale technology. Horizontal Collaboration and City of the Blind are both presented as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (1 – 24 Aug).
The Theatre’s studio space, Traverse 2, will host the World Premiere of Men in the Cities, the latest from three-time Fringe First winner Chris Goode (Monkey Bars). Starring Chris Goode, this incendiary piece of experimental storytelling presents fractured snapshots of dozens of seemingly disconnected lives that together offer a challenging but radically humane portrait of how we live now. (1 – 24 Aug).
After 2012's hit Born To Run, writer and performer Gary McNair returns to the Traverse Theatre with a coming of age story that deconstructs the darker side of comedy, and sees McNair performing at his 'brilliant best'. Donald Robertson has no mates and he isn't funny, but with guidance from his new mentor Gary, he hopes that this is all about to change, (1 – 24 Aug).
Following their 2012 and 2013 Festival hit The List, the Traverse welcomes Stellar Quines to the Traverse 2 stage with The Carousel, a poignant play about one woman’s journey of discovery. While driving to her dying mother’s bedside, a woman calls upon the spirit of her dead grandmother and begins a quest through a labyrinth of memories. This is the second in the trilogy from celebrated Québec dramatist Jennifer Tremblay, translated by Shelley Tepperman and starring Maureen Beattie, (1 – 24 Aug).
Theatre artists Shona Reppe and Andy Manley return to the Traverse Theatre for the third time with family installation piece, HUFF. Based on the well-loved story The Three Little Pigs, HUFF is a unique walk-through experience with no performers or live action in Traverse Upstairs, a new space on the ground floor level. In groups of three, audience members set off on an expedition through a series of chambers that represent the trials and tribulations of the builder-pigs and their arch enemy, the wolf. HUFF is suitable for anyone over the age of 8 and is presented as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (1 – 24 Aug).
Award-winning performer and video artist Kim Noble brings his latest show, Kim Noble: You’re Not Alone to the Traverse Theatre this August. Blending performance, comedy and film Kim Noble: You’re Not Alone is a provocative, moving and comic production that chronicles one man’s attempts at connection, friendship and employment at B&Q. He takes his audience on a journey through tower blocks, supermarkets and Facebook, seeking an escape from the loneliness of modern society, (20 – 24 Aug).
Engagement and debate remain key this year at the Festival: Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland will present TalkFest 2014, a series of inspirational discussions with leading writers and theatre-makers involved in this year’s wider Festival Fringe, including Fleur Darkin, Caroline Bowditch and Christine Devaney. TalkFest 2014 is presented as part of the Made in Scotland showcase, (11 & 18 Aug).
A unique collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Traverse Theatre and the Playwrights’ Studio Scotland has resulted in Pre-View, four readings from four brand new plays by four emerging writers from across Europe (11 & 18 Aug). The Traverse welcomes back the James Tait Black Prize for Drama, judged by students and academics of Edinburgh University, as well as representatives from the National Theatre Scotland and Traverse Associate Artist, Zinne Harris and Traverse Associate Director, Emma Callander (11 Aug).
Fringe First, Herald Angel and Spirit of the Fringe award-winning, political, Theatre Uncut returns with Theatre Uncut 2014, exclusive previews of brand new commissioned plays over three nights, including five new plays exploring the debate around the upcoming Scottish Independence referendum and six new plays created in a collaborative project with Istanbul-based DOT Tiyatro, and written by leading Turkish and British writers, (4, 11 & 18 Aug).
May 29th

Tip Top Cast Announced for Top Hat Tour

By Cameron Lowe

UK TOUR: 12 August 2014 – 25 July 2015

Top Hat
Top Hat, winner of three Olivier Awards, for ‘Best New Musical’, ‘Best Choreography’ and ‘Best Costume Design’ from a total of seven nominations and winner of the Evening Standard Award for ‘Best Night Out’, is setting off on an epic 47-week UK tour, visiting 24 theatres nationwide. Opening at New Wimbledon Theatre on Tuesday 12 August 2014 the production will tour until Saturday 25 July 2015. 
The world premiere stage production of Top Hat opened in the West End at the Aldwych Theatre on 9 May 2012 where it played over 600 performances during its run of nearly two years. Prior to the West End, the production previously enjoyed a sell-out UK Tour in 2011.
Stepping into the shoes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the lead roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, are Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch, who both return to Top Hat having previously performed these roles in the West End. They are joined by Clive Hayward who returns as Horace Hardwick, the role he played in the West End, Rebecca Thornhill as Madge Hardwick, Sebastien Torkia as Alberto Beddini and John Conroy as Horace’s valet Bates. 
Top Hat is directed by Matthew White and choreographed by Bill Deamer (Olivier Award winner for Best Choreography), set designs are by Hildegard Bechtler (Olivier Award nominee for Best Set Design), costume designs by Jon Morrell (Olivier Award winner for Best Costume Design), lighting design by Peter Mumford, sound by Gareth Owen (Olivier Award nominee for Best Sound Design), new orchestrations by Chris Walker, musical supervision by Richard Balcombe.
Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt), the famous American tap dancer, arrives in London to appear in his first West End show. Travers meets the irresistible Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch), the girl of his dreams, and follows her across Europe in an attempt to win her heart.  
With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and based on the RKO motion picture, the screenplay by Dwight Taylor and Allan Scott has been adapted for the stage by Matthew White and Howard Jacques and is presented by arrangement with RKO Pictures LLC, Warner Bros Theatre Ventures Inc. and the Irving Berlin Music Company.  
Performed by a cast of 29 and accompanied by 11 live musicians, this multi award-winning musical comedy includes Irving Berlin classics from the movie such as Cheek to Cheek, Isn’t It a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain and Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.  In addition, from Berlin’s 1200 strong back catalogue, a further ten numbers have been interpolated including well-loved favourites Let’s Face the Music and Dance and Puttin’ On the Ritz.

Alan Burkitt Alan Burkitt started his career winning the All England Tap Dancer of the Year award. A member of the original West End cast of Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre, Burkitt understudied the lead role of Jerry Travers for both Tom Chambers and Gavin Lee. He received rave reviews when he stood in for Lee on press night, a success story documented by Channel 4 for the TV series ‘The Sound of Musicals’. Other recent stage credits include: Singin’ in the Rain, Andy Lee in 42nd Street (Chichester Festival Theatre), the Prince in Adam Cooper’s Shall We Dance (Sadler’s Wells), Cats (German Tour) and We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre).

Charlotte Gooch Charlotte Gooch took over the lead role of Dale Tremont from Summer Strallen in the West End, performing alongside Tom Chambers as Jerry Travers. Gooch performed the lead role of Penny Johnson in Dirty Dancing in the West End at the Piccadilly Theatre and also in the original national tour. Other recent stage credits include: the lead role of Sandy in Grease (UK Tour), Cats (German Tour) and the workshop of Swing Time, dancing a duet with Anton du Beke.