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Sep 7th

Autumn Season at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

The final season of 2017 at the Finborough brings together vibrant new writing and unique rediscoveries, with three plays unseen in the UK for many years, and twelve new plays from the UK, the US and Canada. 

 

The season opens with the UK debut of acclaimed American playwright Keith Bunin with the European premiere of The Busy World is Hushed, directed by the founder of Theatre503, Paul Higgins, playing an eight week limited season from 3 October-25 November 2017. It is accompanied by the Finborough's new play celebration, Vibrant 2017 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights – now in its ninth consecutive year – which plays Sunday and Monday evenings and Thursday matinees between 8-26 October 2017, accompanied by the return of the ‘Introduce Yourself’ initiative for new playwrights.

 

This year’s Vibrant – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights includes new plays from the Finborough's Channel 4 Playwrights Scheme Playwright in Residence Carmen Nasr, three of their Playwrights on Attachment, Scots Gaelic author Iain Finlay Macleod, and June Carryl’s winning play from the ADAA $10,000 Saroyan/Paul 2016 Human Rights Playwriting Competition. And then by a controversial rediscovery, the queer classic Quaint Honour by Roger Gellert, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, and unseen in the UK for 60 years, playing Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 29 October-21 November 2017. 

 

The year ends with the first London production in nearly 70 years of The Passing of the Third Floor Back by Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat, playing from 28 November - 22 December 2017, running alongside the first London production in 80 years of Israel Zangwill's classic drama of refugees and immigration, The Melting Pot, on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 3-19 December 2017. 

 

Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson said: "In a financial climate that is making our continued work even harder to achieve, our new season continues to bring together the very best of new playwriting from the English-speaking world, with work from the past that has been unfairly neglected in an ambitious and idiosyncratic selection of work that you’ve never seen before and can’t see anywhere else. With the help of funding from our regular patrons, we have also recently completed the first stages of a refurbishment of the Finborough Theatre building. As always, please do consider supporting us by joining our Friends Scheme.”

 

The Finborough Theatre has had a superlative year to date with acclaimed sell-out productions, transfers in London and to New York City, and an Olivier Award nomination. Rediscoveries have included Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, B. S. Johnson’s You’re Human Like The Rest Of Us, a centenary production of T. W. Robertson’s Caste, Arthur Miller’s Incident At Vichy and Cicely Hamilton’s Just To Get Married. New writing has included the debuts of new playwrights Carmen Nasr (Dubailand which also won her our tenth Channel 4 Playwrights Scheme Playwright in Residence Bursary, supported by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation), Titas Halder (his London debut with Run The Beast Down which has just been nominated for The Stage Debut Award for Best Writer), and Canada’s most exciting new playwright Jordan Tannahill (his European debut with Late Company); as well as the English premiere of David Ireland’s Everything Between Us.Finborough Theatre productions have also transferred to New York City (My Eyes Went Dark) and elsewhere in London (Incident at Vichy to the King’s Head Theatre and Late Company to Trafalgar Studios). Last year’s It Is Easy To Be Dead by Neil McPherson was also nominated for an Olivier Award following its transfer from the Finborough Theatre to Trafalgar Studios.

For full information, please visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk 

Aug 2nd

RUSSELL WATSON TO PLAY THE VOICE OF GOD IN BRAND NEW MUSICAL HEAVEN ON EARTH

By Kirstie Niland


Russell Waston will play the voice of God in brand new arena spectacular Heaven on Earth which will be touring across the UK from December 2017 to May 2018.

 

 

This epic and inspirational journey of Adam and Eve is told through state of the art digital technology, innovative staging and stunning choreography.

 

Russell will star alongside Kerry Ellis as Eve (Wicked, Cats, Les Miserables, We Will Rock You) and Hugh Maynard as Adam (Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Lion King).

 

Find out more at www.heavenonearththemusical.co.uk

 

Heaven on Earth Tour Dates

  • Birmingham Barclaycard Arena 4 - 7 December 2017    
  • Cardiff Motorpoint Arena 15 - 18 Jan 2018    
  • Nottingham Motorpoint Arena 27 -30 Jan 
  • Leeds First Direct Arena 9th - 12 Feb 
  • Manchester Arena 22 – 25 Feb 
  • Sheffield Arena 7 – 10 March 
  • Edinburgh Royal Highland Centre 14 - 17 March   
  • Liverpool Echo Arena Liverpool 22 - 25 March 
  • Aberdeen AECC Arena 28 - 31 March  
  • Portsmouth Guildhall 4 - 7 April 
  • Newcastle Radio Metro Arena 11 - 14 April 
  • Glasgow Clyde Auditorium 18 - 21 April 
  • Exeter Westpoint Arena 26 - 29 April 
  • The SSE Arena, Wembley 9 - 12 May

 

Jul 20th

SPECTACULAR NEW MUSICAL THEATRE CRUISE TO SET SAIL IN 2018

By Kirstie Niland

15th October 2018 

The UK's first specialist fully fledged Musical Theatre Festival at Sea - Stages - featuring Michael Ball, Collabro, Beverley Knight, Lee Mead, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical launches next year.

Some of the world’s most celebrated West End and Broadway stars will entertain passengers on-board the Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas on a four-night round-trip voyage from Southampton.

Stages will feature an array of West End and Broadway stars including Olivier Award-winning star Michael Ball, musical theatre group Collabro, and Beverley Knight - award-winning soul singer & star of The Bodyguard, Memphis the Musical and Cats

  

They will join Lee Mead (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour DreamcoatWicked), Sophie Evans (The Wizard of Oz, Wicked), John Owen-Jones (Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera) and Drama Desk Award Nominated actress and ‘diva’ impressionist Christina Bianco – direct from Broadway. 

Last but definitely not least, this spectacular festival will feature the Olivier Award-winning West-End production Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, an Edinburgh Fringe favourite.

And there will be lots of opportunities for audience particpation via the Masquerade Ball, dance classes and the Musical Theatre choir.

The luxurious Stages cruise is produced by Floating Festivals, with assistance from Royal Caribbean, with live music promoters Cuffe and Taylor sourcing the major star artists and attractions.

Unlike other chartered cruises, Floating Festivals will not just replace the usual cruise ship entertainment programme, it will transform the ship into a full Musical Theatre floating resort.

Guests will be transported to the stages of the West End and Broadway for a real extravaganza at sea including full live shows and performances, workshops with stars from the world of musical theatre and live Q&A events and activities.

Floating Festivals is the brainchild of Jonathan Blackburn, who said: “Not only will there be show-stopping performances and shows, but passengers will also get the opportunity to meet and hear from the people behind some of the most celebrated musical theatre shows in the world.

“The Navigator of the Seas is a beautiful ship and while we will look forward to seeing passengers having an absolute ball with all the entertainment and shows, they will also be able to sit back, relax and enjoy all the fantastic attractions included on this wonderful ship.

As well as being part of the UK’s first ever Floating Festivals passengers will be able to enjoy all the amazing features of the Navigator of the Seas including a 9-hole miniature golf course and separate Golf Simulator, the unique FlowRider surf simulator, the signature Royal Caribbean Rock Wall, ground-breaking virtual balcony cabins, the Vegas style Casino Royale, luxurious Vitality Spa & Fitness Centre, three pools, six whirlpools, Video Arcade and a selection of luxury Boutique Shopping experiences.

All Floating Festivals packages also include complimentary à la carte restaurant and buffet dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Speciality Restaurants are also available for an additional charge.

The Floating Festivals Stages cruise will depart Southampton for four nights from 15 October 2018 and includes a full day in Amsterdam.

Prices from £699.00 (inclusive of mandatory charges of £110.00pp for gratuities, taxes and fees). For more details go to www.FloatingFestivals.co.uk

A second cruise - Throwback - departs Southampton for three nights from 12 October 2018 and includes a full day in Bruges (from Zeebrugge).
Throwback is a party-fuelled three-night roundtrip cruise Southampton/Southampton including a full day stop in Bruges, celebrating all things 80s and will feature a line-up of chart-topping legends from the decade including headliners The Human League, OMD and Erasure’s Andy Bell, along with Jason Donovan, Sonia and Imagination featuring Errol Kennedy, while Captain Sensible will be helping steer the ship back to the 80s.

Jul 20th

MARTI PELLOW JOINS STAR-STUDDED WEST END PROMS

By Kirstie Niland

Lytham Festival, 2nd-5th August

Internationally renowned musical theatre star and pop icon Marti Pellow has been added to the bill at this year’s Lytham Festival.

No stranger to the event after performing at Lytham Festival’s Last Night of the Proms in 2015, Marti will join the line-up for this year’s West End Proms on Sunday August 6.

His West End and Broadway credits include Blood Brothers and the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago and Che in Evita.

He will join West End and Broadway royalty as Miss Saigon star Lea Salonga, musical theatre group Collabro, Olivier Award winner Ruthie Henshall, Chicago star Claire Sweeney, 90s pop sensation turned musical theatre star Jon Lee, Blackpool musical theatre star Jodie Prenger, Lytham-born rising West End star Lucie Mae Sumner and English National Opera soprano Jo Appleby will all perform too.

The news follows the announcement earlier this week that 13-year-old Britain’s Got Talent finalist Beau Dermott will also form part of the line-up.

Lytham Festival director Peter Taylor said: “We are thrilled Marti is returning to Lytham Festival. He was a firm favourite when he performed here in 2015 so to be bringing him back two years later is fantastic.

“He is a wonderful addition to our West End Proms line up and we can’t wait. This night will mark a spectacular end to this year’s Lytham Festival and is sure to be a truly memorable evening.”

With a string of hits under his belt including Sweet Little Mystery, Wishing I Was Lucky and one of the longest running Number One singles in UK Chart history, Love Is All Around, Marti Pellow has gone on to become a leading musical theatre star, as well as releasing seven solo albums. 

Lytham Festival’s West End Proms will see the stars of both stage and screen perform an array of hits with a full 60-piece orchestra. The evening will end with a traditional Last Night of the Proms finale – an event when families and live music lovers are encouraged to pack up their candelabras and picnic hampers for an evening of musical celebration.

For further information and tickets go to www.lythamfestival.com

Line-up Lytham Festival 2017:

MAIN PROMS ARENA

Weds August 2 – Olly Murs

Thurs August 3 – Hacienda Classical

Fri August 4 – 80s V 90s

Sat Aug 5 – Madness

Sun Aug 6 – West End Proms

LOWTHER PAVILION

Tues Aug 1 – Woofers Comedy Club presents Tom Binns

Weds Aug 2 – The Mersey Beatles 50th Anniversary Tribute to Sgt Pepper

Fri Aug 4 – Welcome to the Dancefloor Aftershow Party

Sat Aug 5 – The Blitz Club Aftershow Party

 

Jul 3rd

Blue Elephant Theatre is to Become a NPO

By Carolin Kopplin

The charming and innovative Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell, which has nurtured such artists and companies as Theatre Ad Infinitum, Theatre Témoin and On the Run was amongst just five new theatre organisations in London to be added to Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations on June 27th.  

Blue Elephant Theatre is a small fringe theatre located on the Wyndham and Comber Estate in Camberwell, South London. It seeks to offer creative opportunities to those who may not otherwise to be able to access them, through both its Artistic and Participation Departments. Its Artistic Department works with emerging artists, programming new work across art forms but with a particular focus on theatre and dance. Its Participation Department has developed free high-quality creative, learning and community provision over many years to tackle issues locally which prevent people, especially disadvantaged young people, achieving their potential. The Blue Elephant’s equal emphasis on professional and participation work is very unusual in London fringe theatre.

Blue Elephant Theatre has been supported by Southwark Council since it opened in 1999 and by many other funders over the years, including Children in Need which has supported its Young People’s Theatre for a decade. In 2014, members of Young People’s Theatre joined Gareth Malone and a number of celebrity singers to record the year’s official BBC Children in Need single which went to number one in the charts. Recently, as Southwark Council’s Arts & Events’ budgets have been drastically cut, the future of the Blue Elephant has been uncertain at best but the prospect of being a National Portfolio Organisation from 2018-2022 provides much-needed stability for the organisation.

Co-Artistic Directors, Niamh de Valera and Jo Sadler-Lovett, are delighted by the news as are all Blue Elephant’s Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers. Niamh says, “We’re absolutely blown away by this news and by the number of people who have come forward to congratulate us this week. The Blue Elephant has touched a lot of people’s lives for the better and we are so relieved and excited that its future is now more secure than ever”.

More info on the Blue Elephant Theatre: http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/

Jun 23rd

Forced Entertainment and Little Bulb Return to the Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

 

Tim Etchell's Forced Entertainment returns to the Battersea Arts Centre, as its London home, to reinvent Dirty Work – a performance created nearly 20 years ago, that draws the audience into imaginary performances with casts of thousands. Following closely behind is the creative Little Bulb Theatre who will fill the BAC Courtyard theatre with their joyful musical melodrama, Extravaganza Macabre

DIRTY WORK (THE LATE SHIFT)

By Forced Entertainment

Returning to their 1998 performance Dirty Work, Forced Entertainment have created a new version of the piece that digs deeper into the comical and unsettling territory they established just before the turn of the Millennium.

The new work, Dirty Work (The Late Shift) develops the simple but immensely generative form of described or virtual events and celebrates the power of language to make things happen, co-opting the imaginative capacities of the audience to fill the stage with a delirium of images, scenes and events in bewildering and unnerving succession.

In Dirty Work (The Late Shift) two performers conjure an extraordinary performance in a collaborative and competitive act of description. From vast explosions to sub-atomic particles, with daily life, political interludes, dramas and cabaret turns in between, no event is too large and no image un-stageable for the protagonists, whose game of virtual theatre takes the audience on a roller coaster ride.

From theatrical spectacle to historical events, daily life to impossible feats, cabaret to political speeches, and from sublime beauty to vivid terrors, everything is here, in provocative, intimate and comical style. Accompanied by the sound of piano on a battered record player, Dirty Work (The Late Shift) explores and exposes a world in which real life is so often presented as spectacle.

Listings Information:

Title: Dirty Work (The Late Shift)
Artist/Company: Forced Entertainment
Venue: Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, SW11 5TN
Date: 27 Jun – 1 Jul
Time: 7:30pm (Running Time: 85 mins)
Price: £17.50, £15, £12.50 concs
Age Recommendation: 16+
Booking Link:
www.bac.org.uk/dirtywork
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
 

Extravaganza Macabre by Little Bulb Theatre

Little Bulb Theatre returns to Battersea Arts Centre’s new open-air Courtyard this summer to delight family and fun-loving audiences with the joyfully silly production, Extravaganza Macabre, from 4 – 29 July.


A celebration of melodrama, music and mischief set in Victorian London, Extravaganza Macabre was created especially to launch Battersea Arts Centre’s Courtyard last year. Having gone down a treat, the production invites audiences to get up-close to the slapstick action across ground floor and balcony levels, with Pimm’s and picnic hampers chock-full of British favourites available to add to the summertime experience. 

Extravaganza Macabre tells a tale of two passionate lovers separated by a freak storm which leaves their fate in the clutches of a scheming villain set on keeping them apart forever. With only a clairvoyant maid and a loyal urchin to come to their rescue, a whirlwind of plot twists, original music hall numbers and audience interaction ensues, recommended for ages eight and up. 

The new 75m2 Courtyard is a unique and intimate space nestled at the heart of Battersea Arts Centre’s beautiful old town hall building. Designed by Stirling Prize winning architects Haworth Tompkins, the Courtyard was inspired by the radical Teatro Oficina in São Paulo, Brazil. With walls made from a bold mix of old red and shiny white bricks, trapdoors and surprise entrances and exits spread across three levels add to the 360 degree, open-air fun. The auditorium levels, made by Steeldeck, form the UK’s most intimate open-air theatre structure. 

Listings Information:

Title: Extravaganza Macabre

Artist/Company: Little Bulb Theatre

Venue: Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, SW11 5TN

Date: 4 – 29 July

Time: 7:30pm | Saturday Matinees 2:30pm

Price: Stalls (Seated) £20 - £25 | Balcony (Standing) £10 - £15

Booking Link: www.bac.org.uk/extravaganza

Box Office: 020 7223 2223

Jun 13th

NEW SUMMER SEASON AT THE FINBOROUGH THEATRE

By Carolin Kopplin

The new Summer Season features two premieres of new writing and two rediscoveries. The two new plays – Continuity by new Northern Irish playwright Gerry Moynihan and the European premiere of Dolphins and Sharks from new African-American playwright James Anthony Tyler – were both originally seen as staged readings as part of Vibrant 2016 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights. The two rediscoveries are Just To Get Married by renowned suffragette Cicely Hamilton, first performed in 1910 and last seen in London in 1918; and Windows by John Galsworthy, which premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre in 1922.

 

The season opens with the first London production in over a hundred years of Just To Get Married, a romantic comedy by renowned suffragette Cicely Hamilton, playing for a four week limited season from 25 July-19 August 2017. It runs concurrently with the world premiere of Continuity by new playwright Gerry Moynihan, playing Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 30 July-13 August 2017.

 

The season continues with the first professional UK production in 85 years of Windows by John Galsworthy, directed by Geoffrey Beevers, well known for his work at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Described by its author as “a comedy for idealists and others”, Windows plays from a three week limited season from 22 August-9 September 2017.

The season concludes with the European premiere from new African-American playwright James Anthony Tyler, Dolphins and Sharks plays for a three week limited season from 12 September-30 September 2017.

 

Elsewhere, two sell-out Finborough Theatre productions transfer in June: Incident At Vichy by Arthur Miller transfers to the King’s Head Theatre from 7-25 June 2017; and My Eyes Went Dark by Matt Wilkinson transfers to 59E59 Theaters, New York City, from 7 June - 2 July 2017.

 

Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson said: "Our new Summer Season is evenly balanced between our artistic policy’s twin strands – to present essential new writing, alongside genuinely unique rediscoveries. We have also just relaunched our Friends Scheme, making it even easier to support our award winning work.”

 

For full information, please visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Photo credit: KinoLOWRES

Mar 26th

Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre - UK Tour from 8 April - 23 September 2017

By Carolin Kopplin

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Sally Cookson's imaginative new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's beloved novel Jane Eyre will tour the UK from April to September 2017. Nadia Clifford will take over the central role of Jane Eyre and Tim Delap will play Rochester.

Before the beginning of the tour, the National Theatre invited regional press and representatives of regional theatres to a second-week rehearsal with the opportunity to interview director Sally Cookson and members of the cast. 

A collaboration between the Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre, the production was originally presented in two parts in Bristol. Rufus Norris, Artistic Director of the National Theatre, asked to have it cut down to one part before it transferred to the NT. Director Sally Cookson agreed and got rid of the "not so good bits" which made the production "even more epic". The UK Tour will feature the third version of Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre.

After directing Peter Pan at the Bristol Old Vic, Sally Cookson was asked what she would like to do next and she immediately decided on an adaptation of Jane Eyre. Cookson had seen Orson Welles' film as a child and had been fascinated by the images and Bernard Hermann's music. When she eventually got to read the book, she realised that Jane Eyre was not a mere love story but a cry for equal rights of women, focusing on the importance of individual human rights and what is needed to thrive as a human: "Jane Eyre understands this from an early age and strives for it". Sally Cookson wanted to tell Jane Eyre's life-story, not a romantic costume drama with a love story at its centre.

Sally Cookson's imaginative production captures the spirit of the novel but is geared towards a modern audience. Cookson felt that costumes and a historical set limited the story. The Victorian period is referenced but the main purpose of Michael Vale's set is to reflect Jane's struggle. An obstacle course consisting of various platforms and ladders demands physical strength and fitness from the cast. Sally Cookson confirmed that the actors ran about 5 miles during every performance.

After working on the story with a dramaturg to achieve a basic structure, the play was developed by Cookson and the cast during an 8-week process through collaboration and improvisation, using dialogue from the novel as well as creating new dialogue. All songs in the production were written by Benji Bower and emerged during the rehearsal period, with the exception of "Mad About the Boy" and "Crazy". There is an orchestra on stage, creating an impressive soundscape. The production is miked to make sure that the actors can be heard over the orchestra and sound effects which include many percussive elements.

The actors performed some parts of the production that had already been rehearsed beginning with Jane's birth and her struggle with her aunt Mrs Reed after she is orphaned. The conflict is exacerbated by the death of Jane's kindly uncle and Cookson's production clearly shows Jane Eyre, now played by the charismatic Nadia Clifford, as a strong and determined character. It was also important to the director to do justice to Bertha who gets a bit of a raw deal in the novel. Bertha is always present at Fairfield Hall and finishes with a melancholy but very lyrical song.

This compelling and highly creative production can now be seen in many regional theatres after a sell-out run at the National Theatre.

By Carolin Kopplin

Running time: 3 hours with one interval

Tour dates: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/jane-eyre-on-tour

First stop Salford from 8th April 2017

Mar 17th

Syndicated Interview with Paul McGann about UK Tour of Moira Buffini's Gabriel

By Carolin Kopplin

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It’s 30 years since Paul McGann made a name for himself in the classic cult film Withnail & I. Now he’s about to embark on his first UK theatre tour playing German Major Von Pfunz in Gabriel. Kate Gould catches up with him for a chat. 

Paul McGann needs no introduction. He’s the man whose portrayal of the eponymous I in the cult classic Withnail & I propelled him to stardom. That was 30 years ago and in the years since his career has gone from strength to strength and he’s become a household name in the process. Indeed his CV is as impressive as it gets showing his versatility as an actor with performances on both stage and screen including in Hornblower and Luther and of course playing the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who

But he’s never done a UK theatre tour - that is until now. For next month the 57-year-old actor is to pack his bags for an eight-week stint in Moira Buffini’s acclaimed play Gabriel which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.  

Set in 1943 German occupied Guernsey, it tells the story of widow and mother Jeanne who does whatever it takes to keep her adolescent daughter Estelle and daughter-in-law Lily safe on an island filled with danger and fear. However she meets her toughest test in the form of the terrifying Commander Von Pfunz whose romantic advances are dangerous to say the least but which may be the only way to keep her family alive. The tension racks up further when a mysterious young man is washed ashore with no memory of who he is. It transpires he’s fluent in German and English, so the question is, is he an RAF pilot, an SS interrogator, a local boy with amnesia or a saviour sent from heaven? 

Kicking off in Richmond on March 28, the production will cross the country visiting theatres in Greenwich, Liverpool, Windsor, Guildford, Eastbourne and Clwyd, something Paul tells me he’s looking forward to.  

We meet in a private members’ club in central London where Paul is spending the day chatting to various journalists about the production before he gets stuck into the rigours of rehearsals. And if he’s understandably growing a bit weary of all the attention and the barrage of questions by the time I arrive, he doesn’t show it. In fact he is as relaxed as they come with an easy going manner, affable charm and a warm sense of humour. 

So keen is he about the production, and being part of it, that he wastes no time in telling me all about it and about the research he did into the occupation of the island. 

“It’s a fascinating piece,” he says. “It’s dark and intense, although it’s not all doom and gloom of course, but it’s a real thriller, exciting and incredibly gripping. 

“It’s set in Guernsey in the middle of the Second World War, and it’s a great place to set a story. It was a strange time for the islanders as in many respects, life continued as normal. 

“On the face of it, it was a peaceful occupation. There was no armed resistance nor any uprisings. However food was scarce, there was a thriving black market, and plenty of wheeling and dealing going on. Indeed some people made a fortune. And while some worked the land, most of the men of fighting age were away so it was mainly women left on the island. 

“So to have the central character in this play a woman is entirely fitting. Jeanne is widowed and has a daughter with whom she lives and a son who is in the forces. Her house is requisitioned by the German so she has to be careful. There are hints that she had a relationship with a German officer who has now been sent away and by all accounts they got on well - and again if you read the history books, this was what happened in many cases.” 

Into her life comes Von Pfunz, played by Paul, an army officer who has served in Poland but has now been sent to Guernsey and finds himself captivated by Jeanne. “He’s not a nice man, in fact he’s horrible, and he comes on to Jeanne much to her disgust,” he grimaces. 

“She is repulsed by him and is quite fearful of him, but there is a courage about her that he finds thrilling and intoxicating. It throws her completely.  

“Her dilemma is how to get on with the Germans, keep her family safe and survive without submitting to something she doesn’t want, where a mistake could be fatal. 

“The tension is ratcheted up even further when a young man appears, washed up on a nearby beach. The girls save him and bring him to Jeanne’s house where he’s hidden. He claims not to know who he is, and when Von Pfunz later discovers him there the boy is able to speak with him in perfect German.” 

It was, Paul says, a play he was instantly drawn to not least by the writing which he describes as “superb”. “The writing is key and is what really attracted me to playing this role,” he says. 

“Von Pfunz is like nobody I’ve played before but it’s the way Moira beautifully weaves these situations and tensions together that is so good. It’s brilliantly told and when you get a really good story as an actor you can’t wait to tell it.” 

However, keen not to give away any spoilers Paul simply says the audience will be on the edge of their seats to find out what happens. 

“Jeanne is constantly in danger, the tension builds to a crescendo and she ends up in a really tight corner,” he says eyes twinkling. 

It’s clear throughout our chat that Paul still gets a buzz out of being on stage and he says he's excited to be making his debut theatre tour in such a “fantastic play”. 

“I’ve found over the years that the old actor clichè is true that live is best,” he smiles. 

“Doing TV and film is great, and I’ve been jammy enough over the years to do a lot of it, but when you go out on stage and feel the atmosphere and get that instant feedback from the audience, you just can’t beat it. 

“It is also a way of working that teaches you the most.”

So why has it taken so long to get out on the road? It seems it’s mainly down to logistics and finding the right vehicle for his talents. This particular role and the fact his two sons are grown up has allowed him the flexibility to take on the challenge of a tour.  

“Many touring shows are musicals and there are few straight dramatic plays. I’ve  been offered tours in the past, some of which were tempting, but they tended to last for months so were difficult to commit to.” 

“This one stood out though as it’s so thrilling so I was really up for it. Also I’ll get a chance to discover and visit all these theatres that I’ve never performed in before as well as the different characters of the audiences, which I’m really looking forward to. It’s a new experience for me. 

“It’ll be a bit like running away to the circus!” 

Paul is endearingly modest about his career and the word “jammy” to describe it crops up often. Indeed it is a surprise when he insists he never wanted to be an actor, instead harboured dreams of being a track and field sportsman. He was eventually persuaded to give acting a shot when he was 17 by one of his teachers. Somewhat alarmingly he also tells me he very nearly didn’t go to the RADA audition that had been organised for him as he was so unsure about whether it was the right thing to do. Fortunately for his legions of fans he didn’t walk past the door but went through it and got in on his first audition. He spent the next few years there “very happy” alongside such notables as Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance and says he has no regrets. 

“I was a 70s kid growing up in Liverpool, left school at 17, not qualified in anything and never thought about being an actor,” he remembers smiling.  

“However, my teacher saw something in me and helped me prepare my audition to RADA. It was pretty embarrassing and I felt it went terribly. But I got in, and I loved it. 

“I remember there were plenty of working class kids at RADA then. I think most of us had just fancied being movie stars. Of course that was all pie in the sky as there was no guarantee you’d even get into Equity. I was pretty jammy to get Withnail & I after just five years out. I loved working on it. We were pretty innocent and, in truth, didn’t really know what we were doing. We certainly had no idea how cool it would become.” 

“Theatre has always been my favourite though - it’s what many actors will tell you - and the older I get the more I prefer it although I still get very nervous. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to play some incredible roles over the years and I'm proud to add Commander Von Pfunz to that list.”  

Paul McGann plays Commander Von Pfunz in Moira Buffini’s Gabriel, directed by Kate McGregor. Visit www.gabrieltheplay.co.uk for full listings.

Review will follow.

Mar 17th

Spring-Summer Season at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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The new season at the Finborough features six premieres and another rediscovery from Scottish dramatist James Bridie, with the first London production since 1950 of Mr Gillie. Already well known for presenting Canadian work in the UK, the Finborough celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday with the UK premiere of Late Company by Jordan Tannahill; a rediscovery of Footprints On the Moon by Maureen Hunter; and a late night cabaret of the songs of Cree-Canadian Tomson Highway in Songs in the Key of Cree. Other premieres include Everything Between Us which won playwright David Ireland the Stewart Parker Trust Award, BBC Radio Drama Award and the Meyer Whitworth Award for Best New Play; Jam, the world premiere of a first full length play from new writer Matt Parvin; and the new Australian play Food by Steve Rodgers.

The season opens with the European premiere of Late Company by Jordan Tannahill, playing for a four week season from 25 April-20 May 2017. It runs concurrently with the English premiere of David Ireland’s Everything Between Us, playing Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 30 April-16 May 2017.

The world premiere of first play Jam by Matt Parvin, plays from 23 May-17 June 2017, alongside the rediscovery of Footprints On the Moon by Maureen Hunter, playing Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 28 May-13 June 2017. Multi-award-winning Cree-Canadian writer, composer and musician Tomson Highway appears in a one-off late night performance of his music – Songs in the Key of Cree– on Saturday, 6 May.

The season ends with the first production outside Australia of Food by Australian playwright Steve Rodgers, playing for a four week limited season from 20 June-15 July 2017, running alongside the first London production in over 60 years of James Bridie’s Mr Gillie on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 25 June-11 July 2017.

The hard-hitting production My Eyes Went Dark which received its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre in 2015 will transfer Off-Broadway this summer, while Neil McPherson’s impressive play It Is Easy To Be Dead – presented at the Finborough Theatre in June 2016 prior to its transfer to Trafalgar Studios – has just been nominated for an Olivier Award.

More info: Finborough Theatre

Image by Charlie Round-Turner.