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Mar 11th

Blue Elephant Theatre Spring Season

By Carolin Kopplin

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The Blue Elephant in Camberwell announces an exciting spring season, with something for all tastes.

After a show for children on March 6th, the Blue Elephant and Cloud Dance Festival are working together to launch an exciting new regular dance scratch night, Blue Cloud Scratch, which has two dates in spring, March 9th and May 31st.

There’s comedy from stand-up Alex Watts, following on from his acclaimed run at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe and an analysis of twenty-something life in London in work-in-progress performance A Working Title. 

Lazarus Theatre Company return to the Blue Elephant with a re-imagined ensemble production of Euripdes' final work The Bacchae. It is directed by Gavin Harrington-Odedra, who also directed Richard III at the Blue Elephant in 2014. 

In May, new writing piece Strawberry Starburst interrogates teenaged life, body image issues and mental health problems in a powerful one-woman show by rising playwright Bram Davidovich. 

Listings Information: 

Venue: Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Rd, Camberwell, SE5 0XT (entrance on Thompson Ave)

Box Office: 020 7701 0100

www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk

info@blueelephanttheatre.co.uk

Twitter: @BETCamberwell 

Mar 4th

An Interview with Ricky Dukes, Artistic Director of Lazarus Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Lazarus is a theatre company that is committed to investigating, reimagining and retelling the classics for a contemporary audience. I have been intrigued by their work ever since I saw my first Lazarus production at the Blue Elephant Theatre, where the company will also present The Bacchae in April. Their repertoire ranges from Shakespeare and Euripides to fascinating discoveries such as the Australian muscial The Hatpin or The Tragedy of Mariam by Elizabeth Cary.

Their new season about revolution and rebellion has already begun with Brecht's epic and revolutionary play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle in a translation by Frank McGuinness at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, directed by Artistic Director, Ricky Dukes, which has opened to critical acclaim.  

1. Why did you choose this play to launch your new season?

We wanted to kick off 2016 with something a little bit different, after last year  of all late Elizabethan and Jacobean work and the previous seasons of all Shakespeare plays. For a long time, we have discussed the work of Brecht and without really realising or acknowledging his technique, we frequently use them in our productions. 

In 2017 we will become a charity which will open up many new opportunities and possibilities, so we thought why don’t we rebel, mix things up a bit in 2016 in anticipation of this new chapter in the history of Lazarus. Brecht was the obvious choice, he is the father of political theatre as we know it, and a man who led a revolution in theatre. 

Choosing the play was a rather strange affair, it came out during the tech period for The Revenger’s Tragedy at The Jack Studio. I remarked ‘wouldn’t it be great to do a play with just a chalk circle and light?’ In theory, yes, but when I began to investigate the play it became clear that Caucasian Chalk Circle needed a bit more than that.

2. Do Brecht's ideas influence your work? Do you think the audience should keep a critical distance from what is going on on stage instead of empathising with the characters? 

Throughout this process I have been surprised and excited about discovering a practitioner, that apart from a lecture or two at University, I hadn’t really engaged with. As the play unfolded, a lot of Brecht’s techniques seemed to flow quite simply for us, something familiar to us also. The plays we pick often do break the fourth wall, acknowledging the role of the audience, whether that be them taking a biscuit and listening or joining a political party. A critical distance, or not emoting with a character, is something I think Brecht was telling his actors, ‘let the audience decide’. We have tried to ensure we don’t manipulate the audience; we give them the situation, the choices, the facts, and give it to the 11th character, the audience, and let them do with it as they please. I have been surprised by how many tears are shed during the last scene. 

3. Do you think theatre should be political?

There are no “should’s” in theatre. However, this is influenced by choices,  by choosing a play to put on, in what theatre, at what time of year is a choice, as well as casting and creative decisions. In my mind, drama is about dilemma, conflict and choices, all human qualities and challenges. So inherently all theatre has politics in it; to what scale and extent is something else. Early on in the process, I knew that we would not have placards with modern political statements on it. My political views are not automatically those featured in the play, but Brecht’s point is let’s ask those questions, engage in the world around us, and ask what would we do? 

4. Do you think theatre can change anything?

Yes. Whether that be from youth theatre activities, to matinees for senior citizens, from a jolly musical evening, to a hard hitting political stand point, all of which act as a shared experience, a cathartic process of involvement. In today’s world, with communication relying less on the physical interaction, we need that moment where we collectively come together to experience, to listen, to engage and to respond. Theatre changes, informs, provokes, entertains, excites, communicates, educates, illustrates, and challenges all people across diverse ages, ethnicities and gender.  

5. What would you like people to take away from watching this production?

Ultimately – a smile on their face at the end would be wonderful. In the previews, we saw audiences with a smile on their face but with tears in their eyes, a fantastic antithesis. If we have informed, provoked or challenged anyone then that’s a bonus, and I really hope we have Brecht in a good production to a new audience.

Interview conducted by Carolin Kopplin

The Caucasian Chalk Circle plays from the 23rd February until the 12th March 2016 at The Jack Studio Theatre. 

See my review of The Caucasian Chalk Circle here

More information on Lazarus: http://www.lazarustheatrecompany.com/ 

Feb 17th

Boris: World King Arrives in London!

By Carolin Kopplin

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David Benson as Boris Johnson

Following a sold-out Edinburgh Fringe 2015 premiere, satirical comedy Boris: World King comes to London. With his days as Mayor of London numbered, Britain’s favourite comedy politician casts himself in another leading role: the star of his own West End show. This gaffe-a-minute comedy sees the thinking man’s idiot wobbling on the brink of power. This rollicking tale packs in pay-as-you-go bikes, wiff-waff, and an ancient Greek lecture for good measure. Before long, verbal slips, trips and divine interruption cue a new battle – for his very political existence. Boris Johnson: politician, columnist, biographer, TV personality, eighth cousin of David Cameron, and one of GQ magazine’s Worst Dressed Men. And now, appearing nightly at the West End theatre closest to Downing Street!

David Benson stars as Boris Johnson. He is best known for his many solo shows including the Fringe First awardwinning Think No Evil of Us: My Life With Kenneth Williams and Lockerbie: Unfinished Business. He played the Head Waiter in the original National Theatre production One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden, completing over one thousand performances.

19 April – 14 May 2016 (Mon – Sat 7.45pm plus Thur and Sat matinees at 3pm - Opening night Thur 21 April at 7pm) at the Trafalgar Studios.

Tickets: http://uktheatre.net.ambassdortickets.com/whatson.aspx

Feb 9th

Alan Ayckbourn's How the Other Half Loves Returns to the West End

By Carolin Kopplin

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One secret love affair. Two disaster-bound dinner parties.

Three couples headed for trouble. 

Alan Ayckbourn’s farcical tale of matrimonial mishaps, How The Other Half Loves will appear in the West End this spring. Ayckbourn’s tale of social graces and personal misunderstanding remains one of the celebrated writer’s most famous comedies. The 1969 classic – the first of Ayckbourn’s plays to be staged on Broadway – returns to London to play the Theatre Royal Haymarket from Wednesday 23 March 2016 – Saturday 25 June and is produced by Bill Kenwright.  

As Bob and Fiona clumsily try to cover up their affair, their spouses’ intervention only adds to the confusion. William and Mary Featherstone become stuck in the middle, falsely accused of adultery and with no idea as to how they’ve become involved. The plot culminates in two disastrous dinner parties on successive nights, shown at the same time, after which the future of all three couples seems in jeopardy… 

2016 marks Alan Ayckbourn’s 55th year as a theatre director and his 57th as a playwright. To date he has written 80 plays - the latest of which will open at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough in 2016 - and his work has been translated into over 35 languages, is performed on stage and television throughout the world and has won countless awards. 

How The Other Half Loves is directed by theatre director and biographer Alan Strachan. Alan has directed plays in New York, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but the majority of his work has been in London. He was Artistic Director of the Greenwich Theatre in London for over a decade, and has worked with, amongst others, Sir Michael Redgrave, Dame Penelope Keith, Maureen Lipman CBE, Sir Michael Gambon and Sir Alec Guinness. He came to early prominence as the director of Alan Ayckbourn, and he been involved with Ayckbourn's theatre at Scarborough for many years.

 

LISTINGS INFORMATION 

HOW THE OTHER HALF LOVES
PRESS NIGHT                                 Thursday 31st March 2016

VENUE                                            Theatre Royal Haymarket, Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4HT

DATES                                             Wednesday March 23 – Saturday 25 June 

BOOKING INFORMATION         (T) +44 (0) 207 930 8800 |(W) www.trh.co.uk

Feb 1st

Spring Season at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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The Finborough Theatre’s Spring Season opens with the London premiere of award-winning playwright Alexandra Wood’s new play, Merit, running 1–26 March 2016. It is accompanied by the world premiere of award-winning African-American playwright Aurin Squire’s Don’t Smoke in Bed, from 6–22 March 2016.

Multi-award winning composer, writer and director Phil Willmott's new musical, Princess Caraboo, receives its world premiere from 30 March–22 April 2016. It runs along the first UK production in more than 40 years of Margaretta D'Arcy and John Arden's epic masterpiece, The Non-Stop Connolly Show to commemorate the centenary of Dublin’s Easter Rising. It plays on Sunday and Monday evenings from 4–18 April, and culminates in two all-day “come and go as you please” performances of the entire play cycle on the anniversary of the Easter Rising itself – Saturday, 23 and Sunday, 24 April 2016.

The season comes to an end with the world premiere of a new play, Schism by acclaimed playwright with a disability Athena Stevens from 27 April–14 May 2016.

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

Feb 1st

A Nation’s Theatre Festival Celebrates UK Theatre This Spring

By Carolin Kopplin

This spring the A Nation’s Theatre Festival will spill across London as part of a two-month celebration of theatre from around the UK, in partnership with the Guardian. 18 theatres in the capital are joining forces to shine a light on theatre-makers based in villages, towns and cities with wildly different backdrops and characteristics that colour the work that they make. 

 

A multitude of styles and formats provide a snapshot of UK theatre and creativity. Audiences are invited to experience and champion a rich variety of work including one-on-one aerial circus made in Glasgow, fairytales rooted in Cornwall brought to life by hand-carved puppets and an audio performance from Belfast experienced whilst lying in a hospital bed. 

During the festival in April and May over 60 shows will be performed by more than 350 artists, with some travelling over 400 miles to reach venues across London. The festival will also feature takeovers of London venues from Sheffield showcase Forge North, Glasgow’s //BUZZCUT// festival, Leicester’s Curve Theatre and Leeds-based Transform festival. Artists Emma Frankland and Myriddin Wannell from Truro, Little Bulb Theatre from Farnham, Victoria Melody from Cheshire and Tom de Freston from Sidmouth will also design and create performances for Battersea Arts Centre’s new artist bedrooms and living quarters, inspired by where they live and where they grew up. 

For early-career artists interested in discovering what support initiatives exist across the country a day-long event – All Tomorrow’s Theatre – will bring them together with venues, producers and organisations to discuss the future of artist development. Ideas for new shows will also be bubbling away during artist residencies at venues across the city. 

Over the coming months a clutch of Guardian Live conversations will be presented by Arena Theatre and Unlimited in Wolverhampton, Farnham Maltings, National Theatre of Wales and Curve Theatre in Leicester to discuss questions including whether disability is a creative advantage and how to ensure the very best theatre is being shown all over the UK, accompanied by a series of Guardian Theatre blogs and articles. 

As well as celebrating the rich breadth of theatre being made across the UK, A Nation’s Theatre Festival aims to provoke thought on topics including reversing the flow of theatre from London out to the rest of the UK, encouraging more arts provision outside of the capital and what theatre can tell us about politics, devolution and identity. 

 

For the full festival programme please visit:

 www.anationstheatre.org.uk.

Jan 25th

POP Drama Award Promises Full-Scale Touring Production

By Carolin Kopplin

The University of Wolverhampton are now accepting proposals for the Creative Europe Playwriting Award for POP Drama.

The POP Drama Award is part of The European Playwriting project, which aims to support the circulation of European dramaturgy by selecting four pieces of playwriting that will be toured as staged readings in four countries.

The Centro Diego Fabbri (Italy), centre for studies, research and training in theatre and performance languages, the University of Wolverhampton (United Kingdom), the Universitatea de Arte Din Târgu-Mureș (Romania), and the Fundacion CajaGranada (Spain) are the four institutions involved in this project.

The POP Drama Award is open to all authors willing to try their hands at playwriting. Each author can submit more than one play.

Each piece must be original and unpublished; having never been performed in any form whatsoever. Entries must be 40-60 pages and printed single-sided on A4 paper (double-spaced, Times New Roman size 12).

The work can handle any subject, provided that the chosen theme is able to be understood universally. The panel will look favourably upon plays that take into consideration the contradiction between human nature and morality, with specific attention being paid to plays that deal with issues related to social exclusion. Authors may explore the chosen theme through ironic and/or playful perspectives.

Plays must be sent by parcel/registered mail, containing 1 (one) paper copy and 1 (one) electronic copy to the following address:

POP DRAMA PLAYWRITING COMPETITION
Arena Theatre
University of Wolverhampton
Wulfruna Street
Wolverhampton
WV1 1SE

Deadline: 31st March 2016

The Prize

The 2016 POP Drama prize winner will have their play performed at the Arena Theatre – anticipated to be during the 2017/18 season – with their play also being worked into a full-scale touring production that will be performed in venues in the partnering countries (Italy, Romania, Spain). The Arena Theatre will support the winning entry to make this possible.

Anonymity must be retained when submitting your play. The only information that should be on your script is the title and tagline.

Please note that entries in the UK must be in English, the partner organisations are hosting entries in the other languages within the competition.

Full details of the English section of the competition are available on this website: https://popdramawlv.wordpress.com/ 

Please note that these schemes are listed here for your convenience. However, they are run by external organisations and unless otherwise noted the BBC has no involvement with them. Therefore the BBC cannot respond to any queries in connection to those and accepts no liability for the accuracy of third party websites and the information contained on them.

 

Photograph is copyright of Matt Cawrey Photography.

Dec 9th

Papatango New Writing Prize Adds Commission for Follow-Up Play to Award – Submissions Open Today until 31 March 2016

By Carolin Kopplin

 

The Papatango New Writing Prize, now in its eighth incarnation, opens for submissions today, 9 December 2015, until midnight on 31 March 2016.  

The Papatango Prize is the UK’s only annual opportunity guaranteeing a new writer full production, publication, and a royalty of 10% of the gross box office. 

Papatango are now announcing a major expansion to the Prize: from 2016; the winning writer will also receive a £6000 commission and full developmental support from Papatango to enable them to progress to a second play. 

Papatango’s George Turvey and Chris Foxon explain the reasoning behind this commitment: 

When the Prize started in 2009, we were the only opportunity promising to take the risk of production, publication and fee on a new writer. Now, adding a full commission for a follow-up play is another step forward in publicly backing new writers.”  

The winning play will run at Southwark Playhouse from 2 November – 26 November 2016, published by Nick Hern Books. It will be Papatango’s second year at Southwark Playhouse, following the world premiere of the 2015 Papatango New Writing Prize winner Tomcat by James Rushbrooke, nominated for Off West End Awards for Best New Play, Best Female Performance and Best Male Performance. James Rushbrooke describes the experience: 

Winning the Prize has had a huge impact on my life. It has directly led to me being signed by an agent, being approached by TV companies, and being nominated for an Off West End Award for Best New Play. The support, guidance and encouragement given by the Papatango team has been exemplary and they have helped me every step of the way. To have something that only existed in your head come to life so vividly and be shared so widely is a both an empowering and magical process - that magic has been provided by the Papatango team.” 

Entries should be at least 80 minutes in length, original and previously unproduced, and entered anonymously as Microsoft Word or PDF files to scripts@papatango.co.uk by midnight, 31 March 2016.  

Further information: www.papatango.co.uk

Dec 4th

World Premiere of P’YONGYANG by In-Sook Chappell at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

"We have to be careful, we can’t trust anyone. But, in the dark, your thoughts are your own."

The world premiere of a new North Korean story from award-winning playwright In-Sook Chappell,P'yongyang opens at the Finborough Theatre for a four week limited season on Tuesday, 5 January 2016. 

Crossing military borders and class divides, P’yongyang tells the epic love story of two North Korean childhood sweethearts spanning three decades. Chi-Soo and Eun-Mi dare to dream of a life together in P’yongyang, working for Kim Jong Il’s film studios. But as those around them start to disappear and information from the outside world trickles in, the devoted Communists are forced to view their glorious homeland in a different light.

Written by award-winning, Korean-born playwright In-Sook Chappell - who was inspired by a childhood visit to the Demilitarized Zone at the height of the Cold War and by the experiences of North Korean refugees - P'yongyang is a striking new work that was shortlisted for the 2013 Bruntwood Prize Award.

A play that pits hope against hunger.

Directed by Chelsea Walker. Designed by Max Dorey. Lighting by Jamie Platt. Sound and Composition by Harry Blake. Movement by Jenny Ogilvie. Presented by Chloe Courtney in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
Cast: Lourdes Faberes. Chris Lew Kum Hoi. Anna Leong Brophy. Daniel York.

Further information: www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Nov 23rd

F*cking Men returns to the King's Head Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

In December, the King’s Head will be restaging their smash success F*cking Men, which has already extended once since their August production and will now be entering a third month. The production will be undergoing changes, retaining artistic elements while streamlining the show for a sustainable touring future that will continue to provide employment for the artists involved.

The play is – very loosely – based on Schnitzler's La Ronde and provides a moving portrayal of hunger and desire as it follows the erotic encounters of 10 men (now played by 3 actors) in their interconnected search for sexual satisfaction. Each scene in the play is a frank, candid and sometimes brutally honest depiction of the lustful transaction between two men. It is a loose adaptation of the 19th century play La Ronde in which pairings of characters are featured in scenes preceding and succeeding sexual encounters.

This extension proves the continued popularity of the show, after the original premiere run in 2009 began at the Finborough Theatre, from which it transferred to the King’s Head to play for 9 months (the longest ever Off West End run of a play). It then transferred into the West End to the Arts Theatre.

Artistic director of the King’s Head Adam Spreadbury-Maher says “This new production has been praised for its universality across sexual orientations. We’re proud to be producing gay theatre that speaks to a universal audience!”

More information: http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/

Photograph by Andreas Grieger.