DRAMA, dance, comedy, music and children’s shows are just some of the entertainment in store at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton this autumn. We asked the theatre’s chief executive, Martin Sutherland, and artistic director, Laurie Sansom, to guide us through some of the highlights...
THERE’s plenty of variation on the Royal stage this autumn, as a number of touring productions come to the auditorium.
These include the heart-warming musical Radio Times, set in London’s Blitz-torn West End, starring West End performer, Gary Wilmot.
Telling the tale of a BBC light entertainment wireless show, battling to do its bit for the war effort, and featuring quick-fire gags and classic songs from Noel Gay, this nostalgic show can be seen from Tuesday, September 18 to Saturday, September 22.
Martin said: “There are a lot of songs in this that a lot of people will know, like Me and My Girl.
“It also stars Sarah Crowe, who although she has done a lot of things, like Four Weddings And A Funeral, a lot of people will remember her from the Philadelphia adverts.”
This autumn also brings the chance to see the ever-popular, and critically-acclaimed stage play The Woman In Black, which returns to the Royal stage, from Tuesday, October 9 to Saturday, October 13.
Now a major film, audiences will have the chance to be transported into a ghostly world with the stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s spine-chilling novel.
“Tickets for this are selling really fast and it is really popular with schools and younger audiences,” said Martin.
This is followed with theatre company, Kneehigh (behind the hugely successful Brief Encounter), who bring their darkly comic and moving new stage version of Steptoe and Son.
This sees the first series of the classic comedy adapted for stage by Emma Rice (Oedipussy) from the legendary TV scripts of Galton and Simpson.
It runs from Tuesday, November 13 to Saturday, November 17.
“This is a project we have wanted to do for years,” said Martin. “It is so funny and well written.”
There is also a series of diverse one-night shows coming to the Royal stage, throughout the season.
“Piff the Magic Dragon is one I’m particularly excited about,” said Martin, of the show which comes to the stage on Tuesday, October 2.
“This is definitely not one that is suitable for children, but adults will find it very funny.
“Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan, which comes on Friday, October 5, is another one we are excited about,” said Martin.
“This is one for people who love Bob Dylan... but also those who don’t. It is very imaginative.
“Michael Morpurgo’s Farm Boy is another one to watch out for on Saturday, October 6, which is the sequel to War Horse.
“Then we have the Masque Theatre from Northampton, who are celebrating 80 years of drama on Sunday, October 7 with highlights from the past 80 years.
“They are the longest-running amateur theatre group in the town and they are really interesting. They don’t just do your straight-forward stuff, so it should be a great show.”
FOLLOWING on from the critically-acclaimed Festival Of Chaos productions, The Bacchae, Blood Wedding and Hedda Gabler, Royal & Derngate’s Made In Northampton starts the next season with an exploration of post-war trauma.
Starting on Friday, August 24, is Sandi Toksvig’s poignant and heartfelt Bully Boy, on the Royal stage.
The show will run until Saturday, September 15, after which it will transfer to London’s new St James Theatre.
It stars award-winning screen and stage actor, Anthony Andrews, perhaps best known as the ill-fated Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, and most recently The King’s Speech.
Laurie Sansom said: “It is a really arresting play about a guy who is back from a war and has been accused of murdering someone.
“It is not specified which war it is, but it’s Iraq or Afghanistan.
“It delves into how our service people are treated and supported after active service and is about combat stress and the impact on someone’s life after they have seen something atrocious.
“It is really touching and very dramatic and it’s a great privilege to have it first, prior to its London run.”
Also coming to the Royal stage is God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. Best known for her play, Art, it arrives on Friday, October 19, and runs until Saturday, November 10.
Recently brought to the big screen in a film, starring Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster, it is one of the most successful new plays of recent years, winning the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play and Olivier Award for Best Comedy.
Directed by Kate Saxon, who delighted Northampton audiences with Between The Years Between in 2011, this comic play follows two sets of well-meaning parents who meet to discuss their children’s behaviour after a playground punch-up.
Laurie said: “It was a massive hit when it was in the West End and Broadway.
“It’s a drama about two sets of parents, who are very middle class, and come together to discuss a situation in the playground with their children, where one of their sons has attacked the other one.
“They come together to very calmly talk it through but as they do so they reveal a lot about their beliefs, their prejudices and it becomes clear the mums don’t feel the same about their children as the dads.
“The interactions between the characters are very funny.
“We are the first stop on its tour, so in a sense it’s the regional premier.”
A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS
WITH the summer holidays barely begun, Christmas may be the farthest thing from your mind.
But at the Royal & Derngate they’ve had it all planned for a long while, with a series of festive shows to cater for a range of ages and tastes.
Laurie Sansom said: “We have a great tradition of doing really fantastic Christmas shows and this is more true than ever this year.
“We have been thinking about doing A Christmas Carol for a while, as it is always a favourite, but we were waiting for something really extraordinary to come along... and we think this is it.
“It is being directed by Gary Sefton, who was behind Diary of A Nobody and Travels With My Aunt, and it’s going to be something really exciting.”
Running alongside A Christmas Carol, which takes to the Royal stage from Wednesday, November 28 to Sunday, January 6, the theatre presents Humbug!, a playful, interactive adventure for under-sevens. “It is a show that young children can get involved with and help to decorate the Christmas tree, and to help Mr Humbug get into Christmas for the first time,” said Laurie.
This year’s spectacular family pantomime in Derngate auditorium, is a lavish production of Cinderella, starring comedian Bobby Davro as Buttons and television actress and Loose Women panellist, Denise Welch, as the Fairy Godmother.
The pantomime experience for all the family can be seen from Friday, December 7 to Sunday, January 6.
Martin said: “Bobby Davro did such a brilliant job in Aladdin last year, we are delighted to have him back.
“We also have Denise Welch this year, who is a terrific stage actress.”
PLENTY OF LAUGHS
TOP class comedians, musical hits and innovative dance are among the highlights on the Derngate stage for the autumn season.
New musical Daddy Cool, featuring the disco hits of Boney M, is one of the national tours coming to the stage this season, from Tuesday, October 9 to Saturday, October 13.
Martin said: “It has all the sounds of Boney M, and I think a lot of people will be very surprised about how many of the hits they recognise.
“We’ve also got the Richard Alston Dance Company returning.
“They are a leading dance company. We had them last year and they have been really popular.” The theatre is set to be transformed into a dance floor when jazz funk band Level 42 bring their gig to the stage.
Martin said: “We are taking out the seats downstairs so there will be a dance floor, the theatre space is actually really flexible and we want to make more use of that.”
Some big names from the comedy circuit are also due to visit, such as Mock The Week’s Dara Ó Briain, Russell Kane, Julian Clary and Jimmy Carr.
Shows on after Christmas, but on sale already, are popular shows like Derren Brown, Birds of A Feather, Anton Du Beke and The Mousetrap.
For more information about any of these events or to book tickets, call Royal & Derngate’s Box Office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.