Mark Ludmon previews some of the theatre highlights in the Midlands and the East of England in 2020
Identical, a new musical by Stiles and Drewe, will have its world premiere at Nottingham Playhouse. Based on the novel The Parent Trap, best known from the film adaptations, it follows identical twins separated at birth who set out to reunite their parents.
It is being directed by Olivier and Tony award-winner Trevor Nunn and runs in Nottingham from 31 July to 22 August before going to Theatre Royal Bath from 4 to 19 September.
Olivier Award-winning actor Jenna Russell stars as the great French singer Edith Piaf in a new production of Pam Gems’ classic play, Piaf, at Nottingham Playhouse from 8 May to 23 May. Directed by Adam Penford, it transfers to Leeds Playhouse from 27 May to 13 June.
Nathaniel Price’s new drama First Touch will have its world premiere at Nottingham Playhouse from 5 to 20 June. Inspired by the recent football abuse scandals, it follows a teenager embarking on a career as a footballer in the 1980s in an era of racism and hooliganism. Ron Hutchinson’s screwball comedy Moonlight and Magnolias will be revived at Nottingham Playhouse from 21 February to 7 March. Directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, it reimagines how the classic film Gone With the Wind came to be made.
After the success of Abigail’s Party and One Man Two Guvnors, Derby Theatre is teaming up again with Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch in east London to present Shakespeare’s Macbeth, directed by Douglas Rintoul. It runs in Derby from 3 to 14 March after a spell at Queen’s Theatre from 7 to 29 February. It will also run at New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich from 17 to 21 March.
Derby Theatre is also collaborating with Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and York Theatre Royal for Emteaz Hussain’s adaptation of Crongton Knights, Alex Wheatle’s award-winning novel about friendship on an urban estate. It is the latest production from Pilot Theatre which created hit touring show Noughts and Crosses. Its tour includes Coventry from 8 to 22 February, York from 25 to 29 February and Derby from 17 to 21 March.
Another adaptation at Derby Theatre will be children’s classic, Treasure Island, in a version by Theresa Heskins with director Sarah Brigham. With Beth Hinton-Lever as Long John Silver, it runs from 8 March to 11 April.
The Midlands will host another major premiere when the new production of hit musical Sister Act comes to Curve in Leicester ahead of its London run. It has been reimagined for the 21st century with Brenda Edwards in the specially rewritten role of Deloris Van Cartier. Catch it in Leicester from 21 April to 2 May. Sister Act Tour Schedule here.
One of the highlights of the spring season at Birmingham Rep is an adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s novel, Asking For It, which takes a brave look at victim-blaming and the effects of rape culture. Running from 31 January to 15 February, it has been adapted by Meadhbh McHugh with director Annabelle Comyn.
Another highlight is The High Table, the debut play from Temi Wilkey – an epic family drama in which a woman confronts the past as she prepares to get married. After premiering at London’s Bush Theatre from 8 February to 21 March, it runs at Birmingham Rep from 25 March to 9 April. Other shows at Birmingham Rep include Faustus: That Damned Woman, featured in our preview of shows in the north of England, and a revival of Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto’s adaptation of Moliere’s Tartuffe, directed by Iqbal Khan, set in the Pakistani Muslim community in Birmingham.
The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon will be exploring, celebrating and interrogating Britain’s relationship to Europe with three productions this year under the banner of Projekt Europa. Blindness and Seeing is an adaptation of two of the best-known novels by Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, about a city where all the inhabitants suddenly go blind except for one woman. Running from 1 August to 26 September at the Swan Theatre, it is adapted and directed by Tiago Rodrigues.
Another modern continental classic, Europeana by Czech writer Patrik Ouředník, is being adapted and directed by Maria Åberg, with dramaturg Judith Gerstenberg, for the Swan Theatre. Running from 9 April to 25 July, it takes a trip through the chaotic kaleidoscope of 20th-century history, questioning our ideas of progress. After the National Theatre’s modern-day version in 2019, Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is getting another radical new adaptation for the 21st century by leading Swiss director Barbara Frey, at the Swan from 1 May to 23 September.
As for Shakespeare, the RSC will present director Erica Whyman’s interpretation of The Winter’s Tale, setting it across a 16-year span from the age of Mad Men to the moon landings, imagining a world where “the ghosts of fascist Europe collide with horrors of The Handmaid’s Tale before washing up on a joyful seashore”. It will run from 28 March to 2 October. The Comedy of Errors will be directed by Phillip Breen, with Miles Jupp as Antipholus of Syracuse, running from 25 April to 3 October, while Blanche McIntyre will return to direct Pericles, Shakespeare’s touching and hopeful tale of loss and reconciliation, running from 15 August to 1 October.
Charlotte Keatley’s 1987 play My Mother Said I Never Should has been reworked for a new production by Fingersmiths in BSL and spoken English, featuring a cast of one hearing and three deaf actors. A moving and funny exploration of the lives of four generations of women across the 20th century, it debuted at Sheffield’s Studio theatre last year but now comes to New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich from 13 to 14 February and then Exeter’s Northcott Theatre from 9 to 11 March.
New Wolsey Theatre’s programme also includes Eastern Angles’ show, The Ballad of Maria Marten, a retelling of a true-life murder mystery from 19th-century Suffolk. Written by Beth Flintoff, it comes to Ipswich from 20 to 22 February after playing Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough from 11 to 15 February. It ends its short tour at New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme from 26 to 29 February. Another 19th-century true crime story comes to the New Wolsey stage from 13 to 30 May, with Tom Wentworth’s version of the story of body-snatchers Burke & Hare, based on the original production at Berkshire’s Watermill Theatre.
Check for more shows in your area in our preview of touring shows in 2020