Mark Ludmon examines the year ahead for regional theatre in 2018.
Bolton girl Maxine Peake has made her mark on TV and the London stage but she returns to her roots with her second play, Queens of the Coal Age. Based on the true story of four women in Lancashire during the miners’ strike in the 1980s, it will be at the Royal Exchange in Manchester from 28 June to 21 July. Also at the Royal Exchange, Maxine Peake will star in Sarah Frankcom’s new production of Beckett’s Happy Days from 25 May to 23 June. Other highlights coming up at the Royal Exchange include Julie Hesmondhalgh in Kendall Feaver’s new play The Almighty Sometimes and April De Angelis’s new adaptation of Frankenstein.
A new production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard directed by Michael Boyd, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, will come to the Royal Exchange from 19 April to 19 May after debuting at Bristol Old Vic from 1 March to 7 April. The Royal Exchange is the starting point for a UK tour of new play Black Men Walking, the first show from Eclipse Theatre’s Revolution Mix initiative dedicated to touring new, untold Black British stories. Running from 18 January, it will visit 13 theatres, ending at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre in April.
Sting’s musical The Last Ship will have its UK premiere at Newcastle upon Tyne’s Northern Stage, starring Jimmy Nail, after its debut on Broadway in 2014. Running in Newcastle from 12 March to 7 April, it will go on tour to 10 theatres, ending at The Lowry in Salford in July.
Also going on tour is Fleabag, the hit one-woman comedy by Phoebe Waller-Bridge which she adapted into an acclaimed TV series. After returning to Soho Theatre in London from 8 to 18 January, it will tour to Cardiff, Warwick, Newcastle, Sheffield and Hove from 26 April to 9 June, featuring Maddie Rice. Fleabag Tour Information
Another TV comedy hit is also going on tour: a stage adaptation of ITV’s Benidorm starring members of the sitcom’s cast including Sherrie Hewson, Janine Duvitski, Tony Maudsley and Adam Gillen. Benidorm Live debuts at Newcastle Theatre Royal from 7 to 15 September before going to 12 more theatres, ending in Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre in December.
The League of Gentlemen Live Again! tour, with Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson, sets off on 25 August at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre before finishing off at London’s Eventim Apollo at the end of September. Mark Gatiss will then be seen on stage in a revival of Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III at Nottingham Playhouse from November 2 to 17.
Another highlight at Nottingham Playhouse this year will be a bold new production of 1960s musical Sweet Charity, directed by Bill Buckhurst who won acclaim for his Sweeney Todd in the West End and Off-Broadway. Running from 31 August to 22 September, the cast will include Marc Elliott.
A new musical will premiere at Leicester Curve: an adaption of 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, from 6 to 21 April. It will feature the movie’s hit song Up Where We Belong as well as other 1980s hits such as Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Material Girl. An Officer and a Gentleman Tour Details. The Brookside Theatre in Romford in Essex will stage the world premiere of Goodnight Sweetheart: The Musical, based on the long-running BBC TV time-travel comedy, from 13 to 22 September, featuring hit songs from the 1940s and 1980s.
After winning acclaim for its productions of Hair and Yank!, Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre is staging the world premiere of another musical, The Toyboy Diaries, based on Wendy Salisbury’s bestselling memoirs about mid-life dating, from 18 January to 10 February. The theatre will also be bringing its acclaimed production of Pippin to London’s Southwark Playhouse from 23 February to 24 March.
Another new musical, Miss Littlewood, will debut at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 22 June to 4 August, based on the life of legendary theatre director Joan Littlewood. Other highlights of the RSC’s 2018 season include Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack in Macbeth from 13 March to 18 September, Maria Aberg’s new production of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi from 1 March to 3 August, The Merry Wives of Windsor with David Troughton as John Falstaff from 4 August to 22 September and Romeo and Juliet directed by Erica Whyman from 21 April to 21 September.
A little-known 1907 play, Votes For Women!, by suffragette and actor Elizabeth Robins will be revived at the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Marking the centenary of women first being given the vote, it runs from 6 to 24 March. Rona Munro’s 1991 play Bold Girls, set in working-class Belfast against the backdrop of the Troubles, is being revived at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre from 24 January to 10 February, with an all-female cast including Deirdre Davis. The theatre is also staging a new production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night from 13 April to 5 May, directed by Dominic Hill, co-produced with Home in Manchester where it plays from 10 to 26 May. These two shows are part of the last season for the Citizens Theatre at its home at 119 Gorbals Street before work commences on a major redevelopment of the venue.
Peter Morgan’s political play Frost/Nixon is getting a revival at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre from 22 February to 17 March, starring Jonathan Hyde and Daniel Rigby. Also at the Crucible will be a new stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Dale Wasserman, from 8 to 23 June. In Sheffield’s Studio Theatre, a new play, Chicken Soup, by Ray Castleton and Kieran Knowles follows the lives of three women from the miners’ strike in 1984 to Brexit Britain, running from 9 February to 3 March.
Katherine Parkinson will start in Laura Wade’s new dark comedy, Home, I’m Darling, about the quest for perfection by a 1950s housewife, from 25 June to 14 July at Theatr Clwyd in Mold in Wales, before transferring to the National’s Dorfman Theatre in London in late July. New writing at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre includes the world premiere of Francis Poet’s Gut, a psychological thriller that explores who we can trust with our children, directed by Zinnie Harris and running from 20 April to 12 May.
With the success of his latest plays Ink, Labour of Love and Quiz, James Graham has returned to the city where he went to university to create a new play for Hull Truck Theatre. The Culture is a behind-the-scenes satire about Hull’s time as UK City of Culture and runs from 26 January to 17 February.
In February, Bryony Lavery will not only see her 1998 play Frozen revived in London but she will also be premiering her new play based on Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock at York Theatre Royal. It runs from 16 February to 3 March and then goes on tour until the end of May, with Theatre Royal Brighton as its first stop from March 6 to 10.
Another book being adapted for the stage is Paula Hawkins’ best-seller The Girl on the Train which will premiere at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds from 12 May to 9 June. The theatre will also stage an adaptation of Lisa Genova’s best-selling novel Still Alice, about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, from 9 February to 3 March, starring Sharon Small. An adaptation of Patrick Ness’s children’s novel A Monster Calls will have its world premiere at Bristol Old Vic from 31 May to 16 June before transferring to London’s Old Vic.
One of the highlights of 2018 will be the arrival of new theatre spaces in Southampton as part of the new £26m arts venue Studio 144. Featuring a flexible 450-seat main house and a 135-seat studio, NST City is a second site for Nuffield Southampton Theatres. It will be launched with the world premiere of a new play by Howard Brenton, The Shadow Factory, running from 7 February to 3 March.