Mark Ludmon previews South and South West Theatre Highlights 2020.
After the success of her show (and theatre company) Wise Children, director Emma Rice is developing a new musical called Romantics Anonymous.
She has adapted it from French-Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes, with lyrics and music by Christopher Dimond and Michael Kooman. Premiering at Bristol Old Vic from 18 January to 1 February ahead of an international tour, it is a story of fragile love between a chocolate maker and the boss of the chocolate factory where she works.
Another leading director, Maria Åberg, will premiere her new production of Gatsby, based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novella, The Great Gatsby, at Bristol Old Vic from 12 September to 3 October. Adapted by Åberg with Joel Horwood, it explores the roots of the power structures that remain in place today, timed to coincide with the US presidential election. It is in association with English Touring Theatre, Northern Stage, Royal & Derngate in Northampton, Oxford Playhouse, London’s Lyric Hammersmith and Birmingham Rep. Join our mailing list for notice as it comes to hand.
Bristol Old Vic will also stage the world premiere of Semmelweis, inspired by the true story of the pioneering 19th-century doctor Ignaz Semmelweis. It will star Mark Rylance who also came up with the original idea for the play, developed with writer Stephen Brown and director Tom Morris. It runs in Bristol from 13 June to 25 July, in association with Sonia Friedman Productions, the National Theatre and Shakespeare Road.
Testmatch, a new play by American writer Kate Attwell, receives its UK premiere in the Ustinov Studio at Theatre Royal Bath from 2 April to 9 May in a co-production with English Touring Theatre. Past and present collide in a story set both in 2020 at Lords where England faces India in the Women’s Cricket World Cup and in Calcutta around 1800 where two British administrators encounter challenges on the field that threaten the colonial regime.
After an acclaimed run in 2018, Lindsay Posner’s production of Yasmin Reza’s dark comedy God of Carnage returns to Bath Theatre Royal ahead of a West End transfer. Running from 20 to 25 January, it stars Elizabeth McGovern, Samantha Spiro, Nigel Lindsay and Simon Paisley Day. Another hit, this time from 2018, also returns, with Richard Eyre’s production of Noël Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit playing from 4 to 8 February, starring Jennifer Saunders, Lisa Dillon and Geoffrey Streatfeild. Blithe Spirit Tour Schedule Here
Another Coward classic, Private Lives, comes to Theatre Royal Bath from 1 to 10 October as part of a three-year partnership with the actor Nigel Havers’ theatre company. Havers will play the lead role of Elyot in a new production directed by Christopher Luscombe. Also look out for Michael Pennington in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, directed by Tom Littler, from 7 to 11 April, ahead of its transfer to Jermyn Street Theatre in London.
Theatre Royal Plymouth will present the UK premiere of The Roommate by award-winning American playwright Jen Silverman. Running from 19 April to 2 May, it is described as a funny and razor-sharp vision of modern American life, its dreams and warped ambitions. From 16 to 20 June, the theatre will stage This Land to mark the 400-year anniversary of the Mayflower ship’s journey to America. It is being created and performed by citizens of Plymouth in the UK and members of the Native American Wampanoag Tribe from Massachusetts.
A new production of Alan Bennett’s sharp bittersweet comic monologues, Talking Heads, will be staged at Watford Palace Theatre starring Jan Ravens and Julia Watson. Running from 4 to 29 March, it is directed by Brigid Larmour. Another modern comedy classic, Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh, will be staged at Watford under director Pravesh Kumar from 29 April to 23 May. Presented in association with Rifco Theatre Company, the painfully dark and funny story of social manners will be set against the backdrop of evolving multicultural Britain of the 1970s.
Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) has teamed up with theatre company Inspector Sands on an adaptation of Wuthering Heights. Writer Ben Lewis and director Lucinka Eisler promise to create a “thrilling new version for our times”, running at NST City from 11 to 23 May and then at Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 27 May to 6 June.
The Everyman Theatre Company in Cheltenham is producing more new shows in 2020 including Willy Russell’s bittersweet comedy-drama Shirley Valentine, starring Claire Sweeney, running at the Everyman Theatre from 13 to 22 February. Also at the Everyman, Michelle Collins and Tristram Gemmill will star in another 20th-century classic, The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter, running from 2 to 11 April.
A new actor-musician production of classic musical Brigadoon is one of the highlights in the 2020 programme at the Barn Theatre in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, running from 15 July to 5 September. The theatre will also stage Vicki Berwick’s adaptation of The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo, best known for War Horse and Private Peaceful. Running from 21 May to 27 June, it tells the story of a Jewish family under the Nazi regime and the power of music. Also for 2020, the Barn Theatre has new productions of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, Patrick Barlow’s stage version of Ben Hur, and an adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.
The historic Theatre Royal Windsor in Berkshire will move in an exciting new direction in 2020. Leading director Sean Mathias will embark on his first summer season as the theatre’s first artistic director, presenting four months of classics from May onwards. Few details have been released yet although the productions are set to include Hamlet and Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.
Highlights at The Watermill Theatre near Newbury in Berkshire include a new folk-inspired musical called The Wicker Husband, from 12 March to 4 April, about a community’s treatment of an outsider. With music and lyrics by Darren Clark and book by Rhys Jennings, it was the winner of the inaugural MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award in 2016 celebrating new British musical theatre writers.
Another new musical will premiere at The Watermill from 11 June to 25 July – an adaptation of Graham Greene’s classic novel, Our Man in Havana, by Ben Morales Frost and Richard Hough. With a score of uplifting Cuban-inspired songs, it follows the adventures of an English vacuum cleaner salesman and his daughter in 1958 in Cuba as a revolution is brewing,
Also in Berkshire, The Mill at Sonning continues with its delicious combination of food and theatre with productions including a revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy Relatively Speaking, directed by Robin Herford, from 27 February to 18 April. After a tour starring Joe McFadden and Rita Simons, Shaun McKenna’s adaptation of Peter James’ supernatural thriller The House on Cold Hill will be staged with a new cast including Debbie McGee as Annie and director Keith Myers, running from 23 April to 13 June. This will be followed by a classic farce, Ray Cooney’s Two Into One, from 18 June to 8 August, recalling the bygone days when it was a scandal for cabinet ministers to be caught having extramarital affairs.
Check for more shows in your area in our preview of touring shows in 2020