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British Theatre Guide podcast
28 minutes | Apr 23, 2021
Brighton Fringe returns both online and in live venues
After a record-breaking year in 2019, with more than 600,000 attendees, Brighton Fringe had to cancel its 2020 festival at fairly short notice due to the first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic in England. However, the Fringe is back for 2021, slightly later in the year than usual, with a hybrid live and online programme of events. BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Brighton Fringe CEO Julian Caddy about the festival and what it will be offering attendees this year, as well as the difficulties they have faced over the last year or so. Brighton Fringe runs from Friday 28 May to Sunday 27 June 2021 at various venues around the town and online. For more information about the festival and the events in this year’s programme and to obtain tickets, visit the festival's web site, call 01273 917 272 or download the Brighton Fringe app from the Google Play or Apple App Store.
43 minutes | Mar 30, 2021
Comedian Kevin Day joins appeal for support and recognition for the live events industry
#WeMakeEvents was launched in April 2020, soon after the first coronavirus lockdown, by PLASA, the Professional Lighting and Sound Association, to highlight the plight of its membership, the majority of whom are freelance workers and therefore not eligible for government furlough payments. The campaign has grown to include other industry bodies and has become a global movement, with major performance venues lighting their buildings in red to highlight the red alert status of the industry. It offers financial assistance, wellbeing support and advice as well as campaigning with governments and the public to raise awareness. The campaign has attracted a great many celebrity endorsements, including from stand-up comedian, comedy writer and sports presenter Kevin Day, who took part in a promotional video for #WeMakeEvents with fellow comics Griff Rhys Jones, Lucy Porter and Stephen K Amos. Kevin has been prominent on the UK comedy scene since the late ‘80s when he performed regularly at The Comedy Store. He has written for Dave Allen and Jo Brand and continues to write for the long-running BBC comedy show Have I Got News For You. He spoke to BTG editor David Chadderton about how essential production staff are to theatre, festivals, live comedy and many other events, how important the live performance industry is to the UK economy and to the wellbeing of the country and how lockdown has personally affected him and his family—his son is also a stand-up comedian and his wife works in theatre production and event management. For more information on the campaign, to make a donation, to buy merchandise or to find assistance if you are affected by the crisis, see the #WeMakeEvents web site. Through industry charity Backup, you can also make donations via a texting service: text “ONETWO” plus the donation amount in numbers to 70085 (for instance, text ONETWO12 to donate £12).
48 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Staged star hears out leading theatre actors performing favourite speeches
Hear Me Out is a new theatre podcast produced and presented by Lucy Eaton, the both real and on-screen sister of Simon Evans, creator of BBC lockdown comedy Staged starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. Hear Me Out features interviews with leading theatre actors in which they discuss and then perform a speech from a play in which they have appeared which holds particularly strong memories for them. The first four episodes are now available, featuring Claire Skinner on Harold Pinter’s Moonlight, Adrian Lester on Cost of Living by Martyna Majok, Denise Gough on People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan and Mark Bonnar on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In this episode, BTG Editor David Chadderton speaks to Lucy about these first few episodes, as well as about how Staged was basically an extension of games she played with her brother when they were kids, what lockdown has been like for her and other actors she knows, performing outside the house of one of the UK’s leading theatre critics and more. Hear Me Out can be found now on all the usual podcast platforms. For more details, see the Hear Me Out web site or follow @PodHearMeOut on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
47 minutes | Feb 18, 2021
UK Theatres at Risk in 2021
At the beginning of each year, The Theatres Trust produces a document known as the Theatres At Risk Register, which lists the theatre buildings in the UK which are at the most risk of being lost forever. Just after the 2021 Register was released, BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan about this year’s list, the work of the Trust in general and the extra help it has been giving to theatres during the pandemic. The latest Theatres At Risk Register can be downloaded from The Theatres Trust web site, which also contains plenty of information about theatres around the UK and advice and useful contacts for theatres and campaign groups who are trying to save a theatre building.
30 minutes | Feb 12, 2021
An adventurous 70th anniversary season at Pitlochry after a challenging 2020
In January 2020, BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director of Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland, about her plans for the coming year. Less than two months later, the country shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. The season was cancelled and the future of this theatre, amongst many others around the country, looked bleak, but it continued to commission and produce new work, mostly online. A year on, and Pitlochry has announced its 70th anniversary season including its first winter ensemble, this time geared to the conditions in which they will have to work for the forseeable future. Pitlochry has also collaborated with Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre and Naked Productions on a new digital audio theatre platform, Sound Stage. Elizabeth speaks, in this episode, about both of these, and also about how the events of last year unfolded. The Sound Stage events so far announced will be available for just a few days at the end of each month from March to October 2021. The first, Angela by Mark Ravenhill directed by Polly Thomas, will run from 26 to 28 March and star Pam Ferris, Matti Houghton, Toby Jones, Jackson Laing and Joseph Millson. For more information about any of the events mentioned in this episode, see the Pitlochry Festival Theatre web site.
25 minutes | Dec 11, 2020
Talawa tells verbatim tales from black frontline workers
Leading black British theatre company Talawa, which will celebrate its 35th birthday in 2021, is releasing a series of short online films titled Tales from the Frontline that examine the experiences of black frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic through monologues compiled from the words of real people through interviews. BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Talawa’s Artistic Director, Michael Buffong, who also directed the first of the films, after two of the proposed six films had been released: one from the perspective of a schoolteacher and the other from the words of an NHS recovery worker. They spoke about the reasons behind a project that Michael believes is essential to make sure that the contributions made by black workers to the essential services that keep the country functioning during the current crisis are documented so that they are not forgotten. They also spoke about plans for Talawa’s 35th birthday celebrations next year, and about the impressive list of productions that Michael has directed at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre over nearly two decades. Tales from the Frontline can be watched for free on Talawa’s web site and YouTube channel, although donations are being requested for the charity Black Minds Matter UK. (Photo of Michael Buffong, credit: The Masons)
32 minutes | Nov 21, 2020
Peter Polycarpou takes online audiences back to the music of the Roaring Twenties
Peter Polycarpou, an actor with a long and distinguished history in musical theatre, was about to revive a production that he had written called Falling Stars at London’s Union Theatre when the second coronavirus lockdown was announced. Rather than cancelling entirely, the production, performed by Peter with Sally Ann Triplett and directed by Michael Strassen, was recorded to be made available online. Peter spoke to BTG Editor David Chadderton a few days before the recording was due to be released about the production, as well as about the effects of the lockdown on him and on theatre as a whole and a bit about some of his past and possible future work. Falling Stars is a 60-minute online live-stream to be broadcast at 7:30PM from Sunday 22 to Sunday 29 November 2020, plus 2:30PM matinée performances on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29. Tickets are £15 plus booking fees available from www.stream.theatre. (Photo of Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett, credit Paul Nicholas Dyke)
44 minutes | Sep 28, 2020
Pursued by a Bear takes Nothing on Earth online
Pursued by a Bear, a theatre company based at Trestle Arts Base in St Albans, Hertfordshire, was preparing a tour of a new project, Nothing on Earth written by Anna Reynolds, before the coronavirus lockdown. As the tour couldn’t go ahead as planned, it was used as the inspiration for a series of short web films called Nothing on Earth: Shorts. BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Pursued by a Bear’s Artistic Director, Rosamunde Hutt, when half of the six films had been released about the project and the general aims of the company. Photo of Rosamunde Hutt, credit Tunde Euba.
55 minutes | Sep 4, 2020
Theatre in a time of Pandemic
As some theatre performances are starting to open in the UK after more than five months of lockdown due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the people in charge of UK theatres have had to make some very difficult decisions in order to survive. To get the perspective of theatre management on the current situation, BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Roddy Gauld, Chief Executive of the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, just after the announcement that the theatre will reopen in December and Jon Gilchrist, Executive Director & Deputy Chief Executive of Home Manchester, where theatre performances are to recommence from October.
39 minutes | Aug 28, 2020
Kneehigh strikes out with post-lockdown plans in 40th anniversary year
Cornwall’s Kneehigh theatre company was due to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to postpone any celebrations. After five months of lockdown, the company has released a strategy document, Strike Out!, focussing on its plans for creating art and performance in a post-pandemic world. Just after its release, BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Kneehigh founder and co-Artistic Director Mike Shepherd about what he has been up to during lockdown, the company’s deferred 40th anniversary plans and plans for the immediate future. To read the Strike Out! strategy document and other information about the company and its past and future work, see Kneehigh's web site or follow @wearekneehigh on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. The TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity” by the late Sir Ken Robinson, referred to by Mike as an inspiration, can still be seen online. Photo of Mike Shepherd as Mrs Ubu in Kneehigh’s Ubu, credit Steve Tanner
38 minutes | Aug 21, 2020
Told by an Idiot invites families to Get Happy at Greenwich+Docklands
Theatre company Told by an Idiot will be one of the first theatre companies to resume performances to live audiences after the coronavirus lockdown when it takes part in the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival with a revival of its family show Get Happy at outdoor venues. BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Told by an Idiot founder Paul Hunter, who is directing the piece, during rehearsals about this and past works by the company, as well as about his comedy influences, some of whom he has worked with, and the company’s way of working when devising its distinctive style of physical comedy show. Get Happy will be performed at Woolwich Common Basketball Court on 29 August, The Moorings Estate in Thamesmead on 30 August and Eltham on 12 September 2020.
33 minutes | Aug 14, 2020
New Tara Arts Artistic Director Abdul Shayek
Tara Arts is a London-based multicultural theatre company which has only had one artistic director, Jatinder Verma MBE, since it was formed in 1977 until he stepped down earlier this year. He will be replaced by Abdul Shayek, a director originally from East London who has spent the last nine years based in Cardiff, initially working with National Theatre Wales and for the last four years running Fio, a theatre company that he formed in 2016. BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Abdul just after his appointment had been announced about his plans for Tara, running a multicultural theatre company in Cardiff, theatre as a tool for social change and a few of the many projects he currently has on the go or planned for the near future.
27 minutes | Jul 29, 2020
Godspell 50th anniversary concert streaming worldwide
Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak’s musical Godspell, based on the Gospel of St Matthew, is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. To commemorate this, Thomas Hopkins & Michael Quinn for Ginger Quiff Media in association with Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre are to stream an online concert version of the musical in August 2020 with a cast headed by West End stars Ruthie Henshall, Darren Day, Sam Tutty, Ria Jones and Jenna Russell. Also starring is Jodie Steele, who was touring as Katherine Howard in the hit musical Six until the coronavirus pandemic caused the theatres to close. BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Jodie a month before the concert about the show, recording her performance at home, finding out that Stephen Schwartz knew who she was, keeping her musical theatre school going online during the lockdown and her experiences as a West End understudy amongst other things, some of which she said she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to tell us. The 50th anniversary online concert of Godspell will be available from 27 to 29 August 2020. The performance is a charity event in aid of Hope Mill Theatre, National AIDS Trust and Acting For Others, with tickets at £15 available from the Hope Mill Theatre web site.
35 minutes | Jun 26, 2020
Beats & Elements brings working class voices and beatboxing to online theatre
No Milk for the Foxes was a one-act play written and performed by Conrad Murray and Paul Cree for Beats & Elements at Camden People’s Theatre in 2015 that looked in on the lives of two young, working-class lads, Marx and Sparx, working as security guards on zero-hours contracts and which used beatboxing and live looping between dialogue scenes. An archive recording of this production has now been made available on YouTube in order, according to Conrad, to introduce some diversity into the huge amount of online theatre that has suddenly become available by throwing some working class voices into the mix. BTG Editor David Chadderton spoke to Conrad about the play, about beatboxing and hip hop theatre and about his views on the importance of seeing genuine working class characters on stage, even if they don’t fit the preconceptions and sensibilities of the middle classes—even if they read The Sun. No Milk for the Foxes is now available on the Beats & Elements page on YouTube, where you can also find a link to make donations via Patreon. You can find out more about Conrad on his web site.
17 minutes | Jun 21, 2020
New Perspectives presents all-star recordings of David Rudkin pieces
New Perspectives Theatre Company has teamed up with writer David Rudkin to produce a ten-part audio series called PlacePrints. Rudkin has written stories set in different locations around the British Isles and they’ve been recorded over the past four years. The cast includes Michael Pennington, Toby Jones, Juliet Stevenson and Stephen Rea. In this episode, Steve Orme speaks to Jack McNamara from New Perspectives about how the series came together and how the company’s work has changed since its tours were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo of Jack McNamara, credit Emanuele Costantini.
52 minutes | May 1, 2020
All-star cast broadcasts to the world from Huddersfield
Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield is producing a star-studded multi-cast audio play, The Understudy, an adaptation by Henry Filloux-Bennett of a novel by David Nicholls about an actor who is failing in most aspects of his life. The cast includes Stephen Fry, Russell Tovey, Emily Atack, Sheila Atim, Layton Williams, Sarah Hadland, Mina Anwar, Jake Ferretti, Sasha Frost, Marie Lawrence, James McNicholas and Lizzie Muncey. Each actor has recorded his or her own dialogue at home in isolation and it has all been assembled by the sound design team of Alexandra Faye Braithwaite with Annie May Fletcher and Sophie Galpin. The proceeds from ticket sales will go to theatre charities the Theatre Development Trust, Acting for Others and the Equity Charitable Trust. In this episode, BTG Editor David Chadderton speaks separately to director Giles Croft, actor Mina Anwar, who plays deputy stage manager Donna, and writer Henry Filloux-Bennett, who is also Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Lawrence Batley Theatre. Part 1 will be released on Wednesday 20 May and Part 2 on Wednesday 27 May 2020. For more information and to purchase tickets, see the Understudy Play web site.
23 minutes | Apr 24, 2020
Slung Low streams civil war from Leeds
Slung Low, a theatre company founded in 2000 and currently based in the oldest social club in Britain in Holbeck, Leeds, programmes work in its own performance spaces but also creates large-scale works in non-theatre spaces, often involving large community casts. During the coronavirus lockdown, Slung Low is releasing a short film, The Good Book, written by James Phillips with a cast of three professional actors alongside more than a hundred people from Leeds in the first piece of work to be produced by the new Leeds People’s Theatre, filmed in January in Holbeck and Leeds. Slung Low’s Artistic Director Alan Lane spoke to BTG Editor David Chadderton about the film, and also about the philosophy of the twenty-year-old company and what they are currently doing during the coronavirus lockdown. Slung Low and Leeds People’s Theatre’s The Good Book will be available to watch online from 1 May 2020. For more information, see www.slunglow.org.
20 minutes | Mar 27, 2020
HOME brings Homemakers into your homes
In common with most of the UK’s theatres and other arts venues, HOME Manchester announced it would close soon after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement on 16 March 2020 appealing to the public to stay away from public places to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. A week later, HOME announced a series of commissions, titled Homemakers, from artists asking them to devise new works in their homes for audiences who will also be at home. The initiative was created by HOME’s Associate Director Jude Christian who spoke to BTG Editor David Chadderton online, both in their own homes, a few days after the announcement. Jude explained about the project and the commissioning process and about some wider issues relating to the impact on theatre of the country’s current shutdown. Homemakers aims to launch its first works online in early April 2020.
20 minutes | Mar 14, 2020
Long John Silver sets sail for Derby Theatre for Easter
For the second successive year, Derby Theatre is producing a major show featuring fully integrated British Sign Language and captioning. In 2019, the theatre presented Neil Duffield’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book; in 2020 Treasure Island will get similar treatment. For this episode, BTG Midlands editor Steve Orme chats to Derby Theatre’s artistic director Sarah Brigham about the show and what the theatre is doing regarding the coronavirus outbreak. He also interviews Beth Hinton-Lever who plays Long John Silver and T J Holmes, taking the role of Israel Hands. Treasure Island runs at Derby Theatre from 28 March until 11 April 2020. (Photo of Sarah Brigham, Beth Hinton-Lever and T J Holmes, credit Steve Orme)
24 minutes | Feb 28, 2020
Dickens ascends Ramps on the Moon in Leeds and on tour
Amy Leach is a theatre director and Associate Director at Leeds Playhouse, currently working on a new version of Oliver Twist. This new adaption is by Bryony Lavery, and it’s being staged by Leeds Playhouse in collaboration with the Ramps on the Moon consortium, a partnership between six National Portfolio Organisation theatres and Graeae Theatre. Ramps on the Moon aims to create change within the UK theatre industry in terms of the inclusion and integration of deaf and disabled audiences and theatre-makers. Benjamin Wilson is one of Ramps on the Moon’s Agents for Change. He’s a cast member in this latest production, and has had a key role in developing creative approaches to audio description for this and a number of other shows he’s worked on at Leeds Playhouse and Sheffield Theatres. Amy and Ben joined Mark Smith towards the end of their rehearsal period to discuss the Ramps on the Moon initiative, the opportunities opened up by creative approaches to access for D/deaf and visually impaired audiences and performers, and the reasons behind Amy’s choice of Dickens’s work for her latest project. Oliver Twist plays Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre from 28 February to 21 March 2020, ahead of a UK tour to Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich and Theatre Royal Stratford East, which are all part of the Ramps on the Moon consortium alongside Graeae, the UK’s leading disabled-led theatre company. (Oliver Twist rehearsal images of director Amy Leach and of Brooklyn Melvin and Benjamin Wilson, credit Anthony Robling.)
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