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Comedy, Tragedy, History...and more in Ipswich

By • Southeast
The stage at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich is far from empty during the first two weeks of September, but you have to wait until 17 September for the first of the autumn season’s home-grown productions. It will be Wilde’s best-loved comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, Directed by Ellie Jones, this classic comedy of manners might, if one was feeling particularly naughty, be described as an early example of identity theft. The run ends on 9 October.

Reasons to be Cheerful is a New Wolsey co-production with the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and the Graeae theatre company. It’s about Vinnie, a young man who wants to join his friends at a major London gig in 1979. But Vinnie has mobility problems and Southend to Hammersmith turns out to be quite an extraordinary journey, not just for him. The author of this world première is Paul Sirett and you can find out what happens between 14 and 16 October.

Another co-production, this time with the Palace Theatre, Watford and Segue, is the co-commission by ROH2 of Songs from a Hotel Bedroom. It’s music theatre in its widest sense with dancers also involved as the music of Kurt Weil arranged by James Holmes illuminate the story of two people who once had an affair in 1940s New Work. Frances Ruffelle and Nigel Richards are the leads, Kate Flatt and New Wolsey artistic director Peter Rowe have written and directed it and the production is in Ipswich from 20 to 23 October.

Last but not least is, of course, the pantomime. It’s another rock’n’roll extravaganza by Peter Rowe and Alan Ellis with Jack and the Beanstalk firmly placed in that well-known picturesque Suffolk village Much Piddling in the Marsh. There’s quite a long run – 2 December through to 4 February – with many morning as well as afternoon and evening performances. Running parallel in the Studio between 7 and 31 December and specifically designed for the under-sevens is Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company’s production of Three Little Pigs.

The range of visiting productions is equally wide. First off is a LipService special on 7 and 8 September – it’s billed as their best bits and celebrates 25 years of the company’s unique brand of comedy. Also intended to keep you up in the air, albeit in a somewhat different fashion, is The Mill from the aerial theatre company Ockham’s Razor. It’s on for just one performance on 10 September, is directed by Toby Sedgwick and written by Rufus Norris.

Over in the Studio Inspector Sands presents If That’s All tThere Is, inspired by the Peggy Lee song of the same name, from 14 to 18 September. Few things get people talking more than attempts to restore the reputations of history’s villains. Deborah McAndrew has written King Macbeth as a vindication of the real 11th century Scottish ruler for the Reveal Theatre Company; the production is directed by Robert Marsden. Make up your own mind on 27 and 28 September and even voice your own opinion in the post-show talk after the first night.

A co-production involving the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith and the Theatre Royal in Plymouth comes from the innovative Gecko company. Based on Gogol’s bitterly comic story of The Overcoat, this piece has been two years in the making. Follow office worker Akakki’s emotional and professional frustrations to their conclusion from 28 to 30 October; there is also a post-show talk on 28 October. The next evening, Sunday 31 October, brings Roger Llewellyn as Sherlock Holmes to Ipswich in Sherlock Holmes…The Life and Death, a sequel to his Sherlock Holmes…The Last Act. The detective’s creator is weary of him, but fiction has its own rules of longevity as even Moriarty will discover. Not to mention Conan Doyle himself.

Political comedy comes in many guises. For The Rebel Cell as presented by Spears Productions and Giddy Ox it takes the shape of a rap drama set in 2015. Civil liberties have been swallowed by anti-terrorism legislation and their champion faces charges. And interrogation. 2 and 3 November are the dates to watch. Then on 4 and 5 November Jeff Stetson’s The Meeting is directed by Chuck Mike. It is between two contrasted fighters for civil liberties in the USA during the 1960s – Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

From Newbury’s Watermill comes last year’s award-winning production of Spend Spend Spend!. The story is that of Viv Nicholson who in 1961 won what was then the largest-ever football pool payout. Steve Brown and Justin Greene’s musical has a cast of 12, whpo act, dance, sing and play all the instruments; the director is Craig Revel Horwood. The month swirls onwards with Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III starring Simon Ward and Susan Penhaligon between 17 and 20 November.

Five contrasted shows for very young children have Saturday performances in the Studio during September and October. The first comes from Snail Tales. A Little Bird Told Me five short new fairy stories on 11 September. On 25 September A Thousand Cranes and ArtsDepot presents ; this uses Japanese story-telling techniques. from Peut Etre on 9 October is inspired by the poems of Lorca and From Here, to There on 23 October from tell Tale Hearts is on the theme of building bridges. The New Wolsey itself offers Storymaker on 18 September, 2 and 16 October and 6 and 20 November.


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