Establishing a full 12-months' programme of in-house and co-productions is by itself something of an achievement in these times of shrinking funding. One initiative in connexion with this is the new season ticket offer. It comes in two glittering shades – gold for all the Made in Colchester productions where £132.00 (which could save you up to £145.50 and includes free programmes and ticket exchanges, not to mention a 10 per cent reduction on the à la carte menu at the adjacent Food@theMercury) and silver (£90.00 with a saving of £60.00).
So, what do you get for your money? The first Studio show is Andy Barrett's Garage Band which is directed by Paul Hodson. Basically it's about four middle-aged men wanting to revive the music (not to mention the passions) of the punk decades some 30 years ago. Strong language and very loud music are promised between 20 February and 9 March.
Popping up in between other productions are four of Alan Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges in which two actors play all the characters. Events on a Hotel Terrace is the first (7-16 March then 23, 25 and 27 April). A One Man Protest follows (18-27 April and 14, 16 to 18 May). A Pageant is, appropriately enough, its successor (8-18 May, 18, 20 to 22 June) and A Game of Golf concludes the quartet (12-22 June). All are main-house productions and directed by Robin Herford.
Melvyn Bragg's adaptation of his novel The Hired Man with a score by Howard Goodall is revived in a co-production with Leicester's Curve Theatre from 21 March to 6 April. Buckroyd is the director for this, and for Alan Bennett's The History Boys betwen 23 May and 8 June. September ushers in The Butterfly Lion, arguably Michael Morpurgo's finest book. Buckroyd has made the adaptation and again directs (5 to 14 September).
Two variations on a theme mirror each other in October. The main house has a translation by Michael Hofmann of Brecht's The Good Person of Sichuan (3 to 19 October) directed by Nikolai Foster while the Studio hosts Manfred Karge's Man to Man in the Anthony Vivis translation (4 to 19 October). As you may know, both plays were inspired by the same true story. A new musical comedy by Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon called The Opinion Makers is another co-production, this time with the Derby Theatre (25 October to 9 November).
To usher in Christmas 2013 and January 2014 comes the home-grown pantomime The Sleeping Beauty (6 December to 11 January and, if you book before 31 January 2013, ticket prices are the same as for this year's Jack and the Beanstalk. Nor should we forget that The Mercury has a flourishing and well-thought-of youth group – the Young Company. Their ambitious summer production of a new stage adaptation of the classic Peter Townshend/The Who album Quadrophenia. This is a main house presentation running from 22 to 24 August.
Slotted in between
these Made in Colchester productions will be the usual wide array of
visiting companies including both week-long and short-run
productions. These plays, musical events and one-man shows will be
announced in a new twice-yearly What's On Guide,
the first of which is already in preparation. "A festival of big
ideas" – The Only Way is Ethics – is
promised from 9 September to 19 October. It will involve playwrights,
journalists and philosophers in a mix of live performances and
associated events at a variety of Colchester locations.