Liverpool Playhouse stage Alchemist & Tour Ladykillers
Date: 29 May 2012
Liverpool Playhouse's new season includes a new production of Ben Johnson’s The Alchemist and Held - a new play by Joe Ward Munrow, as well as hosting the annual Everyword Festival for new writing.
Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director of the Everyman and Playhouse, said: “This season includes a rich variety of world premières, brave adaptations and exciting new talent. Whether it is the first play by an emerging writer or the production of a 17th century classic, our aim is to dazzle and exceed expectation.
First performed by the King's Men in 1610, Ben Jonson's 17th century comic satire still retains piercing resonances with contemporary society with its themes of greed, desire and morality. The Alchemist is the tale of ‘master conman’, Face, and the not-so-trusty tricksters, Subtle and Dol who target London’s rich, vain and greedy, dispensing spurious charms and promises of gold.
The Alchemist is directed by Robert Icke, an associate director of Headlong whose previous productions include Boys by Ella Hickson and a national tour of Romeo and Juliet earlier this year, as well as working with Rupert Goold to conceive and develop Decade in 2011.
In June Frank McGuinness’s new play, The Match Box, will have its world première in the Playhouse Studio. Bafta-nominated actor and director Lia Williams makes her stage directorial debut. The Match Box marks McGuinness’s first new work since Greta Garbo Came to Donegal at the Tricycle Theatre in 2010.
The Studio continues to establish itself as a breeding ground for new talent, presenting the first play by a graduate of the Young Everyman Playhouse (YEP) Young Writers scheme. Joe Ward Munrow’s Held was developed during his time with YEP, before receiving a rehearsed reading at the Everyword Festival in 2011.
The annual Everyword Festival returns in October with a full week of events, rehearsed readings and workshops with some of the leading lights in new writing from around the country – which last year included Mike Bartlett, Punchdrunk and Nabokov. The festival has previously featured many work-in-progress readings of plays which have gone on to the Everyman and Playhouse stages, such as Unprotected, Lost Monsters, The Swallowing Dark and now Held. This year’s festival will centre on the Studio and take over the whole of the the Playhouse building.
Everyman and Playhouse productions are also going from strength to strength away from home. The 2009 Everyman production of The Caretaker with Jonathan Pryce has just opened to unanimous acclaim at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it runs until 17 June. After its five Olivier Award nominations, the Playhouse co-production of The Ladykillers with Fiery Angel will embark on a 26 week tour of the UK and Ireland beginning on 14 September. And the 2010 Playhouse production of Antony and Cleopatra, starring Kim Cattrall and directed by Janet Suzman will be remounted at Chichester Festival Theatre in September.
The theatres continue to bring the highest quality theatre companies from around the UK to Liverpool. This autumn’s touring programme includes ETT with The Sacred Flame, Kneehigh’s Steptoe and Son, Northern Broadsides’ adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s A Government Inspector and Pilot Theatre’s updated version of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner which will include stunning 3D visuals incorporated into the design.
For the first time the Studio will also host visiting productions and in October will launch Hugh Hughes’s latest Hoipolloi show, Stories from an Invisible Town. Earlier in the season The Useful Donkey Theatre Company presents A Day of Pleasure, performed by Stuart Richman – a founding member of the Liverpool Everyman – and directed by Neil Sissons which also begins its UK tour at the Studio.
The year ends with the rock ‘n’ roll panto making its return to the Playhouse. The familiar team of Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton will create Jack and the Beanstalk for the talented ensemble of actor/musicians. This production will include twilight performances as well as an ‘autism friendly’ version of the production following last year’s success.
For further details of the new season, visit the Playhouse and Everyman website.
- by Glenn Meads
|In times of austerity, the role of the arts can help ameliorate the difficulties of unemployment and inspire hope.
In Liverpool, we have a rich theatrical talent. It is left to the Playhouse, who receive an Arts Council grant, for 2012/13 of £1,650,000, to ensure they are the major hub of legitimate theatre. At present with the Everyman awaiting completion, at a cost of £27 million plus an appeal for another £1 million to develop acting and writing talent, the focus of the Playhouse must be to retain and develop new audiences to justify this capital spend.
My impression is that overall audiences here are declining. Could this be since much of our existing Liverpool acting talent is never seen at the Playhouse these days? It seems they are appreciated by other cities or are relegated to fringe venues. The likes of Pauline Daniels, Eithne Browne, Andrew Schofield, Joe McGann and his brothers go elsewhere. Important national tours such as Willy Russell’s Educating Rita with Claire Sweeney and Matthew Kelly doesn’t come to Liverpool. This show should have been at the Playhouse! The LadyKillers, on tour, after its successful London run should return to where it was first produced. Many people would have visited again. This could be a “cash cow”.
One hopes that the cushion of an Arts Council grant has not taken the eye off the ball. Bill Kenwright would not have missed this trick.
In 2013 after spending £28.5 million we shall have a spanking new Everyman but many people in our community will argue this money should have found its way into projects affecting a wider community. This perception can be be addressed by the Artistic team at the Playhouse. A campaign to “ get bums on seats” would be a start. Poor houses for shows are not encouraging.
The Playhouse should have created this “Wow” factor by offering something ambitious and dare I say “commercial” for the 2012/2013 season.
A quick glance at the main shows for the new season from September look like something we would have expected in the 1970s.
The Alchemist Ben Johnson
The Sacred Flame by Somerset Maugham
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe
Steptoe and Son
The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogal
Yes they have an Arts Council funding commitments and have education development projects but will Ben Johnson appeal to the people they are trying to influence in Norris Green and Vauxhall? In truth, the perception is the Playhouse is not run for the wider community. A new audience needs to be developed, to follow on from the predominantly white middle aged one at present. Action is needed !
We have in Liverpool a superb drama school, LIPA. Great theatrical icons, such as Willy Russell, and Alan Bleasdale. Some of us remember the dark days of the eighties when the theatre closed and dwindling audiences again could easily cause a similar financial crisis, added to which the Arts Council is remarkably fickle. A new artistic approach could reverse this decline and have less reliance on the public purse.
- Theatregoer||30 May 12|
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