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Derby Revives Rita, The Entertainer & Lovely War

By • West End
Derby Playhouse's spring-summer season 2003 features new productions of three modern classics from Willy Russell, John Osborne and Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop as well as Ray Grewal's recent award-winning first play.

The schedule opens from 1 February to 1 March 2003 with a new production of Educating Rita by Willy Russell, author of Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers. The two-hander tells the story of an under-privileged hairdresser who goes to University and develops a special relationship with her tutor. Originally commissioned by the RSC in 1979, it was made into film, starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, in 1983.

Directed by Karen Hebden, this new Derby production stars Maxine Fone (pictured), who has previously played Rita and Dublin and worked extensively with Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures, and Christopher Ravencroft. Ravenscroft is best known as Inspector Burden from TV's The Ruth Rendell Mysteries); his stage credits include The Woman in Black.

Grewal's My Dad's Corner Shop is directed by Stephen Edwards and runs from 22 March to 12 April 2003. Rajesh and Kumar are left to run the family store, but what will their parents find when they return from India? This comedy won the 2001 Meyer-Whitworth award - earning first-time playwright Grewal £8,000 - after its premiere at Birmingham Rep in 2000.

John Osborne's The Entertainer, which runs from 26 April to 24 May 2003, is directed by ex-Opera factory director David Freeman whose production of Romeo and Juliet - The Musical is currently running at the West End's Piccadilly Theatre. Written in 1957, The Entertainer followed Osborne's groundbreaking earlier hit Look Back in Anger. Laurence Olivier originated the role of Archie Rice, a sleazy, tax-dodging music hall comedian in the Royal Court premiere production.

Oh What a Lovely War rounds out the Derby spring season. Devised in 1963 by the Theatre Workshop and its pioneering director Joan Littlewood, who died in September 2002 (see News, 23 Sep 2002), Oh What a Lovely War is an end-of-pier, documentary-style satire documenting the horrors of the "war to end all wars" through darkly humorous period songs including "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" and "Keep the Home Fires Burning".

London's Open Air Theatre last summer mounted a revival of Oh What a Lovely War, which was nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Ensemble Performance. The Derby production marks the musical 40th anniversary and runs from 31 May to 28 June 2002.

- by Hannah Khalil


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