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Barbican Hires Harvey for Panto, Latest Complicite

By • West End
Following last year’s premiere of the Mark Ravenhill-penned version of Dick Whittington and His Cat (See News, 9 Dec 2005), this Christmas the Barbican’s main stage will again be given over to a pantomime written by a leading playwright. Jack and the Beanstalk, written by Beautiful Thing author Jonathan Harvey, will run from 6 December 2007 (previews from 1 December) to 12 January 2008.

In addition to being only the second-ever panto at the Barbican, Jack and the Beanstalk is also only the fourth in-house production in the 25-year history of the City-based arts complex, which has operated more traditionally as a receiving house. It follows The Black Rider (with Marianne Faithfull) in 2003, Julius Caesar (with Ralph Fiennes) in 2004, and Dick Whittington last year.

Although Dick Whittington, which marked Shopping and Fucking author Mark Ravenhill’s panto debut, received a mixed critical reception (See Review Round-up, 6 Dec 2006), the Barbican says it was successful in attracting an audience 70 percent of whom were newcomers to the centre.

In addition to Beautiful Thing, Jonathan Harvey’s plays include Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club, Guiding Star, Hushabye Mountain, Out in the Open and Babies, which won him both the George Devine Award and the Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright Award. His screen work includes the adaptation of Beautiful Thing as well as series like Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, At Home with the Braithwaites and Coronation Street.

Unlike Ravenhill, Harvey has already cut his panto teeth, with a version of Aladdin that premiered at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre in 2005. Commenting on his new project for the Barbican, Harvey said: “I love panto, especially this magical story. I can’t wait for the fun to begin.” No casting or creative details for Jack and the Beanstalk have yet been announced.


The Barbican has also confirmed further details of its BITE:07 programming for June to August. Although it will no longer include the planned site-specific staging of the National Theatre of Scotland hit Black Watch (See News, 17 Apr 2007), it will feature a new devised piece by Complicite (See News, 20 Sep 2006), whose production of The Elephant Vanishes had sell-out seasons at the Barbican in 2003 and 2004.

A Disappearing Number is conceived and directed by Complicite co-founder and artistic director Simon McBurney and features original music by pioneering composer Nitin Sawhney. The piece takes as its starting point the story of the collaboration between 20th-century mathematicians Scrinivasa Ramanujan, a poor Brahmin from southern India, and Cambridge don GH Hardy.

The international cast for A Disappearing Number are David Annen, Firdous Bamji, Paul Bhattacharjee, Hiren Chate, Divya Kasturi, Chetna Pandya and Shane Shambhu as well as Saskia Reeves and Simon McBurney. Co-produced by the Barbican with Vienna’s Wiener Festwochen, Amsterdam’s Holland Festival, and Ruhrfestspiele in Recklinghausen, Germany as well as Warwick Arts Centre and Theatre Royal Plymouth, A Disappearing Number comes to London after its other UK and international dates.

A Disappearing Number runs in the Barbican Theatre from 11 September to 5 October 2007 (previews from 5 September), and is one of a series of 25 landmark events chosen to epitomise the artistic vision of the Centre as part of its 25th birthday celebrations this year.

- by Terri Paddock


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