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As Spring Arrives, the South West Comes Alive!

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The theatre scene in the South West continues to provide a variety of artistic output to cater for most audiences; from national tours to home grown, innovative drama; opera to cabaret, classics to contemporary. Here are just a few examples of what is on offer in the month ahead.

BRISTOL OLD VIC. Juliet and Her Romeo, adapted by Sean O'Connor and Tom Morris, uses Shakespeare’s text, but casts the lovers in their 80s, with anxious children, rather than parents, seeking to prevent an imprudent and costly match. The cast includes Sian Phillips as Juliet, Michael Byrne as Romeo, and Dudley Sutton, making his debut on the Bristol Old Vic stage as Mercutio. With previews from 10 – 15 March, the production runs until 24 April. (See News, 13 Nov 2009)

BRISTOL HIPPODROME. Laughter in the Rain continues its tour of the UK, and plays in the region from 29 March telling the story of pop singer Neil Sedaka (played by Wayne Smith) from the Fifties to the present. Produced by Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield following on from their last successful collaboration – Dreamboats and Petticoats. It runs at the Hippodrome until 3 April.

THEATRE ROYAL, BATH. Haunted by Edna O'Brian, reunites star Brenda Blethyn, with director Braham Murray and designer Simon Higlett after their highly acclaimed collaboration on The Glass Menagerie. Haunted, an “exquisitely written story of love and betrayal”, enjoyed its world premiere at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in May last year, and appears here as part of UK tour prior to a west end opening. The production, also featuring Niall Buggy and Beth Cooke, plays the Theatre Royal 15 – 20 March.

SALISBURY PLAYHOUSE. Andersen's English, an Out of Joint and Hampstead Theatre Co-production, is written by Sebastian Barry, who won the 2008 Costa Prize for his novel The Secret Scripture, and has twice been nominated for the Booker Prize. In the story, celebrated children’s writer Hans Christian Andersen arrives, unannounced, for a stay at Gad's Hill Place in the Kent marshes – home to Charles Dickens and his large, charismatic family. Max Stafford-Clark directs this haunting new play, rich in characters and touched with a melancholy humour. 23 – 27 March.

THEATRE ROYAL, PLYMOUTH Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, is adapted by Trevor Baxter, directed by Christopher Luscombe, and the UK tour reaches Plymouth on 15 March. Lee Mead, in his first stage role since Joseph,, plays Lord Arthur Savile, a pillar of Victorian society. Savile is on the verge of marriage to the lovely Sybil Merton, when a brief departure from late Nineteenth century convention leads him to an encounter with a chilling clairvoyant called Podgers. Podgers secretly reveals that at some point in Arthur's life, he is destined to commit murder. An impressive cast includes Gary Willmot, Kate O’Mara, David Ross and Derren Nesbitt. It plays Plymouth Royal until 20 March, and then returns later in the tour to the Theatre Royal, Bath 19-24 April.

EXETER NORTHCOTT A Season of Comedy – English Touring Opera returns to the Exeter Northcott with three of the wittiest works of the opera repertoire, taken from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. Donizetti’s Don Pasquale; Britten’s A Midsumer Night’s Dream; and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. These very different operas – all of them describing the events of one day – find comedy in stifling Sevillian manor houses, in enchanted woods, and in dusty bachelor's quarters. The performances run 16 – 20 March.

Although recently placed into administration, it is business as usual at the Northcott for the Spring 2010 season, and all productions are scheduled to go ahead as planned. Please help to keep the venue open by supporting its rich and varied output in the weeks ahead.


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