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Laughter, Love and Loss in Ipswich This Spring

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A major new production of [Michael Frayn’s classic of back-stage bickering and on-stage  mishaps Noises Off is the centrepiece of the 2010 spring season at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre. It’s directed by Peter Rowe, the theatre’s artistic supremo, stars Rosie Ashe as ageing character actress Dotty Otley and runs from 23 February to 13 March with previews on 19, 20 and 22 February.

Also directed by Rowe is a co-production with the Oldham Coliseum (where it beings its season on 9 April) and Anvil Arts down in Basingstoke of Up on the RoofSimon Moore and Jane Prowse’s play follows a group of Hull University students in an a cappella group over the ten years from 1975. Their lives diverge and their relationships change but they still sing. The New Wolsey run is between 6 and 22 May with a preview on 5 May.

Not that the theatre’s dark in between, of course. There’s a variety of touring theatre in the season, starting on 4 February with 2010: A Space Oddity. This is written and performed by Gavin Robertson and Jonathan Bex. It’s followed on 5 February by Flhip Flhop from the Rannel Theatre Company, the story of two decorators with a greater passion for hip-hop than for paint and plaster.

A world première suitable for those over eight by James Graham is Huck, derived from Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Rafting down the Mississippi, Huck and runaway slave Jim have dangers to overcome and lessons to learn. Fresh Glory Productions in association with Shapeshifter and the Chipping Norton Theatre have produced it; it runs from 11 to 13 February. Another co-production is Forever in Your Debt; this time between Foursight Theatre, Talking Birds, Herefordshire’s Courtyard and the Warwick Arts Centre. On 16 and 17 March you can follow the fortunes of a band in dire financial straits.

Middle Ground have a reputation for intelligent productions of interesting plays. Frankie & Johnny in the Clair-de-Lune arrive for the week of 22 to 27 March, en route for Colchester and having stopped previously in Westcliff, Guildford and Worthing. Keith Saha’s Ghost Boy on 29 and 30 March is a joint venture between 20 Stories High, Contact Theatre and the Birmingham Rep. Probably not suitable for those under 13, it tells a story of conflict on a run-down inner-city estate.

From European Arts Group – you may recall The Pickwick Papers in 2008 – comes an adaptation of another 19th century classic. This is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in a production which makes positive virtue from the constrictions of small-scale touring. One performance only, suitably enough on April Fool’s Day – 1 April. More chills from an authorial pen in the shape of Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear from 7 to 10 April. Theatre Alibi in association with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre and the Oxford Playhouse take responsibility.

Straight after performances in Bury St Edmunds, Teatro Kismet’s version of Hans Christian Andesen’s The Little Mermaid swims in from 14 to 17 April in the guise of The Mermaid Princess. More sacrifices, this time in pursuit of a career, are made in Signs of a Diva, a new production by Graeæ Theatre Company in association with the Theatre Royal, Stratford East on 23 and 24 April. All performances have captioned dialogue, BSL-interpreted songs and audio description.

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