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Thrills and Thought-Provoking in Bury St Edmunds' Spring Season

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Full details of the 2010 spring season at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds have now announced. This is a theatre whose artistic director Colin Blumenau doesn’t believe in playing safe with his repertoire; it kicks off with something rather unusual.

Do you believe in ghosts? In the supernatural? If so, then take your courage in both hands for the team from Living TV’s Most Haunted series are live on stage on 25 and 26 January. Theatre lore is packed with stories of long-dead actors who still revisit the scene of their triumphs – and tragedies – and there have been many famous plays and players in this building since it opened in 1819…

Out of Joint has a well-established tradition of bringing interesting and challenging work to Bury St Edmunds; director Max Stafford-Clark is on record as describing it as one of his favourite theatres. This time it’s the première of a play by Booker Prize nominee Sebastian Barry. Andersen’s English is about a visit by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen to the home of Charles Dickens, Gad’s Hill in Kent. On the surface all is serene, but the visitor’s imperfect command of English can only comprehend a limited amount of the domestic turmoil in which his host is embroiled. It runs from 11 to 13 February.

Each year the theatre mounts a Shakespeare production; from 17 to 27 February it’s The Merchant of Venice directed by Abigail Anderson. The cast includes Jo Tincey (previously seen in the theatre’s most recent revivals of Georgian comedies – Maids as they Were, Wives as they Are and He’s Much to Blame), Oliver Senton (Twelfth Night) and Jonathan Keeble. It is designed by Dora Schweitzer and the composer is Tim Jackson.

Cider with Rosie can be savoured between 18 and 24 March. This is a new adaptation by Daniel O’Brien, again directed by Anderson and designed by Schweitzer. The original score is by T J Holmes. Rural Gloucestershire during the First World War in Laurie Lee’s account was on the brink of a future which seemed more remote than the past, but the year is 1917 and not all thunder comes from the sky.

The current fashion for turning screenplays into theatre pieces – the days when it was the other way round seem to have long vanished –  is continued with Triode Productions’ adaptation of the Launder and Gilliat classic The Lady Vanishes. Hitchcock’s film  has been adapted by Mark Simpson and this is a play with strong Suffolk connexions. It was originally staged last year by the Jill Freud Company as part of the summer theatre season at Southwold and Aldeburgh. The cast includes Terry Molloy as Dr Hartz. The short run is from 25 to 27 March.

Middle Ground Theatre Company have had a excellent revival of Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall on tour this year. It come to Bury St Edmunds between 12 and 17 April with a new cast, yet to be announced. The direction and design are by Michael Lunney. From Nicholas Hennegan and Maverick Theatre comes Hancock’s Finest Hour, the comedy drama by Colin BennettPaul Henry plays Tony Hancock in Chris Hayes’ production designed by Douglas Heap from 29 April to 1 May.

Visiting smaller centres within the Theatre Royal’s orbit between 17 and 20 February is the Krazy Kat Theatre Company and Goldilocks and How Many Bears? It is for the three to seven year-old age group and incorporates British Sign Language; this is part of the company’s ethos. A collaboration between ROH2, the Opera Group and the Young Vic resulted in The Enchanted Pig with a score by Jonathan Dove and words by Alasdair Middleton. The story, of a princess married to a pig (only, of course, he’s really a prince transformed by a witch) is based on a Romanian folktale. Who needs Beauty and the Beast? Audiences aged six and older can enjoy this Royal Opera House On the Road production at matinée and evening performances from 30 March to 3 April.

Teatro Kismet is an Italian-based company with strong international links. Returning to the Theatre Royal after a successful season with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen in 2009, this year’s tour in association with the Warwick Arts Centre is another Andersen story – The Little Mermaid, developed by Teresa Ludovico as The Mermaid Princess. That the text is spoken by a polyglot cast doesn’t detract from the power of the visual storytelling, enhanced by music and innovative design. Matinée and evening performances between 7 and 10 April. Children over the age of eight will probably enjoy it most.


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