Theatre News

Birmingham Rep announces Sean Foley's first season as artistic director including Something Rotten! UK premiere

Award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti will also premiere a new play, with her husband Adrian Lester making his directorial debut

Adrian Lester, Maria Aberg, Sean Foley, Lolita Chakrabarti and Fra Fee
Adrian Lester, Maria Aberg, Sean Foley, Lolita Chakrabarti and Fra Fee
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Birmingham Rep has announced its new 2020/21 season – the first for new artistic director Sean Foley.

Hit Broadway musical Something Rotten! will have its UK premiere at the venue and run from 8 to 31 October. With book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell and music by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, the piece follows two brothers in the late 16th century who try and outshine legendary playwright William Shakespeare. The musical originally ran on Broadway in 2015, and was nominated for ten Tony Awards.

Foley will direct the production, which will also feature Six choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, with casting to be announced. The show runs from 8 to 31 October.

Opening the season will be the UK premiere of hit musical Breakfast at Pluto, running from 3 to 26 September. Based on the novel by Patrick McCabe, you can find out more about the production (co-produced with Donmar Warehouse, Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival), which will star Fra Fee, here.

Debbie Isitt's five-star musical adaptation of her own film Nativity! will return to the Birmingham Rep (where it had its world premiere) in November. Composed by Isitt and Nicky Ager, the show will feature choreography by Andrew Wright, design by David Woodhead, lighting by Tim Mitchell, sound by Tom Marshall and musical supervision and orchestration by George Dyer. Casting for the piece, which runs from 17 November to 3 January with a press night on 23 November, is to be announced.

The Snowman will run at the venue from 13 to 17 January, while the previously announced co-production of Gatsby, created by Maria Aberg and Joel Horwood and based on F Scott Fitzgerald's novel, runs from 2 to 20 February with a press night on 3 February.

In the studio, award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti will premiere new play Calmer, co-produced with the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. Following a psychiatrist Nina, who has a fractious relationship with both her mother and daughter, the piece will be directed by actor Adrian Lester in his directorial debut. It runs from 16 to 31 October, with a press night on 19 October.

Sabrina Mahfouz's adaptation of Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses will come to the venue from 3 to 7 November, while Carl Hutchinson will return to the Birmingham Rep on 9 December.

Lewis Doherty will present his Beast Trilogy – Wolf, Boar and Hawk – across three nights in The Door from 17 to 19 September. Tessa Walker will direct Rachael Mainwaring's new play Bright Places, which explores living with MS and runs from 23 September to 3 October with a press night on 28 September.

Demi Nandhra will bring her exploration of mental health Life is No Laughing Matter to the theatre from 14 to 17 October. Francesca Millican-Slater directs, with Claire Brown designing and Lizzie Moran as lighting designer.

Lyngo Theatre and Patrick Lynch will adapt Marcello Chiarenza's Jack and the Beanstalk, performed by Lynch with music by Carlo 'Cialdo' Capelli and design assistance by Elena Marini on 7 November. Will Jackson's experiences about letter-writing come to life on stage in Yours Sincerely from 11 to 14 November, while Jasmine Lee-Jones' award-winning seven methods for killing kylie jenner will also play at the venue from 1 to 5 December.

The piece, which had its world premiere at the Royal Court, is directed by Milli Bhatia and designed by Rajha Shakiry, with lighting design by Jessica Hung Han Yun, sound design by Elena Peña and movement design by Delphine Gaborit.

Tanika Gupta has been announced as the venue's literary associate, with Pippa Ailion as the casting associate. Madeleine Kludje has become associate director, with Told By An Idiot and Drew McOnie's McOnie Company becoming associate companies. Chakrabarti, Tyrone Huggins, Meera Syal, Iqbal Khan, Richard Thomas, Selina Thompson, Debbie Isitt, Lorna Laidlaw and Mohammed Ali have all been announced as associate artists. Howard Panter will be the new chair of the Birmingham Rep.

Katherine Chandler, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Casey Bailey, Gupta, Terry Johnson, Asif Khan, Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto are all under commission to write new plays.

Foley said: "My own background is in creating and performing in independent, devised, comic theatre, in international touring and European-style physical theatre – as well as more latterly directing comedies and musicals – I hope that The REP can become a home, not just for existing plays and the classic repertory, but for creating great new shows that come from every part of the theatrical and cultural spectrum… artistically ambitious popular theatre in all its forms."