Theatre News

Initial casting for James Graham’s world premiere play Punch announced

Adam Penford’s production begins performances at Nottingham Playhouse in May

Julie Hesmondhalgh
Julie Hesmondhalgh, © Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Initial casting has been revealed for the world premiere production of Punch at Nottingham Playhouse.

Written by James Graham (Dear England) and helmed by the venue’s artistic director Adam Penford, Punch is based on the book Right from Wrong by Jacob Dunne (who also serves as a production consultant), which tells the true-life account of how Dunne threw a single punch – with fatal consequences – and ended up in prison. It explores themes of forgiveness, toxic masculinity, class and the education system.

Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street), whose previous stage credits include The Jungle and The Greatest Play in the History of the World, will take on the role of the victim’s mother, Joan, while Tony Hirst (Hangmen) will play the victim’s father, David, and David Shields (Masters of the Air) will play Jacob Dunne. Also in the cast are Shalisha James-Davis (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) as Claire and Emma Pallant (Cowbois) as Jacob’s mother. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

Graham commented: “The more I’ve worked on Punch with Jacob, and with Adam, the more convinced I am of its power as a real story for our time. One that reveals so much about our current justice system, our culture, and the impact of politics on our community over the past decade. I’m so delighted with the cast we’ve assembled to come on this moving journey with us.”

Penford added: “We have been working on this powerful and unforgettable true-life story for four years. To now be announcing the cast, marking the return of Julie Hesmondhalgh to the Playhouse stage, alongside a formidable set of local actors, led by David Shields in the title role, is a significant moment. James Graham is an international writer of unparalleled talent. He returns to his home city of Nottingham with this vital play, which we hope will change hearts and minds in the way that only culture can.”

The creative team behind Punch also includes production designer Anna Fleischle, lighting designer Robbie Butler, sound designer and composer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, movement director Leanne Pinder, movement consultant Lynne Page, casting director Christopher Worrall, and Talking Circle designer Imogen Melhuish.

The Talking Circle is a physical installation outside the theatre which will host a series of post-show panel discussions led by Dunne and featuring a selection of guest speakers. In addition, Michael Palin (Monty Python’s Flying Circus) is also scheduled to lead one of two post-show onstage Q&A sessions with Dunne, who he met in 2015 and has since supported his work in promoting restorative justice.

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