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The New Wolsey premieres West End musical Once along with new Ian Hislop comedy and classic Alan Bennett

PUBLISHED: 16:59 09 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:18 13 August 2018

The cast of Once gathered outside The New Wolsey's rehearsal space. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

The cast of Once gathered outside The New Wolsey's rehearsal space. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Mike Kwasniak Photography, 2018 - www.mikekwasniak.co.uk

Theatres are getting ready for their autumn seasons. The New Wolsey in Ipswich has gathered together a number of premieres and critically acclaimed tours to entertain us. Arts editor Andrew Clarke selects his choice of the productions on offer

Poster for the the New Wolsey's regional premiere of the West End musical Once. Photo: New WolseyPoster for the the New Wolsey's regional premiere of the West End musical Once. Photo: New Wolsey

Quality and diversity are the hallmarks of the New Wolsey’s autumn season. Artistic director Peter Rowe has secured the rights to stage the regional premiere of the award-winning West End musical Once to kick-start the autumn programme which he follows up with some classic Shakespeare, a recent Alan Bennett hit, a memorial to the fallen to commemorate the cententary of the end of The Great War and a glorious new comedy from Private Eye scribes Ian Hislop and Nick Newman.

Between September and the opening night of Cinderella, this year’s rock’n’roll pantomime, there are 30 shows to enjoy at the Ipswich theatre, here is my pick of the best.

The New Wolsey Theatre has announced its autumn season Photo: Carl LambThe New Wolsey Theatre has announced its autumn season Photo: Carl Lamb

Once, by Enda Walsh, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; September 6-22

This brand new actor-musician co-production, winner of eight Tonys on Broadway, reunites the creative team behind the New Wolsey’s hugely successful summer musical, Our Blue Heaven.

Once will see some well-known faces return to the New Wolsey stage, including Peter Peverley, who played the part of Bobby Robson in the theatre’s hit production, Our Blue Heaven. Peverley will return in the role of Da.

Othello, one of the key productions in the New Wolsey's autumn season Photo: Helen MaybanksOthello, one of the key productions in the New Wolsey's autumn season Photo: Helen Maybanks

Other familiar faces include Lloyd Gorman as Svejc. Gorman has appeared on the New Wolsey stage in Chris Chibnall’s Worst Wedding Ever and the Madness musical Our House.

Sean Kingsley is also returning in the role of Billy. Kingsley was last seen in Oxy and the Morons in 2017, and has also appeared in multiple New Wolsey Rock ‘n’ Roll pantos including in The Sword in the Stone, Dick Whittington, Jack & The Beanstalk and Sleeping Beauty.

Susannah van den Berg, who appeared in Guys and Dolls at the New Wolsey Theatre in 2011, will tread the New Wolsey boards in the part of Baruska.

Matthew Kelly stars in Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Michael WharleyMatthew Kelly stars in Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art at the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: Michael Wharley

The play follows the relationship between thirtysomething busker Guy, played by Daniel Healy, who under-studied Ronan Keating, and performed the role of Eamon in the West End production, and a mysterious Czech girl, who we only know as Girl, played by Emma Lucia, who recently appeared in UK tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. She asks him questions about his music which slowly gains her access to his unfulfilled life.

This is a quirky, moving, funny show which gives you permission to dream.

Peter Rowe, artistic director of the New Wiolsey Theatre Photo: Mike KwasniakPeter Rowe, artistic director of the New Wiolsey Theatre Photo: Mike Kwasniak

The Return of the Soldier, by Tim Sanders and Charles Miller, October 1-6

This intimate new chamber musical, based on Rebecca West’s celebrated 1918 novel, marks the end of the First World War. It’s an intensely bitter-sweet tale which dissects the very different love three women have for one man. When Christopher returns from the front with shell-shock, there are profound consequences for each of them..

This powerful new drama, with its rich and arresting score, becomes an eloquent treatise on the nature of love, truth, memory and loss.

Poster for The Lovely Bones, a major production in The New Wolsey's autumn season. Photo: New Wolsey TheatrePoster for The Lovely Bones, a major production in The New Wolsey's autumn season. Photo: New Wolsey Theatre

The Habit of Art, by Alan Bennett, October 8-13

This Alan Bennett contemporary classic will have a strong resonance for Suffolk audiences as it explores friendship and rivalry between composer Benjamin Britten and poet WH Auden. It follows their first meeting and examines the complexity of their multi-layered relationship taking in the joy, pain and emotional cost of creativity.

This all-star production, from the Bury St Edmunds-based Original Theatre Company, is directed by Philip Franks and marks the first revival of the play and stars the Olivier Award winning Matthew Kelly (Of Mice and Men, Toast and Pride and Prejudice) and David Yelland (Chariots of Fire and The Crown) with Veronica Roberts (Tenko, Peak Practice), Robert Mountford (Anita and Me), John Wark (Dead Sheep), Alexandra Guelff (Witness for the Prosecution) and Benjamin Chandler (Passing From The Third Floor Back).

Othello, by William Shakespeare, Oct 30-Nov 3

The acclaimed English Touring Theatre brings Shakespeare’s dark tale of a life torn apart by prejudice and suspicion to the New Wolsey after a critically acclaimed tour and London run. Othello, a newly-married Muslim general, is preparing to lead his army against an impending Turkish invasion. Manipulated by Iago, his ambitious lieutenant, Othello’s life quickly unravels as he turns on everything he holds dear.

Trial by Laughter, by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, Nov 5-10

Following the critical acclaim for their World War One comedy The Wipers Times, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have once again taken inspiration from real life events for their new play Trial by Laughter.

William Hone, the forgotten hero of free speech, was a bookseller, publisher and satirist. In 1817, he stood trial for ‘impious blasphemy and seditious libel’. The only crime he had committed was to be funny. Worse than that he was funny by parodying religious texts. And worst of all, he was funny about the despotic government and the libidinous monarchy. The more things change...

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, adapted by Bryony Lavery, November 13-17

This is the stage premiere of the world-famous novel. Susie Salmon is just like any other young girl. She wants to be beautiful, adores her charm bracelet and has a crush on a boy from school. There’s one big difference though – Susie is dead. Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones is a unique coming-of-age tale that captured the hearts of readers throughout the world. Award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery has adapted it for this uplifting play about life after loss.

For more information on the full autumn season visit www.wolseytheatre.co.uk or call the New Wolsey Theatre Box Office on 01473 295900.

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