The New Wolsey stages its very own cultural Olympiad

A New Wolsey production is heading off from the Ipswich theatre on a nationwide tour while a show direct from London’s West End will be coming in to take its place.

This is all part of the frenetic activity which characterises the New Wolsey’s spring season for 2012.

Drama and comedy figure strongly in the season with a mix of new works and classics such as Waiting For Godot and Bedroom Farce.

Also this spring, the New Wolsey is expecting to sell its millionth ticket and they continue to fight the economic downturn with special �10 ticket performances and �10 matinees. Also the theatre is experimenting with an early 7pm start on Tuesdays only.

Sarah Holmes, the New Wolsey’s chief executive, said that the reason for the change in start times for one day of the week was in response to audience members who had travel longer distances to get home at the end of the evening.


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“On Tuesdays we will be starting 45 minutes earlier at 7pm. This was successfully trialled with 20th Century Boy which opened the autumn season and audience members who have to travel longer distances or need to catch trains have responded positively. People had asked for an earlier start time and we responded.”

She said that each season seems to have its own character. “Each season is different – which is good. You don’t get the feeling of it being the same old, same old.

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“This upcoming season is very strong on drama. Less music this spring but the drama is first class and there is a lot of comedy which we all need to lift the gloom of the nightly news.”

The 2012 spring season kicks off with a re-staging of last year’s big hit Reasons To Be Cheerful – part gig and part play, it was a precursor to the hugely successful 20th Century Boy, the play about the life and career of Marc Bolan.

Reasons To Be Cheerful tells the story of Vinnie and his mates who are setting off from Southend to see Ian Drury and the Blockheads perform at the Hammersmith Odeon.

They are not deterred by the fact that the gig is a sell-out and the fact that life keeps throwing obstacles in their path.

The red hot band onstage steams through all Drury’s hits including Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll, Sweet Gene Vincent and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

“Last year’s performances were nearly completely sold out, so it’s great to have this back. It’s very rare to be able to revisit past successes, so everyone who missed out last time can now get tickets.

“It’s a co-production with Graeae theatre company and the reason it’s back is that its going out on a national tour and we want to launch it from the New Wolsey, where it first came to life.”

She said that with great word-of-mouth, they are expecting a busy start to the season and advise people to book early. “So many people were disappointed last time that they couldn’t get tickets. The message is don’t leave it too late.

“It’s only on for just over a week and there are people who will want to see it again.”

As soon as Reasons To Be Cheerful hits the road, Top Girls, by Caryl Churchill, the co-production from Out of Joint and the Chichester Festival, arrives at the New Wolsey direct from the West End.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark, Out of Joint’s artistic director, Top Girls is regarded as one of the seminal plays of the twentieth century – infused with razor-sharp wit and ingenious theatricality.

“It sounds quite serious – all about ambitious women in Thatcher’s Britain but is very funny. It’s a hoot, if truth be told. The central idea is that this high flying business woman hosts a party attended by powerful women from myth and history and perhaps she is not as clever as she thinks she is.”

Also in the spring season, The New Wolsey will be hosting Gecko physical theatre’s new production Missing – which has been developed at the DanceHouse on the waterfront.

“We are delighted to have Gecko back because they are our associate company and they always have a few surprises up their sleeve.

“I have seen it as it has been developing and it is very exciting. Missing is a journey into a person’s psyche and the truth of her past changes the world around her.

“As always with Gecko, the staging promises to be brilliant and bizarre. The imagination of director Amit Lahav, turns our perception of the world inside out.”

Sarah said that one of the productions she is really looking forward to is Nottingham Playhouse’s production of Forever Young which will see the New Wolsey turned into an old people’s home for retired theatre folk.

“It will be hilarious. We will have photographs of old artistic directors adorning the place and there will be an urn on the stage, which I think is Andrew Manley, and there will be nostalgic references to the theatre’s past.

“It’s a fantastic play written for older people and takes the pi** out of the world as seen through their eyes. I have seen it elsewhere and audiences were just rolling over with laughter. It’s a great feelgood show because people identify with it.”

She said that the show features some great songs, slapstick, Shakespeare and even some dance routines and a finale that has the crowd on its feet – without the aid of zimmer frames.

“It’s about people who are not about to give up and die anytime soon.”

Spymonkey are making a return visit – they previously presented Moby Dick – with Oedipussy, a glorious anarchic physical subversion of the quintessential Greek tragedy – a tale of forbidden lust, violent murder and the ultimate dysfunctional family.

Souvenir D’Anne Frank is the beautiful story of the Souvenir D’Anne Frank rose, told in song and music by Ensemble. Live piano, violin and cello weave through this new work in a unique music and theatre fusion.

The rose is only grown in Japan and is planted in each town that the play is performed in. Elizabeth Mansfield who performed Mother Courage in the New Wolsey’s opening season returns to tell this story. The rose will planted in Christchurch Park.

Sarah said that a comedy called The Games, by Spike Theatre, a bit hit at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe, will undoubtedly connect with the mood of the country at the time.

“It’s hilarious. They play naked Greek warriors and athletes and they have these fake, prop willies that fly around all over the place. It’s great kids’ humour. We hope that families will come because it’s not rude, just silly fun. When I saw it, my sides hurt because I was laughing so much.”

A darker mix of comedy and drama comes in the form of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, staged by Talawa Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse. It tells the tale of two homeless men and their rendezvous with the eponymous Godot.

The play explores what it is to be human. Ian Brown directs an all-black cast in this new production.

Meanwhile Robert Tressell’s famous novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a hilarious fast-paced show that shares with its audience a year in the life of a group of painters and decorators, as they renovate a three-storey town house in Edwardian England. This vibrant story is brought to life by two hugely talented performers using comedy routines, entertaining songs and live music.

The season comes to an end a homegrown production of the Alan Ayckborn classic, Bedroom Farce. It has four couples, three bedrooms… sulking, shouting, flirting, fighting, making-up… ingenious, inventive and incredibly funny.

“Ayckbourn remains an incredibly popular writer who has some interesting things to say about people, relationships and the way we live.”

Among the short runs are Beating Berlusconi, the hilarious tale of love, life and football based on the true story of the football fan who say next to Silvio Berlusconi at the Liverpool v AC Milan Champions’ League final in Milan in 2005 and Spitfire Solo, a one-man show about an ex-Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot in which Nicholas Collett plays a multitude of characters and re-creates the Battle of Britain on stage.

Sarah said that her ambition for the coming year was for more families and young people to pay a visit to the theatre.

“If you look at the programme there is nothing here that young people wouldn’t like and how great to go to the theatre as a family from grannies to infants.

“If teenagers aren’t keen of being seen with the oldies, then we have some fantastic ‘no adults’ young people’s comedy nights.”

She said that they have extended their under 18s comedy night with an additional under 12s comedy afternoon.

“These no adults comedy nights for teenagers have proved very popular, so we thought why not give it go for the real youngsters, the under 12s. Leave your mum and dad at the door and have a laugh with your friends.”

She said that for the real youngsters the New Wolsey’s Children’s shows on Saturdays and during school holidays continue to go from strength to strength. “They have got such a good reputation with our young audiences,” Sarah said: “We employ a specialist programmer who really knows the market and knows what’s out there and we are getting some top quality children’s shows in.”

Also the New Wolsey offers opportunities for youngsters to perform not just watch. The New Wolsey Theatre Young Company will be staging DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little, a dark, funny satire. Sarah said: “This is packed with a host of colourful characters and a soundtrack to die for. It’s a great piece for family audiences and will give young people a wonderful experience both on stage and in the auditorium.”

Tickets for the New Wolsey Theatre’s Spring 2012 season are now on sale. To book online go to www.wolseytheatre.co.uk or you can call the box office on 01473 295900.

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