Thursday, May 6

Birmingham Repertory Theatre announces autumn season programme

Artistic Director, Sean Foley has today announced his programme for the 50th anniversary season of Birmingham Repertory Theatre in its current home on Centenary Square. 

Tickets go on sale to Members from Monday 26th April and on general sale from 10am, Friday 30th April at www.birmingham-rep.co.uk   

Opening the celebratory season, the smash-hit comedy-drama East Is East (4th – 25th September) returns home for its 25th anniversary Since premiering on The REP’s stage in 1996, East Is East has sold out three London runs, been adapted into a BAFTA Award-winning film and become a modern classic of comic-drama. Rediscover this joyous play where it all began.

This hilarious comedy follows George Khan as he strives to raise his family the proper Pakistani way but hasn’t counted on the distractions of 1970’s Salford. Abdul and Tariq aren’t ready to be married off, Saleem is pushing artistic boundaries, Meenah’s skirt is too short and Sajit just wants to hide in his parka. Can mum Ella keep the family together?

What’s New Pussycat? (8th October – 14th November) is a brand-new musical that invites you to experience the Swinging Sixties of London, as the thrilling iconic hit songs of the internationally celebrated singer Tom Jones are married with Henry Fielding’s classic comic novel – The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. Written by the Tony Award winning Joe DiPietro (Memphis The Musical), the show has the full backing of Sir Tom himself who has been consulting with the producers throughout the development.

This joyous, romantic and highly entertaining new musical includes Tom Jones’ greatest hit songs: Green, Green Grass of Home, It’s Not Unusual, Leave Your Hat On, Delilah, Mama Told Me Not To Come, Sex Bomb and, of course, What’s New Pussycat?.

The show will be directed by Luke Sheppard, whose most recent production – the acclaimed & Juliet – has taken the West End by storm and won 3 Olivier Awards and 6 Whatstonstage Awards. He will be joined by a top-class creative team, including the legendary choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge, Arlene Philips CBE.

Credit: Ross Jukes

The REP’s Artistic Director Sean Foley will be bringing sunshine to Birmingham this Christmas as he directs his hit play, The Play What I Wrote (27th November – 1st January). When the production opened in London’s West End, originally directed by Kenneth Branagh, every single review was a rave, every show a sell-out and it won every major theatre award. 

‘Hamish’has written a play, an epic set in the French Revolution called ‘A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple’. ‘Sean’, on the other hand, wants to continue with their double act. He believes that if they perform a tribute to Morecambe and Wise, Hamish’s confidence will be restored and the double act will go on. But first Sean needs to persuade a guest star to appear in the play what Hamish wrote…

Every performance also famously features a special guest star. Previous mystery guest stars have included Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Joanna Lumley, Daniel Radcliffe, Kylie Minogue, Nigel Havers, Jerry Hall, Sir Ian McKellen, Dawn French and Sting. 

Floella Benjamin’s book about her own experiences coming to the UK, Coming to England (19th February – 6th March) bursts onto the stage with music, storytelling, humour and pathos in a world premiere production.

10-year-old Floella is strong and brave. When her parents leave Trinidad for England her young life is turned upside down when she’s placed with a cruel foster ‘auntie’. Eventually sailing to join her parents, Floella’s excitement for her new life in England is short-lived, with the family subjected to racism and intolerance in 1960s’ London. Guided by her inspirational mother, and working twice as hard as her classmates, young Floella strives to overcome adversity and learns to love and accept herself.

Adapted by David Wood, ‘the national children’s dramatist’ (The Times), this thoughtful stage version of Floella’s inspirational true story follows her difficult and courageous journey towards becoming a TV icon, successful businesswoman and eventually Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham.

Tickets go on sale to Members from Monday 26th April and on general sale from 10am, Friday 30th April at www.birmingham-rep.co.uk   

A new comedy writing talent development programme with Sky Studios has also been announced alongside the appointment of Iqbal Khan as Associate Director. Daniel Alexander joins The REP’s team of Associate Artists, and Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE joins as Patron of Youth and Education.

A resolutely positive programme of artistically ambitious popular theatre, with a focus on new musicals, family work and comedy, confirms the ambition to make The REP a world class theatre in Birmingham for everyone.

Artistic Director, Sean Foley said: “I’m thrilled to be able to announce what has become, in effect, my first season of work at this iconic and beloved theatre. All theatres have undergone tremendous challenges over the past year, and very many tough decisions have had to be made to get us to this point. We are tremendously excited by the shows and proud of the amazing array of creative talent from our freelance community that will be at The REP for this very special 50th Anniversary Season of the company on Centenary Square. The programme is testament to the whole company’s determination and desire to share the amazing event of live theatre with our audiences again, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back – back to entertainment, to debate, to laughter, and to the sheer joy of experiencing the excitement that being part of a great night out brings.”

Sean Foley also announced that he has commissioned a new play from Sarfraz Manzoor. The Muslim Box is a contemporary comedy about Islam, identity and the in-laws.

Sarfraz Mansoor said: “When The REP staged the world premiere of Ayub Khan Din’s East Is East it was a play and later a film that massively influenced me, which is why I am so incredibly excited by the opportunity to write my first play for the same stage as that seminal piece of theatre. I am beyond happy to be working together and can’t wait to get cracking.” 

Tanika Gupta will also write a new adaptation of Hedda Gabler set in the post-war British film industry and reimagining the play through the lens of race as well as misogyny. 

Robin French, Bryony Lavery and Frank Skinner are among a group of writers who have written plays as part of The Park Bench Plays which will all be performed on and around park benches throughout Birmingham. The productions will be performed in front of live audiences and also will be streamed digitally. Further details of the performances will be announced soon. The ten-minute plays have been written to be performed in pop up locations throughout Birmingham – surprising and delighting audiences as they go about their daily lives.

Finally, Foley has announced the addition of Birmingham film-maker Daniel Alexander as an Artistic Associate of the theatre. He joins the group of Associates which includes Mohammed Ali, Lolita Chakrabarti, Paul Hunter, Tyrone Huggins, Debbie Isitt, Lorna Laidlaw, Drew McOnie, Meera Syal, Richard Thomas and Selina Thompson.

Details of further productions in both The Door and the Studio spaces at The REP will be announced in due course.

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