2013 Cultural highlights: Theatre

Black Watch

Black Watch - Credit: Archant

Shakespeare to Starlight Express, Black Watch to The Mousetrap, there is a fascinating array of shows coming to the Norwich stage this year. SIMON PARKIN looks ahead to the theatrical delights of 2013.

It's curtain's up on another theatrical year on the Norwich stage, and 2013 promises to be just as diverse a ever, blending crowd-pleasing musicals with innovative dramas, and a number of one-offs treats and work from local talent.

As ever Andrew Lloyd Webber can be relied upon to attract theatregoers in their droves and he provides two of this year's big highlights at Norwich Theatre Royal.

His unique musical Starlight Express (Apr 9-20), a futuristic tale of love and hope amid non-stop roller-skating choreography, returns in a brand new production, including 3D effects. Meanwhile Evita (Jul 15-27), his evergreen musical with Tim Rice, also returns offering some of the top songs written for a musical in Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Oh, What A Circus and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

The stage version of Cole Porter's big-screen classic High Society (Jul 1-6) is also part of a heady Theatre Royal programme, boasting great numbers like True Love and Did You Ever?

It's the classic Agatha Christie and finally, after celebrating 60 years as the longest-running show of any kind in British theatrical history, they have let The Mousetrap (Apr 22-27) loose – a group of people cut off by snow in a country house discover to their horror there's a murderer in their midst. In typical fashion, the killer and the motive come in the final scene.

The iconic TV comedy Rising Damp (Jun 17-22) gets an on-stage makeover from the team that produced Birds of a Feather and Dinner Ladies. It follows the fortunes of seedy landlord Rigsby and his unlucky tenants, including the object of his unwanted affections, Miss Jones,

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Also at the Theatre Royal the Old Vic smash hit Noises Off (May 20-25) by Michael Frayn is another highlight, along with The Ladykillers (Mar 4-9), adapted from the great Ealing Film comedy, and a stage adaptation of Sebastian Faulk's First World War novel Birdsong (Jul 8-13).

The Great War also provides the inspiration for The Trench (Mar 26-27) at Norwich Playhouse, the latest five-star show from the highly acclaimed Les Enfants Terribles, which blends haunting music, live action and puppets to tell the tale of a miner buried alive in a tunnel beneath the trenches.

Norfolk Youth Music Theatre takes on the ambitious task of staging popular musical Miss Saigon (Apr 2-6), while Sell A Door theatre company follow-up their previous Playhouse acclaimed productions of Spring Awakenings and Lord of The Flies with a staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Mar 5-6). The Shakespearean fantasy masterpiece is also one of this year's big productions at the Maddermarket Theatre (Mar 21-30).

The moving tale of cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who was diagnosed with MS, provides the inspiration for Duet For One (Apr 25-May 4) also at the Maddermarket. Her story has previously been filmed as Hilary and Jackie and that adds to a strong link between the stage and film for several Maddermarket productions this year, starting with God Of Carnage (Feb 21-Mar 2), the Yasmina Reza play that was recently filmed by Roman Polanski as Carnage, starring Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster.

Other plays that have been films (and vice versa) being staged include Calendar Girls (May), Rope (Aug), the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton famously filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, and Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire (Oct).

The Sewell Barn Theatre continues its recent strong record of a staging challenging works with Nell Leyshon's play Bedlam (Feb 21-Mar 2), set in an 18th century asylum; and Charlotte Jones' stark and moving Airswimming (May 9-18), based on the true story of women placed in 1920s hospital for the criminally insane for bearing illegitimate children and not released until the 1970s. There is also comic relief however with a production of Ben Elton's Silly Cow (Apr 4-13).

The Garage, in Chapelfield, continues to stage some innovative drama and is this year beefing up its Curtain Up! season and hosting a number of productions that seem tailor made to lure in younger audiences with material relevant to their lives. Time For The Good Looking Boy (Feb 19) uses a rap soundtrack and witty wordplay to tell a story of growing up and harsh realities of independence. Wasted (Feb 25), by the critically acclaimed debut play by poet and rapper Kate Tempest, is the story of three friends told amid a day-glo trip through the parks and raves of South London. And there will also be Bottleneck (Apr 29), a 1980s-set coming-of-age play from Luke Barnes about a Liverpool teenager.

One theatrical event not to be missed in 2013 is Black Watch (Apr 17-20) the celebrated National Theatre of Scotland production shining a light on the hidden lives of soldiers during the war in Iraq, which is being staged in the usual surroundings of the UEA Sportspark as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Innovative regional touring company Eastern Angles will be back out on the road again shortly with their new play, The Long Life and Great Good Fortune of John Clare.

Focusing on a man who believes he is England's most loved 'peasant poet' John Clare and his psychiatrist trying to understand what is behind her patient's delusion, it is written by Norwich-based playwright Tony Ramsay whose previous plays for Eastern Angles include the Norfolk murder mystery Bluethroat, black comedy The Anatomist and Bentwater Roads, a site-specific historical drama that was performed in an aircraft hangar on Bentwaters airbase. It will be performed at 42 different venues, from theatres to village halls, in March, April and May — including a date at Norwich's Dragon Hall on April 23.