Forget panto - Norwich theatre not to miss in January

Panto season is almost over — oh yes it is — and Norwich's theatres are welcoming their first major productions of 2012. SIMON PARKIN picks five not miss.


From Stephen Daldry, the Oscar-nominated director of The Reader, The Hours and Billy Elliot, this multi award-winning production of J.B. Priestley's classic thriller returns to the Theatre Royal.

In 1912 Arthur Birling, his wife Sybil, their daughter Sheila and son Eric are celebrating Sheila's engagement to Gerald Croft, son of Sir George Croft, anfd haeir to a successful business.

Their cosy celebration is suddenly interrupted when Edna, the parlour maid, announces the unexpected arrival of 'Police Inspector Goole' as part of an inquiry into the death of a young woman.

As his investigations unfold we discover that they each have secrets linking them to the tragedy.

Winner of more awards than any other production in history, both in the West End and on Broadway, this landmark production from the National Theatre has previously enjoyed seven major UK tours between 1992 and 2009. It then returned to the West End for another triumphant sell-out run.

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This new 2012 production builds on that success with epic and wildly imaginative staging, raw emotion, evocative score, lashing rain and chilling suspense.

t An Inspector Calls, Norwich Theatre Royal, January 17-21, �22.50-�5.50, 01603 630000,


Dennis Potter highlighted the loss of youth and innocence in his highly acclaimed play, which opens the Maddermarket Theatre's season of in-house productions for 2012.

Blue Remembered Hills — the title of which is taken from a poem in A E Housman's A Shropshire Lad — was originally broadcast as a television play in 1979 as part of the BBC's Play for Today series.

It tells of a group of seven-year-olds playing in the Forest of Dean on a summer afternoon during the Second World War. But their games of hide-and-seek and war soon take on sinister undertones as their behaviour begins to mirror that of the adult world.

'It's very much a play about children rather than for children,' emphasises director Rhett Davies. 'It's also an interesting and challenging piece in that it requires adult actors to portray children. It looks at what young children get up to when they're left to play on their own, and in that retrospect it's not dissimilar to Lord of the Flies.

'It's a realistic look at the way life might have been for those children in 1943, but at the same time it considers the abuse and cruelty that may – or may not – be part of the human condition.'

t Blue Hills Remembered, Maddermarket Theatre, January 19-28, �12-�8, 01603 620917,


The Movement theatre company formed at Cambridge University in 2009. The group has since moved from amateur to professional status and received high praise for recent productions.

The latest is Shakespeare's scurrilous tale of misrule, madness and mistaken identities is a delight at any time of the year, but a special treat for the post-Christmas period when dark nights start to give way to thoughts of spring.

The Movement have seasonally restored Twelfth Night to its wintry beginnings and to its original power: the story of dawn breaking, of the days lengthening and of a family's love overcoming death.

It's the cold winter of 1602, the century seemed to be refusing to start. The old Queen was dying but still not dead, and despite dozens of dalliances with the men of her court she had produced no heir. Religious civil war and foreign invasion loomed. It was a dark winter.

In Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare's son, Hamnet, had died, leaving a twin sister bereft. In January, the Lord Chamberlain's men performed a new piece, Twelfth Night...

This is a play shadowed from the outset by death and decay, overseen by decadent, self-indulgent monarchs in a land where the midwinter Festival of Misrule does not end. A sister watches her twin brother drown.

t Twelfth Night, Norwich Playhouse, January 23-25, �14 (�12 cons), 01603 598598,


The 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century and there has been numerous stage and screen adaptations, most notably the all conquering stage musical, frequently abbreviated 'Les Mis'.

The musical is currently providing the basis for a major film directed by Tom 'King's Speech' Hooper and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. In contrast this new version by the Sewell Barn Theatre Company remains true to the original novel rather than the musical.

Set in the Parisian underworld, the protagonist, Jean Valjean, is sentenced to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. His bitterness leaves him determined to have his revenge against society.

Filled with fascinating vignettes of 19th century France, the script boasts a brilliant cast of characters who weave an exciting tapestry of human kind at its best and worst. Visually exciting, emotionally powerful, this promises to be imaginative theatre with a capital T.

t Les Mis�rables, Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich, January 12-21, �8 (�6 cons), 01603 697248,


There is no doubt the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society like a challenge. Whether it is the intricate dance numbers of West Side Story or the controversial subject matter of The Producers, the society tackles each annual production with great gusto.

Their 2012 offering promises to be no exception. It screams lavish. The society is renowned for the quality of its productions and director Ray Jeffery has been a tough taskmaster in rehearsals to bring out the best in the huge cast.

He promises the audience are in for a spectacular performance. 'To make it a lavish piece is important. The reason our box office is so good already is because people know they are coming to see something that is first class and big and presented well - and to see that lavishness which is what theatre is about.'

Taking on the lead role of matchmaker Dolly is one of the region's most experienced amateur actresses Gloria Dashwood. She is looking forward to playing an iconic part. 'It's really quite challenging. She's a very strong character, a woman of intent and she makes her intentions felt quite quickly. It's just a wonderful part – a part I've always wanted to play.'

t Hello Dolly, Norwich Theatre Royal, January 23-28, �19-�5.50, , 01603 630000,,