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2018 Norfolk arts preview: the best theatre not to miss

PUBLISHED: 10:30 29 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:48 11 January 2018

The Band, The Kite Runner, Son of A Preacher Man and Teechers. Photos: Submitted

The Band, The Kite Runner, Son of A Preacher Man and Teechers. Photos: Submitted

Archant

Take That musical The Band and revival of Miss Saigon are amongst the hot tickets, alongside political satire This House, an adaptation of The Kite Runner and local themes including a revival of Norfolk folk ballad opera The Transports.

The Transports

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich, January 24

Norfolk folk singer Peter Bellamy’s ground-breaking ballad opera tells the incredible tale of a family destroyed by poverty and crime, but resurrected by exile to Australia in the 1780s. With fresh script and musical arrangement, these famous songs re-emerge within a modern context of mass migration. Storyteller Matthew Crampton presents fresh narration with new musical arrangements have come from Paul Sartin of Bellowhead and Faustus. The stellar line-up of musicians includes The Young’uns, Faustus, Nancy Kerr, Rachael McShane and Greg Russell. Also at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds on January 16.

Teechers

Norwich Playhouse, February 6-7

Having previously brought The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and Frankenstein to the region, Blackeyed Theatre escape Victorian gothic for this latest visit in favour of reviving its highly acclaimed production of John Godber’s classic comedy about life at a struggling ‘sink school’ for Mr Nixon, an unsuspecting new drama teacher. Featuring ensemble performances and a bang-up-to-date soundtrack, it brings to life an array of terrifying teachers and hopeless pupils through the unique eyes of Salty, Gail and Hobby; three Year 11 students about to leave school for good. Crammed full of characters, political left-hooks and razor-sharp comedy. Also at Bury Theatre Royal on February 26-28.

The Band

Norwich Theatre Royal, February 6-17

Award winning writer Tim Firth is the man charged with overseeing this new musical based around the hits of Take That. Rather than a standard jukebox musical he has used them cleverly to forward an affecting story of pop fandom and the result has won good reviews. The Band is not the story of Take That. That BBC talent show responsible for casting this musical’s five male singers and dancers was misleading. Instead it revolves around the story of five teenage girls, how four of them grow older, and how pop music defines their lives. All the big hits are present though.

The Kite Runner

Norwich Theatre Royal, March 5-10

Following an outstanding West End run, Giles Croft’s acclaimed page-to-stage production of Khaled Hosseini’s award-winning novel arrives on its UK tour. It is the haunting tale of friendship which spans cultures and continents, following one man’s journey to confront his past and find redemption. Afghanistan is a divided country on the verge of war and two childhood friends are about to be torn apart. It’s a beautiful afternoon in Kabul and the skies are full of the excitement and joy of a kite flying tournament. But neither Hassan nor Amir can foresee the terrible incident which will shatter their lives.

We Are The Lions, Mr Manager

Diss Corn Hall, March 6/Norwich Arts Centre, March 7

Townsend Theatre Productions have a reputation for political stories, previously tackling The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and United We Stand. Neil Gore’s play tells the remarkable story of Jayaben Desai the inspirational leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick Strike. Recently amongst the women who have had the biggest impact on women’s lives over the past 70 years as part of the Radio 4 Women’s Hour Power List, Jayaben not only stood up for workers’ rights and against oppression, but turned the dispute into a national movement for human rights. Also at Bury Theatre Royal on April 10.

Salt

The Garage, Norwich, April 20-21/Westacre Theatre, April 27/Sheringham Little Theatre, April 28/St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth, April 30

Following the sell-out regional tours of The Canada Boys, Parachute and Winter ‘53, fEAST latest production is an adaptation of Jeremy Page’s acclaimed novel. Pip Langore tries to make sense of his family’s odd troublesome history. In Morston, 1944, his Grandmother ‘Goose’ rescues a German airman buried up to his neck in the marsh. Nine months later the German vanishes in a makeshift boat, leaving Goose with a new-born daughter, Lil. A funny and tragic play about the relationship between people and the landscape, with live music and a strong regional flavour.

This House

Norwich Theatre Royal, May 8-12

Following sell-out runs at the National Theatre and in the West End, James Graham’s enthralling and extraordinarily prescient play in recording the struggle of the Labour government of 1974-79 to simply survive, takes on a new importance in the current political climate. The corridors of Westminster ring with the sound of infighting and backbiting as Britain’s political parties battle to change the future of the nation, whatever it takes. In this hung parliament, the ruling party holds on by a thread. This biting play strips politics down to the practical realities of those behind the scenes who on occasion bend the rules, to manoeuvre a diverse and conflicting chorus of MPs.

The War of the Worlds

Diss Corn Hall, March 22/Norwich Playhouse, March 30

The critically-acclaimed Pantaloons invade the stage in this funny yet faithful new adaptation as they use musical instruments, puppetry and their trademark enthusiasm to recreate deadly heat-rays, giant fighting-machines, squidgy tentacled Martians and interplanetary warfare on an epic scale in their latest production. Few would have believed that H G Wells’ science fiction classic would be performed live by just four actors. The chances of success? A million to one…

Gypsy Queen

The Garage, Norwich, April 14

Can two men raised to fight ever learn to love? Manchester based Hope Theatre Company stage the story of ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell, bare-knuckle fighter and traveller, who enters the world of professional boxing which puts him on a collision course with his roots, his identity and his greatest fear. In the opposite corner, gay boxer Dane ‘The Pain’ Samson, the young pretender and son of a boxing legend, is fighting his own battles that lead to a tragedy. Rob Ward’s play is an unconventional love story between two fighters who discover the greatest challenge lies outside the ring.

Son of A Preacher Man

King’s Lynn Corn Exchange, June 5-9

A heart-warming new musical featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, with a book by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood. Set around a swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest crazes and dare to dream of love, the legendary owner, The Preacher Man himself, dispenses advice to cure the loneliest of hearts. Featuring the greatest hits of Dusty, this funny and sweetly touching musical play stars Michelle Gayle and Alice Barlow.

Miss Saigon

Norwich Theatre Royal, August 15-September 15

Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical touches down on its UK tour. A recent smash back in the West End and currently playing on Broadway, this epic production with a company of 60 is sure to be a hot ticket. In the last days of the Vietnam War, 17 year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer. There she meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. She must find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son.

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