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Curtain up on six shows not to miss this week

PUBLISHED: 09:28 16 November 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

Archant

Musicals, comedy, satire, drama, adult fairy tales — and a very unusual kids show, this week's theatre shows in Norfolk have the lot. SIMON PARKIN previews six not to miss.

BLOOD BROTHERS

Norwich Theatre Royal, November 16, 7.30pm/November 17, 2.30pm/7.30pm, £34-£6.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

If you want to see this much-loved musical, this is now your only opportunity after the record-breaking West End production finally closed last weekend.

Written by Willy Russell and produced by Bill Kenwright, the show — which features such memorable songs as Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and Tell Me It’s Not True — recently celebrated a record breaking 24 years in London. However you now have to catch this touring production, which in a special treat for Norwich audiences features Wet Wet Wet singer turned West End star Marti Pellow in the role of the narrator and X Factor finalist Niki Evans as Mrs Johnstone, a young mother, who is deserted by her husband and left to provide for seven hungry children.

The story reveals how “Mrs J” takes a job as a house maid to make ends meet before discovering herself to be pregnant with twins. In a moment of panic and desperation, she then enters a secret pact with her employer, which leads to a devastating climax.

This captivating and moving tale of twins separated at birth and growing up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences, initially struggled to find an audience, but is now one of the best loved musicals of the last 20 years.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

Norwich Playhouse, November 20-21, 7.30pm, £16 (£14 cons), 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk

Great characters, sparkling dialogue, gloriously-improbable plot twists, romance and a scarcity of cucumbers, The Importance of Being Earnest has it all.

London Classic Theatre, who won rave reviews for their production of Equus, return to Norwich Playhouse with Oscar Wilde’s most famous play, widely-acknowledged as one of the greatest comedies in the English language.

Jack is in love with Gwendolen. Algernon is in love with Cecily. But when an identity crisis spirals out of control, the previously separate worlds of town and country collide and delicious mayhem ensues. Thoughts of marriage and a happy ending must be put on hold until the inimitable Lady Bracknell can be convinced that the young men are worthy suitors.

The Importance of Being Earnest has delighted millions, and spawned thousands of productions professional and amateur alike, since its first London performance in 1895. A scintillating comedy of manners, it is packed with Wilde’s dazzling wordplay and comic invention.

This is a typically polished and highly enjoyable production, with London Classic Theatre showing their customary flair, attention to detail and high-quality largely-young cast.

THE THREE SNAKE LEAVES

Norwich Arts Centre, November 20, 8pm, £10 (£8 cons), 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk

Two hundred years ago, the Brothers Grimm, published ‘Household and Children’s Tales’ — a collection

of folk and fairytales destined to become the international reader for all things fairytale.

To celebrate the bicentenary, and with support from both the English and Welsh Arts Councils, the Company of

Storytellers return to the Grimm forest to bring their seminal piece, The Three Snake Leaves, to the

stage once more.

Three master storytellers, Ben Haggarty, Sally Pomme Clayton and Norfolk-based Hugh Lupton, have reworked some of the adult tales into a seamless and beguiling journey. The Grimm forest is a place where marvels gleam in the shadows and the mysterious snake leaves bring transformation. The dark pasts of three dishevelled travellers lost in this ancient woodland forest are untangled in this seamless and beguiling performance of grown-up fairytale and myth.

Reworking and interweaving a dozen of the Grimm’s lesser-known tales, the journey through the forest confronts contemporary adult audiences with the cruel, complex and divided nature of humanity through subtle metaphor and mythic imagery. Moving, cruel and humorous by turn, this acclaimed show conjures a primal, metaphorical world, shot through with evocative music provided by musicians Dylan Fowler and Gill Stevens.

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR!

Maddermarket Theatre, November 16-24, 7.30pm (Nov 24 2.30pm/7.30pm), £12-£8, 01603 620917, www.maddermarket.co.uk

It is fitting, and not entirely coincidental, that in the week when Remembrance Day was celebrated this much loved musical satire is being staged at the Maddermarket.

The popular view of the First World War underwent a big revision in the 1960s, with at least part of the change following the success of this show, first staged in 1963 by the radical Theatre Workshop, run by the redoubtable Joan Littlewood. In 1964 it transferred to Broadway, although it didn’t run long. Five years later it became Richard Attenborough’s first movie as director.

The show uses popular songs of Great War to depict the lives, dedication and bravado of the soldiers on the Western Front and what was happening at home. It also ruthlessly mocks the era’s politicians, businessmen and generals.

It takes in Music Hall with old favourites including Hold Your Hand out Naughty Boy, When Belgium Put The Kibosh On The Kaiser and I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. It revives the spirit of Christmas when German and English soldiers meet in No Man’s Land and features the frustration of Sylvia Pankhurst as she urges people to accept her pacifist views

The spectacle of non-stop sketches is interspersed with newsreels and music as part of a theatrical experience performed by the Norwich Players under the direction of John Barnett and Trevor Thurston.

LES MISÉRABLES

St Georges Theatre, Great Yarmouth, November 22, 7.30pm, £10-£8, 01493 331484, www.stgeorgestheatre.com

Prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean is released from prison and so begins his bitter struggle to find redemption for the sins of his past and become a force for good.

Always at his heels is his nemesis, the ruthless, puritanical policeman Javert, who has made it his life’s work to recapture Valjean and put him back in prison. Set in a time when riot and revolution were in the air, and those with all the power and money were blinkered to the coming storm, this epic story of love, injustice and atonement, based on the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo, is as relevant now as it ever was.

Following their acclaimed production of Dickens’ Great Expectations, Hotbuckle theatre company return to the region, turning their innovative style and upcoming talent to this remarkable novel, one of the most powerful and celebrated works of European literature.

Of course, the story is now synonymous with all conquering musical. Hotbuckle stick to the drama, so don’t expect any songs.

SUPER JOHN

The Garage, Chapelfield North, Norwich, November 22, 1.30pm, £7.50, £5 under-25s, 01603 630000, www.thegarage.org.uk

This unusual family play from Firehouse Creative Productions is a little bit out of the ordinary. It has bucket-loads of charm, audience participation, evocative music, engaging comedy and superheroes — all staples of kids’ drama — but it also has a sense of jeopardy and an awareness of the fragility of human life.

The play was developed in collaboration with doctors and people with experience of childhood cancer, and explores how imagination can be used to help cope with illness, most especially for children dealing with the trauma of hospital and disruption to their normal family life.

The baseline story is of a little boy called John, receiving treatment in hospital, and his big sister Star, who is given the responsibility of becoming his bone marrow donor.

Running alongside this is a fantasy plot in which Superjohn, who loves to fly through outer space, has his superpowers stolen and he, Star and their friend Dogby have to travel to a dangerous world to obtain the orb of invincibility and restore John to health and normality.

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