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Preview: This weekend's best theatre shows

PUBLISHED: 10:24 18 January 2013 | UPDATED: 10:24 18 January 2013

Playhouse Creatures

Playhouse Creatures

Archant

The Maddermarket Theatre's first production of 2013 is April de Angelis' juicy and hilarious historical drama Playhouse Creatures. Plus: Maurice, Tom Thumb, Shackled and the last chance to catch the Theatre Royal's panto Aladdin.

PLAYHOUSE CREATURES

Maddermarket Theatre, January 24-February 2, £12-£8, 01603 620917, www.maddermarket.co.uk

The Maddermarket Theatre’s first production of 2013 is this juicy and hilarious historical drama directed by Lucinda Bray and featuring Becky Sweet, Dot Binns, Rebecca Waas, Libby Waite and Emily Deere.

It is 1660 and Charles II permits actresses to perform on stage for the first time. These became known as the ‘playhouse creatures’ and the play brings these characters to life, characters who are slightly ageing but well-connected or conformist young ladies.

All is harmonious until a brash youngster, Nell Gwyn, comes along, determined to improve her life from orange-seller to actress even though ‘actress’ to most gentlemen of the time was close to being a ‘whore’.

Were the audience coming to appreciate the dramatic talent or for other less salubrious intentions?

The script, written by April de Angelis in 1993, reflects the bawdy humour of the 17th century.

MAURICE

Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich, January 18, 7.30pm/January 19, 2.30pm/7.30pm, £8 (£6 cons), 01603 697248, www.sewellbarn.org

The first play in the Sewell Barn Theatre Company’s 2013 season is Maurice by EM Forster’s semi-autobiographical story of repressed love in an Edwardian society where homosexuality was a crime, adapted for the stage by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham.

Based on Forster’s novel, written in 1914 but unpublished until his death in 1970, it explores Maurice Hall’s sexual awakening and his struggles with the pressures exerted on him through school, university days and beyond and ends with him finding happiness in the arms of a working class lover.

In Forster’s story Maurice’s acceptance of his homosexuality awakens not only his physical passion, but his social conscience and his spirituality. This dramatic adaptation by Graham and Parsley is effective, framing the story around Maurice’s search and utilising flashbacks efficiently.

ALADDIN

Norwich Theatre Royal, January 18, 10.30am, 7.30pm/January 19, 2.30pm/7.30pm, £20-£5.50, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

Christmas is over, 2013 has arrived and the schools are back — and Theatre Royal’s hugely popular finally reaches the curtain call at the end of its run.

Graham Cole, PC Tony Stamp on The Bill, play a suitably villainous Abanaza for the final times against Hollyoaks Lucy Dixon’s Aladdin — a nod to panto tradition which always has an actress playing the part.

Richard Gauntlett, who writes and directs the show, has again brought his traditional blend of slapstick fun, this time as Widow Twanky. Also back again has former TV Gladiator Nick Aldis. He was evil henchman Igor in Snow White and this time plays the Genie of the Lamp.

The final shows are normally even more of a riot than usual.

TOM THUMB

Norwich Arts Centre, January 19, 2pm, £8 (£6 cons), 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk

Lyngo Theatre Company has built up a strong reputation for small scale family shows that are full of big ideas and are favourites in Norwich.

Tom Thumb is a one-man show aimed at children over five which has toured Britain and Italy since 2003 and has become one of the company’s favourites. It is a story about being afraid. “How can you sleep? I can’t. It must be because I’m scared.” says Tom to his six elder brothers when he hears the ogre coming up the stairs.

It is a story about hunger, which Toms’ parents know all about as they try to lose their own children in the forest. It is also a story about playing and about being curious, which Tom does better than anybody.

Written by Marcello Chiarenza it is being performed on this latest visit by Patrick Lynch with original music by Carlo ‘Cialdo’ Capelli.

DON’T MISS

SHACKLED

UEA Drama Studio, January 24-26, £6 (£4 cons), 01603 508050, www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk

This brand new play, written by UEA drama student Ayse Tary, is the winner of Minotaur Theatre Company’s Scriptwriting Competition 2013.

THE 39 STEPS

Cambridge Arts Theatre, St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge, January 19-26, £30-£15, 01223 503333, www.cambridgeartstheatre.com

Richard Hannay encounters dastardly murders, double-crossing secret agents, and, of course, devastatingly beautiful women in Olivier Award winning adaptation of John Buchan classic.

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