Calendar Girls returns to the stage

Round & About

Theatre

The true story of the Calendar Girls launched a global phenomenon: a million copycat calendars, a record-breaking movie, the fastest-selling stage play in British theatre history, and now a musical written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth.

Tim Firth’s involvement with Calendar Girls began with the original movie 20 years ago and along with his writing partner of the musical, Gary Barlow, he has reworked this new production ahead of an extensive UK tour. Tim tells us a little about the new musical and the inspiration behind its reimagining.

“There was something in the heart of lockdown that was all about time; about suddenly being dumped with a container load of it, about managing that, not resenting it, realising you were lucky to have it and not to waste it…if you were well enough to enjoy it. Of course, it’s only looking back that we can get that kind of perspective. For the pair of us it just presented as an inexplicable urge to DO stuff; to write, to plot new work and to re-examine work that already existed.  This led us to new projects; it also turned our heads back towards Calendar Girls the Musical. 

Now, by this time it was a good few years since we had written the show and there was justifiable trepidation in returning to the project. After all it had been in the West End, done a national tour and was due to be performed by many companies around the UK if lockdown finished. However, that UK was going to have changed. A strange sense of liberation came out of the confinement that meant, we thought – whatever you’re thinking, just try it. Take the chance. Have a fresh look. Take the jump.

Maybe we’ll never get that sense of empowerment again. It was like the bravery you have when starting out as a kid and feel you have nothing to lose. That was it; the spirit we momentarily regained meant we re-wrote like we had nothing to lose. In a sense we were led by the words of Dare, one of the songs in the show; something about taking a jump without the fear meaning you stand a better chance of making a landing on the other side.

The film is twenty years old this year, the real girls more than twenty years older but their story, like their sunflowers, seems to keep reseeding of its own accord; and when it does, the flower is always, always the same. It’s only the shape that changes.”

After opening to rave reviews in the autumn, the brand-new production of the smash-hit production Calendar Girls the Musical, written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth comes to Woking from Tuesday 26 to Saturday 30 March.

Calendar Girls the Musical brings together a stunning cast of music, stage, and television stars. Baring it all in 2024 are Laurie Brett (Eastenders) as Annie, Liz Carney (The Full Monty, The Mousetrap), Helen Pearson (Hollyoaks), Samantha Seager (Coronation Street), Maureen Nolan (The Nolans, Blood Brothers), Lyn Paul (The New Seekers, Blood Brothers) and Honeysuckle Weeks (Foyle’s War). They are joined by Colin R Campbell, Andrew Tuton, alongside Jayne Ashley, Lucas August and Victoria Hay in the ensemble.

Following the death of a much-loved husband, a group of ordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute are prompted to do an extraordinary thing and set about creating a nude calendar to raise money for charity. But upturning preconceptions is a dangerous business and none of the women are prepared for the emotional and personal ramifications they will face as the fabulous and funny calendar brings each woman unexpectedly into flower.

This production sees this incredible true story continue to bloom, this reimagined book and new music sees the show packed with unforgettable songs, bringing the joy to life live on stage. 

Tim Firth and Gary Barlow said: “The chance to look again with fresh eyes at our musical is something that came as an unexpected opportunity during lockdown and we’re both hugely excited not only with the shape we found, but also to work on a new production of it with such an amazing cast” 

This tour is proud to be supporting Blood Cancer UK, the charity dedicated to funding research into all blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, as well as offering information and support to blood cancer patients. Every performance continues to add to the millions already raised for Blood Cancer UK and prove that there is no such thing as an ordinary woman.

Calendar Girls is at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking from Tuesday 26th March – 30th March

Tickets are on sale visit here for booking links and more information.

Want to be in GSC production?

Round & About

Theatre

Guildford Shakespeare Company issues a community casting call for its outdoor Romeo & Juliet, application deadline March 1st

This summer Guildford Shakespeare Company are staging their most ambitious project to date and are looking for an ensemble of community performers to be part of it.

The company are taking to the streets of Guildford for a multi-venue, promenade production of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

Swapping the streets of Verona for the streets of Surrey’s county town, the production will feature iconic landmarks including the Guildhall balcony, Holy Trinity Church, Tunsgate, the historic High Street and Guildford Castle. Audiences will move with the action, from one location to another, following the fateful story of the star-cross’d lovers.

Alongside the professional cast, GSC are recruiting a youth ensemble from local schools and their own drama clubs, and forming an adult community ensemble, to bring the play as fully to life as possible.

Matt Pinches, GSC Co-Founder and Director says: “We really want our 18th birthday summer season to celebrate everything that’s positive about Guildford. Our community is at the heart of everything GSC does, whether on stage or in our huge range of outreach and education programmes. This is an opportunity for so many elements of Guildford to come together and be part of something special.”

The Community Ensemble will help bring to life the pivotal scene of the Capulet ball, where Juliet and Romeo meet for the first time. This is a high society party where the movers and the shakers of Verona strut their stuff and where the Capulets are showing off the best they can. Performing will involve some dancing/movement, and possibly a little dialogue.

“If you love performing, or dancing, or just want to be part of something special, we would love to hear from you. No experience is necessary, just a desire to take part and buckets of energy.”

Casting will take place across two dates, 23rd and 25th March, with rehearsals beginning on Saturday 25th May. Deadline for applications is 1st March. Please note this is an unpaid participation opportunity.

Full details of all dates, times and how to register are on the GSC website.

Romeo & Juliet runs June 21st to July 13th.

Booking opens later in the spring. More details here.

Review – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Liz Nicholls

Theatre

It turns out everybody’s talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and it’s easy to see why.

With energy levels flagging and skies gloomier than Sheffield smog everyone’s in need of a boost at this time of year.

So it’s a delight that the award-winning hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has landed at Oxford’s New Theatre.

The opening night shone brighter than a rave rainbow thanks to star performances and plenty of laughs from Ivano Turco (Get Up, Stand Up!, Cinderella) as Jamie New, the indomitable stage legend Darren Day as Hugo/Loco Chanelle and Shobna Gulati (Coronation Street, Brassic).

The ”musical for all” tells of Jamie New, who is 16 and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight with plenty of humour courtesy of drag queens and superb support from a star cast who are clearly having a ball. Their northern humour, accompanied by the live orchestra and fabulous costume and stage sets are sure to have you feeling brighter and full of hope as you strut out into the rainy streets.

Set to an original score of catchy pop tunes that will ‘blow the roof off the theatre’ (Mail on Sunday) by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells and writer Tom MacRae (Doctor Who). Choreographed by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Kate Prince (Into The Woods, Some Like It Hip Hop, SYLVIA, Message In A Bottle). This ‘sparking coming-of-age musical’ (The Times) will have everybody talking about Jamie for years to come.

Darren Day said “It’s a wonderfully uplifting show filled with great music and humour and has a beautiful message at its heart. I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

Following a record-breaking three-year West End residency, sold out UK & Ireland Tour and Amazon studios award-winning film, the show runs at New Theatre until 30th January. Watch the trailer here

Love, laughs & larks

Round & About

Theatre

Boo, hiss, you won’t want to miss… It’s time to sprinkle the fairy dust and wave your wand to welcome larger than life characters and slapstick galore – pantos are back!

Find Pantos near you this winter


Surrey

Our Q&A star this month Lucy Benjamin got into some scrapes during her time in EastEnders and as the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, this festive season will no doubt get into some more in the classic rags to riches tale. Radio’s Peter Gordon returns for his 18th year, this time in a hilarious Ugly Stepsister duo alongside Guildford Shakepeare Company co-founder Matt Pinches. It’s also welcome back to CBeebies star James Merry for his third Yvonne Arnaud panto! The godmother of all pantos, full of slapstick and slosh, music and magic runs from December 2nd to January 7th. For tickets visit yvonne-arnaud.co.uk

The story of a young girl’s journey from scullery to ballroom is also being told with tears, laughter, music and fun at Camberley Theatre from December 9th to 31st. This new, magical production of the timeless story of Cinderella will delight the whole family featuring a jukebox of much loved songs, beautiful costumes and a talented cast of actors and dancers. Will Cinderella be able to escape her cruel family for a chance of one night of fun, and maybe find love along the way? Find out more for yourself at camberleytheatre.co.uk

Holly, Santa’s newest elf and Trixie the experienced elf are busy decorating Santa’s workshop in the lead up to Christmas. Holly reveals Lapland’s biggest secret, that once a year Santa sends a magical gift to one person who deserves it the most. Holly writes her Christmas wish on a snowflake and places it on the window ledge, a gust of wind takes it, and in the morning a large golden gift appears in its place. Is it really Santa’s Magical Gift? Find out in this heart-warming festive story with audience participation, comedy routines and a present for every child in the audience from Santa at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, December 17th to 24th. Book at atgtickets.com

Aladdin may be poor but he has ambitions beyond Widow Twankey’s laundry where he helps his mum and hapless brother Wishee Washee. Enter stage left to boos and hisses, the evil Abanazar tempting Aladdin with untold riches. Add a wish or three of magic in the shape of an enchanted lamp, plus not one but two genies and you have all the ingredients for a traditional panto in this year’s offering from Godalming Theatre Group at Ben Travers Theatre, Charterhouse, Godalming, December 15th to 18th. Tickets from thelittleboxoffice.com

Meet The Society for Christmas Creatures at Farnham Maltings this December. They are the world’s only expert team of festive detectives, and they know a thing or two about Christmas. Armed with a taste for adventure (and a pair of knitting needles), they’ve trekked far and wide searching for Christmas creatures of every shape and size. Now they’re here in Farnham for their toughest mission yet: to find the elusive Christmas Lobster and maybe (just maybe) discover the true meaning of Christmas. Will they find him? Find out from 13th to 24th, exc 19th. Book at farnhammaltings.com

When Christmas is over there’s still time to enjoy a panto with The Quince Players’ who this year are staging Ba-Ba Land, a brand new story about the land of nursery rhymes, a budding romance between Bo Beep and Little Boy Blue and a competition that the Big Bad Wolf is determined to win. Performance dates are January 11th-14th and 18th-20th at Cordes Hall, Sunninghill. Tickets will be available from mid-November at quinceplayers.com


Hampshire

Pumpkin Pantos are back with another spellbinding pantomime and this year it’s one as old as time featuring a cursed prince, an enchanted rose and a magical castle. Can the cold-hearted Beast find true love before it’s too late? Is the beautiful Belle his chance of a happy ever after? Only time will tell in this spectacular production with stunning scenery, lavish costumes, memorable songs and laughs galore. Join Beauty and the Beast at Alton Assembly Rooms, December 9th and 10th and Forest Community Centre, Bordon, the week after on 15th-17th. Tickets at www.pumpkinpantos.co.uk

Dick Whittington, a plucky young man from the country, arrives in London to make his fortune, with his trusty feline sidekick in tow. Little does he know, his journey could fulfil an ancient prophecy and Queen Rat will do everything in her power to stop Dick in his tracks. Come along on a whirlwind journey through the streets of London and across the seas at the Harlington, Fleet from December 9th to 29th. Book here theharlington.co.uk

Cinderella is also looking for her lost shoe at Theatre Royal Winchester in this retelling of the greatest fairytale of them all. With original songs, loads of corny gags, audience participation and some surprising twists to the tale, the whole family is invited to the ball from November 30th to January 1st. Book at theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk

The swashbuckling adventure at The Anvil, Basingstoke this Christmas is The Further Adventures of Peter Pan: The Return of Hook starring Gavin & Stacey’s Melanie Walters as Mrs Darling and Ethyl Mermaid, Channel 5’s Milkshake! presenter David Ribi as Peter Pan, the ever-comical Chris Pizzey (CBBC’s Basil Brush) back by popular demand as Smee, Nickelodeon’s Holly Atterton as Tinker Bell, while Chris Fearn returns as Captain Hook. Check out anvilarts.org.uk  for full details.

Santa is determined to deliver the most fantastic Christmas present to Sarah, but he doesn’t get it right straight away! With the help of his cheeky Elf, he finally settles on something ‘perfect’, just in time for Christmas Eve. From the author of the well-loved children’s book Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell, Dear Santa, is an ideal introduction to theatre for those aged two and over. Meet Santa in his grotto after the show at The Haymarket, Basingstoke and receive a free gift. The show runs from December 7th to 10th, book at anvilarts.org.uk

The Phoenix Theatre in Bordon bring three classic tales to life this Christmas. A-Lad-In-Space is their adult’s only pantomime, telling the tale of Aladdin with a 1950s science-fiction feeling; you’ll rekindle your warp drive and be sent into orbit frm December 14th to 16th. For younger ones Oomph Theatre brings Hansel & Gretel on December 18th and 19th, a fabulous feast of festive fun. The Phoenix Players’ Red Riding Hood takes you on a journey through the deep, dark forest to Granny’s house. January fun on 19th, 20th, 25th to 27th. Book tickets for these at phoenixarts.co.uk


Oxfordshire

Get ready for a gigantic panto experience and climb new heights with Jack and the Beanstalk, a fee fi fo fun pantomime for everyone to enjoy at Oxford Playhouse, November 24th to January 7th. Poor Jack can’t seem to help getting into trouble with his mum. Now he’s really landed himself in it by selling the family cow to a stranger for a handful of old beans. But those mysterious beans have started to grow…and grow… and GROW! Full of infectious laughter, brilliant storytelling, singing, dancing, cheering for the goodies and booing for the baddies, an Oxford Playhouse pantomime is fabulous festive fun for everyone aged 5 to 105! Book tickets for this at oxfordplayhouse.com

Oxford’s New Theatre is home to one of the biggest shows in recent years, coming of age musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Sixteen-year-old Jamie doesn’t quite fit in, terrified but determined to be a sensation and with love and support from his mum and friends, Jamie beats prejudice and the bullies to step into the spotlight. A hit in the West End, see it for yourself from December 12th to 30th. Tickets at atgtickets.com

Join The Sinodun Players on an epic journey across the seas in The Adventures of Sinbad at the Corn Exchange Wallingford this January, 12th to 27th. With all the magic and fun of a traditional panto, be enchanted by the sparkling diamond cave, wonder at the magic carpet and the myriad characters that make up this exciting story, oh and there’s a baby elephant too! Intrigued? Full details and booking at cornexchange.org.uk

It’s the panto you’ve ‘bean’ waiting for! Immersion Theatre are thrilled to bring a giant amount of fe-fi-fo-fun to the Kenton Theatre as they present Jack and the Beanstalk, a magical pantomime of epic proportions from December 9th to 31st. Packed with comedy, music and audience participation, this hilarious and action-packed adventure promises to be a joyous and festive experience, oh yes it does! Book at kentontheatre.co.uk

The Henley Children’s Theatre’s annual panto is Beauty and the Beast. It may be a tale as old as time, but there is nothing outdated about this production, and certainly not the cast of enthusiastic youngsters! We meet our book-loving heroine Belle and Prince Perfect who is turned in to a Beast and must find someone to love him all while the clock is ticking! The cast of local children, aged 4-16, will delight with their joie-de-vivre (and questionable French accents) at the Kenton Theatre, January 3rd to 6th. Tickets at kentontheatre.co.uk

Deep in Sherwood Forest, local hero Robin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Will he rescue Maid Marion from the clutches of the money grabbing Sheriff of Nottingham? Packed with songs, slapstick, the most dangerous archery competition you ever did see and all the fairy-tale magic of traditional pantomime. Enjoy the merriest panto in the land at The Beacon Wantage on December 9th and 10th. For tickets visit beaconwantage.co.uk

Christmas is coming and Sally can’t sleep – it’s far too hot! The weather has gone topsy-turvy. Sally has a dream that changes everything – a mysterious silver spark transforms her bedroom into a glistening, white field where she meets the glowing Heart of Winter. The magical new musical show at Didcot’s Cornerstone (December 18th to 24th) celebrates family, friendship and the good fortune of finding the winter we really need and want…with the festive offering of lots of fluffy snow! Book at cornerstone-arts.org

Abingdon Drama Club are telling the story of Peter Pan, January 11th to 14th and 17th to 20th. Join Peter, Wendy and the lost boys as they do battle with Captain Hook in this comic caper. More details and tickets at abingdon-drama-club.com

Abingdon’s Amey Theatre offers a variety of seasonal shows to entertain, including The Snowman Live with Wantage Band on 3rd December. The concert will centre on a performance of the soundtrack to the 1982 film with a showing of the film itself. On 12th December, you can also join Clara, her Nutcracker doll and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the magical Christmas ballet in the Royal Opera House live performance of The Nutcracker. To browse and book events at the Amey Theatre, visit abingdon.org.uk

Kingston Bagpuize Drama Group present Cinderella, a pantomime by Tom Whalley. Forced to do all the terrible chores at Hardup Hall by her two awful, ugly stepsisters, Cinderella dreams of the day her Prince Charming will take her away to a happily ever after. With a little help from her Fairy Godmother and some magic it might just happen. November 23rd to 25th at Southmoor Village Hall, OX13 5BY. Tickets at tinyurl.com/3rzyccfa

Expect toe tapping songs, lots of audience participation, very corny jokes, comedy and even a bit of Carry On Camping thrown in to Snow White at the Corn Exchange Witney, December 14th to 31st (selected dates). The story has a host of colourful characters including a talking mirror. Join Buttercross Theatre Productions and find out if Snow White manages to outwit her wicked stepmother and bag her handsome prince with the help of her seven new friends. Book at buttercrosstheatreproductions.co.uk

There’s a Latin American twist to a traditional tale at the Theatre Chipping Norton this Christmas, where Cinderella promises to be the perfect panto for Encanto-loving families. Director John Terry calls it “a joyful blast of carnival colour and energy the likes of which neither Cinderella nor Chipping Norton has seen before!” The clock is ticking. Book your tickets now for the panto, November 15th to January 14th, at chippingnortontheatre.com


Berkshire

Reading’s favourite panto star Mr Tumble aka Justin Fletcher is back at The Hexagon for Sleeping Beauty from December 9th to January 7th. The wicked fairy Carabosse’s evil curse causes the princess to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into an enchanted sleep, can anyone rescue her from a magical slumber before it is too late? Sleeping Beauty will have everything you expect from a pantomime at the Hexagon, memorable musical numbers, tons of fun and laughter and a happy ever after! Book at whatsonreading.com

Why see just one pantomime when you can see seven? A madcap ride through the biggest and best pantos is on offer at Reading Rep Theatre courtesy of Potted Panto. All the beloved pantomime characters arrive on stage in this wonderfully absurd festive treat. A dastardly double act dash from rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to roaming the golden streets of Dick Whittington’s London and making sure that Cinderella gets to the ball! This might not be the traditional panto you think you’re looking for, but it’s the panto you need, from November 27th to December 31st. Book your tickets at readingrep.com

Make all of your wishes come true and join Windsor’s favourite threesome on a magical (carpet) ride of adventure and fun! With traditional pantomime comedy capers, dazzling dancers, colourful costumes, and a sprinkling of magic, you won’t want to miss this ‘genie’-ous show! Due to popular demand, this year’s pantomime is being extended for an extra week from November 24th to January 14th – making Aladdin Theatre Royal Windsor’s biggest panto of all time! Tickets at theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Magic and mayhem are the order of the day at the Wilde Theatre with a new version of the timeless tale of Sleeping Beauty. A young princess is cursed to die on her birthday by an evil witch. After pricking her finger on a spinning wheel’s spindle, she falls into an eternal sleep from which she can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. Will the Princess find her true love and live happily ever after? Expect laughter, silly songs, colourful characters, slapstick comedy, and dangerous dragons in this panto favourite full of creative sparkle. You’ll be enchanted! November 24th to December 31st. More at southhillpark.org.uk

‘Every time a bell chimes an angel gets it’s wings’ in this adaption of the seasonal classic It’s A Wonderful Life, November 30th to December 30th at Reading Rep Theatre. It’s Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls… Down-on-his-luck banker, George Bailey, feels life has passed him by. So when his guardian angel pays him a visit, George is amazed to discover what life in his beloved town would be like without him in it… Maybe it’d be a little less wonderful after all? Based on the critically acclaimed 1946 Frank Capra movie this reimagining is brought to life by four actors playing all the residents of Bedford Falls. Don’t miss this heart-warming tale; readingrep.com

Experience Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie on their magical journey to find the lamp and defeat the evil sorcerer in the magical, musical and hilarious adventure for the whole family brought to you by Wokingham Pantomime Group. Book your tickets for The Whitty Theatre, Luckley House School on December 29th and 30th at ticketsource.co.uk

Riverside Players are bringing Old Mother Hubbard, the Lady who Lived in a Shoe to The Memorial Hall, Windsor from December 1st to 3rd and 7th to 9th. The show features all your favourite characters from the hard-working Dame, Mother Hubbard, doing her best for her mischievous orphans Jack and Jill. There’s a classic love story between Little Miss Muffet and Little Boy Blue, Wee Willy Winky has been up all night and needs help staying awake, and the evil Baron is intent on bringing the village of Lower Bottom to its knees. Plenty of other characters show up along the way too. Book at riversideplayers.com or call 07803 705437.

Panto continues into the new year with Twyford Drama putting on Treasure Island, January 12th and 13th. The nautical masterpiece combines a comical riot of piratical hi jinks, flying custard pies, suspenseful chases, ferocious fights and of course…a never-to-be-forgotten hair-raising haunted grotto. Tickets and more info at twyforddrama.co.uk


Buckinghamshire

Strictly Come Dancing glitter-ball winner Joe McFadden will reprise his role of baddie, the arrogant Eugene, alongside Hear’say and musical theatre star Suzanne Shaw as the Enchantress in Wycombe Swan and Imagine Theatre’s all-star Beauty and The Beast from 8th to 31st December. Joe says: “I’m excited to be back at the beautiful Swan after having a brilliant time here earlier in the year with the tour of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d.” Suzanne adds: “I couldn’t be more delighted to be in Beauty and the Beast in my home town, I’ve wanted to do panto in Wycombe for 16 years and finally my wish has come true!”

They will star, along with Wycombe favourite Jon Clegg and another vocal local, Britain’s Got Talent Favourite La Voix, who recently appeared in ITV’s Queens For The Night as well as starring in Queen Of The Universe, the international drag-singing competition from RuPaul. Currently touring the UK in her show, The Red Ambition Tour, La Voix is no stranger to pantoland, telling us: “I can’t wait to play Peggy, internationally renowned barmaid of the village tavern! “Now, it sounds like I’ve been round the block a bit but this must be coming up 20 years of panto… And I love it: Christmas and panto!” Book at wycombeswan.co.uk

The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield’s The Curzon Theatre, HP9 1RG, will dazzle you with Cinderella, directed by Emma McGrath, 21st to 24th December, with an original script and loads of great songs and music, as well as some “truly ridiculous” jokes. Book your tickets at youngtheatre.org.uk

At The Elgiva in Chesham, you’re invited to step into a world of enchanted pumpkins, a handsome prince and some very special footwear… The team are preparing the sparkly costumes for a dazzling Cinderella from 2nd to 8th December. Please book your tickets at elgiva.com

Maidenhead pantomime Beauty and the Beast, supported by Marlow FM promises to whisk you away, at the Baylis Theatre in Braywick Leisure Centre, 14th to 24th December; maidenheadpanto.co.uk Aylesbury Waterside Theatre brings you Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from 1st December to 3rd January. More than 50,000 people watched last year’s production, and sales indicate another record-breaking year in store. BBC3 Counties breakfast show star Andy Collins returns, by popular demand, for a 12th magical year, playing the role of Muddles. “Year on year I feel so lucky getting to do something I love, in a town that I love, and with audiences who are quite simply the best around. Every year I do my thing on stage and see the faces of school children, parents, grandmas and grandads having fun and making memories.” For info
& tickets visit atgtickets.com

At Aylesbury’s Norman Bragg Studio, HP20 1UG, there are the festive alternatives of A Christmas Carol, 12th to 17th December, and Santa’s New Sleigh 19th to 24th December; please visit atgtickets.com

Some different festive offerings from Norden Farm… Enjoy an evening of stories, flowers and fragrant festive designs on 16th November with Mig Kimpton In Floral Pantoland! Miki is a magical family show for ages 3+ following a polar bear and penguin, 28th November to 30th December. And The Hundred Watt Club bring you A Burlesque Christmas Special on 15th December. To find out more & book please visit norden.farm

The Lane End Players are an established amateur theatre group whose talented players are polishing up their Pinocchio, featuring the famous puppet brought to life and his subsequent adventures with a circus, mermaids, a whale and lots more! Shows at the hall, HP14 3JE, from 12th to 27 January; visit laneendplayers.com

And inclusive Iver Heath Drama Club will offer six shows of Dick Whittington over two weekends from 20 to 27th January 2024, written by Lee Hall and directed by Lee Hall and Kaia Barton. Tickets at available to book here

Whichever pantos you choose, we hope you enjoy the best of the season.
All together now.. he’s behind you!

Shrek The Musical at New Theatre

Round & About

Theatre

Book in to enjoy the award-winning Shrek the Musical in Oxford this week, conjured up by a new creative team with a fabulous cast…

You’re invited to leave your troubles Far Far Away and join the adventure as Shrek and Donkey endeavour to complete their quest of defeating the dragon and saving Princess Fiona. Featuring fabulous songs including I’m A Believer, Big Bright Beautiful World and I Know It’s Today, Shrek The Musical has cemented itself as the ‘musical extravaganza for big kids and little kids alike’.

From the producers of Hairspray and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Shrek The Musical brings together a new creative team to re-imagine this award-winning Broadway and West End hit show for a new audience, featuring all the classic characters from the Oscar®-winning DreamWorks animated film and the iconic songs and story from David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s original musical.

Rising star Cherece Richards (Once on This Island, Regent’s Park Theatre) will make her debut in a principal role as the Dragon, joining the Shrek-tacular principal cast lineup which includes Antony Lawrence (Shrek), Joanne Clifton (Princess Fiona), James Gillan (Lord Farquaad) and Brandon Lee Sears (Donkey) touring through to April to a total of 31 venues.

The ensemble cast of Shrek the Musical will include Leo Abad, Soctty Armstrong, Imogen Bailey, Jabari Braham, Georgie Buckland, Natasha Cayabyab, Mark Darcy, Jonathan David Dudley, Remi Ferdinand, Sonny Grieveson, Edward Leigh, Bethany Kate, Jessica Lim, Andile Mabhena, Bronte MacMillan, India Thornton. Talia Duff, Gabby Gregorian, Roy Shafford and Jamie Jonathan complete the full cast line-up. 

Antony Lawrence will play Shrek (Scar in The Lion King (International Tour) as well as Mary Poppins (National Tour), Matilda the Musical (Cambridge Theatre/RSC) and We Will Rock You (International Arena Tour).

He says: “The great thing about doing Shrek, because it’s a well-known story, is that we already know the characters. There’s the double-edged sword of wanting to make the characters your own and the relationships your own, but at the same time there is an element of audience expectation. It’s finding that balance of wanting to give them what they know, but at the same time we want to find our Shrek and our Fiona and our chemistry between ourselves. That’s what makes doing a live version so fantastic, as you get the best of both worlds.

“Normally as an actor, when you’re on stage, if you feel like you need to burp, you’re fighting that urge. The great thing about playing a character like Shrek, who is very flatulent and farts and burps all the way through the show, is that if I need to burp, I’ll just burp, at any point, and it’ll be completely natural!”

Globe Theatre – a great all-rounder

Round & About

Theatre

London’s iconic open-air wooden ‘O’ shaped theatre has lots to enjoy over the summer…

With tickets to shows starting from £5, the Globe is a world-class and affordable way to experience the best the city has to offer. Spend a full day exploring the world of Shakespeare in the new exhibition, on a guided tour or in a family workshop, and enjoy a delicious meal at the Swan, before watching a show.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs until 12th August starring artistic director Michelle Terry as Puck, there’s a special Midsummer midnight matinee on 24th June.

The Comedy of Errors runs until 29th July, Macbeth 21st July to 28th October, and As You Like It 18th August to 29th October.

Midsummer Mechanicals, The Olivier Award nominated family show, based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, runs 22nd July – 26th August, following Peter Quince’s acting troupe – known as the Mechanicals – as they attempt to recapture the success of their first hit Pyramus and Thisbe, a show so bold, brilliant and chaotic that it went down in theatre history.

Running throughout the summer, Family Workshops and Storytellings are the perfect way to introduce younger audiences to Shakespeare and bring his plays to life. Guided Tours and Sword Fighting Demonstrations created for younger audiences are the perfect addition to a full family day out at the Globe.

Audiences can enjoy a pre-show drink with a stunning view across the Thames and overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral, or indulge in A Midsummer Night’s Dream themed afternoon tea at our on-site restaurant Swan at the Globe.

Star Q&A: Tony Blackburn

Liz Nicholls

Theatre

Radio DJ legend, dad & grandad Tony Blackburn chats to Liz Nicholls ahead of his Sounds Of The 60s live tour at a theatre near you

Q. Hello Tony! How are you? You’ve just had a big birthday, I believe?

“Hello! Yes, I’m great thank you. I just had my 80th last Sunday, at Cliveden. As you might know, it’s where the Profumo Affair happened… not that you’d remember that! I stayed there with family on my 70th too – it was great fun. It was a family get-together and was meant to be a surprise then my wife accidentally told me where we were staying and let it out the bag.

Then the person who booked us in let my daughter’s name slip so I knew she was coming, plus my son and grandchildren. Over the last two weeks we’ve done six theatre shows which I love. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, that’s the main thing.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music?

“When I was a youngster, four or five, loving music and listening to people like Frankie Laine. I had a deep love of soul music right from the word go because my dad, who was a doctor down in Poole, he loved Jackie Wilson and we used to play him over & over again. I’ve always loved black soul music particularly. I just loved Motown, people like Marvin Gaye and Sam Cook, all the original people, I just loved them, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know them over the years as well.”

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Star Q&A: Kate Mosse

Liz Nicholls

Theatre

Best-selling author Kate Mosse OBE shares her thoughts ahead of her Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries tour at a theatre near you

Q. Hello Kate! How are you?

“Very well, thank you for asking! I’ve just become a grandmother, so loving everything about that.”

Q. It’s wonderful that you’re shining a light on previously overlooked trailblazing women. Can you tell us a little about any of your favourites?

“There are so many amazing women – from every corner of the world, in every period of history – but I love the extraordinary footballer, Lily Parr, who scored more than 1,000 goals in her professional career in the early 1900s, and also the legendary 18th century pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Reid, who were fierce and uncompromising – my next novel, The Ghost Ship, is partly inspired by their story.”

Q. What was your favourite book as a child?

“So many, but certainly The Golden Hamster, a beautiful story for young children about being true to who you are (a hamster, not a rat or a cat or a mouse). My beloved, and much missed Dad, used to read it to me at bedtime, and I still have that 1960s edition. I also loved The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder for their sense of freedom, the amazing descriptions of the American mid-west in the 1880s and 1890s, and the feisty, principled heroine of the books herself.”

Q. And how about now – who is your favourite author?

“I try to avoid ever answering this question – too many of my friends are writers – but, going back in time, certainly Emily Bronte, Adrienne Rich, Rider Haggard and Agatha Christie would be at the top of the list.”

“It’s quite a challenge starting a new career as a performer at the age of 61!”

Q. Do you enjoy touring?

“I’m excited and nervous – what if nobody comes or my voice gives out – and it’s quite a challenge starting a new career as a performer at the age of 61! On the other hand, you have to keep having new challenges and pushing yourself. I’m not ready to hang up my boots and sitting dozing by the fire quite yet. I’m really looking forward to meeting audiences and hearing all the amazing women from history they would like to celebrate. The tour is about starting a conversation, having a great night out in the theatre, and putting some incredible women back in to the history books.”

Q. How well do you know the parts of the South East where you’re on tour?

“Very well. I grew up, and live now, in Chichester, so one of our days out was always to Guildford. My aunt and uncle lived in Woking, and my son-in-law comes from a beautiful village in the Surrey Hills. So, it’s home from home. Also, the Guildford Book Festival is one of my favourite festivals. I was lucky enough to go to university in Oxford, so I had three years of getting to know not only the city itself, but also the amazing countryside around about. The joy of being on tour is not only meeting audiences from all over the country, but also getting to know new parts of our beautiful country. Every day before the evening show, I’ll be out exploring.”

Q. What is your first memory of music?

“My fabulous Ma had an LP of Nancy Sinatra’s Swinging Safari, and I adored it and dancing along with her. In those days, you had to drop the stylus on to the record, listen, and then start again…”

Q. Who would be your dream dinner party guests?

“So many of the women I’ll be celebrating in my show – so, as well as those I’ve already talked about, the great British composer Ethel Smyth; the extraordinary 13th century Mongolian wrester princess, Khutulan – who was the inspiration for Puccini’s opera Turandot; Pauli Murray, one of the ‘freedom riders’ along with Rosa Parks who changed the racist ‘Jim Crow’ laws in America in the 1940s and 1950s; Josephine Cochrane who, in 1893, invented the dishwasher (yes, really!) Eunice Newton Foote, who discovered global warming but saw her discovery attributed to the men who came after her; and perhaps Beatrix Potter, to talk about her amazing work in conservation as much as her writing for children.  Oh, and of course, my own great-grandmother, Lily Watson, who is at the heart of the Warrior Queens tour, who I would have loved to have known.” 

Q. How much do you love life in West Sussex and why?

“I’m a Chi (Chichester) girl, born and bred, and it’s where all my family live.  So, my whole life – apart from a few years away at university, then working in London – has been spent in and around Chichester and Fishbourne.  There is something for everyone – amazing woods and beaches, incredible art galleries and an internationally-renowned theatre, the canal and Roman Palace, history and folklore, music and community. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” 

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your first impressions of Carcassonne and how you fell in love with it, changing the course of your life?

“We first bought a tiny house in the shadow of the medieval city walls of Carcassonne back in 1989 and, from the moment I first saw the extraordinary ‘crown of stone’ sitting on the hill above the river Aude, 52 towers and turrets, two rings of defensive walls, everything stepped in history, I fell in love.   I didn’t intend to write about Carcassonne but, little by little as I read history about Languedoc and learnt about the people who had lived there in the 13th century, the ‘whispering in the landscape started’ … that’s to say, I started to hear the voices of characters and the outline of a story.  Those whisperings became my novel, Labyrinth, and since then, almost all of my fiction has been a kind of love letter to this beautiful corner of southwest France.”

Q. What advice would you have for any woman out there who has always dreamt of writing a book? “Do it! A little writing every day, just so you start to get your muscles used to the process, that’s how a novel or biography takes shape. Don’t worry about how good it is, or quite where it’s going, just get some words down. Soon you’ll have a sentence, then a paragraph then, before you know it, a chapter. Once you have a rough draft, then you have something you can start to edit into the novel you’ve always wanted to write.” 

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “That we all share the same planet. So, more kindness, more remembering how to listen and respect one another’s point of view – even if it’s not the same as our own – more attention to saving the planet, and a return to public service not self-interest built on values of decency, honesty and equality.  I’m still an idealist and believe that we can all work together, we can leave the world in a better state than we found it.  And most of the women I’m celebrating in Warrior Queens did precisely that.” 

Star Q&A: Zoe Lyons

Round & About

Theatre

Comedian Zoe Lyons shares her thoughts ahead of her Bald Ambition live comedy tour which visits Aldershot, Banbury, Farnham, Salisbury, Maidenhead & more

Q. How are you?
“Very well thanks. Life is a very pleasant mixture of work and fun so all is well in my world.”

Q. I read your funny quotes about a ‘midlife crisis’…
“Well I had an absolute cracker of a midlife crisis during the pandemic. I turned 50, hit the menopause and bought a sports car, among other things. It was a tricky time but because there was a backdrop of global chaos I managed to hide it quite well. But in this challenging time, there were also a lot of funny moments. And surely the best thing about being a comedian is we can turn personal difficulties into a new show! It’s cathartic to laugh in the face of adversities.”

Q. Who was your comedic inspiration growing up?
“It was always Billy Connolly as a kid. We’d get his videos at Christmas, watch as a family and howl laughing. I remember watching my mum, tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks.”

Q. Did you enjoy school?
“I was taught by nuns at my first school in Ireland. I’m afraid I wasn’t a big fan of school, I think largely because I didn’t like reading, especially aloud in class. I found it hard and I was always slightly embarrassed. We moved around quite a bit to and that made things difficult. I went to high school in Glasgow. There I found a love for geography and my teacher Mr Knowles made it so interesting and fun. I can’t look at a U-shaped valley even now without thinking…ahh glacial erosion. Funny what stays with you.”

Q. Loving your bold look… How are you coping with the alopecia?
“The alopecia was another symptom of my midlife blip. It was quite shocking to watch my hair all fall out over the course of the year. Pleased to say it has started to sprout back. I’m currently going through my dodgy growing-out phase… some patches, tufts and some longer bits. I need to get the tour done before it all grows back!”

Q. Who would be your dream dinner party guests?
“Grace Jones, Billy Connolly and David Sedaris… I think it will be a fun night and I know Grace will end up dancing on the table.”

Q. Do you have anything on your rider?
“I need to up my ‘diva’ game. I have such a basic rider; water and a mirror and I’ll be honest I don’t always use the mirror! I try and eat well on tour but sometimes a girl’s just got to have a burger on the road… and fries….and milkshake… and maybe another burger.”

Q. Who is your favourite author?
“George Orwell. When I finally started enjoying reading, Animal Farm changed everything for me.”

Q. What new year resolutions or perhaps cool things or goals do you have planned for this year..?
“I don’t do resolutions. But I do want to keep up my fitness. My goal is to run another sub-two hours half marathon and complete a 100k challenge in 17 hours. I want to carry on enjoying my work. And of course growing a luscious head of hair.”

To find tickets to Zoe’s show click here

Star Q&A: Craig Revel Horwood

Round & About

Theatre

Craig Revel Horwood, 57, is excited about bringing Strictly Ballroom The Musical back to the stage on a UK tour, which includes Reading’s Hexagon, 16th-21st January & Guildford’s G Live, 20th-30th December

Q. Hello Craig! Can you tell us about this show, which you’ve directed and co-choreographed?

“Audiences are in for a night of laughter and comedy, with an insight into the ballroom world. It’s a glimpse backstage, which is very different to the smiles when dancers are performing. Most people see this happy, smiley world of people dancing together but when they come off stage they maybe have family issues to deal with or issues with each other. Strictly Ballroom lifts the curtain on all that whilst also being really funny and having such a strong central love story, plus there’s lots of glitz and glamour and beautiful costumes. I am absolutely delighted to be directing the amazing Kevin Clifton and the sensational Maisie Smith, together with our super talented cast in Strictly Ballroom The Musical – I know that they’ll all be FAB-U-LOUS! Expect some sexy moves, sizzling costumes and a simply sensational evening!”

Q. You left Australia in 1988 to forge a career in the UK, and I’ve read that the film Strictly Ballroom was a pivotal moment for you?

“I hadn’t really been home since leaving and when I saw the movie it made me feel really homesick. I absolutely loved it and it’s become one of those go-to films that I watch every Christmas. It cheers me up. So when the opportunity came up to direct it I didn’t hesitate. I’m passionate about all kinds of dance and this show is the perfect vehicle for me to explore that.”

Q. The show features songs by Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect, I believe?

“You’re going to see huge dance numbers and fantastic duets, with tunes that people know and love, as well as new music written specifically for the show which is equally brilliant. It’s mixing the old and the new.”

Q. How have people’s perceptions of ballroom changed over the years?

“People perhaps didn’t understand the world of ballroom dancing when the film Strictly Ballroom came out. Since the advent of Strictly Come Dancing they get what it’s all about. They realise that it’s full of very strict rules that the dancers all have to adhere to but Scott wants to break those rules, just as Fran wants to break the rules of flamenco. When they come together they also end up falling in love. That’s what makes it such a compelling and uplifting show.”

strictlyballroomtour.co.uk