Theatre truly is where the heart is, and there's often no better place to start than your local. Be it your town's repertory theatre featuring the amateur dramatic group, your city's producing provincial or the university society, across the UK theatre is in abundance. It's loud, it's proud and it's got a lot to say from a localised perspective.
From classic adaptations, to revivals, to new work and local cautionary tales, here's my pick of regional productions to get excited about in 2020.
Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Jane Austen’s timeless tale has been re-imagined by Isobel McArthur as a romantic comedy that follows the life of the often overlooked Bennet sisters. Telling 200 years worth of romantic cliches and topped to the brim with pop culture references, McArthur’s production follows in the infectiously giddy feminist reign of Six and & Juliet, using absolute pop bangers to tear apart the rule book to dating via pass-the-mic karaoke. A fierce all-woman cast chameleon to portray an exciting selection of roles from forthright, forward thinking young women to unattractive and villainous slimy men. The result is effervescent and laughs are promised a-plenty.
Produced by: Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) is a co-production between the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Tron Theatre and Blood of the Young with co-production partners Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Leeds Playhouse, Northern Stage, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Oxford Playhouse.
Running: 23 Jan 2020 - 15 Feb 2020
Touring: Yes - from February.
J.M. Barrie’s Quality Street
Northern Broadsides at Northern Stage
The production company that pride themselves on adding a Northern twist to both classic and new texts, has revived the story so adored that Christmas day now relies on the tin of chocolate that took its name. The original factory is in Halifax, don’t you know!
Written before his timeless story, Peter Pan, Barrie’s Quality Street follows Phoebe Throssel who lives on the now-famous street and runs a school for unruly children. As an old flame returns back into her life, Phoebe adopts the role of an alter-ego to win back his heart and rekindle their romance. Filled with drama, scandal and oh-so-good sweetness, the four act play discusses identity, sisterhood and age. This directorial debut for Northern Broadsides from Laurie Sansom has the welcome addition of commentary from the Quality Street factory workers that add a touch of playfulness with their stories of romance and growing old disgracefully!
Produced by: Northern Broadsides
Running: 24 March - 28 March
Touring: Dates being added, tickets found here.
Push Festival at HOME
It’s January, so you probably want to stay in after the festivities. Not to worry, as Manchester’s HOME has plenty to offer across the month. Push Festival is the annual celebration of talent in the North West from theatre to cinema and in their galleries.
This year’s programme includes two HOME commissioned theatre pieces. The first is Plaster Cast Theatre’s Sound Cistem; inviting audiences to a radical dance party, the show explores the cisgender gaze on the transgender body. Set in nightclubs, under disco lights and pulsing music, two transgender performers create their own sound in this celebration of queer bodies and a radical call against the policing of them.
The second is Tania Camara’s Oreo. Drawing on different experiences of successfully educated black women in European politics, the open and interactive show looks at micro-aggressions in higher education and employment, as well as its effects on high profile public figures such as British MP Diane Abbott and Portuguese politician Joacine Katar Moreira.
Full programme and tickets can be found here
Yorkshire and the Humber
Oscar and the Pink Lady
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Sheffield Theatres has rightfully earned its reputation for producing fun yet poignant pieces that appeal to the whole family, and to conclude their summer season they’re treating audiences to a new play.
Based on the novel by Eric-Emmanual Schmitt, Oscar and the Pink Lady follows a young boy who lives in a children’s hospital. Feeling alone and frightened, he begins to talk to an elderly volunteer, Granny Rose. She happens to know a lot about wrestling and doesn’t mind answering questions about grown up things. With little time but a lot of questions, Oscar goes on a whistlestop tour to live through and overcome life’s biggest challenges, from kissing with tongues to taking on responsibility. The show has been adapted for the stage by Bryony Lavery whose recent credits include The Lovely Bones (tour) and the upcoming The Book of Dust - La Belle Sauvage (Bridge Theatre, 2020).
Produced by: Sheffield Theatres
Running: 26 June - 18 July
I Think We Are Alone
Another year, another jam-packed Made At Curve programme. In the first half of the year, Curve’s Young Company have a full season including revivals of Cry Baby and 1984. Their self-written show, Rogues and Rebels explores the loosely organised youth group, The Edelweiss Pirates, as they break from the indoctrination of Nazi Germany. CYC will also be presenting DNA, a play following a group of teenagers as they learn the consequence of pranks going wrong.
To celebrate their 25th year, Frantic Assembly are returning to Curve with I Think We Are Alone. An event from their childhood haunts two sisters to point of estrangement, and they find themselves bickering over text, using aggressive language and struggling alone with grief. The new play by Sally Abbott is a bittersweet, heartwarming attempt to suggest that through letting go, returning small acts of kindness and reaching out to others, we are able to learn about our need for love and forgiveness.
Produced by: A Frantic Assembly and Theatre Royal Plymouth Production, Co-Produced with Curve.
Running: 24 March - 28 March
Romeo and Juliet
Verona to Birmingham, there isn’t all that much difference - right? You all know the story of the world’s most famous star-crossed lovers, but the Rep’s Artistic Director, Amit Sharma (The Solid Life Of Sugar Water, One Under) will be bringing together a talented cast of people from across the city in a contemporary retelling. Using music, dance and the charm of Brummies, it promises to be a celebration of all-consuming love.
Running: 16 April - 25 April
Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
A small town named Milky Peaks sits snug in the bosom of the idyllic Snowdonia. It’s isolated and quaint, completely normal. So when it receives a nomination for the award of ‘Britain’s Best Town’, everybody is delighted. However, the award has an insidious far-right agenda that threatens the very heart and soul of the community. In this new musical from the creator of How To Win Against History, join three lost souls and a shabby drag queen as they battle to save the identity of their beloved home. Expect big pop songs and belly laughs.
Running: 6 May - 9 May
Produced by: Theatr Clwyd, Aine Flanagan Productions and Seiriol Davies
Tobacco Factory, Bristol
Rebels, punks, misspent youths. This production takes a look at the young people who defied societal expectations, dared to say no and moved away from the status quo. Performed by the Young Theatre Makers company, Navajos is performed with youthful energy and resistance to explore the role of young people in today’s political climate.
Running: 15 - 16 April
Produced by: Tobacco Factory Theatres
East of England
The 23-Hour Sketch Show
The Cambridge ADC may just be the liveliest venue in town with a non-stop programme of comedy, theatre and music. Following the success of their 2016 event, join 30 student comedians as they produce five new improvised shows within 23 hours. The final hour from 11pm, is for your enjoyment as they perform their day’s work.
Running: 28 January
The Book of Dust - La Belle Sauvage
Bridge Theatre, London
Following the success of the BBC’s adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s best selling novels; His Dark Materials, Bridge Theatre have taken the lesser known prequel to work with. Set 12 years before the epic trilogy that centres around the idea of sin, adolescence and the Church; two young people and their daemons find themselves at the centre of a manhunt. In their care is a child called Lyra Balacqua, who happens to be responsible for the fate of the future.
Seventeen years after his ground breaking production of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner returns to Pullman’s parallel universe to direct a gripping adaptation by Bryony Lavery.
Produced by: Bridge Theatre
Running: 11 July - 10 October
The Storm Whale
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
In this family production based on the award-winning books by Benji Davies, meet Noi. He lives with his dad and six cats by the sea. One summer, Noi rescued a little whale that washed up on the beach and a friendship began. Longing to be reunited with his friend, Noi wonders if it will take another storm to bring them back together.
Produced by: The Marlowe, York Theatre Royal, Little Angel Theatre and Engine House present
Running: 6 April - 11 April