Mark Gatiss, a Broadway hit and new writing announced by Nottingham Playhouse

Monday 3rd February 2020

Nottingham Playhouse has revealed a brand new set of shows for Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021 – including a chilling retelling of a classic ghost story, a Broadway hit making its way to Nottingham, exciting changes to the Playhouse’s quintessential pantomime, and a political juggernaut brought to life.

  • Award-winning Mark Gatiss will return to Nottingham Playhouse, to star in his own re-telling of the classic Victorian ghost story A Christmas Carol
  • Nottingham Playhouse to be first regional theatre to produce Broadway smash-hit Choir Boy
  • New writing will tell the story of Labour Party legend Red Ellen
  • Pantomime Beauty and the Beast will be directed by award-winning Bill Buckhurst
  • Festive show Jack and Beanstalk is set to delight younger families and schools

Mark Gatiss (Dracula, The League of Gentlemen, Doctor Who) has written a brand-new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – drawing inspiration from the Victorian supernatural world and Dickens’ original spine-tingling ghost story. Gatiss will also star as the ghost of Jacob Marley, who visits mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve with a warning about his greed – sparking three more eerie encounters.

Mark Gatiss said:A Christmas Carol has been absolutely my favourite story since I was, well, tiny. It’s an astonishingly powerful tale of life, love, loss and redemption and remains supremely relevant. But at its heart it is a ghost story and that will be at the core of my new version. A scary, thrilling, joyous adventure to get the blood piping on a freezing winter’s night. A Victorian phantasmagoria!”

A Christmas Carol will also reunite Gatiss with director Adam Penford (Holes, An Enemy of the People), following 2018’s production of The Madness of George III. It will travel to London’s Alexandra Palace with Eleanor Lloyd Productions for the Christmas season after its initial run at Nottingham Playhouse over Halloween and early November.

Then in spring of 2021, Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company and Theatre Royal Stratford East will present the work of Oscar-winning Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), in the UK regional premiere of Choir Boy.

Nancy Medina (Two Trains Running) will direct this coming-of-age story that follows pupil Pharus as he tries to settle into life at a prestigious prep school, and strives to become the best choir leader in the school’s history. Exploring issues of class, race and sexuality, it’s a poignant piece brought to life with a score of soaring gospel music.

Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive at Nottingham Playhouse, commented: “Our new season embraces Nottingham’s rebellious and pioneering spirit, showcases exceptional new talent and delivers world-class theatre to UK audiences.”

Changes to Nottingham Playhouse’s annual pantomime have also been announced, with the 2020 panto being directed by award-winning Bill Buckhurst. Having directed for 36 magical years, pantomime legend Kenneth Alan Taylor will continue to write the script for Beauty and the Beast. The legendary John Elkington will also return and reprise his role as pantomime dame.

Bill Buckhurst’s previous work includes his phenomenally successful, multi-award winning production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, which began life at Tooting Arts Club, subsequently transferred to the West End and then went on to New York where it received a rapturous reception. In autumn 2018 he won universal acclaim at Nottingham Playhouse for his production of Coleman and Field’s Sweet Charity, which starred Rebecca Trehearn. He returned to the theatre in autumn 2019 to direct Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins (a Nottingham Playhouse / Watermill Theatre production) to 5-star reviews. In spring 2020, Bill will be directing a major West End revival of Sister Act The Musical starring Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Saunders.

Adam Penford, artistic director at Nottingham Playhouse, said: “We’re very proud that many children are introduced to the joy of theatre through the Playhouse panto, just like I was aged 5. By coupling Kenneth’s sparkling scripts, with Bill’s incredible vision, and John’s beloved dame, we are creating a pantomime for 2020 which balances tradition with theatrical innovation. Our audiences are going to love it.”

Nottingham City Transport are delighted to renew their sponsorship of Nottingham Playhouse pantomime, and continue their partnership with Nottingham Playhouse for a further three years. The Playhouse plays an important role in providing access to arts and culture to people from all backgrounds and in the next three years they will be working together to improve access further through discounted travel offers.

Joining the line-up for the festive season is Nottingham Playhouse’s annual Neville Studio show, which will be Jack and the Beanstalk. It will re-tell the giant adventure of Jack, who sells his cow in exchange for some magic beans – causing a rather large beanstalk to suddenly grow in his garden. Designed with little ones in mind, it promises to be filled with music, dancing, and the chance for young children – and their grown-ups – to join in the fun. The production will then also tour to primary schools across the East Midlands.

Remarkable new writing will also be making its debut in October 2020 as Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company, Northern Stage and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh present Red Ellen by Caroline Bird.

Directed by Wils Wilson (The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Cockpit), it tells the story of Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson, who among many incredible achievements battled to save Jewish refugees in Nazi Germany, and led 200 workers in the Jarrow crusade – a march from Newcastle, through Nottingham and the Midlands to deliver a petition to reduce unemployment and poverty to London.

The play captures her reckless energy and brings to life her inspiring feats of social justice, in an epic tale of one woman’s mission to create a better world… whilst having affairs with communist spies, government ministers and bumping into the likes of Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway.

Writer Caroline Bird said: “Ellen Wilkinson was described as ‘the mighty atom’ and I have loved, and relished, the challenge of bringing her unbelievably huge and hectic life to the stage. As the valiant leader of the Jarrow Crusade, it seems fitting that her play would march from theatre to theatre… Newcastle, Nottingham, Edinburgh… I can’t wait to hear what audiences think of her story.”

Returning to Nottingham Playhouse’s Neville Studio in May 2020 is LAVA – a sharply funny and deeply moving story about friendship and human connection. Co-produced by Fifth Word and Nottingham Playhouse, this play about an asteroid hitting the capital city and a boy who can no longer speak is now touring the UK.

Also, between 27 and 29 April 2020, the Playhouse’s main auditorium will be taken over by Connections – the National Theatre’s nationwide youth theatre festival. Youth theatres and theatre groups from across the Midlands will gather to stage new plays written specifically for young people by the most exciting playwrights working today.

Following popular demand the Playhouse’s Classes and Courses are back this spring and summer, with sessions on improvisation, Shakespeare, Public Speaking and ballroom dancing. A new, weekly session at the Playhouse Bar and Kitchen invites budding creatives to socialise and learn new techniques from resident artists as well.

Family Fest is also back – bigger and better than ever before. From 6-9 April there are more activities than a family could shake a stick at –with music, drama, writing, play dough, and messy play for little ones. And, of course, the famous baby and toddler disco returns. For older children there are also writing classes, creating a play in a day, circus skills and a spot of hat making.

Nottingham Playhouse’s newly announced shows are on sale to Playhouse Pass members from Monday 3 February 2020, following a launch event held in the Playhouse’s auditorium. Tickets will go on general sale from Monday 17 February 2020.