13th January 2020
As the rain bucketed down outside, Curve’s main auditorium was packed with some of its regulars last night, eager to hear more about what’s coming up over the next few months. Hosted by Geeta Pendse, the evening took the form of a preview with Curve’s Artistic Director, Nikolai Foster, and Chief Executive, Chris Stafford. They were joined by guests and fellow practitioners, and accompanied by some cracking musical numbers. I also really appreciated seeing Michael Taylor’s design for West Side Story once more, dominated by its concrete and iron tower. And from a different seat, there are new things to notice, including a bank of lights on Stage Right, each one shining like a star on the US flag. Properly impressive!
There were three new #MadeatCurve announcements. First up, there is the musical adaptation of the 1953 film Roman Holiday. First presented at St Louis’ The Muny in 2001 (from the team who also brought White Christmas to the stage), the musical has music and lyrics by Cole Porter, and a book by Kirsten Guenther and Paul Blake. Foster directs the European premiere at Curve from 15th July. Speaking about the show, he highlighted the story’s humour, romance but also painful ending, and how the story marries so well with Porter’s songs from the Great American Songbook. It’s sure to bring a slice of Italy to Curve this summer, and certainly is a prescient choice given current royal drama.
We were then introduced to this year’s winner of the Royal Theatrical Support Trust’s Sir Peter Hall Director Award, Anthony Almeida. He will be directing Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from 11th September. He spoke affectionately of the play, saying that he put his assumptions about it aside when reading it afresh. For him, the play’s emotional setting really appeals, adding that it pulses with humour and humanity of what it’s like to live now. I’d heard about the vigorous process of the RTST award from last year’s winner Nancy Medina ahead of her production of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. A shortlist of directors work on a scene of their choosing with six actors whilst the judging panel observes. Deputy Chairman Mark Hawes confirmed how emotionally draining it can be, but worth it to champion early career directors to work on a larger scale. Curve has also commissioned a new dance piece, Samsara, by the Aakash Odedra Company in October.
Foster and Stafford also spoke about the importance of collaboration in theatre, and there are several exciting co-productions on the horizon. Frantic Assembly and Theatre Royal Plymouth have teamed up with directors Kathy Burke and Scott Graham to work on Sally Abbott’s I Think We Are Alone, from 24th March – their The Unreturning featured in our Top 10 last year. This year’s DMU co-production will be Evan Placey’s version of Jekyll & Hyde with a female protagonist at its centre, from 21st May. And Frances Poet’s new play Maggie May will be presented from 28th April in a co-production with Leeds Playhouse and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. What’s crucial about this play is that every performance will be dementia friendly, something which Leeds Playhouse (then West Yorkshire Playhouse), Nicky Taylor and Foster first championed in 2014.
Stafford emphasised the importance of nurturing new talent and providing the arts when they are so often being squeezed out of schools. Curve will also play host to many festivals: The CYC Season are to present 1984, DNA, Rogues and Rebels, and Cry Baby; the DMU Pride Festival returns in February to celebrate LGBT History Month; and there’s the Leicester Comedy Festival, which plays across the city from 5th February.
Other things in Leicester to keep on your radar:
The Little Theatre continues to present a range of plays including Jessica Swale’s Blue Stockings in March and Nick Payne’s Constellations in June. To commemorate the centenary of Ronald Light’s trial for murder which took place in Leicester Castle, they are also presenting The Green Bicycle Case. Following a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Cat Hepburn presents her debut show #Girlhood at Upstairs at the Western in May. And finally, hot from a Christmas stint in the West End, Kander & Ebb’s musical comedy Curtains, starring Jason Manford, tours to the Leicester Haymarket in March.