KING’S HEAD STAGES SEASON OF SEVEN PREMIERES
28 February 2008
By Terri Paddock
After a decade as primarily a receiving house, London’s King’s Head Theatre (pictured) is relaunching itself as a producing theatre with a full in-house season of seven new productions – four world premiere musicals and three plays (a world premiere, a UK premiere and a new adaptation).
As part of the relaunch – funded privately through consortium commercial investment, in-kind sponsorship and charitable donations – the venue has also undergone a refurbishment which sees a seating increase to a capacity of 135 (previously 112) on new raked, padded bench seating, new lighting equipment and new men’s toilets.
The theatre, situated in Islington’s historic 19th-century pub, was founded in 1970 by Dan Crawford, who died two-and-a-half years ago. It was the first dinner theatre in the UK and the original London pub theatre, which kickstarted the Fringe scene. Over the years, the King’s Head has transferred 37 shows to the West End, Broadway, national tours and film. It has mentored and showcased talent including Alan Rickman, Antony Sher, Celia Imrie, Hugh Grant, Victoria Wood, Maureen Lipman, Steven Berkoff, Rupert Graves, Richard E Grant, Clive Owen, Joanna Lumley, Prunella Scales, Denis Lawson, Corin Redgrave, Mel Smith, Kris Marshall, Victor Spinetti, Samuel West, and most recently Shane Richie and James Jagger.
Now under the artistic directorship of Stephanie Sinclaire, Crawford’s widow, the theatre is committed to continuing to provide creative and entertaining theatre for the local and London theatregoing community. Sinclaire has been joined by producer Steven M Levy and associate producer Fleur Brooklin Smith.
The King’s Head’s 2008 in-house season opens with the world premiere of Black and White Ball, running from 8 April to 4 May 2008 (previews from 25 March). Commissioned by the Cole Porter estate, the musical, which has a book by Warner Brown, is built around existing Porter ditties including “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, “After You, Who?”, “All of You” and “Please Don’t Make Me Be Good”. It’s set in 1960s New York, where Leah is trying to solve the mystery of the murder of her stepfather, Jay St John, 20 years ago. Matthew White directs, with musical supervision and orchestration by Larry Blank.
The world premiere of Betwixt – given a sneak-peek earlier this week at the inaugural Whatsonstage.com Year on Year Concert & Awards Show (See WOS TV, 25 Feb 2008) – then runs from 14 May to 22 June 2008 (previews from 6 May). Novelist Bailey Howard and his flamboyant friend Cooper Fitzgerald are magically transported to the world of the In-Between, where their arrival fulfils an ancient prophecy. The musical comic fantasy has book, music and lyrics by Ian McFarlane. It’s directed by Kate Golledge, with musical supervision by Mike Dixon.
Grand Slam – the new play by journalist Lloyd Evans, who, with Toby Young, co-wrote the satirical Who’s the Daddy? and A Right Royal Farce, both premiered at the King’s Head – receives its world premiere on 24 June 2008, continuing until 27 July. The comedy two-hander centres on a failed British tennis player and the unscrupulous man hired to act as her bodyguard.Tamara Harvey directs.
Artistic director Stephanie Sinclaire directs The Shadow Master, adapted from JM Barrie’s original play Dear Brutus, which Sinclaire revived in the late 1990s and subsequently made into a screenplay which has had two readings with actors including Tom Conti, Patricia Hodge, Prunella Scales and Timothy West. The tragic-comic social satire is set around a summer house party and is billed as “Gosford Park meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream by way of The Twilight Zone”. It runs from 29 July to 7 September 2008.
David Gow’s two-hander about modern racial tension, Cherry Docs, receives its UK premiere in a run from 9 September to 19 October 2008, directed by Sherrill Gow. A conflicted Jewish lawyer must defend a violent skinhead accused of a vicious racist murder. The world premiere of Street Magic, a musical for young people based on a true story about a 13-year-old girl involved in prostitution, then runs from 21 October to 7 December 2008. It has music and lyrics by Brett Kahr, who first started working on it after being invited to write a song for charity Kids & Co catering for disadvantaged children in south London, and a book by Lisa Forrell, who also directs.
The 2008 season concludes with the world premiere of another musical, Godiva, which has book and lyrics by Guy Boltonand music by the late Vivian Ellis. In the court of Leofric, trouble is brewing – Lady Godiva, the Earl’s wife in all but the eyes of the church, won’t go to bed with him unless he pays his penance to the local Bishop. However, when Leofric imprisons the cousins of Godiva’s handsome tailor Tom, she has little choice but to carry out his demand to ride naked through the centre of the city in order to free them.
Written in the early 1950s, this musical has never been produced, though Dan Crawford, Vivian Ellis and Stephanie Sinclaire presented a reading several years ago. This full-scale production is presented as a tribute to Crawford and Ellis. It has musical supervision by Michael Reed, who has been a frequent King’s Head collaborator on previous Ellis’ musicals.
Further casting details of the new season will be revealed at a media launch on 4 March 2008, which will include performance excerpts from Godiva and Betwixt sung by, respectively, Kim Criswell and Peter Land, and Jon Robyns.