Curve 2020 Season Launch


CURVE 2020 SEASON LAUNCH

It is always exciting to attend Curve’s season launch because as well as all the shows we already know from the catalogue there are always surprises from Nikolai Foster and Chris Stafford, the artistic powerhouses behind Curve. It is also an opportunity to  learn about the more fringe activities that happen in this flagship building. More and more Curve is forging co-producing relationships with other regional theatres which results in some incredibly interesting projects finding their way onto Leicester’s premier theatre’s stages.
I have already written in The Western Park Gazette about some of the upcoming productions but tonight we saw a whole lot more juicy titbits coming up.
For the third time a new production of Hairspray is returning to Curve this year. The big news of the night was that a European premiere of Roman Holiday is kicking off at Curve this summer. Also big news is that the new version of Sister Act starring Brenda Edwards drops in in April before heading off back to the West End. 
Of course Curve has a reputation for hosting all sorts of festivals. Leicester Comedy Festival is the big one for February with the always popular Spark Festival, new productions especially aimed at toddlers running in the same month. DMU Pride, now firmly established at Curve, takes us into March with LGB themed productions. Curve continues its avowed intent to nurture new talent with a season of productions by the Curve Young Theatre group from March to May. Of especial interest is a production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof directed by Royal Theatrical Support Trust Sir Peter Hall Director Award winner Anthony Almeida this summer.
Not only is the schedule bustling with home grown productions but Leicester gets to see all sorts of mainstream touring shows like Once, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Phantom of the Opera.
Details of all of these productions plus loads more can be found on the website



Winter 2020 theatre


THEATRICAL HAPPENINGS IN 2020-01-07
Winter in Leicester’s theatre-land is always about the Leicester Comedy Festival which runs throughout February (5th – 23rd roughly). However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t loads of other events for those looking for some relief from the awful weather.
CURVE
As out biggest theatre Curve has a wide range of productions to keep us entertained. Highlights include 20-25 January The Woman in Black. This atmospheric ghost story is making a welcome return. The really big news is that the first ever national tour of the iconic musical Phantom of The Opera is kicking of at Curve and runs from 22nd Feb to 21st March. Back for a 3rd year is DMU Pride, a schedule of gay themed productions including The MP, Aunty Mandy and Me by the award winning playwright and actor Rob Ward following on from last year’s successful tour of Gypsy Queen. Another production I am really looking forward to is CYC’s Cry Baby, the musical version oof the iconic film starring Johnny Depp. Just edging into April we welcome another touring version of an Alan Bennett, this time The Habit of Art (6-11 April). Full details at www.curveonline.co.uk
DEMONTFORT HALL
Leicester’s prestigious concert hall venue has its usual mix of  one nighters throughout January before bounding headlong into February for Leicester Comedy Festival with the launch night on 10th January and then a host of top line comics from 5th to 22nd February. February ends with a feast of shows from 27th to 29th from the Russian State Ballet of Siberia. March heralds the arrival of the touring version of David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy from 4th to 8th March. The month continues with the usual blend of singers, comedians and tribute acts. Full details at www.demontforthall.co.uk
THE Y THEATRE
Along with their usual eclectic mix of singers and personal appearances The Y makes its own important contribution to the success of Leicester Comedy Festival with a full schedule of comedy gigs from 5th to 23rd February with yet more top line comedians. Full details at www.leicesterymca.co.uk

DMU Pride & Gypsy Queen interview


DeMontfort University have held a DMU Pride event to celebrate LGBT History Month since 2015. This encompasses all sorts of supportive events within the university as well as cultural events at Curve and Phoenix Cinema.
This year Curve is hosting five events throughout February, four theatrical performances and one dance workshop. One of the shows on is a very welcome return of Gypsy Queen after its sold out show last year.
I spoke to Rob Ward, writer and actor in Gypsy Queen and asked him if he deliberately booked the show in for DMU Pride or did they approach him?
“We actually worked with them last year” he said “and we were approached to do the show last year for their Pride events in one of the cute rehearsal rooms at Curve and we sold out. So when we were approached for this year I got on to Curve, spoke to Nikolai Foster and they came and saw the show and this time we are booked in the Studio.”
I mentioned that DMU were probably quite unique in spreading their LGBT awareness outside of the university
“Yeah, they have fostered such a good relationship with Curve that they can have this mini LGBT festival”
Then we moved on to Gypsy Queen. I wanted to know why Rob, as the author, wanted to set it within the travelling community.
“I already had a small play about two gay boxers and I was looking to extend it to a more full length show, a studio tour. The problem was I couldn’t find an angle to extend the story. Then about three years ago there was the whole incident with Tyson Fury and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award when he made a series of homophobic, sexist and generally awful comments around the time he had won the World Heavyweight title. There was an almighty uproar because he was shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality award despite these remarks having been made public. This was a big issue for me because sport doesn’t have role models for the LGBT community. It doesn’t have openly LGBT sports people for fans like me. I don’t feel like I belong in that world. So when the whole Tyson Fury thing came out I wondered just why he felt he had to say these things about gay people. What was his personal interest in all this? Then it crossed my mind what if he was gay himself? What if it was that classic defence mechanism? Maybe it is a case of those with most to hide shout loudest, and in that moment I thought what if one of  these boxers is from the Traveller community. Suddenly you are bringing in not only a world of sport but also a community in which it is also very difficult to be gay but also the whole catholic debate and it gives the story a few more layers. You have two men, one from the world of professional sport and one from traveller community meeting and falling in love and suddenly the story burst into life.
“On this tour we have had a cast change, we have gone back to the original actor, Ryan Clayton [known for Josh Tucker in Coronation Street] now that he is available. He created the role of the sexually confident but closeted boxer, Dane,  while I played the repressed gay traveller, George.”
Gypsy Queen is on at Curve on Monday 25th February. Tickets are available from the Curve website.
The other productions for DMU Pride at Curve are Rubber Ring on Monday 18th February, the story of a 16 year old isolated on the Norfolk coast who runs away to London to see his hero Morrissey. On Wednesday 20th February there is Drip, a one man musical comedy about a 15 year old synchronised swimmer who can’t swim. On Thursday 28th February there is Joan, a drag king’s homage to the men she defies. Finally, for those feeling brave, there is a dance workshop on Friday 22nd February for those who want to learn to walk or dance in heels. Or maybe just take a class for the hell of it!

Full details of Curve’s DMU Pride events can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yb4lm4x3 or via the Curve website
The entire schedule of all events for DMU Pride can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ybh4n4v7
First published on Western Gazette








Cast of The Frontline

Interview with cast members of The Frontline at Curve

I met up with two of the cast of The Frontline, one of Curve’s Inside Out Festival productions. Med Jannah and Amelia Eatough snuck out of the technical rehearsal in the Studio to fill me in on the production
I started by asking Amelia about her characters “I play two different characters and they are both completely different. One is called Val who has completely lost control of her son and is at the end of her tether, absolutely distraught at life, about her son about what he is turning into, who she’s become and very upset about the things she has done in her past. Then Casey is completely opposite. She’s a stripper but very grounded in her life, she is looking to the future and is dating one of the of the characters”
Med plays just one character, Miruts, “a drug dealer who is very proud of his Ethiopian heritage. Although he does it in a way that puts him at odds with the people around him. So he can be quite confrontational but there is a lot more to him than appears on the surface.”
I wanted to find out how they both got involved with the Curve’s new local actor training programme, supported by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Med: “I’m part of the Leicester University Theatre Society and an email came through about Curve doing a project with people you wouldn’t normally see in theatres, give us experience and courses we can go through this year and eventually be able to showcase our talents with what we have learned in Curve. When you get an opportunity like that you can’t turn it down. So I auditioned and made it through.”
Amelia: “I finished uni last year, doing a performance degree and am now doing a day job and working on this course in my spare time. I want to be a professional actor.”
Amelia spotted that Andrew Lloyd Webber was a supporter of  the programme and was immediately interested. Med only found out at the audition and realised this was a much bigger deal than he thought. While this production is not a musical, as such, there is singing in it. Hence the Lord’s involvement.
The original production had music by Arthur Darvill but this production has got a whole new soundtrack by local friends of Curve, Sheep Soup.
Amelia: “They have come in and made it completely their own, changed it up which was a wonderful opportunity to work with and learn about a visiting company”
Med: “We have got to see a show being built up around us”
I wanted to know where this experience would lead. Hopefully.
Amelia: “I came into the course hoping it would open doors, I would get to meet people. The play, The Frontline, is the culmination of the end of a year course”
Med: “Over the course we have been looking at classical theatre as well as modern theatre; stage movement and stage combat; musical theatre, singing.”
Amelia: “We get free tickets for shows and work with loads of different practitioners, all different styles, age ranges and experiences. We’ve worked with media teams. Some of the people on the course have never actually done a show before.”
So will they be just cast adrift at the end of their year with Curve?
Amelia: “We are being sent off with professional actors as mentors and I am jumping straight into White Christmas (Curve’s festive offering this year) which came directly from being on this course and come the new year I am trying to get more professional credits. Which is where my mentor will come into their own guiding and advising me. On the Press Night we will be given a list of people who can help us, agents etc who will be in attendance”
Talking to these youngsters it is obvious that once again Curve has created a unique climate for young talent to be nurtured and supported as ongoing actors.

Robert Cohen


Robert Cohen is a writer/actor/producer of both his own work and other author’s theatre and film scripts. ‘Something rotten’ is his acclaimed. self-penned examination of Hamlet’s much maligned uncle/step father, Claudius.
An experienced Shakespearean actor, Cohen has always been intrigued by the missing links within the Bard’s telling of The Prince of Denmark’s story. To this end he has attempted to fill in the gaps, sort of a literary pothole filler!
‘Something Rotten’, coming to Upstairs at The Western on Friday March 2nd, is Cohen’s attempt at righting history, a paraquel running alongside Hamlet’s story and attempting to answer questions such as how long had Claudius craved his brother’s crown? How long had he and Gertrude been at it? How did he get on with his nephew prior to the upheavals? And most importantly, how did Yorick become the most famous corpse in literary history? All this and more will be answered. Sort of.
Written in ‘modern English’ with just a flavour of Shakespearean verse, this is hopefully more accessible to non aficionados like myself.
Cohen’s previous visits to Leicester have been with High Vis and The Trials of Henry Matusow, both sold out shows and both going on to tour extensively.
Tickets are available on www.upstairsatthewestern.co.uk
Full details of his previous and current work are on www.bobbycohen.co.uk

Paul Kerryson

Paul Kerryson's final production as Artistic Director is The Sound of Music, the story of a Governess who tames an unruly bunch of children. Not a million miles away from Kerryson's own trials nursing the fledging Curve Theatre to success over the last five years.
When he arrived at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre in 1991 Paul already had a wealth of experience as a performer and director. Starting off with a 3 year stint in Cameron Mackintosh's production of Godspell he moved to Manchester ( he still has a house there) as an actor and choreographer where he discovered his affinity with Sondheim's shows while working on the European premieres of Follies and Pacific Overtures. Both of which he eventually brought successfully to the Haymarket.
From Manchester Paul moved to Oldham Theatre in his first stint as an Artistic Director. Within 12 months he was in Leicester where, for the last 23 years, he has guided the city's cultural tastes as well as helming the creation of the jewel in Leicester's cultural crown, Curve. Throughout those two decades Kerryson has introduced this oasis in the East Midlands to such diversities as Sondheim, Larry Kramer and virtually every 'standard' musical ever written. A fair few of these revivals have transferred to the West End, notably Mack & Mabel, The King and I and Hot Stuff; the latter an original creation of Paul and Maggie Norris. But his expertise is not just reserved for 'grown up' musicals. He can turn his hand to many genres, including children's theatre and serious drama. I will never forget watching Pillowman in Curve's Studio space. He was also responsible for creating The Haymarket's hugely successful annual Promenaids charity weekends where he cajoled his colleagues into making fools of themselves onstage for a very worthwhile cause.
I moved to Leicester in 1990 and have been lucky enough to have seen countless productions that Paul Kerryson has directed. Amongst the many innovations that he has brought to Curve has been community projects; huge productions involving lots of talented local performers often being given their first taste of performing in a professional show under the tutelage of a master of his craft. He has also been responsible for nurturing strong links with De Montfort University's drama students.
We will miss Mr Kerryson when The Sound of Music finishes but a little bird tells me that he may not be leaving Leicester behind completely.
First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 2012

Sir Richard Attenborough

Sir Richard Attenborough
1923 - 2014
The Rt Hon. The Lord Attenborough, CBE, Dickie to all his friends, eldest of three sons to Mary and Frederick Attenborough, was a prodigious talent with a very firm connection to Leicester which he never forgot.
Born in Cambridge, Richard Samuel Attenborough moved to Leicester when his father, an esteemed scholar and academic was appointed Principal of University College, Leicester (later to become Leicester University) and the young Dickie took up his studies at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys.
Leaving school he was drafted into the Air Force and, luckily for generations to follow, ended up in the RAF Film Unit at Pinewood. His interest in performing had been nurtured by his participation in productions at Leicester's Little Theatre, an establishment he maintained a connection with as patron until his death.
His first film, In Which We Serve, was uncredited but saw him working under The Master, Noel Coward, who both wrote and directed this patriotic morale booster. From that inauspicious start in 1942 right up to 2002 Dickie made at least one film per year. From 1960 he also wore a producer's and director's hat for several films.
Alongside his extensive showbiz career, Attenborough held a huge number of corporate titles ranging from President of Chelsea Football Club to President of BAFTA and President of RADA.
Throughout his life he and his wife, actress Sheila Sim, retained very strong links with Leicester and he filmed scenes for several productions locally, most famously on the Great Central Railway for Shadowlands with Sir Anthony Hopkins.
A slew of titles were conferred on Sir Richard and reached a pinnacle with his ennoblement as Baron Attenborough of Richmond.
One of the most remarkable things about this giant of so many areas of life is that you would be very hard pressed to find anyone to say a bad word about him. As an epitaph for a life well lived you can't ask for more than 'He was a lovely man'
First published in Western Gazette
© Paul Towers 28/8/2014