Royal & Derngate announces Made in Northampton 2017 season

At the end of a remarkable year for the Northampton venue, Royal & Derngate’s Artistic Director James Dacre today announced details of Made in Northampton 2017.

This season provides further opportunity for us to consider the purpose of this theatre in one of the UK’s fastest growing towns.

The 2017 season will include eleven brand new productions, seven world premieres, three major revivals and a site-specific collaboration with Northampton Town Football Club. Royal & Derngate’s season is set to welcome some of the country's finest writers, composers, actors and creatives to Northampton as well as taking work Made in Northampton to over 40 theatres nationwide, championing the brightest emerging artists and companies alongside the most celebrated.

Introducing the season, Dacre said: “Our Made in Northampton 2017 season again aims to present plays that question the most important issues of our time. 2016 has been a year of seismic social and political change and our new season reflects this. With this season we hope to understand the worker who feels abandoned by his country, the refugee evicted from their home, the generation that feels disenfranchised from politics and the households which have forgotten how to be families.

It’s as ambitious a season as we’ve ever produced and is shaped by a belief that the art of storytelling is as important a way of making sense of our lives in the internet age, as it was for the ancient Greeks, one of whose iconic tales we are dramatising. We have programmed a mixture of new commissions, literary adaptations, classic plays and devised works, which explore our need to belong to a family, place or country and offer life-affirming tales of characters who possess heroism, hope and humanity.

Over the past ten years more than 1.1 million people have seen a Made in Northampton production either here in these remarkable theatres or on tour nationally and internationally. Our success over the last decade is testament to the extraordinary team of people who work here and our partners and supporters, locally and nationally, with whom we will deliver this exciting season of work.”

Beginning in Spring 2017, the season launches with two major revivals. The first, in April, will be a touring revival of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece Death of a Salesman. Widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century, and as relevant now as when it was first written, the piece looks at the cost of not being able to let go of the American Dream. Produced to coincide with the start of a new political era for America, this new production will be directed by Abigail Graham and will star 2016 Tony and Olivier Award nominee Tim Pigott-Smith (King Charles III), who will play the iconic role of Willy. Death of a Salesman will then tour to Cambridge, Bath, Malvern, Exeter, Canterbury, Portsmouth, Edinburgh and Truro, until Saturday 1 July 2017.

Directed by Abbey Wright and designed by Laura Hopkins, the second major revival of the 2017 season is John Steinbeck’s powerful exploration of migration and community, The Grapes Of Wrath, adapted by Frank Galati. A moving story of hope and survival, this timely production will examine human resilience in the face of catastrophe and will feature a large community chorus with live music from Matt Regan (Greater Belfast).

In a European premiere next June, Artistic Director James Dacre collaborates again with composer Orlando Gough (King John) on a bold new Obie and Lucille Lortell award-winning version of An Iliad that has been adapted by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare from a translation by Robert Fagles of Homer’s chronicle, transposed to our own age. A visionary piece of storytelling, An Iliad casts the Poet as a refugee evicted from his country, with his poem an account of humanity’s addiction to violence, retribution and chaos. Relating the tale through the prism of our own time, the production will pose the question, has anything really changed since the Trojan War?

Also next Summer, a world premiere brings to the season a new kind of collaboration, between the theatre, Fermynwoods Contemporary Art and Northampton Town Football Club. Devised by Seven Sisters Group, The Twelfth Player will use interactive technology to portray the experience of Cobblers fans across seventy years of the club’s extraordinary history, of which 2015/16 was arguably their most precarious and euphoric season. The Cobblers fought off relegation and narrowly escaped financial disaster, but through the dedication of staff, players and their fans - the team’s twelfth player - they made a remarkable recovery, welcoming a takeover, bouncing back into League 1 and winning the Club’s first League title for 29 years. The collaboration will see audiences go on a tour around Sixfields Stadium which will blend site-specific performance and handheld video technology, moving the audience seamlessly between characters inspired by real fans and placing them at the heart of the sporting action.

In September, the venue welcomes back Simon Godwin (Regeneration) to direct the regional premiere of Sam Holcroft’s hilarious comedy Rules for Living which follows what happens when an extended family gathers in the kitchen for a traditional Christmas and each of them rigidly follows their own ‘rules for living’. This darkly funny play is produced by Royal & Derngate in collaboration English Touring Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston, reuniting the producing team who recently won the 2016 UK Theatre Award for Best Touring Production for The Herbal Bed. 

Another major touring revival sees Lucy Bailey direct Love from a Stranger by Agatha Christie and Frank Vosper in a vivid new interpretation of Britain’s greatest crime writer’s work. This bold reimagination of an edge-of-your-seat thriller follows Bailey’s acclaimed work on last year’s Gaslight at Royal & Derngate and will tour the UK in 2018.

Following collaborations in recent years with Kneehigh, Peeoplykus, Spymonkey, Told by an Idiot and Frantic Assembly, in 2017 Royal & Derngate will champion the work of two emerging devising companies – The Wardrobe Ensemble and simple8 – with both ensembles making their mainstage debuts.

In October The Wardrobe Ensemble will premiere Education, Education, Education, charting the rise of New Labour through the lens of a secondary school staff room in 1997 and exploring the key policies and personalities that have shaped our recent political history. The company won critical acclaim and The Stage Award for their 2015 production of 1972: The Future Of Sex. They will be directed by Royal & Derngate’s RTYDS director Jesse Jones. 

simple8 is an award-winning ensemble company acclaimed for their ability to create richly imagined worlds out of nothing but a bare stage. They will premiere their vibrant new adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India as the 70h anniversary of Indian Independence is remembered. Reimagining the novel for contemporary Britain, the production poses a question that is even more urgent today than when it was first asked: how can we love one another in a world divided by culture and belief?

Furthering their commitment to making work for young audiences in their Underground Studio, Royal & Derngate collaborates with Little Angel Theatre on the world premiere of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ The Singing Mermaid, adapted by director Samantha Lane and composer Barb Jungr for under 7s and their families.

In addition, Royal & Derngate’s Young Company will also produce the world premiere of The Blue Road by Laura Lomas, continuing the venue’s commitment to inviting groundbreaking playwrights to work with young people.

Finally, Royal & Derngate will also shortly announce their world premiere production in the Royal for Christmas 2017.

Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive said: “We are pleased to be announcing another ambitious season of Made in Northampton productions, all of which are inspired by and aim to speak to Northampton. This season provides further opportunity for us to consider the purpose of this theatre in one of the UK’s fastest growing towns. Last month we revealed a five year vision that included our plans to take a radical approach to creative and cultural education by establishing a free school in Northampton; to support the development of contemporary music theatre and opera over the coming years; and to collaborate with a neighbouring town to develop a new boutique cinema, inspired by our hugely successful Errol Flynn Filmhouse. These announcements, coupled with our exciting artistic plans for 2017, further demonstrate the scale of ambition and commitment of all our team to ensuring that the theatres and our town continue to thrive”.

For more information about any of the Made in Northampton productions, visit Shows can be booked online or by calling Box Office on 01604 624811.

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