The Off West End Podcast

At the end of 2019 Off West End launched a new podcast. Hosted by Tom Brocklehurst guests join him to discuss the latest in London’s fringe theatre scene.

I appeared on episode three talking about Happily Ever Poofter and Frida Kahlo Viva La Vida, along with Tom and Steve Sargeant. I also spoke about Chaplin Birth of a Tramp and The Incident Room, which open in February.

You can hear the podcast here and listen to previous episodes

Artsadmin launch Artists' Bursary Scheme 2020

Artsadmin’s Artists’ Bursary Scheme has been running since 1998 and has supported over 200 artists working in contemporary performance practices.

The next round of the Artists’ Bursary Scheme is made possible with support from Arts Council England, Live Art UK Diverse Actions programme and generous individual donations to Artsadmin.

his year, the Bursary scheme will offer a maximum of six bursaries to UK-based artists at any stage in their career working in live art, contemporary performance and interdisciplinary practice. At least three of these Bursaries will be awarded to Artists of Colour as part of Live Art UK’s Diverse Actions programme

Facilitated by Artsadmin’s artist support team, the Bursary offer includes: 

  • Cash award of £4,000
  • Regular meetings with the Artsadmin team between April 2020 – March 2021  to discuss and develop artistic and professional interests
  • £300 mentoring budget to work with another artist, a critical thinker or dramaturg
  • £200 budget to go and see work, which can cover travel, visas or ticket costs
  • £200 budget for well-being, to be spent at the discretion of the artist
  • A week-long studio residency at Toynbee Studios
  • An invitation to present work in a Bursary Showcase at Toynbee Studios, with budget for access, technical, documentation and marketing
  • support
  • A fund for travel to attend meetings at Toynbee Studios if based outside London
  • A hotdesking scheme for Bursary Artists in the Artsadmin office at Toynbee Studios for the duration of the Bursary
  • Advocacy and marketing support in the form of profile on Artsadmin’s website, social media and print and advice on strategic outreach
  • Support for access requirements

For more details and how to apply please see the scheme’s website The deadline is Monday 3 February at 10am.

London Venue Announced for Björn Ulvaeus’s MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY

MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY, an immersive theatrical and dining experience launched in Stockholm, will take up residency in a specially-adapted venue within London’s The O2. The London production of MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY is set to open late Spring 2019, with tickets going on sale this Autumn.

When Björn Ulvaeus watched people at the musical MAMMA MIA! having such a good time, getting into party mood by the end of the show, he thought to himself, “What if this could continue somewhere else?” The obvious place would be in a taverna on the island of Skopelos, where most exteriors of the first MAMMA MIA! film were shot.  This imagined and wonderfully exotic Greek taverna – and its equally exotic landlord Nikos, his family and friends – became the home of MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY, which first opened in Stockholm in January 2016 where it is now in its third sold-out year.

Led by Steve Tompkins of architects Haworth Tompkins, work has begun on transforming one of the venues within The O2 into Nikos’ Taverna, and guests will feel as if they’re right in the heart of a Greek island paradise, sitting around tables in the taverna’s courtyard complete with a fountain, amongst olive trees and bougainvillea.  While the story of Nikos and his family plays out in front of them, an audience of around 500 people will be able to eat great Mediterranean food, drink, and even have the opportunity to dance along to ABBA songs.

Björn Ulvaeus said of MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY’s future London home, “We have long admired The O2 and the huge entertainment success it has become under the ownership and management of AEG. We believe bringing MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY to The O2 will add to this already vibrant cultural destination and provide the perfect location for our exciting new show.”

John Langford, Vice President and General Manager of The O2, said, “To be hosting the MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY experience at The O2 is a real honour.  It perfectly complements the outstanding live performances, events and the dynamic variety of entertainment all available under our world-famous roof.”

To keep up to date with MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY, please visit To register for priority access to tickets for London, visit


Award-winning Darwin drama to be staged at the Natural History Museum

Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society will be creating a 357-seat theatre in the Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum. This will be the first time a traditional performance theatre has been constructed in the museum – one of the world’s most iconic buildings which attracts over 4.5 million visitors every year. This exciting new theatre will host the European premiere of The Wider Earth which follows sold-out seasons in Brisbane and Sydney – the show will be playing from Tuesday 2nd October to Sunday 30th December 2018.

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Featuring 30 extraordinary hand-made puppets, this ingenious coming-of-age production explores the little-known story of the rebellious young Charles Darwin when, aged only 22, he set out on his daring five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle. The Natural History Museum is the perfect home for this thrilling production as it is custodian to many of the specimens Charles Darwin collected on his expeditions and its 350 scientists continue in his footsteps of exploration and discovery.


The Museum’s scientists, led by paleobiologist Professor Adrian Lister, author of Darwin’s Fossils, are working closely with the creative producers of the show to ensure it is rooted in authenticity.

The Natural History Museum’s Director of Engagement Clare Matterson says,

This is a really exciting creative collaboration – bringing together a hugely talented theatrical team and the Natural History Museum’s world-renowned scientific expertise. It makes perfect sense for the Museum to host this production which is a gripping retelling of one of the most important voyages in scientific history. During this expedition, Charles Darwin collected the specimens that would inspire his theory of evolution and change how we understand the world – specimens we still house at the Museum and continue to make available for global scientific research


The production is a tale of exploration and adventure and a thrilling new addition to our autumn offering to visitors. The team bring to life not only Darwin as a young explorer but also through intricate puppetry 30 of the fascinating creatures he met from an Amazonian iguana to an Arctic tern.


Nicholas Paine and David Morton of Dead Puppet Society comment,

Puppets and visual theatre go hand in hand. In a form devoted to using the theatrical elements in such a way that visuals are given the same importance as text, there often comes a time where non-human performers are necessary. We use puppets to expand the possibilities of what can be presented on stage.  During our time in South Africa we were struck by how young Darwin was throughout his time on the Beagle. This man in his early twenties seemed to sit at such odds with the image of the elderly gent with a long grey beard, and we decided we wanted to tell this young man’s story.

Tickets are available to be booked now at, Natural History Museum Members will receive a 10 per cent discount on tickets.

Twitter                            @thewiderearth, @NHM_London, #TheWiderEarth

Balancing Acts by Nicholas Hytner Named Winner Of The 2018 Theatre Book Prize

Actor and playwright, Rory Kinnear (National Theatre, RSC, James Bond franchise) presented Sir Nicholas Hytner with the award. Speaking at the ceremony, Sir Nicholas Hytner said “As well as an opportunity to get off my chest and on to paper all of the stories that I have built up over the years, writing this book has also been a learning experience that has enabled me to think about exactly what I have learnt and who I have learnt it from…thank you so much for reading the book and thank you for this incredibly flattering prize.”

Winners of the award are presented with a cheque from the Society for Theatre research for a total of £1000.

This year’s judges were Paul Miller, Artistic Director of the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Sam Marlowe, highly regarded theatre critic, and Professor Jeffery Richards chaired by Howard Loxton representing the Society for Theatre Research.

Paul Miller said of the award-winning entry, “This is a notably candid book from such a famously private person. It opens with a bravura account, flirting with gossip but keeping this side of naming names, of one typical day in the life of the Director of the National Theatre.

“His book makes a fantastic case, at once sophisticated and robust, for a theatre with a generous popular gesture at its heart: a gloriously fitting coda to 12 years the National Theatre where he showed us how that’s done.”

Chosen from an entry of 60 titles submitted by publishers, the 2018 shortlist also featured Black British Drama – A Transnational Story by Michael Pearce (Routledge), Child Actors on the London Stage, c 1600 by Julie Ackroyd(Sussex Academic Press), Costume in Performance by Donatella Barbieri (Bloomsbury) London Theatres by Michael Coveney and Peter Dazeley (Frances Lincoln), and Shakespeare on Stage: Vol 2 – Twelve Leading Actors on Twelve Key Roles by Julian Curry (Nick Hern Books).


The Theatre Book Prize was established to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Society for Theatre Research (which was founded in 1948) and to encourage the writing and publication of books on all aspects of theatre history and practice, both those that present the theatre of the past and those that record contemporary theatre for the future.  First awarded for books published in 1997, it is presented annually for a new book on British or British related theatre which an independent panel of judges considers to be the best published during the year. Play texts and studies of drama as literature are not eligible. The judges are drawn from theatre professionals, theatre critics, theatre academics and archivists, with a chairperson from the committee of the Society for Theatre Research.

Now celebrating its 70th year the Society for Theatre Research was formed at a public meeting in the bomb-damaged Old Vic on 15 June 1948 to advance research into British-related theatre. It runs lectures and conferences, publishes books and a journal, offers funding and prizes, promotes excellent scholarship and supports the continuing development of practice. It has been involved in successful campaigning across the theatrical spectrum from the establishment of the Theatre Museum to the abolition of stage censorship and the creation of the Theatres Trust.

Balancing Acts, Behind the Scenes at the National Theatre can be purchased via our affiliate link or any other good book shops

Matilda The Musical Will Move to Earlier Weekday Start Time From September 2018

Matilda The Musical has now been seen by 8 million people worldwide, having toured to 64 cities and played more than 5800 performances in the West End, on Broadway and on tour across North America, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Matilda The Musical will have its first non-English language production at the LG Arts Centre in Seoul, South Korea from September 2018.

Winner of over 85 international awards, including 16 for Best Musical, Matilda The Musical UK and Ireland Tour is running alongside the ongoing West End production which is now playing its seventh year in London. The tour began performances in March at Leicester Curve and is currently playing at Sunderland Empire Theatre until 2 June. The show will also play Milton Keynes Theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome, Manchester, Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, Edinburgh Playhouse, The Bristol Hippodrome, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton and Norwich Theatre Royal.

Inspired by the incomparable Roald Dahl’s beloved book, Matilda The Musical was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and premiered at the RSC’s Stratford-upon-Avon home in November 2010, before transferring to London’s West End in October 2011, where it opened to rave reviews. The New York production of Matilda The Musical opened in April 2013 at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre and was celebrated on 10 “Top Ten” lists for 2013, including TIME Magazine’s #1 Show of the Year.

After a review of new audience research carried out on behalf of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical from 12 September all evening weekday performances of the award-winning musical will begin at 7pm (Tuesday-Friday).

The survey found that the majority of London theatre-bookers surveyed gave several reasons for a preferred earlier start time for a night at the theatre, including:

  • There would be more time to socialise after the show rather than rush home, allowing theatregoers to make the most of London’s vibrant bar and restaurant scene.
  • For those who commute to London, it can be stressful to see a West End show if they are worried about missing their last train home.
  • Parents said it would be easier to arrange a night out without their children if they could get home earlier and not worry about keeping a babysitter waiting up too late.

The run time is 2 hrs 40 minutes, which means audiences will now be able to leave the theatre before 10pm.

If successful it could see a trend to earlier start times, usually saved for 3 hours + productions.

AIDS drama Beirut revived at the Park Theatre

The UK revival of Beirut by American playwright and author Alan Bowne is set to be performed at Park Theatre from 12th June to 7th July 2018. Written in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis (which the playwright died of at 44 years old), Beirut is a cutting examination of a society ravaged by a nameless disease. Although written at a particular moment in history, the play transcends the issues of its time, and at its heart is a dark love story, questioning how society deals with the ‘abnormal’ in a society gone mad with fear and ignorance. The issues explored are particularly relevant to 2018, when viruses such as Sars and Zika are prominent, and with an increasing and inevitable resistance to antibiotics.

Torch has been quarantined in a dark, squalid room on the Lower East Side of New York City, which the locals refer to as “Beirut” after testing positive for a nameless disease. Torch passes the time alone, forbidden from contact with the outside world.

His girlfriend, Blue, makes the dangerous journey across the quarantine line to be with him. Torch tries to keep her at arm’s length and they argue lovingly, jokingly, fearfully, bravely, and desperately about sex and death. All the while, Torch pleads with Blue to leave before his resistance fails….


The role of Blue will be played by Louisa Connolly-Burnham. Louisa had an early break as a series regular in the BAFTA-winning hit TV series Wolfblood (CBBC). She has since gone on to have an accomplished career in Film & TV including: Call The Midwife (BBC), Death in Paradise (BBC), Midsomer Murders (ITV), Outnumbered (BBC), Little Crackers (Sky1) and many more. She recently had her professional stage debut in the regional premiere of TRIBES at The Crucible Theatre following its success at the Royal Court. Her film credits include playing the role of Thaleia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Parkhouse Pictures) and Sarah in The Marine: Close Quarters (Sony Pictures), set to be released later this year.


The role of Torch will be played by Robert Rees. Robert originated the part of Andreas on the UK tour of Ladies in Lavender opposite Hayley Mills and Belinda Lang, directed by Robin Lefevre. It was his performance in this play that earned Robert a Broadway World UK Award for ‘Best Featured Actor in a Play’. Other stage credits include: The Mousetrap (St Martin’s Theatre); Macbeth (UK & Middle East Tour); Robin Hood (Watford Palace); The Governess (UK Tour); Fugitive Kind (Donmar Warehouse); All The Fun Of The Fair (Garrick Theatre); State Fair (Trafalgar Studios); Hobson’s Choice (Broadway Theatre); The Full Monty (Charing Cross Theatre); Shakespeare Sonnet Walk directed by Mark Rylance (Globe Theatre) and Perchance to Dream (Finborough Theatre).

Beirut is directed by Robin Lefevre. Robin is an award winning British theatre director who has worked extensively in the West End and on Broadway. His directing credits include Brian Friel’s The Aristocrats for which he won the New York Drama Desk Award for Best Director, and Frank McGuinness’s Tony- nominated Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Best Foreign Play, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award), as well as George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House for the Roundabout Theatre Company. He won an Evening Standard Award for Are You Lonesome Tonight (Phoenix Theatre). ).

Prices: Previews £14.50, Standard £18, Concessions £16.50, Child (Under 16) £13, Young Patrons (12 -19 June) £10, Groups – buy 10 tickets, get the 11th free.
Booking: / 020 7870 6876

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman return with new play Trial by Laughter

The follow up to The Wipers Times in the West End and across the country, Trial by Laughter is based on their critically acclaimed original BBC Radio 4 drama of the same nameIan Hislop and Nick Newman have once again taken inspiration from real life events for their new play. The production will be developed with The Watermill Theatre before playing at the venue for six weeks from 17th September – 27th October 2018. Following this, it will be heading on a UK tour visiting Guildford, Ipswich, Cheltenham and Brighton, with further venues to be announced.

In 1817 bookseller, publisher and satirist William Hone stood trial for parodying religion, the despotic government and the libidinous monarchy. The only crime he had committed was to be funny. In 2018, the satirists Ian Hislop and Nick Newman rediscover this forgotten hero of free speech, and ask if just over two hundred years later our press has any greater freedom.

Satirist, writer and journalist Ian Hislop has been the editor of Private Eye since 1986. He has frequently appeared on Question Time (BBC One), and since 1990 has been team captain on BBC’s Have I Got News For You. At Private Eye he works alongside life-long friend Nick Newman, an award-winning cartoonist and writer, who alongside his role at Private Eye, has been pocket cartoonist for The Sunday Times since 1989. As a scriptwriting duo, Ian and Nick’s work includes five years on Spitting Image (ITV), Harry Enfield and Chums (BBC Two), and My Dad’s The Prime Minister (BBC One), as well as the film A Bunch of Amateurs and The Wipers Times, which won the Broadcast Press Guild Award for single drama, and was nominated for a BAFTATrial By Laughter is Ian and Nick’s third play to be developed with The Watermill Theatre, with an adaptation of A Bunch of Amateurs and The Wipers Times playing there in the last few years.

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman said:

“In an age of ‘fake news’ and increased censorship, free speech and press freedom are still under threat as they were 200 years ago when William Hone took on the might of Royalty and a bullying Tory government. Hone dared to ask ‘Is laughter treason?’ – raising issues which are as relevant now as they were then. It’s a tale of lawyers, lechers and libel – with added sedition and blasphemy. It is immensely exciting to bring this world to life on stage, with this funny, inspiring and true story of a satirical David versus Goliath.”


Trial By Laughter is a Trademark Touring and Watermill Theatre production and is directed by Caroline Leslie.

Monday 17th September – Saturday 27th October                                      

Watermill Theatre, Newbury

Monday 29th October – Saturday 3rd November                                        

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Monday 5th November – Saturday 10th November                                   

 The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Monday 12th November – Saturday 17th November                                  

Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Monday 19th November – Saturday 24th November                   

 Theatre Royal,Brighton

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre to Launch in York

This year’s hottest Shakespearian ticket may not be found in Southwark or Stratford but in York. The battle of the great Elizabethan theatres is back, with a “pop-up” Rose Theatre (the first of its kind in Europe) being launched in York for ten weeks from June 25th.
The theatre will show productions of A Midsomer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet. Directed by Lindsay Posner, Damian Cruden and Juliet Forster, two companies of actors will perform in repertory during the ten-week period.
This choice of the most popular comedy, tragedy, history and love story (all played out in the shadow of York’s iconic Clifford’s Tower) and the prices starting at just £12.50 to be a groundling all make for a very accessible experience.
There will also be a “Shakespeare’s Village” experience in the grounds outside the theatre. This will house food coordinated by Ready, Steady, Cook’s Brian Turner, a fully licensed bar, a garden designed by leading garden designer Sally Tierney and wagons providing entertainment. Turning up early to get into the spirit will be an essential part of the experience.
The only downside could be the weather. The theatre is built to be open to the elements and patrons – especially groundlings – will have to take their chances. Just as they did in Shakespeare’s day.

The Rose Theatre will run from 25th June to 3rd September at Tower Street, York YO1 9SA. For more details go to