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Drinkers, thinkers and divas ripping it up for your entertainment

A bit of stardust, a bit of glitter and a lot of gin – it’s difficult to argue that there won’t be something worth watching out of a recipe like that.

This is the current flavour of entertainment on offer from Northampton’s Royal & Derngate as they present Gin Craze, Educating Rita and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Gin Craze

Gin Craze is running currently. It is a bawdy but thoughtful romp through the lives of two gin swigging women in Hogarthian England.

The Royal press release explains:

Two lovers, each with hidden secrets, struggle to prosper as gin hawkers. At a time in the 18th century when the average Briton drank 1.5 litres of gin every day, women were being locked up in cells to sober up and disorder was breaking out on every street corner, panic spreads among the upper classes who look to the magistrates, the Church and even their tipsy Queen to restore sobriety.

The production has been developed as part of a three-year project which has seen Royal & Derngate lead a national consortium of partners to support 150 artists in nurturing the creation of new musical theatre.

Book and lyrics are by April de Angelis (My Brilliant Friend, National Theatre; The Village, Theatre Royal Stratford East) and music and lyrics are by Lucy Rivers (The Bloody Ballad, Gagglebabble; Father Christmas, Lyric Hammersmith).

Gin Craze! is directed by Michael Oakley (Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe; The Life and Times of Fanny Hill, Bristol Old Vic) and the designer is Hayley Grindle (Iphigenia in Splott, Sherman Cymru and National Theatre), with Tamara Saringer (The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse) as Music Supervisor and Arranger and Paul Isles (Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe) as choreographer. Lighting design is by Jack Knowles (Barber Shop Chronicles, National Theatre) and sound design is by Tony Gayle (Lazarus, Kings Cross Theatre). The production is produced by Royal & Derngate’s Musical Theatre producer Tess Dowdeswell.

The ensemble cast includes Debbie Chazen (The Girls, West End), Rosalind Ford (Once, UK Tour), Aruhan Galieva (King John, Royal & Derngate and Shakespeare’s Globe), Paula James (The Snow Queen, Park Theatre), Alex Mugnaioni (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Rose Theatre Kingston and West End), Peter Pearson (Welcome to the UK, The Bunker), Paksie Vernon (The Watsons, Chichester Festival Theatre/Menier Chocolate Factory) and Rachel Winters (A Christmas Carol, Royal Shakespeare Company).Gin Craze! can be seen at Royal & Derngate from Saturday 17 to Saturday 31 July. Tickets priced from £13.50.

Educating Rita

Educating Rita starts from Monday and features the familiar face of Stephen Tompkinson in the cast.

The press notice is as follows:

Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson star in Willy Russell’s classic comedy Educating Rita when it comes to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate from Monday 26 to Saturday 31 July.

Educating Rita tells the story of married hairdresser Rita, who enrols on an Open University course to expand her horizons, and her encounters with university tutor Frank. Frank is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, who is less than enthusiastic about teaching Rita. However, Frank soon finds that his passion for literature is reignited by Rita, whose technical ability for the subject is limited by her lack of education, but whose enthusiasm Frank finds refreshing. The two soon realise how much they have to learn from each other.

This hilarious and heart-warming comedy won the Olivier Award when it was produced in London’s West End by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and was adapted into the multi-award-winning film starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine.

Educating Rita by Willy Russell 2020 Director Max Roberts Designer Patrick Connellan Lighting Designer Drummond Orr Stephen Tompkinson as Frank Jessica Johnson as Rita ©Nobby Clark nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

Willy Russell’s other writing credits include the Olivier Award-winning musical Blood Brothers, and the hugely successful play Shirley Valentine, which won the Olivier Awards for Best New Comedy and Best New Actress, and a  Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. The play was adapted for film and nominated for a host of BAFTA and Academy Awards.

Producer David Pugh said: “Rita is the most extraordinary character – she wanted to change and learn so much and that’s everything we’re all going through at the moment, to adapt to the world as it is now.  What we know is that Educating Rita gives you a great night out at the theatre and that’s the best any of us can hope for.”

Stephen Tompkinson’s television credits include five series of DCI Banks, four series of Trollied, seven series of Wild at Heart, six series of Drop the Dead Donkey and three series of Ballykissangel, and his films include Brassed Off.  Educating Rita can be seen on the Derngate stage from Monday 26 to Saturday 31 July at 7.30pm with matinees at 2.30pm on Thursday and Saturday. Tickets – priced from £15.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Finally Priscilla Queen of the Desert arrives in August.

Royal & Derngate released this statement:

The iconic musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert comes back to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate from Monday 2 to Saturday 7 August 2021.

Based on the Oscar-winning film, Priscilla is the hilarious adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus bound for Alice Springs to put on the show of a lifetime. Their epic journey is a heart-warming story of self-discovery, sassiness and acceptance. 

With more glitter than ever before, the show featuries a dazzling array of stunning costumes, fabulous feathers and a non-stop parade of dance-floor classics including It’s Raining Men, I Will Survive, I Love The NightlifeFinally and many more. 

Olivier winner Miles Western will take on the roleof Bernadette, Nick Hayes will play Adam/Felicia and Edwin Ray will play Tick/Mitzi.

The show marks Jason Donovan’s first time as a producer, having performed in the cast of the original West End production and two subsequent UK tours. The producing team is completed by Gavin Kalin and Matthew Gale, with direction by Ian Talbot. The brand new production comes from the team behind the critically acclaimed UK tours of Hairspray.Priscilla Queen of the Desert takes to the Derngate stage from Monday 2 to Saturday 7 August at 7.30pm, with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets – priced from £26* – can be booked by calling Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at www.royalandderngate.co.uk.

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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