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The Royal & Derngate's Amanda Howson looks forward to the next offerings from the Made In Northampton season

Royal & Derngate today announces four further productions to complete its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season. A new production of Joe Penhall’s biting contemporary satire Blue/Orange is brought to the stage this autumn by the producing team behind Ralph Fiennes’ hugely successful Four Quartets which is soon to transfer to the West End. Giles Terera and Michael Balogun will collaborate with Artistic Director James Dacre with original music by Valgeir Sigurðsson of Bedroom Community. The venue then premieres The Wellspring, an autobiographic work from playwright Barney Norris and his father David Owen Norris, directed by Jude Christian. The venue’s previously announced production of An Improbable Musical will then premiere with a cast including Niall Ashdown, Ruth Bratt, Adam Courting, Josie Lawrence and Janet Etuk

This autumn also sees Royal & Derngate’s artist development programme Generate host a festival of new work and present 60 Miles by Road or Rail chronicling the recent history of Northampton Town. Meanwhile, the venue’s charity compilation album Incidental: Music for the Stage, will be released on 24 September on CD and all major streaming platforms. 

A Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Oxford Playhouse and Theatre Royal Bath Productions Co-Production, Blue/Orange will open at Theatre Royal Bath, from 29 October to 13 November, with a press night on Wednesday 3 November, before transferring to Oxford Playhouse, and then coming home to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate from Tuesday 23 November to Saturday 4 December. 

Twenty years after Joe Penhall’s (Mindhunter, The Road) ground-breaking Blue/Orange premiered, he collaborates with co-creators Giles Terera (winner of the 2018 Olivier Award for Hamilton), Michael Balogun (Death Of England, National Theatre) and Royal Derngate’s Artistic Director James Dacre (2020 Olivier Award Nominee Our Lady Of Kibeho) on a brand new production shining new light upon this incendiary interrogation of power and privilege in modern Britain. The play won the Olivier, Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard awards for Best New Play in 2001.

Giles Terera said: “I vividly remember how fired up and moved I was watching Joe Penhall’s extraordinary play when it premiered. I believe the play can speak to us just as much, if not more so now as it did then. Getting to explore its themes of identity, mental health, race and a power struggle at the heart of the NHS alongside Michael Balogun is something I’m very excited about.”

The creative team includes Francesca Murray-Fuentes as Associate Director, Simon Kenny as Designer, Tony Gayle as Sound Designer, Valgeir Sigurðsson as composer and Hazel Holder and Ellie Manners as Voice and Dialect Coach. 

This production will be accompanied by a far-reaching programme of film screenings, workshops and creative activities in healthcare and community settings. 

The Wellspring, written by Barney Norris and David Owen Norris and directed by Jude Christian (OthelloMacbeth, Lyric Hammersmith; Dick Whittington, National Theatre) can be seen at Royal & Derngate Northampton from Thursday 17 to Saturday 26 March 2022. This timely and intimate work in progress from award-winning playwright Barney Norris (The Remains of the Day) and his father, the internationally acclaimed pianist and broadcaster David Owen Norris, examines that age-old story of a boy and his dad, and how they can relate to one another, in every sense of the word.

A deeply humane autobiographical exploration of their relationship, The Wellspring takes us inside the complex and shifting dynamic between this father and son, exploring the people and stories that shape us. Their performances will be accompanied by exquisite music performed by David.

Over the last three years, with the support of Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence fund, Royal & Derngate has been leading a consortium including China Plate, Improbable, Mercury Musical Developments, Musical Theatre Network, Perfect Pitch and Scottish Opera, to develop original new musicals. Following on from the recent success of Gin Craze!, a brand new musical by April De Angelis and Lucy Rivers, which premiered at Royal & Derngate in July, legendary improvised theatre company Improbable return to their roots with An Improbable Musical which takes to the Royal stage in Northampton from Friday 25 February to Saturday 5 March.

Improbable are maestros of improvised theatre, who for three decades have created make-it-up-as-you-go-along shows that have captivated audiences across the world from off-Broadway to the National Theatre. It might be hilarious or heart-breaking, anarchic or eerily atmospheric but their first ever improvised musical aims to spin theatrical magic out of thin air. This is essential viewing for anyone who likes their theatre as live as it gets.

Directed by co-artistic director of Improbable Lee Simpson and designed by E Mallin Parry, An Improbable Musical is a Royal & Derngate Northampton and Improbable co-production. Alex Murdoch in the Associate Director, with lighting design by Colin Grenfell, sound design by Adrienne Quartly, and movement direction by Pauline Mayers.

Through its Generate artist development programme, Royal & Derngate continues to support and nurture talent as a vital part of its creative work, engaging with both emerging and established artists in many ways, including an online artists network, workshops, social events, festivals, advice surgeries, rehearsal space and funding application support. Following the success of Gen Fest online events over the last year, the Generate artist development programme will present a week-long festival this autumn, showcasing the work of Generate artists who have worked closely with the venue to create new work.

A project supported in its development by Royal & Derngate’s Generate scheme, 60 Miles by Road or Rail is being presented on the Royal stage from Wednesday 22 to Saturday 25 September. The production explores the development of Northampton as a New Town from the 1960s, and is accompanied by further arts, heritage and community events. It features Subika Anwar-Khan, Jo Blake, Helen Crevel, Davin Eadie, Dan McGarry and Bianca Mulligan, is written by Ryan Leder and directed by Andy Routledge  

As previously announced, Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music are releasing a contemporary classical and electronic music album, Incidental: Music for the Stage, on Friday 24 September. Raising funds to support the theatre as it recovers from the impact of the pandemic, the album features original compositions commissioned over the last decade by Royal & Derngate for Made in Northampton productions. 

Composers include Number 1 selling musicians White Lies, Guy Chambers and These New Puritans; Oscar and Grammy award winning film composers Rachel Portman and Anne Dudley; leading opera composer Orlando Gough, British Bhangra pioneer Kuljit Bhamra, ground-breaking classical and electronic composers Isobel Waller-Bridge and Valgeir Sigurðsson, pioneering rock musicians James Johnston and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and 2020 Ivor Novello Award winner Renell Shaw. The compositions are accompanied by narration and monologues from the plays and novels which inspired them, directed by Dacre and read by some of the world’s most celebrated stage actors, with accompanying sound design to give a sense of the original staged work. For more information or to order go to www.incidentalmusicforthestage.com

Royal & Derngate Northampton is the main venue for arts and entertainment in Northamptonshire and one of the major regional producing theatres in the country, with its acclaimed Made in Northampton work touring nationally and internationally. The Made in Northampton season is sponsored locally by Michael Jones Jeweller.
More information about forthcoming productions can be found on the theatre’s website, www.royalandderngate.co.uk. Tickets for Blue/Orange and The Wellspring go on-sale to priority bookers from Tuesday 14 September, with a general on-sale from Friday 17 September.

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