The Original Theatre Company (OTC), under the Artistic Direction of Alastair Whatley, announces its most ambitious season yet, with an original commission (Caroline’s Kitchen), a European premiere (Napoli, Brooklyn), a first revival (The Night Watch) and a 30thanniversary production and first revival (Valued Friends).
Caroline’s Kitchen, a dark, domestic comedy by Torben Betts, which was commissioned by OTC in 2018 under the title Monogamy and starring Janie Dee, has been reworked and, with a new cast led by Caroline Langrishe, Aden Gillett, James Sutton and Jasmyn Banks, began a 2019 national tour on 24 January at Derby Theatre, finishing on 13 April at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester. It has just been announced that it will have an off-Broadway season in New York, playing at 59E59 Theater as part of the 2019 Brits Off Broadway Season from 25 April to 25 May. Caroline’s Kitchenis directed by Alastair Whatley, with design by James Perkins and lighting by Chris Withers.
Napoli, Brooklyn by Meghan Kennedy was originally presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre, New York. OTC’s production will mark its European premiere. It is the story of an Italian-American family in 1959. As Meghan Kennedy explains, “Napoli, Brooklyn is loosely based on my mother’s adolescence. She grew up in a big, Italian Catholic, immigrant family. I grew up hearing stories about the plane crash that happened in her neighbourhoodin Brooklyn, and it stayed with me. The play came out of that and my own interest in how struggle in immigrant families is passed down from generation to generation, particularly among women. They had to fight very hard to find their voices and even harder to keep them intact. I want to honourthose voices and give them space.
“It’s a story of immigrants finding their identities and coming to a new understanding of what ‘home’ truly means. It’s a story of unlikely alliances forming in the face of pain and loneliness. And it’s a story of women taking risks that will come to define a generation. But the issues each member of that family faced still exist now. The dream of home remains elusive for so many. Which is why I’m so pleased that the play is travelling to the UK with The Original Theatre Company. I’m hoping that it’s possible to take the specifics of a very particular family’s struggle in a very particular time and place and explode them outward in a way that feels recognisableand universal. I hope when audiences discuss this play, aspects of its themes will resonate with their experiences—whether decades ago, or in confronting them now, week by week. I’m interested in how new generations fit into this always shifting sense of belonging, and I’m interested in what happens when less-heard voices take up uncomfortable space and do just that, belong.”
Casting to date includes Georgia May Foote as Vita, Hannah Bristow as Francesca, Mona Goodwin as Tina, Gloria Onitiri as Celia and Stephen Hogan as Albert. The production will be directed by Lisa Blair, designed by Frankie Bradshaw, with lighting by Johanna Town, sound by Max Pappenheim and casting by Ruth O’Dowd.
Dates already confirmed for the national tour are Malvern Theatres (1-4 May), Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (13-18 May), Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne (27-31 May), Oxford Playhouse (4-8 June) and the already on sale Park Theatre, London (13 June – 13 July).
The Night Watch, adapted by Hattie Naylor from the Sarah Waters novel, was first performed in 2016 at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. OTC will co-produce this first revival with York Theatre Royal and in association with Eastbourne Theatres. Damian Cruden, Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal, said, “After our successful collaboration on Alan Bennett’sThe Habit of Artlast year, we are thrilled to be working with Original Theatre once more. The Night Watchis a wonderfully nuanced piece and we very much look forward to presenting it at the Theatre Royal.”
It’s the late 1940s. Calm has returned to London and five people are recovering from the chaos of war. In scenes set in a quiet dating agency, a bombed out church and a prison cell, the stories of these five lives begin to intertwine, and we uncover the desire and regret that has bound them together. Sarah Waters’s story of illicit love and everyday heroism takes us from a dazed and shattered post-war Britain back into the heart of the Blitz, towards the secrets that are hidden there.
Directed by Alastair Whatley and designed by David Woodhead, the national tour will open at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne (21-31 August), then York Theatre Royal (3-7 September) and other confirmed dates are New Wolsey, Ipswich (30 September – 5 October) and Warwick Arts Centre (21-26 October).
Valued Friends by Stephen Jeffreys will be produced with Karl Sydow. It is a comedy of manners about home ownership and capitalism first staged at Hampstead Theatre, London in 1989. It won Jeffreys, who died last year, the Most Promising Playwright Award at both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards. This 30thanniversary production will be opening in London this autumn. Venue, casting and creative team to be announced in due course.
The play is set in the basement flat of a large late-Victorian house in Earl’s Court, London, between June 1984 and May 1987. The flat is home to four people: Sherry, a wacky girl trying to make it as a comedienne; Paul, a pop music journalist; Paul’s girlfriend Marion; and Howard, who is writing a left-wing analysis of the corruption of capitalism under the Thatcher government. They all are perfectly content living where they are until a developer offers them a huge sum of money to vacate. Soon, their talk about music and idealism gives way to heated discussions about real estate, capital appreciation and negotiating tactics. They decide that they can force the developer to raise his offer by renovating the house; and three years of this leave them with a huge capital gain, and a deep spiritual loss.
The Original Theatre Company staged its first show in a garden in rural Suffolk in 2005 and has since then gone on to become one of the UK’s leading touring theatre companies, combining bold revivals of classic plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as commissioning new work from some our most exciting writers, including Rachel Wagstaff and Torben Betts, and allowing regional audiences the first chance to see the premiere revivals of modern classics like The Habit of Artand Invincible.
OTC also spearheads a reading group which unites actors, writers and creatives to explore new writing in an open and relaxed atmosphere, working with RADA Enterprises to host monthly readings under the banner of the company’s Original Reads. Last year, they took a step further by creating a literary panel that invites, receives and crucially feeds back on every script submitted. It has already borne fruit and has led to two of those submissions being programmed.
Artistic Director and Founder, Alastair Whatley said, “In a time of turbulence and unease, now more than ever theatre and great stories are needed to bring people together, to celebrate life and art and the simple communion of a good story well told.”