February is an odd month, isn’t it? Everyone still seems stuck in the January blues, and it’s still a little too dark and cold outside. That said, it’s the perfect time for theatre as the Spring Season begins and a wealth of new shows appear for the launch of the 2020 season.
Something I aim to do in 2020 is see more original shows, be it reimagined adaptations or original pieces of theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good jukebox musical. Who doesn’t love hearing all the hits of your favourite artist or genres? I also love adaptations, from films and TV – again, there’s a comfort in familiarity and seeing what is possible from screen to stage. However, I want to try to support more new, innovative and challenging stories and shows this year.
I understand why many struggle to take the risk, as it’s not always easy to part with cash for something you’re not certain you’ll enjoy. But, in most cases, you could probably see three original shows in a small theatre for the price of one top priced ticket of a big touring show – and you never know what hidden gems you might find if you take that risk.
The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, is always one of a few places I turn to first to get inspired as they often offer a wide variety of unique shows. A Little Space (10-11 Mar) is a Gecko and Mind the Gap co-production which asks the question: what does it mean to you to have a little space? A little space could be where we can escape the world and be ourselves. But it can be an unpredictable space too. A place where whispers come to life and one kind gesture could change everything. Next up, The Mystery Of The Raddlesham Mumps (7 Apr) stars celebrated poet and broadcaster Murray Lachlan Young (Radio 4, Radio 2 & BBC6 Music poet in residence) in this thrilling new family performance. The show mixes compelling story-telling with a brilliant musical score by Arun Ghosh, oodles of theatricality and a touch of exquisite silliness.
Eastern Angles is another wonderfully innovative company, often giving us quirky stories, and this time they’re bringing The Ballad of Maria Marten (20-22 Feb) to the New Wolsey in a thrilling retelling of a reallife murder mystery. Following this, their big spring show this year is Red Skies. The story of which features two of Suffolk’s most famous residents: George Orwell, who took his name from the Ipswich river, and Arthur Ransome, who was a resident on it, and asks what would have happened if they had met? It will be touring the region between March-June so stay tuned for more updates.
Moving away from Ipswich, The Thelmas present Ladykiller (12 Mar) by Madeline Gould at The Harlow Playhouse. The description simply reads: “A hotel room, a maid and a dead woman. It’s not what it looks like, really, it’s not. It was self-defence… and anyway, the woman was asking for it.” – I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued. Over at the ADC Theatre in Cambridge, spanning a time period of over fifty years, Lovesong (3-7 Mar) tells the story of one couple, from two different points in their lives. We watch William and Margaret embark on a life together as young lovers in their twenties, while Billy and Maggie look back on their relationship as worldly companions in their seventies. Watch as lives collide and time dissolves in this hauntingly beautiful exploration of love, memory and loss.
I’ve noticed there’s a trend of somewhat dark stories here – maybe it’s the gloomy weather outside that makes us naturally drawn to them. But either way, there are heaps of eerie, humorous and fun stories to be unearthed so dare to look for something different this year.