Lowe brings Glamour to Nottingham Playhouse

Friday 9th January 2009

Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company begins 2009 in glamorous fashion with the world premiere of a new play by Stephen Lowe. Set in the 1960s, GLAMOUR is a revealing comedy of cinematic dreams, big-time gangsters and girls girls girls! The play transports us back to the heyday of the Moulin Rouge – not the Parisian nightspot, but a fondly remembered picture palace in Lowe’s native Nottingham – and is based on an astonishing untold chapter from the early career of the playwright who more recently gave the Playhouse a huge hit with his Brian Clough fantasy Old Big ’Ead in The Spirit of the Man. Celebrated theatre director Bill Alexander marshals a cast led by Shaun Prendergast as frenzied cinema owner Frank, Tanya Myers as his sensuous partner Connie and fast-rising local star Michael Socha as idealistic young filmmaker Jimmy. Sponsored by insurance experts Russell Scanlan, GLAMOUR comes to the Playhouse from Friday 6 to Saturday 21 February – with a star-studded 60th Anniversary Gala performance on Thursday 12 February, Box Office 0115 941 9419 or www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk.

The year is 1966 and Jimmy Potter is determined not to let to let the permissive society pass Nottingham by. Inspired by the liberated “Continental” movies of the era he embarks on his own artful Blue Movie, shot on an old wind-up camera and hand-tinted  in his bathtub. His girlfriend Beatrice agrees to appear – up to a point – and the owners of the Moulin Rouge cinema, Frank and Connie, arrange a screening from some big-shots from London. But their shady gangland past attracts two particularly infamous guests – and suddenly it’s not just Jimmy’s future that’s in question. Singer Gary and enigmatic Irishman Patrick also find themselves swept up in the panic, as Jimmy battles to save his skin-flick and Frank battles to save his own skin…

In a brilliant set by renowned designer Ruari Murchison, the action unspools in Frank’s office just behind the cinema screen and includes projected footage: actual period material as well as specially-shot new sequences and reconstructions. Music of the era also adds to a play that is sometimes racy, always pacy, and a revelation for audiences from Nottingham and beyond.
GLAMOUR is an inventive comedy firmly based on fact: Stephen Lowe really did direct his own Blue Movie and the screening at the Moulin Rouge was indeed attended by some very notable hoodlums. The writer of hit Brian Clough fantasy Old Big ’Ead in The Spirit of the Man, Stephen Lowe launched a successful career as a dramatist at Nottingham Playhouse in 1977, when the then Artistic Director Richard Eyre directed his award-winning play Touched, about a group of working-class women at the tail end of wartime. He has since created plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court, among many others, while his parallel screenwriting career includes Scarlet and Black starring Ewan McGregor and numerous episodes of Coronation Street.

Director Bill Alexander works on an international stage, with recent credits including The School of Night at the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles and directing the Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Zurich Ballet. He is particularly well known for his Shakespearian work for the RSC and others, including Corin Redgrave’s King Lear, which transferred to the West End in 2004, and for his stage version of The Snowman, which continues to return to London’s Peacock Theatre each Christmas.

Shaun Prendergast plays the bluff but increasingly frantic Frank. Among his many TV appearances, Shaun will be familiar to Emmerdale viewers from last year’s stint as Greg Doland in Emmerdale. He was a founder member of Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company and appears in Branagh’s films Henry V and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. An award-winning writer as well as an actor, Shaun has previously appeared at Nottingham Playhouse in As You Like It.

Tanya Byron is Frank’s partner Connie, a woman with a provocative past. Tanya’s most recent Playhouse appearance was in Tom’s Midnight Garden last summer. Stephen Lowe’s wife and frequent collaborator, she led his 2008 play Smile at Lakeside Arts Centre. Her film appearances include Control, Twenty Four Seven and A Room for Romeo Brass.

Fittingly, Michael Socha, who plays Jimmy, is himself a film star in the making. A graduate of Nottingham’s Television Workshop, he made his first screen appearance aged 16 in Shane Meadows’ This is England. Last year he had a key role alongside Robert Carlyle in the acclaimed film Summer, _ shot in nearby Bolsover, and will appear with him again in Samantha Morton’s directorial debut _The Unloved, recently filmed in Nottingham. Last year Michael also acted at the National Theatre and in Casualty.

Playing Jimmy’s girlfriend Beatrice, Melissa Simpson is a fellow Television Workshop graduate with a previous Playhouse credit in Double Indemnity. Her TV appearances include Doctors, Peak Practice and the Nottingham-set A Thing Called Love.

Would-be guitar hero Gary is played by Gary Turner, well remembered as Carlos Diaz in Emmerdale and Nathan Blake in Hollyoaks – Let Loose. Among his prolific theatre work, Gary toured the world as Ferdinand in Nottingham Playhouse’s 1995 production of The Tempest.

Making his Playhouse debut is James Scales as Patrick, the mysterious Irishman who may just hold the keys of deliverance. His television work includes everything from Spooks to Peter Kaye’s Britain’s Got the Pop Factor, and he also appears in last year’s blockbuster The Dark Knight.

GLAMOUR also marks the culmination of the Playhouse’s 60th anniversary season, with a glittering Celebrity Gala on Thursday 12 February to be attended by numerous stars of stage and screen. A play set in a Nottingham fleapit makes an appropriate commemoration for a theatre company which was itself launched in a former cinema, just a street or two away from the Moulin Rouge – although by 1966, the year in which GLAMOUR unfolds, Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company had moved into the gleaming new purpose-built home it occupies to this day. Sponsored by the University of Nottingham, the Gala will see the return of many luminaries from the Playhouse’s past, with confirmed guests to date including Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Zoë Wanamaker, Robert Lindsay, Sharon D Clarke and Sir Richard Eyre, as well as Sir Harry Djanogly, Nottingham’s award-winning chef Sat Bains and Olympic gold medallist Tim Brabants. Tickets are priced £60 with all proceeds going to the theatre’s Particip8 appeal, designed to extend its work throughout the communities of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

The Lighting Designer for GLAMOUR is Tim Mitchell, with Musical Direction by John Morton, Sound Design by Drew Baumohl and film sequences by Roger Knott-Fayle and Barret Hodgson. GLAMOUR contains partial nudity.