Rehearsals began on Monday for Wonderland, our first main-stage production of 2018 and Adam Penford’s first show as Nottingham Playhouse Artistic Director. This 10-strong, all-male cast includes a number of local actors. Chris Ashby, who previously played the lead in the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was cast through the Playhouse open auditions, and Joshua Glenister was previously a member of Nottingham Playhouse Youth Theatre.
Photo: Director Adam Penford (front row, centre) and writer Beth Steel with the cast of Wonderland on the first day of rehearsals.
Set in 1983 Nottinghamshire, Wonderland sees two 16-year-olds, Malcolm (played by Chris Ashby) and Jimmy (played by Joshua Glenister) wait nervously at the pithead. Guided by veteran miner Colonel (played by Deka Walmsley, who starred in Billy Elliot in the West End), they descend into the brotherhood, banter, searing heat and liquid blue light of Welbeck Colliery.
Meanwhile in London, an American CEO Ian MacGregor is brought in to reform King Coal. Robin Bowerman, who most recently appeared at the Playhouse in Noises Off, The Ashes. and Of Mice and Men, will play MacGregor.
Taking the stage as The Times reporter David Hart will be Jamie Beamish (Derry Girls, London Irish, The Borgias ) while Nicholas Khan – well-known to the Playhouse for his role in The Kite Runner – will play pit manager Tilsley . Pitmen Bobbo and Fanny will be played by Tony Bell (The Damned United and Don Quixote at West Yorkshire Playhouse) and Jack Quarton (Great Expectations and Alice in Wonderland at Derby Theatre) respectively.
Previously confirmed to play Spud – a charismatic pitman at Welbeck Colliery – is Harry Hepple, best known for his performance as lead character Leo in BBC 2’s Boy Meets Girl. Completing the cast is another TV regular, Matthew Cottle – best known for playing Martin in BBC’s Game On and more recently, Prince Edward in Channel 4’s The Windsors – who will be playing real-life politician Peter Walker.
Adam Penford said: “I’m really excited to be announcing the full cast of my first production as Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse and thrilled that the cast includes so many local actors, including those we met during our open auditions for local talent in October. Nurturing home grown talent is really important to the Playhouse.
“Wonderland is really fitting for my return to the city. It’s set in Nottingham and by a local playwright, Beth Steel, whose dad worked at Welbeck Colliery. The play was really well received when it was first produced in London and I’m delighted to be bringing it home for its regional premiere.
“Wonderland is really special. It’s incredibly funny and moving, with great characters, and looks at the strike in a fresh way. The set design is hugely ambitious and there are movement sequences and live music; it’s going to be a visual treat!”