Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Two big hitters lined up for next MET Comedy

MET Comedy returns this weekend with another incredible line-up of stand-up aficionados!

First up it's the brilliant, Paul Tonkinson!

A sensational live performer, Yorkshire man, marathon runner and former (double award-winning)
Time Out Comedian of the Year, Paul Tonkinson has long upheld his esteemed reputation as one of the finest stand-ups the UK has to offer. With a unique and distinctive style, Tonkinson is noted for his effervescent physicality and skilful impressions, which bring alive exuberant, tender comic reflections on love, family and the day-to-day idiosyncrasies of 21st century living. A plethora of first class material, combined with tremendous charm and irrepressible, infectious energy make for quite a formidable talent.

On TV, he’s most recently performed on BBC One’s Michael Mcintyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Comedy Central’s The Comedy Store and The World Stands-up. He was recently a contestant on Ch. 4`s hit show Celebrity Come Dine With Me, proving he’s not just a dazzling stand-up talent, but a whizz in the kitchen, scooping first place to win the cash prize for charity. Back in the day, when he was a mere whippersnapper he had a stint presenting Ch. 4’s The Big Breakfast and he has also presented radio shows on XFM in London and Manchester. He has just completed a stint as a Programme Associate on BBC One’s Michael Mcintyre Chat Show.

Also on the bill we have Michael Fabbri!

Michael has been a stand up since 2003 and regularly performs at major comedy clubs throughout the UK and all over the world. He has worked as a writer for Radio and TV and recently had his own stand up series: 'Dyslexicon' on BBC radio 4. He has done several solo shows at the Edinburgh fringe festival and worked as a support act for Micky Flanagan, Lucy Porter, and Stephen K Amos.
He has an affable and electric style of comedy, with material that ranges from the cerebral to the smutty.

Michael regularly performs for all of the major clubs and promoters on the UK circuit, including: The Comedy Store, Jongleurs, Komedia, Glee Clubs, The Stand, Up The Creek, 99 Club, Funny Side of Covent Garden, Off The Kerb, CKP, Just The Tonic, GSOH and Mirth Control.  He also performs at many universities across the UK.

Michael supported Lucy Porter on her national Love In tour in 2008 and supported Micky Flanagan in 2011 at a selection of dates on The Out Out Tour. He also travelled to Amsterdam to take part in the Toomler Festival with Keith Farnan. Not only popular in the UK, Michael has also performed in Singapore, Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.

The final act will be announced later this week via the MET Studio Facebook page

MET Comedy will take place on Saturday 19th August in the MET Studio at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre at 8pm. Tickets are priced at £12.50 and available from the box office on 01785 619080 or via www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk 

Please note age guidance 18 years+

Friday, 4 August 2017

Gatehouse pays tribute to late Festival star Robert Hardy

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre Management is extremely saddened to hear of the death of celebrated actor Robert Hardy on Thursday 3rd August. The actor had a special connection with the theatre having performed in the first ever Stafford Festival Shakespeare production of Henry V at Stafford Castle in 1991.

Born in 1925, Robert Hardy’s acting career spanned an astonishing 59 years. After starting out treading the boards alongside the likes of Laurence Olivier in notable productions with – amongst others – the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hardy became a household name thanks to his performance as Siegfried Farnon in the 1970s TV drama, All Creatures Great and Small.

He went on to star in numerous other TV and film roles, including the lead in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years – for which he was nominated for a BAFTA – Professor Krempe in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein alongside Kenneth Branagh and Robert De Niro, and Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films.

However, it was his turn as Chorus in the very first Stafford Festival Shakespeare production, Henry
V, that Robert Hardy cemented his place in the hearts of locals. In terms of his presence on stage and off, Hardy was a true professional, as actor and local journalist Rick Lane acknowledges: 

I was really saddened to hear of Robert Hardy’s death. I had the great pleasure of first meeting him during the Stafford Festival Shakespeare production of Henry V in1991. He was playing Chorus and I was playing Nym, as one of the amateurs from Gnosall Players who were involved in the show. He seemed to appreciate my performance and having worked with him again in Macbeth at the Gatehouse, he went on to ask me to appear in Henry V once more, at Barnwell Castle in Northamptonshire, this time as Bardolph where I had my had shaved and was hung on stage ! This was my first professional acting job. I worked again with him in Henry VIII the following year, at Barnwell Castle, this time with the great man as director

He was one of the last of the old school gentleman actors and I owe him a great deal. He will be sadly missed” concluded Lane.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre Artistic Programme Manager and Stafford Festival Shakespeare Producer, Derrick Gask, says:

Of the many, many great actors to have graced the Stafford Festival Shakespeare stage, I can think of very few who are remembered as fondly as Robert Hardy. His performance as Chorus in our very first production of Henry V helped to raise the festival’s profile enormously and set it on the road to becoming one of the premier outdoor Shakespeare festivals in Europe.

On behalf of everyone at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre and Stafford Festival Shakespeare, I would like to pay tribute to a fine actor and a wonderful man. We owe Robert a huge debt of gratitude and he will be sorely missed.”

For more information about Stafford Festival Shakespeare visit www.staffordfestivalshakespeare.com

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Line-up Announced for Très Très Cabaret this month at the MET

Stafford's first, and only burlesque and variety show is back next week with another evening of saucy decadence!

Since its launch in 2013, Très Très Cabaret has gone from strength to strength – performing numerous sell-out shows in the MET Studio at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre.

The first billing announcement for the July show is the brilliant, MISS BETTY BLUE EYES!

Winner of the British Crown at the World Burlesque Games 2016, Miss Betty Blue Eyes is a burlesque performer who has been creating tales of the unexpected for audiences since 2009. She is a veritable cabaret chameleon with unique acts filled with curious characters, quirky storytelling and glamorous comedy. Betty has a guise for any occasion, so come along and see what form she'll take at Très Très Cabaret!

And yes, before you ask, her eyes are blue.

Returning to Très Très Cabaret is none other than vivacious vamp, the one and only, SCARLETT DAGGERS!

This Rock ‘n’ Roll redhead will get you hot under the collar with her sizzling stage presence and 1,000 watt smile.

From a Hot Rod greaser-girl to a B movie Cobra Queen – and even Robin Hood – Scarlett’s weird and wonderful guises means she certainly stands out from the crowd. Performing across the UK, and internationally, for over nine years, her unique acts place her in high demand and you can catch her in all her glory, only at Très Très Cabaret on July 28th!

Returning to the Très Très stage is none other than unicyclist and gentlemen juggler, ADRIANO FETTUCINI!

Regularly seen on international stages and well respected UK tours, he's hot footing it to Stafford to surprise and delight you
for one night only!

Making her Très Très Cabaret debut: it’s none other than the dynamic, sassy starlet, CECE SINCLAIR!

Inspired by the golden era, she blends vintage glamour of classic striptease with diverse influences creating truly magnetic, exciting burlesque.

Cece has been bumping and grinding her way across the UK and Europe, including performances at various festivals, such as Hebden Bridge and Vienna Boylesque festival. Cece was also voted one of the UK's top 10 burlesque performers in 2016.

All of this has been personally selected for your entertainment by resident producer, promoter and performer: STAGE DOOR JOHNNY!

A flirtatious, lyrical lothario and seasoned comic raconteur with razor-sharp wit, he'll have you grinning, giggling and eating from the palm of his hand - sometimes literally. He can be heard singing everything from Shirley Bassey to Guns ‘n’ Roses as well as ridiculous self-penned medleys to surprise and delight you!

So don’t miss out on a night that’s sure to set tongues wagging and pulses racing!

Early booking is advised as a sell-out is expected again.

The show is strictly for over 18s only.

Très Très Cabaret will be performed in The MET Studio at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Friday 28th July at 8pm. Tickets are £15.50 and can be booked by calling the box office on 01785 619080 or by visiting www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Fabulous five star reception for The Tempest at Stafford Castle

Following a storming opening weekend, Stafford Festival Shakespeare producers are celebrating the incredible critical reception of this year’s production of The Tempest at Stafford Castle.

Here’s what critics had to say:

★★★★★ “A triumphBirmingham Mail

★★★★★ “Outstanding, magical productionThe Stage

★★★★★ “It gives the RSC’s production a run for its money, that’s for sureBreak A Leg

★★★★“Stafford Shakespeare Festival has taken a centuries’ old production, given it a contemporary twist, and brought it to life for a whole new audienceStaffordshire Living

Spellbinding open-air spectacleStoke Sentinel

Something for everyoneStaffordshire Newsletter

Prenton’s insightful direction and Frances Collier’s delightfully atmospheric set ensure it takes audiences on a memorable journeyBritish Theatre Guide

The Tempest has also received a ‘Best Regional Stage Production’ nomination for the Break A Leg Awards 2017, with Stephen Beckett (Prospero), James Lawrence (Sebastian), Richard Gibson (Gonzalo), and Zephryn Taitte (Caliban) nominated for ‘Best Actor on Stage’, and Katrina Kleve (Francesca) and Grace Carter (Miranda) cited for ‘Best Actress on Stage’.

The Tempest will run until Saturday 8th July 2017 at Stafford Castle. Full ticket information and this year’s catering options can be obtained from the box office on 01785 619080 or by visiting www.staffordfestivalshakespeare.com

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Magicians Morgan & West chat to us about their involvement in Stafford Festival Shakespeare 2017

The opening of Stafford Festival Shakespeare is just over a week away and this year audiences can expect a true feast of magic and wonder for the production of The Tempest at Stafford Castle, thanks in no small part to the contribution of magicians and the production’s Illusion Consultants, Morgan & West.

Acknowledged as Shakespeare’s final solo play, The Tempest is widely celebrated as one of The Bard’s most enchanting works. It follows the story of Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, who becomes stranded on a largely uninhabited island where music, magic and supernatural creatures provide a strange education for him and his young daughter, Miranda.

To help accentuate the magical themes of the play, magicians Rhys Morgan and Robert West will be consulting on the tricks of their trade during rehearsals in order to support the wider vision of the Creative Team, led by Director Clare Prenton, for the production at Stafford Castle. 

During a break from rehearsals, the pair caught up with Stafford Gatehouse Theatre’s Marketing Office, Tom Waldron, to chat about their involvement in this year’s show:

TW – “How does it feel to be back in Stafford and working on this year’s Stafford Festival Shakespeare production of The Tempest?”

RW – “I’m very excited. We don’t often get chance to be part of proper theatre. We do quite a bit of horror consultancy because that’s quite special effects heavy. We used to work a lot with a company called, ‘Theatre of the Damned’ for a few years. It’s all gore and shock elements, rather than magical flourishes.”

RM – “It’s also nice to be somewhere we’re quite familiar with because we’ve performed here [in Stafford] a couple of times, so that’s very nice, as well.”

TW – “How familiar are you with Shakespeare’s plays and has it influenced your own work?”

RW – [LAUGHS] “We’re not that familiar with Shakespeare’s works, in all honesty. Obviously I’ve seen many productions of his plays.”

RM – “We used the ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’ in a kid’s show… we stand on it! [LAUGHS] So this is exciting for us to be proper Shakespeare people.

TW – “This year’s Stafford Festival Shakespeare production is set in the 1930s, did this have any bearing on your involvement as ‘Illusion Consultants’ given the Victorian/Edwardian theme of your own act?

RW – “We think of [our act] as a BBC costume drama version of Victoriana than the brutal, gritty reality of the Victorian period.”

RM – "I think it did have a bearing on our involvement, not so much our act, but more the magic because the 1920s and 30s was a time of a lot of magic in theatres – the end of Vaudeville and before TV.”

RW – “The 20s and 30s was also a time when magic publishing became popular. There are loads of texts, books and tricks that were invented during that time that you can still find.”

RM – “Yes, [magic] was starting to move away from being a very insular, secretive hobby to being one that lots of people had access to.”

RW – “And there were lots of old fashioned tricks [popular at that time] that nobody does anymore because it involved things like, having a cane or a pair of white gloves, that fit really nicely with this setting [for the play this year].”

RM – "In particular, there was a magician who originated from Swansea whose act was called Cardini, who travelled the world… and his act was that of a gentleman returning from a night at the theatre in the 20s and 30s, dressed in the aforementioned top hat and white gloves, and that is another interesting influence we will be drawing on for this production.”

TW – “Without revealing too much, what sort of magical goings on can we expect to see in this year’s show?”

RM – “It’s an interesting one because it’s a mix of conjuring and actual magic.”

RW – “Because the character of Prospero has genuine magical powers, including spirits and that kind of stuff, so it’s working with that element. But also, the character Prospero as ‘The Duke of Milan’, is meant to be a fan of “The Liberal Arts” (as it says in the text), and this production is casting him as a fan of magic, which a lot of rich blokes of the 20s and 30s were. So it gives us scope to do fun tricks as well as looking at the darker magic arts, so to speak!"

The Tempest will open on Thursday 22nd June and run until Saturday 8th July 2017 at Stafford Castle. Tickets start at £13.50 and can be purchased from the box office on 01785 619080 or by visiting the www.staffordfestivalshakespeare.com

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A week in the life on an actor at Stafford Festival Shakespeare

In the first of a series of blog entries on the goings on back-stage at Stafford Festival Shakespeare, Richard Gibson - renowned for his turn as Her Flick in the popular BBC Sitcom 'Alo 'Alo - discusses his impressions during week one of rehearsals ahead of playing Gonzalo in The Tempest this year at Stafford Castle...

Driving on a Sunday afternoon to a town you have never been to before, to spend an intensive few weeks with a whole tribe of people you have never met before, some of whom you may soon be required to kiss and declare undying love for, and others whom you may even be required to kill. All in the line of duty, of course, and all familiar territory in the life of an actor working in the theatre.

Last week, a collection of people arrived in Stafford to begin work on this year's production for the annual Stafford Festival Shakespeare, which with each year grows in scale and stature, and, as Europe's largest-scale outdoor Shakespeare Festival, is becoming a coveted booking for those lucky enough to be chosen.

But first, after navigating the ring roads and byways of a new town, to find one's digs, there is the unpacking and preparation for the next day's read-through.

On our arrival at the Gatehouse Theatre, a vast ring of chairs was set out on the stage, ready to seat contributors from every area of the production - from front-of-house, to management, technical staff, publicity people, safety officers and, of course, the actors. None but the most shameless and courageous – or, possibly, sickeningly well-prepared - enjoys showing what they are made of in front of complete strangers, even in the most lightly written murder mystery, but to launch in to the finely crafted language of the Bard, is to become the bared. Daunting indeed.

This season, following the introductions, safety briefings and warnings about cast members eating their own food in the theatre café, we are treated to a preamble by our director, Claire Prenton, whose vision of the play takes us to the east coast of Africa, aboard – but not for long – a luxury Italian cruise ship in the 1930s.

Shakespeare's plays contain resonances for the whole world, and at different times in history, may have particular resonances for the people watching them, and there is therefore an almost infinite range of possibilities for how they can be presented. Strict adherents to the idea that Shakespeare's plays lose some authenticity when set outside the period overlook the fact that the writer's respect for  details of geography could be described as fluid, and his concern for historical detail as relaxed. In fact, in his time, plays with a historical setting were played in the modern dress of the time, so it seems unlikely that he would have felt that liberties were being taken when exploring resonances in different times and places.

It would be more than my life is worth to give any detail about Production Designer Frances Collier's set and the designs at this stage, but all will soon be revealed, and I can offer a firm promise that they are nothing short of spectacular, and that audiences will not have seen anything quite like them for sheer scale and imagination.

Having heard about the period, it was some relief to me to think that there would be no beards in this one. Quite wrong. As it turns out, among the Italian gentry of the 1930s, facial hair was very much a feature, and instructions were issued that shaving, among the men especially, would cease forthwith. So after presenting themselves on day one as fresh-faced, wholesome professionals, by Wednesday the men of the cast were beginning to take on the appearance of having slept under a hedge – and of course, there may have been some who had done just that. By Friday, many of them blend in nicely in a homelessness shelter. Who knows what week two of rehearsals has in store...

The Tempest will open on Thursday 22nd June and run until Saturday 8th July 2017 at Stafford Castle. Tickets start from £13.50. Full information, including this year’s catering options, can be obtained from the box office on 01785 619080 or by visiting www.staffordfestivalshakespeare.com

Friday, 28 April 2017

Win tickets to the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival on behalf of Stafford Festival Shakespeare

Producers of Stafford Festival Shakespeare have teamed up with the Emma Bridgewater Factory in support of Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival (8-10 June) to celebrate all things Shakespeare!

A true celebration of outstanding writing and brilliant books; the UK’s only “festival in a factory” the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival takes place every June in the creative surroundings of the Emma Bridgewater Factory - a Victorian pot bank that has manufactured Emma’s iconic handmade and hand decorated pottery for more than twenty years. Now in its fourth year, the Festival is an established highlight of this creative city’s lively cultural scene and for three days in June author talks, panel discussions, hands-on workshops and live performances take place all around the canal-side factory in surprising spaces from the old pottery warehouse to the cobbled courtyard.

On the bill this year, renowned Shakespeare scholar Sir Jonathan Bate (above, right) will be giving a special talk,
'The Bard and his Afterlife – from the Romantics to Ted Hughes', on Friday 9th June at 4pm, and you could win 1 of 3 pairs of tickets to the Festival!

To be in with a chance of winning this fantastic prize, we want to know what your favourite Shakespeare play is and why. Using no more than 50 words, simply post your answer in the 'Comment' section of this post. The closing date for entries is 10am on Monday 29th May.

Full terms and conditions apply - for more information contact gatehouse@staffordbc.gov.uk

Good luck!