Mixing drama, performance and stand-up comedy, Back in Play is designed to give audiences a playful, fun and joyous experience as they return to the theatre. The performances will take place in the Sherman’s Studio theatre which will be specially configured in a cabaret format to create a unique party atmosphere. Each performance in the festival will be of a bite size length so that audiences can experience as much or as little theatre as they wish – they can try just one performance or immerse themselves in multiple shows. Breaks between the shows will provide opportunities for festival-goers to enjoy a drink or light bite in the Sherman Café Bar and catch-up with friends.
Joe Murphy, Sherman Theatre’s Artistic Director has said “We are so excited to be finally opening up our beautiful building again. We wanted to maximise the experience of not only live performance, but also of gathering together again in a safe and secure way. The result is Back in Play: a festival of live performance and great nights out to welcome our audiences back. You’ll see Radical Reinventions of classic titles by a thrilling cohort of Welsh artists. You’ll see comedy nights, and community voices put centre stage. All the work is in short form, so you, the audience, can decide how you interact with the building. You can see one 30 minute piece and then head home. Or you can stay, have some food and drink, and then watch another. If you’ve enjoyed yourselves, come back for more! The festival format puts the power in the audiences’ hands! We’re so excited to be throwing our doors back open, offering new perspectives on old stories, and celebrating the power of live theatre again!”
Providing a stage for both emerging and established Welsh, and Wales based, writers is at the core of Sherman Theatre’s work. It is therefore fitting that as the theatre re-opens, the work of four distinctive voices in Welsh theatre will be at the heart of the festival. Radical Reinventions are four short new one person plays, each no longer than 30 minutes in duration, offering a fresh new take on much-loved classic plays and works of literature. Each writer was given free rein to select a play or book which they feel passionate about and wanted to create their own theatrical response to. The result is four irreverent and bold pieces of contemporary theatre. The four writers are Seiriol Davies, Rahim El Habachi, Lowri Jenkins and Hannah McPake.
The Messenger, written and performed by Sherman Associate Artist Seiriol Davies (How To Win Against History) sees a pivotal yet minor character from Romeo and Juliet finally tell their side of the story. What happens when the dependable things you take for granted rise up to bite you? Seiriol’s anarchic new mini musical wittily challenges the heteronormative focus of classic plays.
Playwright, actor and belly dancer Rahim El Habachi’s play The Love Thief is based on Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus. Rather than stealing fire from the gods as in the original story, Rahim’s modern day Prometheus steals love in this piece which looks at sexuality, race and the realities of life in Britain in 2021. Rahim will also perform The Love Thief.
In Hamlet is a F&£$boi, Tinder-fatigued Evie wants to give up on love (and men) for good when she makes a bold decision. She is going to find a romantic hero at the source: books. Lowri Jenkins (Winners, Nova Theatre) writes and performs this savagely funny and excoriating new play which challenges the norms and orthodoxies reinforced by great plays and in society more widely.
One of the greatest works of European literature, Don Quixote by Cervantes, is the inspiration for Tilting at Windmills by Hannah McPake (Rodney and the Shrieking Sisterhood, Sherman Theatre). Tilting at Windmills is a warm and affectionate play about realising what our limitations are, accepting failure and overcoming obstacles. The performer of Tilting at Windmills is to be announced.
All four Radical Reinventions will be performed in repertoire throughout the festival. Community performances are integral to Back in Play. Young Queens, a group of young Welsh Somali writers and performers, follow up their short films which Sherman Theatre released in February this year with special live performances. Four of Sherman Theatre’s Introduction to Playwriting participants, early career playwrights aged 15-18, will present their own Radical Reinventions. Alongside these performances, there will also be an expertly curated programme of performances by some of Britain’s brightest and best comedians.
A number of re-scheduled comedy shows are currently also being finalised for Autumn 2021. Performances currently being re-scheduled to Spring 2022 include Athletico Mince, Matt Forde, Horrible Histories and Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales.
Christmas at the Sherman is always a special time of year and in 2021 it will be more special than ever. Both of the productions originally scheduled for Christmas 2020 will take place this year. A Christmas Carol by Gary Owen and directed by Joe Murphy will be staged in the Main House for ages 7 plus and The Elves & The Shoemaker / Y Coblynnod a’r Crydd by Katherine Chandler will be performed in the Studio for ages 3-6. All performances throughout the autumn and Christmas seasons will take place in line with the latest Government advice.