Watch Now: Transport Group’s musical BROADBEND, ARKANSAS

From America, Transport Group is offering you a free performance of their world-premiere musical from 2019, BROADBEND, ARKANSAS.

In a remarkably timely offering, the show explores how a Black family grapples with decades of inequality, violence, and suppression in the American South. Benny, an orderly at a nursing home, delicately balances his role as a caregiver to an ornery white resident who shares a contentious past with his white boss while at the same time caring for his own family as the fight for equality grips the nation in the midst of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Thirty years later, his daughter, Ruby, struggles to understand an incident of police brutality against her 15-year-old son. This unique musical, spanning nearly half a century and three generations, asks us to contemplate the cycle of violence in this country and how we will find hope and create change against the backdrop of hate that plagues America.

Starring Justin Cunningham and Danyel Fulton with a libretto by Ellen Fitzhugh and Harrison David Rivers and music and additional lyrics by Ted Shen, the show was highly-praised upon its debut and earned a number of high-profile recommendations, including from The New York Times.

The performance lasts 90 minutes and is available online until the end of August 16th (US time). The performance is offered free but you must register in order to gain access.

Transport Group ask that if you enjoy this streaming presentation, in lieu of a ticketing fee, please give what you are able, to financially support Black Theatre Network

HEADS- UP NOTES – You must register to receive a unique access code to view the recording. This access code will be valid for 48 hours from the time of registering. Just so you know!

To watch BROADBEND, ARKANSAS, register here via OvationTix


Watch Now: MY LIGHT SHINES ON embodies the spirit of the Edinburgh Festivals – and there’s more

For the first time in 73 years, Edinburgh – the Festival City- is quiet this August. This would have been the opening weekend of the 2020 Edinburgh International Festival season. But of course, it’s not a normal year. With the necessity for safety impacting the necessity for artistic expression, the creative forces behind the Festival have specially commissioned MY LIGHT SHINES ON, a film full of brand new work from artists across genres, featuring famous faces from festivals across the years and exclusive collaborations with other Edinburgh August festivals. The film is available, free to watch, on the Festival’s YouTube channel and Facebook Live from 9.30pm tonight and then throughout August.  You can also find the film at the foot of this blog entry (while it remains available to view).

This unique broadcast launches a series of new recorded activity, also available on the Festival’s YouTube channel from tonight, and then throughout August.

As a part of the MY LIGHT SHINES ON Online Festival, Scotland’s major national artistic companies have been commissioned to create extraordinary works that audiences can enjoy from their own homes. In celebration of our Festival City, they bring light and life to sites that must stay empty this year with unique filmed performances and insights from artists. New shows will be added daily so do check back at the festival’s YouTube channel regularly.

Enjoy these lovingly created lights that still shine despite our current circumstances, helping us to find our way back to performances everyone can enjoy – and which remind us of why the arts are such a beloved and vital part of our culture.


Two Grand Survivors celebrate birthdays

A very happy birthday to two Grand -in name and design – theatres which, thanks to the support of local audiences and the efforts of staunch supporters, have both withstood the ravages of time to survive and emerge as much-loved venues for the 21st century.

Swansea Grand Theatre turns 123

On 26th July, Swansea Grand Theatre celebrated its 123rd birthday.

The theatre opened in 1897 – the year Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published, the word ‘computer’ was first used, the first Boston Marathon was held, Enid Blyton was born, Brahms died, the Klondike gold rush started, the pencil sharpener was patented, the Tate Gallery opened and Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee!

Erected on the site of the former Drill Hall it was designed for proprietors H H Morell and F Mouillot by architect William Hope of Newcastle, built by D Jenkins and opened by Madame Adelina Patti – a locally resident operatic diva.

In 1968, the Swansea Grand was threatened with closure but, following a campaign led by its manager and artistic director John Chilvers, the theatre was saved. The Swansea Corporation (City Council) leased the building in May 1969 and bought it outright in 1979. The theatre was then refurbished and updated between 1983 and 1987 at a cost of £6.5m. A further £1m was spent on an Arts Wing which opened in 1999, and the opening ceremony was performed by Catherine Zeta Jones. The City and County of Swansea continues to own, manage and fund the building today.

Its opening ceremony on 26th July 1897 was certainly grand. Baroness Adelina Nicolini (Patti) travelled down by train from her home at Craig Y Nos to open the theatre. She arrived at Midland Railway Station, and was then taken by horse drawn carriage through the city, passing the then Star Theatre and the empty Theatre Royal, finally arriving at the Grand. The streets were lined with hundreds of well-wishers hungry for a look at the Opera Diva.


Blackpool Grand Theatre is 126

The Grand was designed on a prime site by Victorian master theatre architect Frank Matcham and was opened on 23rd July 1894. Hailed as ‘Matcham’s masterpiece’, it was reported to have been built in just nine months at a cost of £20,000 to a brief by owner Thomas Sorgensen to build him “the prettiest theatre in the land”. It is believed to be the first design in which Matcham used his cantilevered approach to the tiers , enabling a column-free wide spanning auditorium and an unrestricted view from every seat.

The theatre opened with a production of Hamlet with Wilson Barrett in the starring role. The programme was printed on pure silk and perfumed with ‘Tower Bouquet’ by a chemist in Church Street.

The opening of Blackpool Grand catapulted it into the number one circuit , able to attract famous actors, spectacular musicals and high-class opera. Stars such as Sarah Bernhardt, Lillie Langtree, Beerbohm Tree, Seymour Hicks and Mrs Patrick Campbell all appeared here before Sergenson sold out to the Tower Company for £47,500 in 1909. The Tower Company then owned the Theatre until 1968.

In the twenties the Blackpool Grand became famous for staging operetta and big American musicals like Rose Marie, The Desert Song and No No Nanette. Great stars, including Evelyn Laye, Carl Brisson, Tallulah Bankhead, Matheson Lang, Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert, appeared at The Grand in this decade and many were to continue to tour throughout the Thirties, Forties and Fifties.

The sixties saw a serious decline in the theatre’s fortunes and had it not been for achieving listed status- thanks to members of the Friends Group and the Victorian Society, would certainly have been lost. Thankfully now listed Grade II* and beautifully restored, the venue continues to delight audiences well into its second century.


Watch Now: The Finborough’s BLUEPRINT MEDEA

Julia Pascal’s play BLUEPRINT MEDEA, seen in 2019, is now available to view online for free thanks to the Finborough Theatre’s streaming initiative.

Kurdish freedom fighter Medea escapes the Turkish military and arrives at UK Border Control on a forged passport. Slipping through immigration, Medea discovers how to exist on the margins of London life. Working illegally as a cleaner in a gym, she meets Jason-Mohammed, the son of Iraqi immigrants. Their attraction results in the birth of twin boys. Medea believes that she has finally found a new home, a new family and a new life.

But when Jason-Mohammed’s father decides that his son must marry Glauke, an Iraqi cousin, Medea realises that she will lose both her sons and her safe haven in the UK.

As her whole world falls apart, she is forced to accept that she has nothing to lose by revenging herself – destroying the lives who those who have betrayed her and keeping her sons’ spirits with her forever…

Based on interviews with Kurdish fighters living in the UK, and written and directed by the first woman ever to direct at the National Theatre, BLUEPRINT MEDEA is an award-winning new drama loosely inspired by Euripides’ MEDEA, which connects the classical to the contemporary to explore eternal questions of passion, war, cultural identity, women’s freedom, sex, family and love.

The play runs approximately 90 minutes and can be viewed online until September 2nd.

Although this production is free to watch, please strongly consider making a donation to Finborough Theatre to enable it to reopen after this crisis has passed.

Watch BLUEPRINT MEDEA here


The Finborough’s SCROUNGER

Available on a very short viewing window is Athena Stevens’ fascinating play SCROUNGER, available to view from 9am on Saturday, 1 August until midnight on Monday, 3 August, and again from 9am until midnight on Monday, 31 August.

The first production of the Finborough Theatre’s 40th anniversary year, the world premiere of Finborough Theatre Playwright in Residence and Olivier Award nominee Athena Stevens’s new play SCROUNGER.

On the streets of Elephant and Castle, everyone likes to make speculations about Scrounger. She needs help, she must not be aware of the complexities of the world, she is sent from the demons to torture her mum… at least according to her Nigerian Uber driver.

Scrounger doesn’t care. A successful online personality, she’s got more power from her bedroom than anyone on the Southwark estates could dream of. She’s educated, she’s ballsy, and with a huge network of online allies, Scrounger is a woman who knows how to make change happen.

That is, until an airline destroys her wheelchair.

Inspired by real events and a lawsuit initiated by Stevens herself, Scrounger drives towards the realities of how Britain is failing its most vulnerable and the extreme cost paid by those seeking justice.

You can read my three and a half-star review of SCROUNGER here

Although this production is free to watch, please strongly consider making a donation to Finborough Theatre to enable it to reopen after this crisis has passed.

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