David Edgar’s MAYDAYS adapted for radio

MAYDAYS was originally produced on stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre in London in 1983, directed by Ron Daniels. The play was revived in a new version at the Other Place in Stratford in 2018, directed by Owen Horsley.

David Edgar’s epic theatre play from 1983 ranged across continents and decades to explore how young activists who came of age in the 1960s subsequently made the leap from the far left to the die-hard right. After revising the text in 2018, Edgar has now reworked the rich and compelling narrative into a sweeping three-part audio version.

The radio version of the epic MAYDAYS is presented in three 45-minute parts.

David Edgar wrote a solo show, TRYING IT ON (see my review here), which reveals the autobiographical background to MAYDAYS. First seen on stage in 2018 in an engagingly honest performance by its author, it was then reversioned for Radio 4 and recorded in front of an audience at the Radio Theatre in London Broadcasting House in 2019. You can hear that again on Radio 4 on 4th March 2023 and then on BBC Sounds.

Listen to MAYDAYS here

Mint Theatre streams forgotten Lillian Hellman play

The ever-generous Mint Theatre is now streaming another of their successful revivals, this time of Lillian Hellman’s largely-forgotten second play, DAYS TO COME.

DAYS TO COME is a family drama set against the backdrop of labour problems and workers’ unrest in a small Ohio town which threatens to tear apart both town and family. “It’s the story of innocent people on both sides who are drawn into conflict and events far beyond their comprehension,” Hellman said in an interview before DAYS TO COME opened in 1936. “It’s the saga of a man who started something he cannot stop…”

“It’s a gripping, lucid examination of the dangerous intersection of economic, social, and personal forces.” said The New Yorker

Andrew Rodman is running the family business and failing at it. The workers are out on strike and things are getting desperate. “Papa would have known what to do,” his sister Cora nags, “and without wasting time and money.” But it’s too late, Rodman is bringing in strikebreakers, naively failing to anticipate the disastrous impact that this will have on his family and their place in the community where they have lived for generations.

Audiences had no chance to appreciate DAYS TO COME when it premiered on Broadway in 1936; it closed after a week. Hellman blamed herself for the play’s failure. “I wanted to say too much,” she wrote in a preface to the published play in 1942—while admitting that her director was confused and her cast inadequate. “On the opening night the actors moved as figures in the dream of a frightened child. It was my fault, I suppose, that it happened.” Nevertheless, “I stand firmly on the side of Days to Come.” In 1942, Hellman could afford to take responsibility for the play’s failure; she had enjoyed much success in the days after DAYS TO COME (with both THE LITTLE FOXES and WATCH ON THE RHINE). But Hellman’s play is better than she would admit.

“Days to Come … turns out to be a gripping piece of storytelling, one whose failure and subsequent obscurity make no sense at all.” The Wall Street Journal

DAYS TO COME was revived only once in New York, in 1978, by the WPA Theatre. In reviewing that production for The Nation, Harold Clurman wrote that “our knowledge of what Hellman would subsequently write reveals that Days to Come is not mainly concerned with the industrial warfare which is the ‘stuff’ of her story for the first two acts.” Hellman’s real preoccupation is “the lack of genuine values of mind or spirit” of her principle characters, the factory-owning Rodmans.

Mint Theatre’s production, running 1 hour 50 minutes, can be seen online until April 2nd. Find it here

Mercury Musical Developments’ online round table discussion for musical producers

A valuable opportunity for musical producers to come together, share knowledge and contribute to the sector’s recovery is presented by Musical Theatre Network’s next Producers Round Table which will be available online, from 3-4.30pm on Thursday 30th March.

This is a peer-to-peer discussion between those actively producing new musical theatre. It’s an opportunity to share insights and discuss future opportunities. How are prospects for staging new musicals evolving as we move out of the pandemic, and position shows for audiences living through financially challenging times? How is new work best selected? Is the development pipeline serving producers’ needs? Are new approaches to financing needed?

Initial thoughts will be shared by producers including Katy Lipson (Aria Entertainment), Juliet Forster (York Theatre Royal), Frankie Dailey (USA’s National Alliance for Musical Theatre), Joey Monda (Sing Out, Louise! Productions), and Rob Hartman (Fredericia Musical Teater, Denmark), and the rest of the session will be debate and peer-to-peer sharing, and an opportunity to refresh connections.

This session is free to attend for MTN members and non-members alike. To receive the zoom link to join the event, register here

Soho Theatre Walthamstow comes off the Theatres At Risk Register

architects’ illustration of completed project in 2024

Theatres Trust, the charity that campaigns to protect the UK’s theatres, has announced that it has removed the magnificent Grade II* listed building – reopening next year after extensive restoration work as Soho Theatre Walthamstow – from its Theatres at Risk Register.

The Theatres at Risk Register, which has been running for 17 years, calls attention to important theatre buildings, their challenges, and the cultural opportunities they bring to local communities.  Since the list began, more than 80 theatres have been restored, revived or rebuilt. Soho Theatre Walthamstow is one of only three buildings removed from the risk register this year. to which it was first added in 2015.

Built in 1930 by architect Cecil Masey with interior decoration by Theodore Komisarjevsky, the Walthamstow venue opened as the Granada, an opulent ciné-variety theatre. Thirty years later it embraced live music concerts in between film engagements, hosting scores of famous acts including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and The Ronettes. The Granada was given a Grade II Listing by English Heritage on 24th February 1987. The cinema then carried on through a number of changes of hands, including Virgin and ABC, before closed in 2003 as the EMD cinema, and the building was then bought by a group who planned to turn it into a church. The local community and Theatres Trust objected, on the grounds that the borough would lose its only working theatre and access to entertainment, the purpose for which the building was originally intended.

Local residents’ groups campaigned for the building to continue as an entertainment venue and in 2012 Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and Soho Theatre presented its vision of the building’s future to Waltham Forest Council. A decisive public planning inquiry ruled the following year in favour of the building continuing as an entertainment venue. After the church group sold the building a year later, part of it reopened as a bar, but the rest of the building, already in a terrible state from almost 20 years of neglect, fell into further disrepair.

It was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2015. Meanwhile Soho Theatre and Waltham Forest Council developed plans to acquire, restore and run the venue as an exciting new cultural hub – a local theatre with a national profile – and in 2019 the Council purchased the building with Soho Theatre on board to run the theatre.  Thanks to the support of Theatres Trust, in 2020 they awarded Soho Theatre a Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme grant which enabled them to business plan and continue to support the project.

Coming off the At Risk Register in 2023 marks another major milestone in the building’s rich and fascinating history, and is cause for celebration indeed!

Soho Theatre Walthamstow during renovation work in 2022