I am a writer and teacher, out and about in the world but with Nottingham never far from my heart.
Published December 28th 2014
Looking forward to some of Brum's theatrical highlights
January is traditionally a time that soap stars, reality TV personalities and former Premiership footballers take to the stage to feature in the year's hit Christmas pantomime, bestowing humorously wooden performances on the assembled masses.
Some of the possibly extreme weather conditions Birmingham's theatre-goers may have to face this January
Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against pantomimes. Pantomimes are great festive fun for the whole family, but they can also dissuade other drama fans from making the trip to the theatre, at least until the flood of schoolkids has receded.
However, do this and you may miss out on some of the top quality plays which are hitting Birmingham's theatres this January! Here are five reasons to get yourself down to the box office.
Author Michael Morpurgo received widespread critical acclaim for his WWI novel War Horse back in 1982, a work which was subsequently adapted into hit stage and film versions. In 2003, Morpurgo covered similar ground with Private Peaceful, set in the trenches of Ypres and in the comparatively idyllic landscape of pre-war Devon, which was also adapted for the stage a year later.
2014 marked ten years since Simon Reade's stage version first appeared in the theatre, and a century since the first catastrophic engagements between the armies of Britain, Belgium, Canada and Germany at Ypres. Now you can catch the revived version of the adaptation at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham this January! Tickets start at £10.50 and the play runs between January 7th and January 10th 2015.
East is East
There are some works of art that grow to become part of the very fabric of the nation itself. East is East is one of these works. Originally penned by Salford born playwright, Ayub Khan-Din in 1996, East is East captures the relationships and tensions within a culturally diverse English society.
Poster for the cinema release of East is East
Khan-Din himself takes the role of patriarch George, while acclaimed actress Jane Horrocks appears as his wife Ella. You can catch this fantastic production at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre from January 13th to 17th. Tickets start from £13.40, and are sure to go fast!
The Frozen Scream
There can be few more appropriate times and places from which to witness the stage version of a supposedly cursed horror novel than the depths of a West Midlands January. With this in mind, you might want to take a look at The Frozen Scream, performed at The Patrick Centre from January 8th to 15th.
Based on CC Gilbert's lost 1928 novel of the same name, the performance plays upon the superstitions surrounding the allegedly hexed author and also the superstitions already ingrained in the medium of theatre itself. It's an immersive work, and the performers regularly break the fourth wall, so if you're in the mood for an engaging and spooky piece of theatre this January, look no further. Tickets are available from £15.00.
A second mention for the Crescent Theatre on our list, this time as the venue for a production of playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood's 1995 piece Taking Sides. The play hinges on a confrontation between composer Wilhelm Furtwangler and an American army officer in Berlin in the aftermath of World War II, and explores the often complex relationship between German society and the tyrannical Nazi Party that ruled over it for more than ten years.
The play's fascinating premise coupled with the pedigree and prowess of its author, are sure to make Taking Sides a popular production when it opens at Crescent's Studio on January 17th. Be sure to get yourself a ticket before it's too late! Taking Sides runs until January 24th and tickets start from £6.00 for the matinee performance, and £10.00 for other times.
The Accrington Pals
More moving World War I drama, this time hosted by the Hall Green Little Theatre on Pemberley Road, Acocks Green. The Accrington Pals – named for the 11th East Lancashire Regiment, colloquially known as 'The Pals' – is a 1982 play penned by Stoke born playwright Peter Whelan. The subject matter is similar to Simon Reade's Private Peaceful in that the action takes place at the front as well as at home.
The 'Accrington Pals' monument
Whelan sadly died in July of this 2014, and so the play is to make a return to the West Midlands as a tribute to the man's life and work. This will surely add another emotional dimension to what is already an incredibly moving work. The play runs from January 30th to February 7th. Adult tickets start at £10.00, with concessions from £8.00
With such a wealth of theatrical treats on offer in Birmingham this January, it would be a shame to miss out. Just be sure to wrap up warm when you venture out of the house, particularly if you're planning to watch The Frozen Scream!