New season: Norwich Playhouse

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Norwich Playhouse has lined up another star-packed season with a host of familiar names. Event editor Trevor Heaton presents an exclusive new season preview.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

First the bad news - Norwich's legendary comedy duo the Nimmos are taking a break from their equally legendary December shows at the St George's Street venue.

Now the good news - there's a packed programme of goodies lined up with some of the hottest names from comedy, including Channel 4's outrageous presenter Alan Carr, radio favourite Marcus Brigstocke, witty Jeff Green, edgy Mark Thomas, and Irish gagster Ed Byrne, plus the likes of grumpy old gal Janet Street-Porter, Aussie critic and writer Clive James, the unique Ennio Marchetto and the never-a-dull-moment Circus of Horrors.

The season kicks off on September 2 with a fundraiser for the East Anglian Air Ambulance by 1960s favourites the Fourmost (£12, concs £10, 01953 600563).

That's followed the next day by an evening of jazz and cabaret (7pm, £15).

There's a blend of drama and comedy on September 9 when Axis of Evil present the 'almost a sitcom' The Coalition (£8, concs £6, 7.30pm).

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Actor and comic Matt Fraser was one of the generation of Thalidomide babies, which meant he was born with short arms.

But he has never shied away from meeting the situation (and society's view of disability) head-on with shows such as Seal Boy. His latest production (on September 22, 8pm, £10/ £8 concs) is Thalidomide, described as a “PC-free musical with a short-armed punch!”.

Steve Brinberg makes a welcome return to the Playhouse stage on September 26 (8pm, £15) as Simply Barbra, a funny, sometimes barbed but always affectionate portrait of the legendary Ms Streisand.

The Long Overdue Theatre Company presents their take on Shakespeare's Macbeth on September 27-28 (7.30pm, £10/ £8 concs).

There's a double helping of comedy next: Charles Ross' One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, where he single-handedly plays all the characters, sings the music, flies the ships, fights the battles and condenses the plots into just 60 minutes on September 29, followed by Radio 4 favourite Marcus Brigstocke (he of Giles Wemmbley Hogg fame, plus numerous appearances on other shows) the follopwing evening (£12/ £10 concs).

That great British soul singer Ruby Turner gets off October to an excellent start with a concert on October 4 (8pm, £14/ £12 concs) as part of Black History Month.

Journalist and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter presents An Evening With… on October 5 (7.30pm, £10). Expect plenty of straight talking from this unique and feisty media personality.

Next up it's drama with Theatre Melange's The Mona Lisas on October 6 (7.30pm, £12/ £10 concs).

Rebecca Carrington combines the cello and stand-up - yes, really - to provide a big hit on the London comedy circuit. Find out how on October 7 (8pm, £10).

The acclaimed Actors of Dionysus present their bold and contemporary staging of Sophocles' tale of fate and tragedy, Oedipus, on October 13 (7.30pm, £12/ £10 concs) in what is sure to be one of the fastest-selling tickets of the new season.

And talking about hot tickets, we suspect that the box office will be in overdrive to cater for the demand for the cheekily outrageous Alan Carr on October 14 (8pm, £15). After being on the panel game circuit for years he has suddenly broken through to the big time with such shows as The Friday Night Project (what is it about Channel 4 and comics called Carr?).

More comedy with that likeable chap Jeff Green on October 25 (8pm, £14/ £12 concs), one of the wittiest commentators on the many, many differences between women and their blokes!

Norwich-based Anna Mudeka is one of the most acclaimed exponents of African music and dance around, and she brings her band to the venue on October 26 (8pm, £8/ £6 concs).

November begins with LA-born and now Norwich-based singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny, who has been attracting huge national critical thumbs-ups for her new album Hurricane Glass. With acclaimed tours with New Orleans blues legend Dr John and Canadian songstress Martha Wainwright under her belt, she is a name to watch. Check her out on November 3 (7.30pm, £10/ £8 concs).

More music the following night with the return of another US-born/England-based artist - jazz singer Stacey Kent (7.30pm, £15/ £13 concs).

Other highlights for the month include: Phoenix Opera with An Evening of Offenbach for charity (November 10 at 7.30pm, and November 11 2.30pm/ 7.30pm, £10.50, 01603 436510 or 01603 598598), integrated dance company CandoCo (November 15, 7.30pm, £12/ £10 concs) and Chamber Orchestra Anglia's fifth birthday celebration Gala Concert (November 16, 7.30pm, £18/ £15 concs).

Irish comedy favourite Ed Byrne brings his adults-only Standing Up, Falling Down show to the venue on November 17 (8pm, £14/ £12 concs), followed the next night by a witty evening with Aussie critic, broadcaster and poet Clive James (7.30pm, £15).

Mark Thomas has carved out a unique slot for himself with his brand of edgy political satire and asking the questions that those in political power or big business don't want to answer.

His live shows are always eagerly awaited, so his date on November 22 will be in demand (8pm, £14/ £12 concs).

Drama returns the next night with the production Dylan Thomas; Return Journey (8pm, £10/ £8 concs).

The vocal quartet Cantabile will be sure to have you in a good mood when they sing seasonal favourites on December 1 (7.30pm, £14/ £12 concs).

British jazz legend George Melly returns for his umpteenth December date at the Playhouse the following night, once again warming up for his season at Ronnie Scott's (7.30pm, £15/ £13 concs).

Are you sitting comfortably? Because the outrageous Circus of Horrors will be aiming to change all that in their stay at the venue from December 5-9. They'll be putting on nine shows of their latest production The Evilution (and no, that's not a misprint), an amalgamation of witchdoctors, voodoo acrobats, a pickled person, bendy bodies, demon dwarfs, blood-curdling stunts and flying vampires. Billy Smart's it ain't!

The circus will be performing on Tuesday at 7.30pm, and then 6pm and 8.30pm nightly. Tickets £17.50/ £15 concs.

After a break of a couple of years, Playhouse favourite Ennio Marchetto will be flying in from Venice specially for two dates (December 12-13, 8pm £14/ £12 concs).

He's a real one-off comic talent, brilliantly taking the rise out of a host of celebrities with his cartoon cut-outs.

Eve Ensler's smash-hit The Vagina Monologues has been astonishing audiences around the world since 1996, with its funny, frank and moving tales of women and their sexuality and experiences. The show is famous for its performance by celebrities, and the Playhouse performances will be no exception, with a starry line-up to be announced shortly.

The show is at the Playhouse on December 14-15 (8pm, £14/ concs £12).

After a Norwich YMCA charity fundraiser on December 16 (7.30pm, £15) with jazzers Freddie Gavita, Kit Downes and Friends, Gina Yashere brings her brand of comedy to the Playhouse for two nights (December 20-21, 8pm £12/ £10 concs).

The season rounds off with world-class world music with Globalbeat (December 22-23, 7.30pm £8/ £6 concs).

The Norwich Playhouse box office is at the Theatre Royal, telephone 01603 598598

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