New season: Norwich Playhouse

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Norwich Playhouse unveils its spring programme with a varied programme of drama, music and top comedy talent.


The St George's Street venue has had many great comedy line-ups over the years - but this new season programme has to be one of the strongest.

With fast-rising stars such as Tim Minchin, Mark Watson, Pam Ann, Count Arthur Strong and Reginald D Hunter alongside the likes of Tony Robinson, The Nimmo Twins, Rich Hall and Sean Hughes, this is a programme with something, somewhere to tickle just about everybody's funny bone.

After Sean Hughes' appearance next Friday (January 19), the next comedy on the horizon is the hugely-acclaimed Tim Minchin (February 10, £12, concs £10). The Aussie-born comic, actor and musician is now based in London and is widely tipped to be the next big thing. If you love Bill Bailey, you'll relish Minchin's dark cabaret-style humour. The Perrier Best Newcomer award-winner brings his hit Edinburgh show So Rock to Norfolk with a string of five-star reviews under his belt.

Comedy drama comes to the venue on February 15 with the fast-moving show Insomnobabble from the Big Wow Theatre Company (tickets £10).

Rich Hall is no stranger to the Playhouse - or television come to that, where his laconic American drawl can be heard on the likes of Have I Got News For You and QI. The Perrier Award-winner has gone back to pure stand-up after a very successful period as his musical alter ego Otis Lee Crenshaw. Expect straight-from-the-hip political commentary in his

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two-night stint (February 23 and 24, tickets £14, concs £12).

You'll have heard Mark Watson (March 3, £12, concs £10) on many a radio comedy show with his winning Welsh accent over naive and slightly surreal material. Mark - who's actually from Bristol - is also a talented novelist and is famous for his marathon comedy shows at Edinburgh. He topped his 24-hour 2004 epic with a 36-hour stint last time round! His Norwich date will be a more manageable 90 minutes though…

Another Edinburgh darling, Phil Nichol brings his Naked Racist show to the venue on March 8. Based on his own hilarious experiences during a debauched weekend in Amsterdam, the show blends stand-up, caricature and live rock accompaniment. Tickets £12 for the show (which contains nudity and is adults-only).

The legendary Nimmo Twins are back (April 17-21) for a sprint through their greatest hits and some new stuff in Normal for Norfolk 10 and a Third. If you've seen Owen Evans and Karl Minns in action you'll know exactly what to expect - edgy, local-flavoured stand-up with nothing sacred. Tickets for the preview night are £10, with the rest of the run £12 (concs £10).

Caroline Reid's excellent creation Pam Ann is back at the Playhouse, this time landing for two nights (April 27-28). Pam Ann is the A-list air hostess to the A-list stars… and this time round she's bringing her friends Mona, the BA bitch, and Donna from easyJet and more new faces besides. Tickets £15.

Back by popular demand on May 2 is Tony Robinson's Cunning Night Out, in which the actor, author and presenter takes the audience on a biographical journey through his eventful career, which has included playing the Artful Dodger in the West End to the cunning Blackadder sidekick Baldric and his role as frontman for ever-popular Channel 4 archaeology series Time Team. Tickets £15 - and there's some mild language, so it's suggested for over-12s.

Steve Delaney's alter ego Count Arthur Strong, a bumbling veteran variety entertainer, has been steadily building up a cult following for years. Now, with regular slots on Mark Radcliffe's Radio 2 show and his own recent Radio 4 series, Count Arthur makes his first Playhouse visit on May 24 (£12, concs £10).

The comedy ends in edgy style on May 26 with Reginald D Hunter, the British-based black American star who takes race and other issues and makes them all grist to his comedy mill. Tickets £12, concs £10.

Dance and drama includes Bertolt Brecht's powerful masterpiece The Caucasian Chalk Circle from January 23-27. The National Theatre/Filter co-production from Sean Holmes has been widely acclaimed and promises a modern - and moving - version of this theatrical landmark. Tickets £17.50, concs £14, student groups £9.50. There'll be matinees on the Thursday and Saturday.

A family treat for half-term on February 13 with a musical, Bink and the Riddle of the Sphinx. Can the action hero solve the puzzle of the monster? There'll be a workshop at 1pm (£3) followed by the show at 2pm (£7). Tickets for both are £8.50.

A dance weekend features (March 9, £10, concs £8) the Rosie Kay Dance Company in Asylum and Other Stories, and (March 10, two shows, £7, concs £5) Notion Dance - City College students plus other talented dancers from across the region - in Encounters.

Bob Kingdom's drama based on the waspish and brilliant Truman Capote - the Truman Capote Talk Show - comes to the venue on March 14 (£10, concs £8). If you saw Bob's superb take on Dylan Thomas at the Playhouse last year you won't want to miss this gripping and acclaimed show.

The LSW theatre company presents Black Atlas (March 15), telling the story of 18th-century prize fighter Tom Molineaux and a fellow slave. Tickets £12, concs £10.

Fans of Jane Austen will want to make a date for a special gala screening of Becoming Jane (March 23, £18). The new PG-rated film from Norfolk director Julian Jarrold stars a brilliant cast of Anne Hathaway, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and James McAvoy. It's inspired by the romance between the young Jane and dashing Irishman Tom Lefroy. Julian will be at this screening to talk about the making of it. This event is in aid of the Theatre Royal's 250 Appeal.

The following day sees physical comedy and dance join forces in the shape of the Big Ballet, a Russian troupe which features 16 larger ladies who show that grace has nothing to do with size! Tickets £15, concs £13.

Norfolk Youth Music Theatre presents Whistle Down the Wind (April 11-14), the musical version of the classic British film about a group of children who find a man hiding in a barn and believe he is really Jesus (tickets £10, concs £8, family £30).

Then on May 1, Nabokov Theatre Company presents the gripping Terre Haute, Edmund White's drama about novelist Gore Vidal and unrepentant right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh. Tickets £12, concs £10.

The music strand in the Playhouse programme opens with Norwich-based Horses Brawl, who'll be joined by flamenco group Sumaya for a dynamic programme of medieval-inspired folk music and authentic Spanish dance. Tickets for the January 20 show are £10, concs £8.

Courtney Pine (February 14, £24.50 including Valentine gift) has rightly established his place as one of the icons of modern British jazz. Courtney and his band will be fusing jazz, hip-hop, reggae and drum'n'bass to create a hypnotic - and unique - musical feast.

There's more jazz to round off the season on May 25 with the return of the Big Chris Barber Band, who'll be following their sell-out 2005 date with another crowd-pleasing mix of blues and jazz. Tickets £15, concs £13.

t The Playhouse box office is based at Norwich Theatre Royal - 01603 598598