New season: Norwich Playhouse

Trevor Heaton Norwich Playhouse is back for a new season with a line-up which may just be its best-yet, with a feast of top comedy, music and drama featuring such popular performers as Jeremy Hardy, Rich Hall, Prunella Scales, Simon Day and Dillie Keane, and a gala screening for the new film version of Brideshead Revisited.

Trevor Heaton

Norwich Playhouse is back for a new season with a line-up which may just be its best-yet, with a feast of top comedy, music and drama featuring such popular performers as Jeremy Hardy, Rich Hall, Prunella Scales, Simon Day and Dillie Keane, and a gala screening for the new film version of Brideshead Revisited.

The season at the St George's Street venue gets under way on September 6 (£12, concs £10) with the first of the season's comics, Danny Bhoy with his new solo show (for ages 16-plus) demonstrating why he has been a hit with audiences worldwide. The following night (at early time of 7pm - there's a lot to get in) Christopher Bailey presents another Evening of Jazz and Cabaret.

Familiar and new faces join the fold for an evening full of great music and comedy, and all raising funds for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Those featured include Lee Gibson, Olly Day, the Stilhouettes, the Simon Brown Quintet, Earl Okin, Maureen Roberts and Jonathan Gee.

Drama returns on September 13 (two shows, £15, concs £12) with Gertrude's Secret, by Benedick West, with a cast led by Prunella Scales. It's a powerful and atmospheric tale (with some strong language) with bizarre, sad and comic characters.

Then from September 16-20 the new Norwich Theatre Royal Actors Company follow up their critically-acclaimed first production Sexual Perversity in Chicago with Pool (No Water), a drama by the provocative playwright Mark Ravenhill. When a famous and successful artist invites four old friends to stay in her luxurious new home, swim in her pool and share in her glory, she hopes to heal old wounds. Instead, she opens new ones. The production contains strong language and possible nudity. £12 (concs £10).

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The recent reunion of the original ground-breaking quintet Pentangle made headlines. Now singer Jacqui McShee brings her version of the group - with Gerry Conway on drums and percussion, Spencer Cozens on keyboards, Alan Thompson on bass, and Gary Foote on saxophone and flute - to the venue. Jacqui McShee's Pentangle is on September 25 (£17.50, concs £15).

Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas are big fans of comic Jason Manford. Find out why the following evening in a show suitable for ages 16-plus (£14, concs £12).

On September 27 (£17.50, concs £12) the celebrated National Youth Jazz Orchestra will be in concert, with special guest appearances by three fast-rising Norwich jazz talents, Paul Gregory on percussion/drums, Freddy Gavita on trumpet and Lewis Wright on percussion/vibes.

More drama on October 2, with Osun Arts Foundation's Moreme, an epic drama in the African Yoruba tradition, and suitable for ages seven and over (£10, concs £8).

Arch-musical satirists Mitch Benn and the Distractions are back on October 3 to demonstrate the spot-on spoofery which has made Mitch a radio comedy regular (£14, concs £12).

Stunning flamenco dancing takes to the stage at the St George's Street venue on October 4 with Alma Flamenca's new show Reloj de Arena (£15, concs £13).

On October 7-8 the Shakespeare Schools Festival returns (7pm) with tickets £8, concs £6.

Heading for a double-date (October 10-11) is the quirky, edgy and outspoken Jeremy Hardy who remains one of Britain's best and funniest social commentators. Tickets for the show, suitable for ages 16-plus, are £15, concs £13.

On October 16 (£15, concs £13), The Gentlemen of Motown present a hit-packed show celebrating the glory years of the iconic US label.

On October 17 the brilliant Reduced Shakespeare Company are back with another show, The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged), answering the important questions such as did Moses really look like Charlton Heston? Tickets for the show, suitable for ages 10 and over, are £15, concs £13.

More comedy the following evening in a new show by Jerry Springer - The Opera writer Stewart Lee, Elizabeth and Raleigh: Late But Live, with Simon Munnery as Queen Elizabeth I and Miles Jupp as Sir Walter Raleigh. Tickets £14 (concs £12).

Something very special on October 19 (5pm), with a gala screening of the new film from Norfolk-born director Julian Jarrold, Brideshead Revisited (certificate to be confirmed). Starring Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell, Sir Michael Gambon and Emma Thompson, it's the latest film, from the director of Becoming Jane, and is based, of course, on Evelyn Waugh's classic novel. All tickets £20.

The Original Theatre Company presents Shakespeare's R + J from October 20-22. Joe Calarco has redefined the Bard's tale by resetting it at a 1950s at an exclusive boarding school, where four pupils run into the chapel late one night to escape from repressive school routines and begin reading the Romeo and Juliet story aloud. It's suggested for ages 11 and over. £12, concs £10.

Grumpy Old Women regular Dillie Keane is back on October 24 with the new play My Brilliant Divorce, a poignant and funny account of a rejected wife finding a new life after her husband's mid-life crisis. Tickets £15 (concs £13). The following night it's the return of the voluptuous Russian ballerinas The Big Ballet (£17.50, concs £15).

A real Playhouse favourite returns after a break of a couple of years on October 27. Ennio Marchetto is a one-off, a “living cartoon” who performs spot-on parodies of the rich and famous using quick-change paper costumes. Tickets £14 (concs £12).

The songs of brilliant American satirist Tom Lehrer are celebrated in the darkly comic Poisoning Pigeons in the Park on October 29 (£12, concs £10).

Television comedy regular Ed Byrne brings his new (16-plus) show Different Class to the venue on October 30 and 31 (£16.50).

November 1 sees the welcome return of Eighties favourite Mari Wilson, the original queen of retro pop, with her 12-piece band the Wilsations revisiting great hits such as Just What I've Always Wanted (£17.50, concs £15).

On November 4-5 Love and Madness presents a new adaptation of Dickens' Oliver Twist by David Cottis. The classic story is suitable for ages 11 and over. Tickets £12 (concs £10).

On November 6 Chris Cox will blend psychology and magic in his Edinburgh and West End hit show Control Freak. Tickets for the show - suitable for ages 16-plus - are £12 (concs £10 concs).

November 7 sees classic country music in the capable hands of the Country Legends Solid Gold Show, a mix of old and new hits from Hank Williams to Shania Twain. All tickets £15.

The following night sees the return of the amazing musical comedian Tim Minchin, with his Ready For This? adult show (£15, concs £13).

Phoenix Opera return to the venue on November 14 and 15 (matinee on the last day) with one of the most popular operettas ever written, Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow. All tickets £12 (evenings) £10 (matinee), information: 01603 436510.

Play the Playhouse 4 (November 21, 6.30pm, £2 on door) showcases some of the area's fastest-rising young musical talent, in partnership with BBC Norfolk Introducing.

From the new music of today to the classic sounds of big bands with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, making their first Playhouse appearance on November 22 (two shows). Tickets £17.50 (concs £15).

Former Fast Show favourite Simon Day presents his first-ever solo stand-up tour on November 26 in a show for ages 16 and up (all tickets £16.50). Earthy, funny and moving The Vagina Monologues returns on November 27-28 (£16, concs £14).

On November 29, famous mountaineer Simon Yates - his story was featured in Touching the Void - will talk about his experiences (£15, concs £13).

Cult comedy favourite John Shuttleworth makes his long-awaited return to Norfolk on December 1 (£14, concs £12). More comedy on December 4-5 when Rich Hall (and his alter-ego Otis Lee Crenshaw) brings his brilliant adult show back to the venue (£15, concs £13).

On December 6, Mixed Voice return with their new show Music to Watch Girls By, featuring vocalists Joe Ringer and Holly Graham a live 16-piece big band and a dance troupe to perform a tribute to easy listening classics. Tickets £14, concs £12.

More music on December 9 when Lee Bradley presents an evening dedicated to Luciano Pavarotti. Tickets £15 (concs £13).

Stage veteran Victor Spinetti presents his showbiz reminiscences in his funny and gossipy show on December 12 and 13. Tickets £14

(concs £12 concs). Recommended for 13-plus.

Two more comedy shows round off the season: On December 18 and 19 it's Marxist comic Mark Steel (£15, concs £13) in an adult show, and on December 20 anarchic Norwich comedy combo Axis of Evil present their “live action stage sitcom” Tales of the Uninvited (£10, concs £8).

Student group discounts - and workshops - are available for several of these shows.

t Box office: 01603 598598 www.norwichplayhouse.org.uk