New season: Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

David Wakefield Fascinating Aida, Michael Portillo and the hit musical Chess are just three of the varied ingredients in the new season at Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal. DAVID WAKEFIELD previews it.

David Wakefield

The usual highly varied line-up is featured in the new year at Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal - from comedy to jazz, through drama to a top musical (all performances are 7.30pm, unless stated otherwise).

Getting things off to a highly irreverent start on January 27 are 4 Poofs And A Piano. The boys shot to fame as the house band on the Friday night Jonathan Ross show on BBC1, and this is part of a first nationwide tour. Expect jaunty reworkings of classic covers and their own comic material (£7-£22.50).

The following night sees another of its frequent visits to East Anglia by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, directed, as it has been for 40-odd years, by Bill Ashton. This is top-notch big band music, and the line-up is sure to include a healthy batch of local players (£7-£22.50).

Those likely to be offended by such things should give The Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Bible - The Complete Word of God (Abridged, January 29-31) a miss! The company tackles such questions as Did Adam and Eve have navels, and Did Moses really look like Charlton Heston? (£7-£23.50).

On Tuesday, February 3, as part of the Restoring The Repertoire series of revived plays, there is a rehearsed reading of A Trip To Bath, by Frances Sheridan, completed by Elizabeth Kuti (1765-1999).

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A witty comedy of manners, it features a gloriously inept Mrs Tryford - the prototype for Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's The Rivals (£7). This is preceded at 1pm by a lunchtime lecture on Frances Sheridan's work (£4).

The sharp wit and musical harmony of Fascinating Aida (Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman) comes to the theatre on February 4 and 5 for a 25th birthday celebration.

Age shall not wither them - the humour is as spot-on as ever (£7-£23.50).

The Quebecois group Le Vent Du Nord plays traditional music on February 6 (£7-£23.50) while songs from the musicals and opera are featured in Casting Couch on February 7 - with proceeds going to Cancer Research UK (prices to be confirmed).

February 9-14 sees a week's residency by the Hull Truck Theatre Company with (inevitably) a John Godber play Lucky Sods (£7-£23.50); one-night shows feature Gary Gamble and Elaine Boyle and their country music band (February 15, 4.30 and 7.30, £10-£14) and Sasha Grynyuk (piano) on February 16 (£12).

Half term beckons from February 16-21, and the Half Moon Young People's Theatre presents Baa Moo Yellow Dog - a fantastic world of surprises and colours for two- to five-year-olds. This one leaves the theatre to do the rounds to Mildenhall, Bury (All Saints Parish Hall), Thetford and Stradbroke, with performances at 2pm, and tickets £5.

A lunchtime concert by Lisa Cassidy (soprano) and Gareth Williams (piano) (1.10pm, £7, with lunch £11) on February 17 is a prelude to an evening audience with former Tory heavyweight MP Michael Portillo.

In his time he briefed Mrs Thatcher and advised the then chancellor Nigel Lawson, and thus can give a real insight to life in the corridors of power (£7-£23.50).

Cleverly adapted from Dickens' novel, Pickwick Papers is a European Arts Company presentation on February 19 of what is described as “a highly physical and inventive piece of theatre”.

Six versatile performers present the adventures of the members of The Pickwick Club on a hazardous cross-country journey (£7-£23.50).

Argentine ensemble Subitango mix tango, jazz and roots on February 20 and, as a total contrast the following evening, the Locrian Ensemble presents Musical Vienna by Candlelight. Dressed in period custome, and with a stunning candlelit setting, the ensemble performs Strauss, Schubert, Lehár, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, with contributions from Catriona Clark (soprano) and Roger Ringrose (actor) (£7-£23.50).

The Henry Oguike Dance Company presents Front Line, White Space, Falling, Finale - the winner of the Critics' Circle National Dance Awards 2007 for Outstanding Repertoire. This quartet of signature dance work makes an ideal 10th anniversary retrospective performance, which is on March 4 (£7-£23.50).

March 5 sees a further Restoring The Repertoire rehearsed reading, this time of The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell. This five-part tragedy by George Lillo was first performed at Drury Lane in 1731 (tickets and further details to be announced).

Following Opera Della Luna's performance of Johann Strauss' joyful operetta Die Fledermaus (March 7, £7-£27.50), Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is presented as a Theatre Royal production directed by Abigail Anderson, from March 10-14. The Bard's bittersweet comedy of love has a bawdy mix of song, humour, drunken antics and high-flown passions and never fails to delight (£7-£21.50).

A series of one-off performances follows: March 13, Lunchtime Reading (£11 with lunch); March 15, John McNicholl, plus Irish duo O'Haie and Chambers (4.30 and 7.30, £14-£10); March 16, Barbirolli Quartet (£12); March 17, David Lale (cello), Angela Lloyd-Mostyn (piano) (1.10pm, £7, with luhch £11); March 17, A Funny Valentine (the story of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, £7-£21.50); and March 18, Roger Dean sings The Johnny Cash Story (prices to be announced).

March 24-28 sees a week of Chess, with music by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, of ABBA, and lyrics by Tim Rice. This is presented by the Irving Stage Company and tells of a romantic love triangle between two players in the World Chess Championships (£7-£23.50).

The genius of Alan Ayckbourn comes to the forefront in Relatively Speaking (March 31-April 4). One of Ackbourn's earliest works it's a glorious social mix of a comedy (£7-£23.50).

Another Lunchtime Reading (April 3, £11) precedes three nights of The Snow Queen, adapted from Hans Christian Anderson's story (April 6-8, £7-£14.50). More one-offs follow: April 15, David Benson Sings Noel Coward (£7-£22.50); April 16, Restoring The Repertoire double bill, The Celebrated Mrs Inchbold and The Wolf And The Lamb (prices to follow); and April 17, Circo Ridiculoso's Lighter Than Air (details follow).

Lucy Porter's The Bare Necessities, on April 18, is a stripped-down hour of stand-up comedy in which Lucy talks about the really important things in her life (£7-£17). Ollie Austin's All Star Band brings more country music to the theatre (April 19, 4.30 and 7.30pm, £14-£10).

One of the great British “Kitchen Sink” plays - John Osborne's Look Back In Anger - comes to Bury from April 21-25 (£7-£23.50). It tells of the original Angry Young Man, Jimmy Porter - so memorably played by Richard Burton in the 1958 film version - who seems intent on destroying himself and everyone he loves.

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