In 2011, new musical London Road made its world première at the National Theatre and immediately became one of the biggest hits of the year. Written by Alecky Blythe (book and lyrics) and Adam Cork (music and lyrics), the verbatim-word musical used Blythe’s recorded interviews with the residents of Ipswich following the serial killing of five prostitutes in the town in 2006. Despite the initial misgivings that came with basing a musical on a series of real-life murders, London Road received rave reviews across the board and the critically acclaimed documentary-drama production won ‘Best Musical’ at the 2011 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, as well as being nominated for four Olivier Awards.
The success of its initial run led to the musical being revived for a second showing at the National in 2012 and a film adaption is currently in production under the helm of Rufus Norris, who directed the original stage production and is set to take over as Artistic Director at the National next year.
Blythe had had some success with her earlier work, but it was London Road that really put her on the map and helped her become a recognised name in the theatre industry. It’s hardly surprising then that her first new London production since London Road should draw so much attention.
Her new play, Little Revolution, makes its world première this summer with a limited run at the Almeida Theatre. The production is based on the 2011 London riots and once again utilises the recordings of Blythe’s dictaphone. She took to the streets as London burned to capture the voices and stories of the community and has turned them into another verbatim-style stage piece which documents the riots as they happened through to their present-day aftermath.
Joe Hill-Gibbins will direct Little Revolution, which also features designs by Ian MacNeil, costumes by Holly Waddingham, Lighting design by Guy Hoare and sound design by Paul Arditti, as well as an exciting cast of performers who have just been announced. The cast is comprised of Ronni Ancona, Melanie Ash, Alecky Blythe, Bayo Gbadamosi, Lloyd Hutchinson, Rez Kempton, Barry McCarthy, Lucian Msamati, Clare Perkins, Michael Schaeffer, Imogen Stubbs and Rufus Wright, and includes a community chorus of locals from the Islington and Hackney area who have been brought together by the Almeida Projects team.
Award-winning actress Ronni Ancona is well known for work on-screen in television programmes such as The Trip, Last Tango in Halifax and The Big Impression. Ronni has previously appeared on stage in The Hypochondriac (Almeida), Singin’ in the Rain (Sadler’s Wells) and Miss Conceptions (Edinburgh Festival). Ronni won the British Comedy Award and the Variety Club Award for Best Actress and was also awarded a BAFTA for her work on The Big Impression.
Melanie Ash has previously appeared in Alecky Blythe’s The Riots and is also well-known for her long-running role in ITV’s Emmerdale as Colleen King. Melanie’s stage credits include Looking for JJ (Unicorn Theatre) and The Vagina Monologues(Preston Guild Hall).
Bayo Gbadamosi has recently appeared on stage in Mad About The Boy (Unicorn Theatre, Bush Theatre & Young Vic), Little Baby Jesus (Ovalhouse), The Gods Are Not To Blame, The Litter and Uncle Vanya (all Young Vic). Bayo’s film credits include The Swarm and Mission London.
Lloyd Hutchinson has previously appeared at the Almeida in Measure for Measure as well as appearing on stage in Boris Godunov (Royal Shakespeare Company), A Flea in her Ear (Old Vic), Life is a Dream (Donmar Warehouse), Stones in His Pockets (Tricycle Theatre) and Permanent Way (National Theatre). Lloyd has also appeared on television in the critically acclaimed Utopia written by Dennis Kelly and Silk.
Rez Kempton’s theatre credits include Drawing the Line (Hampstead Theatre), Gandhi and Coconuts (Arcola), The Battle of Green Lanes (Theatre Royal Stratford East), The Fortune Club (Tricycle Theatre) and The Arbor (Crucible Theatre). Rez has also appeared on television in Adha Cup, Singapore Mutiny and Doctors, and is also set to star in the upcoming film Amar, Akbar and Tony.
Barry McCarthy is an accomplished stage and screen actor whose previous credits for the Almeida include King Lear and Last Seen. He has also recently appeared on stage in Kafka’s Dick (Theatre Royal, Bath), Flustered (Southwark Playhouse),The Canterbury Tales and As You Like It (both Royal Shakespeare Company). Barry’s film credits include Notes on a Scandal starring Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench and Kinky Boots, he is also set to star in the film adaptation of Rufus Norris’London Road due for release in 2015.
Actor and director Lucian Msamati has previously appeared on stage in I.D., Ruined (both Almeida), The Amen Corner, The Comedy of Errors, Mourning Becomes Electra (all National Theatre), If You Don’t Let Us Dream We Won’t Let You Sleep, Belong (both Royal Court) and Clybourne Park (Royal Court & West End). His television credits include appearances in the critically acclaimed Game of Thrones, Ashes to Ashes, Doctor Who and Spooks. In 2013, Lucian made his directorial début in The Epic Adventure of Nhamo the Manyiko Warrior and his Sexy Wife Chipo at the Tricycle Theatre.
Clare Perkins’ stage credits include Welcome to Thebes (National Theatre), The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Nottingham Playhouse), How Long Is Never? (Tricycle Theatre) and Our Country’s Good (Southampton Nuffield Theatre). Clare’s television roles include recurring roles in EastEndersand Family Affairs as well as appearances in Doctors and Holby City. Clare has previously worked with directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh on Ladybird, Ladybird and Secrets and Lies.
Michael Shaeffer is currently on stage at the Almeida in Mr Burns and has also appeared in Godchild (Hampstead Theatre),Friday Night Sex (Royal Court), All About My Mother (Old Vic), Table and London Road (both National Theatre). Michael’s film credits include Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, Broken and Kingdom of Heaven as well as reprising his role in London Road in the 2015 adaptation. Michael has appeared on television in Luther, Black Mirror and Parade’s End.
Imogen Stubbs is well-known for her many stage roles in notable productions such as Orpheus Descending (Royal Exchange, Manchester), A Marvellous Year for Plums (Chichester Festival Theatre), Third Finger, Left Hand (Trafalgar Studios), Salt Root and Roe (Donmar Warehouse) and Strangers on a Train (Gielgud Theatre). Imogen also appeared in Emma Thompson’s Academy Award-winning film Sense and Sensibility.
Rufus Wright is an acclaimed stage actor who most recently played David Cameron in Stephen Daldry and Peter Morgan’s critically acclaimed The Audience (Gielgud Theatre). Rufus has also appeared on stage in The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre),Frost/Nixon (Donmar Warehouse), The Empire (Royal Court) and Private Lives (Hampstead Theatre). His films include Peter Morgan’s The Special Relationship and Quantum of Solace.
Opening at the Almeida Theatre on 26th August 2014, Little Revolution is due to run until 4th October 2014. The auditorium is undergoing a transformation to accommodate the production, which necessitates seating changes to place the audience at the ‘heart of the action’. All eyes will be Blythe’s new play when it opens as expectations are high after the runaway success of London Road. The 2011 musical is undoubtedly the masterpiece of her career so far, but she has had a good response to her earlier work and even won awards for it, so we already know she isn’t a one-hit-wonder. Can she top London Road though, or even match it? That remains to be seen, but either way, the début of the highly anticipated Little Revolution is certainly a date many will be putting in their theatrical calendar.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 22nd July 2014