The world premiere of Howard Brenton‘s play The Shadow Factory will be the inaugural production at NST City, a second outpost for Nuffield Southampton Theatre based at Studio 144, Southampton’s new £28 million arts venue situated in the heart of the city centre.
The Shadow Factory, directed by Nuffield Southampton Theatres director Samuel Hodges, runs from 7 February to 3 March 2018, with a press night on 15 February.
Autumn 1940. The Battle of Britain rages in the skies. Southampton is home to our only hope of victory: the Spitfire. But when the Luftwaffe drops 2,300 bombs in three devastating raids, the city goes up in flames and the Woolston Supermarine Spitfire factory is destroyed. From the ashes, a story of chaos, courage and community spirit emerges.
Southampton’s brand-new theatre, NST City, is conceived by Hodges and 59 Productions, the Tony Award-winning artists behind the video design of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, War Horse, An American in Paris and Paul Auster’s City of Glass.
Director Samuel Hodges commented:
“I first heard about this story months after starting this job and was immediately struck by its significance. Not just for what it says about Southampton’s past, but as an example of what the future can be. We famously live in a particularly segregated country right now – and our political leaders do nothing to reassure us that cohesion and empathy will be at the forefront.
“This story is both epic in its power and impact, but also incredibly human – it’s about individuals coming together, overcoming personal bias and mistrust, to achieve something great on their own terms.
“Working with Howard, who has proven himself time and time again to be the master of this style, is an honour and a great statement of intent for this new theatre at the heart of Southampton’s fast-rising cultural quarter.”
Howard Brenton commented:
“The creation of the shadow factories is an inspiring story from a frightening time, something for Southampton to celebrate.
“We may be uncertain about what is going to happen in the next few years. But our present anxiety pales beside the dire straits the townspeople found themselves in during the September of 1940. Their lives were torn apart – German bombing raids above, on the ground their work places requisitioned by the ruthless Ministry of Aircraft Production.
“But people responded with a mixture of courage, bloody-mindedness, anger and humour. They made sacrifices, improvised – and six weeks after the big factory’s destruction Spitfires were being made in small places all over the town.
“I’ve written characters across the generations, with scenes in Government bunkers, the town and partying on the Common as bombs fall. It was an extraordinary display of common determination. If chaos returns to Britain, we should remember its example.”
Alongside the production, the company will mount The Shadow Factory Exhibition, giving audiences the opportunity to step into the stories behind The Shadow Factory in an installation featuring the visually stunning moving set designed by 59 Productions.
New venue NST City will include a flexible 450-seat main house theatre, a 135-seat studio, screening facilities, rehearsal, workshop spaces and bar and restaurant managed by Southampton’s 2017 Business of the Year winner, Mettricks. NST City will transform NST’s ability to show high-quality professional work from local, national and international artists and allow the programme to include dance, film and music. The bar and restaurant, Tyrrell’s, will be themed on the 1950s former department store Tyrrell & Green which occupied the same site. NST will run the new city centre venue alongside its existing theatre on the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus.
Howard Brenton has written over 50 plays. His most recent credits include Paul (National Theatre), In Extremis (Shakespeare’s Globe and tour retitled Eternal Love), Never So Good (National Theatre), Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare’s Globe, plus revival and tour, winner of the Whatsonstage Best Play Award and UK Theatre Awards Best Touring Production), 55 Days (Hampstead Theatre), #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Hampstead Theatre), The Guffin (one act play, NT Connections), Drawing The Line (Hampstead Theatre), Doctor Scroggy’s War(Shakespeare’s Globe), Ransomed (one act play, Salisbury Playhouse), Lawrence After Arabia (Hampstead Theatre) and The Blinding Light(Jermyn Street Theatre). Versions of classics include The Life of Galileo and Danton’s Death (National Theatre) and Goethe’s Faust (RSC). Other adaptations include The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Liverpool Everyman and Chichester Festival Theatre) and Dances Of Death(Gate Theatre). His version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie is playing at The Theatre By The Lake, Keswick and will come to The Jermyn Street Theatre in November. For television, he wrote 13 episodes of the first four series of the BBC Television Drama Spooks (winner of the BAFTA Best Television Drama Series 2003).