Jermyn Street Theatre has announced The Reaction Season, its third as a producing theatre.
Running from 10 April to 18 August, The Reaction Season will feature 15 plays and musicals – 12 of them one-act – based around themes of reacting and re-enacting.
It will also include the first complete London revival of Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 since 1936. Tonight at 8.30 and Tomorrow at Noon – a cycle of 12 one-act plays arranged into four trios – will play in repertory.
Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 features nine one-act plays ranging from music-hall pastiche to light comedies, to heartbreaking drama.
These have been arranged into three trios entitled Secret Hearts, Nuclear Families and Bedroom Farces, with the chance to see all three trios (nine plays) in a single day on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tom Littler directs Tonight at 8.30, and the plays in the Tomorrow at Noon season are staged by the theatre’s deputy director Stella Powell-Jones.
Tomorrow at Noon features three new one-act plays reacting to Tonight at 8.30: Jenny Ayres’ Glimpse is inspired by Coward’s Still Life; Emma Harding’s The Thing Itself reacts to Coward’s Shadow Play. Morna Young’s Smite is inspired by Coward’s The Astonished Heart.
Casting will be announced shortly.
In addition, BAFTA-winning filmmaker Gaby Dellal will direct Stitchers, the first play by Esther Freud (well known as a bestselling author, with novels including Hideous Kinky).
The piece is about the prison reformer Lady Anne Tree, who reacted to the state of Britain’s prisons with an original idea – she would teach needlecraft to convicts.
Stella Powell-Jones will direct the European premiere of Boo Killebrew’s highly-praised The Play About My Dad, set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Boo and her Dad compete to tell his story – with unforeseen consequences.
Rounding off the season is Hymn to Love, devised by Annie Castledine, Elizabeth Mansfield and Steve Trafford, which re-enacts the life of Edith Piaf, featuring 13 of her songs in new translations.
It is a co-production with York Theatre Royal and Theatre by the Lake, in association with Ensemble. The production is directed by Damian Cruden and stars Elizabeth Mansfield.
Tom Littler said: “This is the most ambitious season in our 24-year history, and I am incredibly grateful to all of the people who have helped to set it up. I am very excited to be directing the whole of Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30 – in our intimate studio space, I think these plays can be revealed as works of extraordinary insight, wit, and emotional impact. And I cannot wait to see how the three playwrights of Tomorrow at Noon react to Coward.
“Esther Freud’s Stitchers and Boo Killebrew’s The Play About My Dad are both remarkable, fierce, funny works that I couldn’t put down. And Hymn to Love is not just a delight for any lover of Edith Piaf, it’s a serious piece of art in its own right.
“Everything here reacts to everything else; the plays sit in a lively conversation with each other, and I hope audiences will be along to see everything in the season and join in that conversation.”