Acceptance, laughter and falling in snowdrifts – director Robert Wolstenholme tells us about staging Charlotte Jones’ award-winning comedy, Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis, at Park Theatre this Christmas. Read what he tells us, then book your tickets.
Signal Theatre Company’s production, which marks the 21st anniversary of the play’s premiere, runs at the Park Theatre from 11 December 2019 to 4 January 2020.
Josie’s tired. Tired of the Bolton winter. Tired of looking after daydreaming daughter Brenda-Marie. Tired of working as a dominatrix to make ends meet. Too tired to celebrate turning forty. But her favourite client Lionel insists on a birthday party and, knowing Josie’s a huge Elvis fan, invites a very special guest. Just as hips start swinging, somebody no-one expected arrives and skeletons come tumbling out of the closet…
The ‘adults only’ Christmas treat is a quirky, kinky celebration of life’s outsiders.
Signal Theatre Company co-founder Robert Wolstenholme directs Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis at Park Theatre. In addition to his work with Signal, he has directed productions including Gilbert is Dead (Hoxton Hall), Bash (Hen and Chickens Theatre), Closer (Landor Theatre) and Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down (Etcetera Theatre).
— Signal Theatre Company (@SignalTheatreCo) November 22, 2019
Sioned Jones leads the cast as Martha, with Kellie Batchelor as Josie. Jones and Batchelor are joined in the cast by Andrew P Stephen (Lionel), Matt Lim (Timothy), Charlie Bence (Brenda-Marie) and Jessica Forrest (Louise).
Playwright Charlotte Jones won the Pearson Best Play Award in 1998 and the Critics Circle Most Promising Playwright Award for Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis. Her other plays include In Flame, The Dark and Humble Boy, which won the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Critics Circle Award for Best New Play.
Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis runs at Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP from 11 December to 4 January, with performances Mondays to Saturdays 7.45pm, matinees Thursdays and Saturdays 3.15pm. Tickets are priced from £18 (previews £14.50) CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Director Robert Wolstenholme tells us about staging Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis
What drew you to Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis?
As a company, it has everything we look for in a play – it’s really funny, it’s a little bit naughty, but it also has real heart, as well as something to say. We’re also interested in representation, so while it’s not the main reason, we really liked that it was a play by a female writer and has more female characters than male.
How would you describe the show?
Sweet yet saucy, which originally started as a way to relate it to Christmas, but now seems the best quick way to sum it up!
It premiered 21 years ago, but this is its London premiere. Why do you think that is?
That’s a bit of a mystery – we still can’t quite believe that’s true, but it is! I can only think that everyone just assumes it has been done in London at some point. And I wonder if people get it confused with Lee Hall‘s Cooking With Elvis, which premiered around the same time and became a big, ubiquitous hit.
How has it aged?
Apart from one reference to writing someone a letter and an absence of mobile phones, I’m not sure that it has. In fact, a play that’s really all about accepting people for who they are, rather than who they pretend to be, seems more relevant than ever.
What’s your most memorable birthday?
My fortieth was pretty memorable – my birthday’s in early February and it snowed pretty heavily, I fell in a snow drift on the way home from the pub and couldn’t get up. As my Nan used to say, ‘drink had been taken.’
How do you feel about staging the show at Park Theatre?
Massively excited – I used to live just up the road from Park Theatre and we’d wanted to do a show there for ages. So when I had the idea of doing this play, it was pretty much the only venue we considered. And the welcome and support we’ve received from the team there have totally vindicated that decision.
Signal Theatre Company is dedicated to staging comedies. Why?
When the company started over ten years ago, we were a bunch of mates putting on our own work to have a laugh together, so we thought that if we were having fun, the audience should be too and an artistic policy was born! And while I think theatre’s primary purpose is entertainment, that doesn’t mean it can’t be moving and thought-provoking as well. In fact, I think it’s probably easier to get someone to cry or ponder when they’re having a good time, rather than being browbeaten.
What can audiences expect from the production?
Obviously, we hope they have a laugh, there are some great Elvis tunes in it (but it’s not a musical) and there’s quite a surprising story about a quirky bunch of characters, which doesn’t go where you’d expect it to. In many ways, it’s very Christmassy, but in the true, heartfelt spirit of the season. And it’s a lot of fun.