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One of the “greatest plays of the 20th century” is headed to the Belgrade Theatre this October, with Shane Richie set to star in a new production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer.
Launded by theatre critic Michael Billington as one of last century’s best dramas, The Entertainer tells the story of washed-up comic Archie Rice – a man who feels out of kilter and left behind in a rapidly changing world.
Having premiered in 1957, the play originally explored the social and cultural transformations of the post-war era. Directed by Sean O’Connor, this timely new production is the first to change the story’s original setting, relocating the action to the early 1980s, against the backdrop of the Falklands War and the rise of alternative comedy.
1982: Archie Rice is a washed-up entertainer playing a summer season. As his soldier son sails with the Task Force to liberate the Falklands, his daughter Jean returns from campaigning against the war, and Archie’s professional and personal lives collide with devastating consequences.
Best known as loveable rogue Alfie Moon in BBC One’s EastEnders, Shane Richie has enjoyed a hugely successful 40-year career in entertainment, balancing work as an actor, writer, producer and presenter across theatre, film and TV.
Shane Richie said, “Following in the black patent shoes of Olivier, Gambon, Lindsay & Branagh, it’s an incredible honour to be asked to play one of literature’s greatest fictional characters, Archie Rice. In the words of the great man himself, “you’re a long time dead, let’s just whoop it up!”
Joining him on stage as Archie’s wife Phoebe will be Olivier Award winner Sara Crowe. Known for her role as Laura in classic rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral, she has most recently appeared as Ruth in the UK tour of Calendar Girls the Musical.
Archie’s daughter Jean is played by singer, songwriter, actor and fashion designer Diana Vickers, who last appeared at the Belgrade in the 2018 tour of Son of a Preacher Man. Having risen to prominence as a semi-finalist in the 2008 series of The X Factor, Vickers has since gone on to release multiple top 40 hit singles, develop her own fashion line and star in theatre productions including Big, The Rocky Horror Show and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Her debut single “Once” and her debut album Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree both reached number one in the official UK singles and albums chart respectively. Her on-screen work includes Josh, Top Coppers, Give Out Girls, Awaiting, To Dream and The Perfect Wave.
Completing the cast will be Pip Donaghy as Archie’s father Billy and Christopher Bonwell as his son Frank. Pip Donaghy’s recent theatre credits including the UK tours of The Remains of the Day and King Lear, and his TV work includes Foyle’s War, Casualty and This is Personal: The Yorkshire Ripper Story. Christopher Bonwell’s theatre credits include In Praise of Love and Bath, the UK tour of Twelfth Night and Bad Jews in the West End. Films include Siffre and Love and Mercy.
Director Sean O’Connor said: “Osborne’s story of a man who faces the end of his career in the declining days of a popular art form in the context of Britain struggling to establish its place on the international stage has never seemed more relevant or more timely.
“Against the backdrop of the Falklands War of 1982, the satirical new world of alternative comedy has dismissed Archie’s style of humour and his sort of act as old–fashioned and even offensive. The mother-in-law joke has been outlawed and a generation of entertainers like Archie have suddenly found themselves irrelevant.
“At the same time, in the wake of recent abuse scandals, a certain cultural attitude – and a certain sort of man – has been exposed as outmoded and redundant; this is an Entertainer for 2019.”
Co-produced by Curve, Anthology Theatre and Simon Friend Entertainment, The Entertainer is directed by Sean O’Connor with lighting by Tim Mitchell, sound by Chris James and movement by Emily Holt. Casting is by Ginny Schiller and musical supervision is by Greg Arrowsmith.
The Entertainer shows at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry 15-19 October. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055, or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book for two or more participating shows together to claim 20% off your tickets.
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