Stories and announcements

1Jul. 2016.

A Load of Balls

There's nothing quite like a night of rip-roaring comedy to make you forget the lousy weather, a crushing sporting defeat, an (inter)national crisis or all three. If laughing yourself stupid can spread a little health and happiness further afield, all the better and we present just such an opportunity next Tuesday with Alive and Laughing in aid of African football charity, Alive and Kicking.

Alive and kicking is a shining example of how the simplest of ideas and enterprises can generate a chain of far-reaching benefits to change the lives of many. It all starts with hand-stitched footballs. The genius of it is that making them keeps 140 people in Nairobi, Lusaka and Accra, many of whom have never had a real job before, in full-time work. Those people support an average of six people with their wage, meaning the charity directly supports a community of over 800.

It doesn't stop there. The footballs are printed with messages that help to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and to promote a range of causes, from peace and reconciliation to wildlife conservation. Which also keeps skilled screen printers in business and earning a fair wage, supporting their families and communities and so the goodness spreads.

Then there are the opportunities for play brought to schools and community projects who have been given balls and who would otherwise have been unable to afford them.

So why not come along on Tuesday 5th July and do your bit to make the good stuff happen by having a riot of a time watching some of the funniest acts you'll ever see?
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1Jul. 2016.

Calling all budding poets

Ida Barr's Drop the Mic Poetry Night

On Monday 12th September, we are presenting a historically inaccurate poetry night compered by none other than faded Music Hall Star, Ida Barr. Poetry and rhyme was an integral part of Victorian Music Hall entertainment. Often performers would use poetry to inform their audiences of current events and political issues of the day.

We are looking for four emerging poets to perform a short ten-minute set at this event, including at least one poem about current events.
  If you would like to apply, please fill in our Application Form and email it to d.graham@wiltons.org.uk.
Deadline Monday 22nd August at midday.
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30Jun. 2016.

New Season Now on Sale

We are thrilled to present an outstanding autumn season. Highlights include: the world premiere of Britten in Brooklyn, Zoe Lewis’s portrait of Britten’s time in New York with Gypsy Rose Lee, starring Sadie Frost and directed by Oli Rose; a brand new version of Floyd Collins directed by the amazing Jonathan Butterell; Camille O’Sullivan for her first time ever at Wilton’s; Seabright Productions’ Black is the Color of My Voice, written and performed by Apphia Campbell, telling the story of Nina Simone; the unmissable Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists; and, for a grand finale, the season culminates with Wilton’s very own pantomime - Mother Goose, from the same creative team that attracted star-laden reviews with last year’s panto, Dick Whittington.

Read the full programme by clicking on the image below.

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16Jun. 2016.

Plays Without Décor

Calling all budding directors! 

Thanks to generous support from the Noel Coward Foundation, we are able to offer young and emerging directors a very special opportunity. As part of our Learning and Participation Programme, led by our L&P Manager David Graham, we are offering eight emerging directors the chance to use our new, purpose-built Aldgate and Allhallows Learning and Participation Studio for one week, without charge, between October 2016 – September 2017. This will allow space and time to workshop and develop theatrical ideas and comes as a package together with mentoring from our staff and the chance to produce a semi-staged performance in front of a paying audience. 

The studio has already hosted two successful productions under this scheme: House of Sock and The Episode. If you believe that your project should be next, you have until Monday 8th August to apply so check out our Jobs & Opportunities page for full details and an application form. 
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8Jun. 2016.

Sharing Wilton's Archive

Wilton's new Archive & Interpretation Manager, James White, has been busy burying himself amongst the 184 boxes that make up the beautifully rehoused Wilton’s archive. Sharing his favourite finds as he digitises the collection (thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund), take a look at his weekly posts over on the archive page. Find out more here: wiltons.org.uk/heritage/archive.
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25May. 2016.

Shakespeare Untold: An Introduction from James Seabright

We're gearing up for a fun half term treat: a joint production from Shakespeare's Globe and Seabright Productions, Shakespeare Untold. We caught up with producer James Seabright and asked him to tell us a little about the show for a feature in our latest Friends' Newsletter. Here's an excerpt...

"The two Shakespeare Untold stories existed in a smaller form before I was involved and I was invited to see them in the education studios at the Globe. I could see straight away the potential and need for them to be scaled up to something rather bigger, so we put a design and production team behind them and launched them in Edinburgh last year. They were very well received and now they’re touring, culminating with a run at Wilton’s during half term week.

The two stories, of Romeo and Juliet and Titus Andronicus, are told by solo performers but seen through the fresh eyes of characters who don’t exist in the originals. We witness, second hand, the plot through the character on stage – a party planner and a pie-maker. Some of Shakespeare’s original text is in there but it’s far more accessible with a modern feel to it and, of course, lots of messy cooking in Titus Andronicus. It may sound strange for a play as bloody as that to be staged in a way that is accessible and not too scary for the kids but they love a bit of gore and it really does work. In fact, I think they enjoy that aspect of the story the most. Shakespeare’s Globe has been working on quite a few untolds for a while so there may be others in future. And, of course, it’s particularly wonderful to be doing these in the year of the 
400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death."

James Seabright is an independent theatre producer and general manager who has worked on more than 200 shows since 2001, under the auspices of Seabright Productions Ltd since 2009. He has toured shows around the UK and internationally, staged productions both on and off the West End and, for 11 years, his Festival Highlights shows at Edinburgh bagged awards galore including five Scotsman Fringe Firsts for productions directed by Hannah Eidinow. The Seabright productions catalogue is impressive: Potted Sherlock, Showstopper!, Eric and Little Ern, Potted Potter, Julie Madly Deeply, The Only Way is Downton and An Instinct For Kindness to name but a few. As well as Shakespeare Untold with Shakespeare’s Globe, James is also bringing Dinosaur Parkwith Superbolt Theatre, to Wilton's in July. We hope to see a great deal more of him in future.

Shakespeare Untold runs 31st May to 4th June with matinee and evening performances each day; Dinosaur Park runs 21st June to 2nd July with matinee performances on 25th June and 2nd July.

Wilton's Friends and Patrons are an essential lifeline, supporting the work we do through a yearly membership fee. To find out more about the membership levels and the newsletters, visit 

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16May. 2016.

Falstaff: A Note from the Director

Back in November 2014, conductor Ben Woodward rang me up and said, ‘Daisy, would you like to direct Falstaff?’ Gleefully I replied, ‘yes Ben I’d love to! When are the rehearsals? When does it start?’ Then followed a exasperated exhale, ‘Well… the thing is, it opens in 10 days’, ‘ah…’

Thus began my joyful, hair-raising, hilarious and perfectly charming journey with this production of Falstaff. I can honestly say it’s one of the best shows I’ve directed, and I owe that to the fantastic ensemble and the huge amount of energy they generate from beginning to end. Keel Watson was born to play John Falstaff, and surrounded by a perfect combination of comedians; this show clicks together in the most satisfying and joyful way imaginable.

My production of Falstaff brings us to Windsor’s local ‘Spoons, The Garter Inn. I wanted the piece to be completely modern so the comedy could be fresh and accessible. Verdi’s characters are 100% recognisable to a modern audience; Falstaff a sleazy glutton with no other aim in life but to be satisfied, Ford is an over-confident sideline-coach-dad, and the merry wives are tracksuit clad ladies-wot-lunch. Hilarity ensues when all these characters collide in a confused, multi-layered plot to teach the lecherous Falstaff a lesson.

A great friend and mentor once told me that in tragedy, the dramatic events take over and engulf the characters, and in comedy, the characters only just keep abreast of the situation. I immediately imagined a group of stick figures precariously balancing on a fast turning ball, feet slipping, hands waving, clutching each other in a wild attempt to stay on top. So my interpretation of Falstaff followed that - each individual scrabbles with the threads of a complicated love triangle, or rather three triangles all layered on top of each other, then confused… What’s joyful about this show is watching them work their way through the jumble of confusion. Like ants in a maze!

It’s a thrilling show to watch, the characters are spot on and their interactions are laced with innuendo, sarcasm and mischief. Every one of them puts on a persona to deal with another, and what ensues is a collage of extreme behaviours and comedic indulgence. It’s almost cartoon like when Falstaff meets Alice for a proposed seduction, but the comedy bites us twice when we see them drop the façade and gasp for air.

But in the end – ‘tutti gabbati’, it’s all a joke. We’re here to be entertained, so let us do just that. From our first 10 days at St. John’s Fulham, to a week at Grimeborn and now a week at Wilton’s, I’m hugely proud of the cast and the show. It’s a perfect piece to get the giggles gurgling and the smile will stay on your face from beginning to end. The energy radiating from this ensemble is sublime, and it’s a wonderful experience that will appeal to everyone from novice opera-goers to season ticket holders, young and old. I urge everyone to HAVE MORE FUN!

Fulham Opera present Verdi’s Falstaff
23rd May to 28th May, 7:30pm - 10pm, £12 - £23
Sung in Italian with English surtitles
Click here to find out more and to book.
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11May. 2016.

A chat with Hackney Colliery Band's Steve Pretty

Hackney colliery Band are making their Wilton’s debut, although they have been known to take up their instruments here more than once already, as frontman, trumpet and melodica player, Steve Pretty, explained. “We have played here privately at three weddings so we know what a special venue this is and the acoustic is perfect for our sound. We’ll also be filming and recording the shows for a live album so this feels like the high spot of our tour”. 

The band was formed in 2008, born of ‘a desire to play music that appealed to the feet as much as to the ears’. Inspired by contemporary US brass bands, their line-up is similar but they have evolved into something quite different with their own distinctive sound and identity. “We use a lot of electronics live as well as acoustics and take our influences from jazz, Björk and rock as much as from brass traditions. It’s the meeting of traditional and modern that interests us”.

Steve is keen to steer clear of over-used words such as eclectic and unique when describing HCB’s style and material, as well avoiding being labelled a ‘novelty’ cover band. “Although we started out doing a lot of covers and still do, we always limited it to less obvious numbers, apart from the Closing Ceremony for the 2012 Olympics, where we were commissioned to play more commercial covers”. Ah, yes, THAT gig. The one where HCB played a blistering set to countless millions worldwide, conveying the raw spirit of 21st century East London with an unmistakably British sense of humour.” I’m so glad we did it, it was a privilege - unforgettable and amazing, but there was none of the immediacy and adrenalin rush of playing somewhere like Wilton’s where you can interact with your audience and literally feel the music”.

For Hackney Colliery Band, audience interaction can be anything from a 90-something man taking his shirt off and dancing topless until his wife told him enough was quite enough, to unexpectedly being joined on stage by Amy Winehouse at the Jazz Café. “Unfortunately, it was towards the end of her life so she was not in the best of shape but it was a very special moment”.

If you didn’t manage to get tickets to this week's two sell-out shows, Steve Pretty will be playing a stripped down set in the Mahogany Bar, accompanied by a couple of musical friends, on 25th July. Also, keep an eye on our website in coming weeks for a podcast in which Steve relates his own very personal and unusual story.

Photography: Steve Pretty-Aidan Harris-Rachel Morris  -  Steve 3rd from left
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11May. 2016.

Ida Barr's Drop the Mic Poetry Night

Calling all budding poets for a special event here at Wilton's on 13th June!

On Monday 13th June, we are presenting a historically inaccurate poetry night compered by none other than faded Music Hall Star, Ida Barr. Poetry and rhyme was an integral part of Victorian Music Hall entertainment. Often performers would use poetry to inform their audiences of current events and political issues of the day.

We are looking for four emerging poets to perform a short ten-minute set including at least one poem about current events.

If you would like to apply, please complete the application form and send to: info@wiltons.org.uk . You can download the application form here.    
Deadline Monday 23rd May at midday.

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4May. 2016.

Celebration Time!

We're cock-a-hoop today because, last night, our building conservation project won not one, not even two but (drum roll) THREE ROYAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS AWARDS! Yes, we feel that deserves upper case all the way. Most important of all, we captured this initial reaction to the news from Site Mascot, Bailey.

The awards in question are: RIBA London Award 2016;  RIBA London Conservation Award 2016; RIBA London Building of the Year 2016. You can find out more and see lots of Hélène Binet’s beautiful photographs here

Please join us in offering a heartfelt congratulations to everyone who played a part in phase One to repair the auditorium and Phase Two to repair the front of house buildings:

Tim Ronalds Architects
Fullers Builders - Phase One
William Anelay Ltd - Phase Two
Cambridge Architectural Research - Structural Engineers
Max Fordham LLP - M&E Engineers
EC Harris - Quanitity Surveyor, Phase One
Bristow Johnson - Quanitity Surveyor, Phase Two
Carr & Angier - Theatre Consultant
Ramboll - Acoustic Engineers
All Clear Designs - Access Consultant
John Earl - Conservation Plan
The Wilton's team

Photography: Hélène Binet

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