Sherman Theatre has announced Joe Murphy’s first full year as Artistic Director. The 2020 season offers Cardiff audiences a year of compelling theatre made at the heart of the city. This ambitious programme sees the Sherman cement its position at the forefront of Welsh new writing.
Programme highlights, developments and initiatives announced include:
- At the heart of the season are Sherman Theatre productions of seven plays by Welsh and Wales based writers which include four world premieres. The writers driving Sherman Theatre’s 2020 season are: Brad Birch, Katherine Chandler, Tracy Harris, Daf James, Gary Owen and Lisa Parry
- Joe Murphy will direct new versions of Brad Birch’s An Enemy of the People and Gary Owen’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol
- Productions will include co-productions with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, the National Theatre and Theatre Uncut
- A range of initiatives to enable Sherman Theatre to build a dynamic and resilient Welsh theatre sector with a focus on writers including a scheme to develop unheard voices
- Rhys Ifans to become Patron of Sherman Theatre
- Sherman Theatre is Wales’ first Theatre of Sanctuary
Sherman Theatre’s Chair of Trustees David Stacey has said “Joe begins his tenure as Artistic Director of Sherman Theatre with a bold year-long season which is a real statement of intent for what Cardiff audiences, communities and artists can expect from the Sherman in coming years.”
Joe Murphy has said of his first season “I’m thrilled to announce my first season at Sherman Theatre. It’s so exciting to launch a full year of work and to celebrate the depth of artistic quality available in Wales: the artists championed here are only the beginning of our commitment to being an engine room of Welsh talent. The 2020 Season puts the audience at its heart, offering high-impact, emotional stories rooted in Wales but relevant to the world. This theatre belongs to the brilliant people of our brilliant city: somewhere to meet, share live experiences, and celebrate our culture. For me, it is the heart of Cardiff”.
Telling local stories with global resonance
The 2020 season includes An Enemy of the People (30 Apr – 16 May) by Brad Birch which will be the first play Joe Murphy will direct as Artistic Director. This timely re-working of Brad’s 2016 adaptation of Ibsen’s original sets the play in the South Wales Valleys and is a gripping drama for the post-truth era. Brad Birch said “It’s an absolute honour to be returning to the Sherman, and with a play so close to my heart. I’m excited to work with Joe, a director I have followed and admired for many years. I think this is such an exciting time for the Sherman and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
The Olivier Award-winning partnership of Sherman Theatre Associate Artist Gary Owen and former Artistic Director Rachel O’Riordan will reunite for the world premiere production of Romeo and Julie (16 Sept – 3 Oct), co-commissioned and co-produced with the National Theatre. Set in Cardiff today, Romeo and Julie is a powerful and funny new play inspired by Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. Following a tour across England and a run at the National Theatre in London, Romeo and Julie will come home to the Sherman. Gary Owen said”‘I’ve wanted for ages to write a story about a man who became a dad in far more difficult circumstances than me, but who would succeed, be a good parent, and be transformed for the better by what he’d been through. The desire to write a play about a young dad, and the thought that any story you like could be told in Splott, in Cardiff, came together in my head. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a story about young love which becomes a tragedy because of pressures the lovers face from outside their relationship. Well, raising a baby puts pressure on any relationship, no matter how stable. And so I had my play about a young man, Romeo, dad to Niamh, four months old, who meets Julie, a girl from three streets away and an entirely different world. This will be the fourth play I’ve made with Rachel. It’s fantastic to be working with her again. There’s a genuine trust.”
In October 2020 Sherman Theatre will stage the world premiere of The Merthyr Stigmatist (2-17 Oct) by Lisa Parry in a co-production with Theatre Uncut. The play was submitted and subsequently shortlisted for Theatre Uncut’s Political Playwriting Award 2019 on which the Sherman was a partner. Emma Callander, Theatre Uncut’s joint Artistic Director, will direct this fierce new play in which a Merthyr Tydfil school pupil claims to have the stigmata, the wounds of Christ. Lisa Parry has said “I couldn’t be more excited that The Merthyr Stigmatist will be co-produced by Sherman Theatre and Theatre Uncut, in the Sherman Studio where I’ve seen so much work that’s moved and inspired me. The Sherman’s really helped me develop as a writer over the years and I’m delighted to be included in Joe’s first season.”
Sherman Theatre’s tradition of spectacular main house actor musician led Christmas productions will continue with a new production of Gary Owen’s A Christmas Carol (27 Nov 2020 – 2 Jan 2021) directed by Joe Murphy. Gary has revisited his adaptation of the Dickens’ classic relocating the story to Victorian Cardiff where Ebenezer Scrooge learns that she can find happiness in compassion, kindness and love.
For ages 3-6 Katherine Chandler’s adaptation of the classic fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker / Y Coblynnod a’r Crydd (6-7 Nov & 30 Nov 2020 – 2 Jan 2021) will provide the perfect introduction to the magic of theatre. In Sherman tradition, the Studio Christmas show will be performed separately in Welsh and English. Katherine Chandler said “It was such a joy to adapt this timeless fairy tale. I can’t wait for our audiences to meet Clara the Shoemaker, our funny Elves and experience this Super Duper Christmas show.”
Sherman Theatre’s fifth collaboration with Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama’s NEW writing festival is the world premiere of Ripples (17 – 19 Mar) by Sherman New Welsh Playwrights Programme participant Tracy Harris. This intense new play set in a group rehab centre in Bridgend is directed by Sherman JMK Directors Group participant Matthew Holmquist. Ripples is performed at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama prior to performances at London’s Gate Theatre. Tracy Harris said “I’m really excited to be involved in the Sherman’s collaboration with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama’s NEW:2020 festival of new writing. I can’t wait to work with the wealth of talent at RWCMD and with the very talented director Matthew Holmquist. This is such a unique opportunity to write for a large cast and collaborate with young talented actors. I am so grateful for the Sherman’s commitment to new writing and the invaluable support I have received from Brad Birch and The Carne Trust who supported the Sherman’s New Welsh Playwrights Programme which has made me take more risks, question why I write and forced me to take my writing to a new level.”
The line-up of Sherman Theatre productions is completed by the world premiere of the previously announced Tylwyth (10-13 Mar) by Daf James, a co-commission and co-production with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru directed by their Artistic Director Arwel Gruffydd. Tylwyth is a witty and compelling new play that reunites the much-loved characters from Daf’s award-winning Llwyth. Taking an irreverent look at love, family and friendship, it is a provocative commentary on contemporary Welsh life, following a group of gay friends living in Cardiff. Tylwyth will premiere at Sherman Theatre before touring to theatres across Wales.
Sherman Youth Theatre continues to develop the theatre makers of the future. 2019 has been a hugely successful year for Sherman Youth Theatre which has seen a highly regarded production of Ageless by Benjamin Kuffuor for the National Theatre Connections Festival and a hugely popular and irresistible staging of The Bangers and Chips Explosion in the summer. Sherman Youth Theatre will build on this success in 2020 with a production of The It (27-29 Feb) by Vivienne Franzmann in February which will then go on to be performed at the Connections Festival in April with a further production soon to be announced for the summer. Sherman Players annual summer production will also be announced shortly and will follow the success of 2019’s ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore.
Sherman Theatre’s Associate Artists make a substantial contribution through their expertise and advice to help maintain the Sherman’s artistic excellence. Joe Murphy has unveiled a new roster of Associate Artists with actor and writer Kyle Lima, writer and composer Seiriol Davies, designer Hayley Grindle and actor Suzanne Packer joining the team. Daf James becomes Writer in Residence and Katherine Chandler, Gary Owen and Patricia Logue return as Associate Artists. Daf James said: “I’m utterly delighted that I’m able to continue my long lasting relationship with the Sherman as Writer in Residence, especially under Joe Murphy’s leadership and vision. The Sherman continues to go from strength to strength; I feel blessed calling this theatre my home”.
Patron of Sherman Theatre
The Sherman is proud to announce that legendary Welsh actor Rhys Ifans will become Sherman Theatre’s Patron. Rhys who recently performed at Sherman Theatre in National Theatre Wales and Royal Court Theatre’s production of Ed Thomas’s On Bear Ridge said “It’s wonderful to have a space like the Sherman at the heart of the city.” Rhys will champion the theatre’s Adopt a Seat campaign to help support the Sherman’s efforts as a registered charity to increase income through generous giving from trusts and individuals.
The engine room of Welsh theatre
Alongside the announcement of the 2020 season programme Sherman Theatre has unveiled a series of new initiatives designed to continue its work to help build a vibrant and sustainable Welsh theatre sector. Firstly, Joe Murphy will lead on Sherman Theatre’s desire to embed a literary department at the Sherman to further enrich the canon of Welsh plays and to ensure a more diverse range of voices are heard in Welsh theatre. Sherman Theatre is actively seeking support to make this plan a reality.
The Sherman’s Unheard Voices programme for writers will ensure that unheard voices become heard and that new writing in Wales is more reflective of its diverse range of voices. Each year Sherman Theatre will champion the voices of a different group. The first year of the programme will be dedicated to connecting, inspiring and empowering an all-female group of writers. The group is open to any Welsh or Wales-based female playwright.
The Open House scheme will further make available the resources of Sherman Theatre to Cardiff’s creative community and enable that community to use Sherman Theatre as their home. Members are entitled to exclusive access to time with Sherman staff members including master classes, workshops and surgeries to help develop particular skill sets. Members will also be given discounts in the Sherman Cafe Bar and will have access to other resources including provision of rehearsal space.
It has been announced that Sherman Theatre is partnering with BBC Writersroom Wales on Welsh Voices 19/20; an invitational development writers group run in conjunction with BBC Audio Drama Wales. Over the course of the year writers will attend workshops and masterclasses to help develop their writing for screen, radio and theatre, including one delivered by Joe Murphy. Welsh Voices is a creative community in which writers are supported and nurtured in order to create their best work.
The Sherman’s Introduction to Playwriting initiative aiming to introduce young people aged 15-18 (GCSEs to A level) to writing for the stage will continue in 2020. Playwrights Branwen Davies and Matt Hartley will continue to support the participants.
A place for everyone
Sherman Theatre is at the heart of the community and is a place for everyone. Sherman Theatre is delighted to announce that it has become Wales’ first Theatre of Sanctuary. The status awarded by City of Sanctuary recognises the Sherman as somewhere refugees and asylum seekers can feel safe, welcome and supported. Julia Barry, Executive Director of Sherman Theatre has said “In recent years, through our Sherman 5 programme, and our work with volunteers and community partners, we have been fortunate to embark upon an enriching and engaging partnership with the refugee and asylum seeker community within Cardiff. It is a privilege to be awarded Theatre of Sanctuary status and we look forward to the opportunities it will afford us in further developing our relationships with this vibrant community in our city.” David Bacon of Chair of Cardiff, City of Sanctuary said “The Sherman’s enthusiasm and efforts over recent years have seen many occasions when asylum seekers and refugees have been members of the audience, volunteers, participants in behind the scene activities or had their voice heard on stage. The theatre has also raised awareness amongst a wider audience of the experiences of sanctuary seekers and what they bring to us. We hope the Sherman’s example of offering a warm welcome will inspire other organisations to follow suit so that Cardiff can truly become a City of Sanctuary.”
2020 sees the Sherman community enter the second of year of the second phase of Sherman 5, which was made possible thanks to the award of a More and Better grant from Paul Hamlyn Foundation to grow and develop the programme for a further year.
Visiting company work in 2020
The Sherman continues to be a stage for our national companies, the best touring shows and more with a strong curated programme of work from visiting companies. In Spring 2020 Sherman Theatre will welcome productions from some of Wales’ best companies including Fran Wen who bring their adaptation of Mannon Steffan Ros’ post apocalyptic phenomenon Llyfr Glas Nebo directed by Elgan Rhys (10 & 11 Feb). Theatr Iolo present Caroline Horton’s Muckers ( 19 Feb) a funny, magical, physical production for ages 7+. NDCWales make their annual visit to Sherman Theatre with their KIN mixed bill programme (20 & 21 Mar) and their perennially popular Discover Dance session (21 Mar). Theatr Clwyd, Áine Flanagan Productions and Seiriol Davies will bring Milky Peaks, a fabulous, edgy, musical comedy by new Sherman Theatre Associate Artist Seiriol Davies (6-9 May).
For the fourth edition of Sherman Theatre’s Get It While It’s Hot platform for emerging theatre companies we welcome Nova with Winners (11 – 15 Feb).
For one night only Sherman Theatre will welcome superstar La Voix with a show full of glamour and comedy (13 Feb), Wildchild productions with the hit Edinburgh Fringe show Madame Ovary (20 Mar) about one woman’s experience of ovarian cancer and food critic, musician and broadcaster Jay Rayner with his show My Last Supper: One Meal A Lifetime in the Making (25 Mar).
Sherman Theatre has assembled a fantastic season of comedy which includes Count Arthur Strong (7 Feb), Tom Rosenthal (28 Feb), Suzi Ruffell (13 Mar), Mark Thomas (25 Mar), Matt Forde (2 Apr) and Josie Long (15 May).https://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/homepage/