The Playground Theatre’s 2020 season foregrounds the work of female playwrights, directors and creatives with a wide-reaching programme of theatre and dance. Stand out productions include a play about the life of Ida Rubinstein, a dancer with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes who fearlessly courted controversy. Later in the Spring, Joshua Sobel’s Sinners comes to the theatre in a production directed by the award-winning actor Brian Cox and starring Nicole Ansari. The season also features Mum, the story of caring for an elderly relative with dementia, and Fragments, another show combining themes of memory, history and how we (re)write the past.
The season opens with Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act, the fascinating true story of a dancer whose career included working with Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Debussy. A Russian heiress, Rubinstein staked out a unique career working with the biggest names of the dancing world and rose to fame in Paris. Never shy of controversy, her scandalous portrayal of Salomé prompted her embarrassed family to commit her to an asylum. Her dramatic off-stage life also featured multiple bisexual love affairs, the assassination of her long-time lover Lord Moyne, and working as a nurse in both World Wars.
The role of Rubinstein is performed by Naomi Sorkin, former principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Sorkin has a long-standing interest in Rubinstein and has previously portrayed her in the short film Madame Ida. Based on the original scenario The Interview that Never Happened by Irina Ioannesyan and Natella Boltyanskaya, Ida Rubinstein is directed and choreographed by Christian Holder, former lead dancer with the Joffrey Ballet company in New York.
Award-winning theatre makers Border Crossings bring The Great Experiment to The Playground Theatre from 18 – 19 February. Presented in association with the Dugdale Centre, Exchange Theatre and The Playground Theatre, this searing new play interrogates the aftermath of the abolition of slavery, including the compensation paid to slave owners and the Indian migrant labourers forced to work on plantations. This timely piece of performance also questions who gets to tell which stories, on stage and off.
On 21 February, Let’s All Dance in association with The Playground Theatre present Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. The company specialises in abridging and reformatting the classical repertoire into accessible, fun-filled productions aimed at children and families. Audience members are invited to join the dancers on stage for a photo opportunity post-show.
Joshua Sobol’s play Sinners comes to The Playground Theatre directed by Olivier and Emmy Award-winning actor Brian Cox and starring Nicole Ansari as a condemned English professor. Layla, the married teacher, has an affair with one of her married students, Nur. Fearing that the authorities will discover their secret and punish them both, Nur makes the dramatic decision to confess, but states that Layla seduced him. The consequences for Layla are devastating. Sinners will run from 26 February – 14 March 2020.
The struggles of caring for an elderly parent with dementia are explored in Mum by written by local writer and actress Juliet Cowen. Directed by Yasmeen Arden, the story follows Sorrel and Bun, who are trying their best to look after their un-well mother. As her hallucinations become more compelling and staying in the ‘real’ world becomes ever harder, the play considers the potential for humour in the darkest of situations, and the ever-changing role of mothers.
As part of the Playground Theatre’s ongoing commitment to developing new work, Girls at Night on the Internet will come to the venue in February to develop a new show exploring the shape-shifting world of online life, sexuality and gender, culminating in a sharing for an audience. The theatre’s Well Read, a script reading project created by The Playground Theatre in partnership with St Charles Hospital involving mental health and older adult patients will also continue. A second project created by the two partners, Well Written, was recently honoured at the London Region WEA Educational Impact Awards.
Speaking about the season, co-artistic director Anthony Biggs said “This season reflects The Playground’s commitment to developing new theatre, and places community engagement at the heart of what we do. As we celebrate our second birthday, we thank all those who have helped us take flight. We have achieved so much in such a short time, and this has only been possible through the talent and commitment of our artists and staff, and the support of local people.”