Foley to direct own play in Birmingham REP anniversary season

Published: 20 April 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

“Thrilled”: Birmingham REP artistic director Sean Foley Credit: Kris Askey

Birmingham REP artistic director Sean Foley has announced the programme for the 50th anniversary season of the theatre in its current home on Centenary Square.

It includes Foley’s own work The Play What I Wrote which he will direct at Christmas 2021 and which will contain a guest star at each performance.

Foley said, "I'm thrilled to be able to announce what has become, in effect, my first season of work at this iconic and beloved theatre. We’re tremendously excited by the shows and proud of the amazing array of creative talent from our freelance community that will be at the REP for this special anniversary season.

“The programme is testament to the whole company's determination and desire to share the amazing event of live theatre with our audiences again, and we can't wait to welcome everyone back—back to entertainment, to debate, to laughter and to the sheer joy of experiencing the excitement that being part of a great night out brings."

The comedy drama East Is East by Ayub Khan-Din will open the season and will return home for its 25th anniversary. The play premièred on the REP’s stage in 1996 and has since had three London runs and been adapted into a BAFTA award-winning film. It will run from 4 until 25 September.

A new musical which brings together the songs of Tom Jones with Henry Fielding’s comic novel The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling will take to the REP stage from 8 October until 14 November. What’s New Pussycat? is written by Joe DiPietro and has the full backing of Sir Tom Jones. Luke Sheppard directs and choreographer will be Arlene Philips CBE.

The Play What I Wrote will run from 27 November until 1 January 2022 before the world première of David Wood’s adaptation of Floella Benjamin’s book Coming to England takes over from 19 February until 6 March. It follows her journey from Trinidad to become a television presenter, successful businesswoman and Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham.

Benjamin has also joined the REP as patron of youth and education. Iqbal Khan has been appointed associate director while Birmingham film-maker Daniel Alexander has been added to the REP’s team of associate artists. The REP has also announced a comedy writing talent development programme with Sky Studios.

Foley has also revealed he has commissioned a new play from Sarfraz Manzoor. The Muslim Box is a contemporary comedy about Islam, identity and the in-laws.

Tanika Gupta will also write a new adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, set in the post-war British film industry and reimagining the play through the lens of race as well as misogyny, for the REP.

Robin French, Bryony Lavery and Frank Skinner are among a group of writers who have written 10-minute plays as part of The Park Bench Plays which will all be performed on and around park benches throughout Birmingham. The productions will be performed in front of live audiences and also will be streamed digitally. Further details are to be announced.