York Theatre Royal, 26 July to 24 August
- By Arthur Ransome, adapted by Helen Edmundson
- Music by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy
- Directors Damian Cruden & John R. Wilkinson
- Set and costume design Katie Sykes
- Lighting designer Richard G Jones
- Sound designer Yvonne Gilbert
- Musical director Kieran Buckeridge
Following last year’s smash hit production of The Secret Garden, York Theatre Royal takes a fresh look at another classic children’s book Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons in this year’s summer family show from 26 July to 24 August.
Damian Cruden, in his final production after 22 years as York Theatre Royal’s Artistic Director, co-directs with Artistic Associate John R. Wilkinson.
The story tells of the Walker and Blackett children’s adventurous school holiday in the Lake District as they set sail for adventure. The Swallows – John, Susan, Titty and Roger – sail to Wildcat Island and meet Nancy and Peggy, the self-proclaimed Amazon Pirates, and the dastardly Captain Flint.
Ransome’s story has been adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson whose other literary adaptations have included Anna Karenina, Mill On the Floss, War and Peace, Coram Boy and Therese Raquin.
Helen Edmundson said:
The boat is a symbol of adventure – you decide your own destiny, having to steer through the choppy waters, worrying about the wind and the sun. It’s a lovely image for children starting out in life trying to negotiate their way.
It was the characters that attracted me more than anything, the honesty with which they’re drawn and the relationships between the different children. The sibling stuff that goes on is so beautifully drawn and the way that the children learn and develop and challenge each other.
The production features music by Neil Hannon, who formed the band The Divine Comedy while at school in Enniskillen. He was looking for a subject for a musical and found it after buying a copy of Swallows & Amazons to read to his daughter Willow as a bedtime story.
Hannon’s original demos for Swallows & Amazons are being released for the first time on the limited edition deluxe CD of The Divine Comedy’s new album Office Politics. The Divine Comedy will follow the release of the album with an 11-date autumn tour, including Leeds Beckett University on October 15.
The production marks a homecoming for one cast member Laura Soper, a former member of York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre who has appeared in main house productions The Legend of King Arthur and Peter Pan, both directed by Damian Cruden. She played Eve in the 2012 York Mystery Plays and Viola in Twelfth Night for York Shakespeare Project. She trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Also returning are Ed Thorpe, who was in Robin Hood: The Arrow of Destiny in 2017, and Clara Darcy, who last performed at York Theatre Royal as Gloria in Brassed Off in 2014.
Musical director Kieran Buckeridge has composed for theatre companies including York Theatre Royal, Northern Broadsides and Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough.
Completing the cast are William Pennington, Alex Wingfield, Hannah Khogali, Ellen Chivers and Anne Marie-Piazza.
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