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NEWS: Autumn season 2023 launch announcement

20 March 2023

Nottingham Playhouse has announced its autumn 2023 season, which includes the European premiere of an acclaimed new play, the return of a popular seasonal classic, more summer Shakespeare outdoors and, of course, the legendary Nottingham Playhouse pantomime.

New announcements include:

  • RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award winner Stephen Bailey brings The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man to the stage (supported by a grant from the Royal Theatrical Support Trust)
  • Mark Gatiss’ A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story returns with a new cast
  • This year’s Summer Shakespeare will be the comedy Twelfth Night
  • The beloved John Elkington returns as one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella
  • A new version of Hansel and Gretel to entertain the little ones at Christmas
  • One of only four UK dates for Australian powerhouse collective Hot Brown Honey, the long-awaited return of Complicité, award-winning Theatre Re with The Nature of Forgetting and a host of dance, physical theatre, comedy and music, which offers something for everyone in Nottingham


Zak Ford-Williams (Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story at Nottingham Playhouse and Better, BBC1) takes the lead in Tom Wright’s challenging play, The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man. Following its acclaimed debut in Australia, this European premiere of a brand-new production of the play imagines an alternative to what we think we know of the Elephant Man. Arriving from his East Midlands beginnings in a London thick with the grime of industrialisation, Joseph Merrick is an anomaly. In a city that values productivity and excess, full of factories that churn out uniformity, there is no place for a unique being like him.

Commenting on the role, Zak said: “I cannot wait to return to Nottingham Playhouse and allow audiences into the incredible, haunting world of the play. I was transfixed by The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man from the moment I read it. Then as soon as I experienced Stephen’s vision, precision and warmth for the play I was desperate to be on board. It’s a challenge and a gift of a role.”

Stephen Bailey, named the 2022 winner of the Royal Theatrical Support Trust’s (RTST) Sir Peter Hall Director Award, directs in his first full-scale production on a main stage, and said: “Tom Wright has written a bold, inspired restyling of Joseph’s unique life that sees him not as a medical specimen but a man. The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man uses beautiful, poetic text to ask probing questions about work, industrialisation and the value of life. It’s not about inspiration or pity: it’s about the reality of how we look at those who are the other. In the current cost of living crisis, it asks if seeing humans solely as workers is compatible with transformed bodies and long-term health conditions. I’m thrilled to be given the platform to tell this story, and to have Nottingham Playhouse backing an ambitious production featuring some of the UK’s finest disabled talent.”

Mark Gatiss’ celebrated adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story, returns with a brand-new cast. Directed by Adam Penford (The Clothes They Stood Up In, The Madness of George III) the story stays true to the spirit of the original novel. The acclaimed production first premiered at Nottingham Playhouse in 2021, transferred to London’s Alexandra Palace Theatre, and was then released in a filmed version in UK cinemas in 2022 and shown on BBC4 over the Christmas period.

Mark Gatiss’ said: “I’m delighted that my adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is returning to Nottingham Playhouse and Alexandra Palace this year after such a successful outing last time. I’m sad to say, that having fulfilled my lifetime ambition of Jacob Marley, I shall be hanging up my chains, but I am extremely delighted and excited at the prospect of a new Scrooge and Marley to take up the reins for this festive season. I can’t wait to be part of it again and see it from the other side of the veil.”

Once again, Nottingham Playhouse is inviting people to enjoy Shakespeare and silliness in the sunshine. In a co-production with Lakeside Arts, this year the riotous classic Twelfth Night will be brought to vibrant life in Wellington Circus, just outside the Playhouse. The show will also go on a schools and community tour around Nottinghamshire. Directed by Martin Berry, this family-friendly adaptation is just 90 minutes long and features a small, multi-talented cast.

Previously announced and already selling well, this year’s much anticipated pantomime is the enchanting Cinderella. With its combination of magic and fun, it’s a perennial favourite and with the “best in the business” (LeftLion) dame John Elkington as one of the Ugly Sisters, it’s bound to have the audience spellbound. Expect superb live music, dazzling dance and comedy chaos, along with plenty of glamour and glitz.

Hansel and Gretel is the classic tale being brought to life for children aged 3 – 8 years this Christmas, the perfect introduction to live theatre. A 50-minute-long adventure, full to the brim with music, magic and plenty of opportunities to join in, it’s in the welcoming Neville Studio. The show is written and composed by local Nottingham creatives, following an open callout for writer, composer and director, as part of our Amplify programme to offer employment opportunities to local artists.

Adam Penford, Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse, said: “I’m thrilled with our 2023 autumn season. Stephen Bailey is a bold early-career director and his submission for the RTST award was powerful and ambitious, exciting the judging panel. Zak delighted our audiences in A Christmas Carol last year and now takes on this marathon leading role. Audiences have been asking us to revive Mark Gatiss’ beautiful adaptation of the Dickens classic since it premiered here in 2021, and the tale of humanity is more relevant than ever. We have been making a pantomime in-house at the Playhouse for decades now and it is firmly part of Nottingham’s Christmas celebrations. Cinderella is my favourite – full of great laughs, terrific baddies and magical transformation.” 

Alongside Nottingham Playhouse productions is a compelling programme of drama, comedy, dance and entertainment shows. Amongst these, highlights include the renowned Complicité’s new work Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (4-8 April) by Nobel-prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk; Liza Pulman and Joe Stilgoe present A Couple of Swells (5 May), an evening of classic songs with virtuoso piano playing and vocals; Theatre Re present The Nature of Forgetting (9 May), a joyous piece about what is left when memory is gone; Mama (17 May) is the latest work from Olivier award winning choreographer Botis Seva, questioning what race and culture mean in today’s world; the Actors Touring Company production of Family Tree (1-3 June), a poetic drama about the legacy of one of the most influential Black women of modern times, directed by Matthew Xia, former Associate Artist; Flabbergast Macbeth (8-10 June), a vital and exciting reimaging of Shakespeare’s Macbeth through physical theatre, puppetry, clowning and mask; and Australian comedy sensation Hot Brown Honey (3 July) present their hip-hop infused political cabaret.

Early in 2024, Kirsty Patrick Ward (Moonlight & Magnolias, Groan Ups) directs Lucy Kirkwood’s acclaimed play The Children, which presents a post-apocalyptic vision of the future. This tight three hander examines the impact of decisions made by two retired nuclear physicists on future generations.  Further information on dates, creatives and cast will be announced at a later date.

Amplify is Nottingham Playhouse’s professional artist development network and the Amplify Festival (18-20 October) is an annual celebration of artists from across the East and West Midlands. Featuring a host of new and exciting work alongside scratch performances, networking opportunities, workshops and panel discussions, it’s a place for artists and audience to come together to delight and invest in local talent.

Professional artists with a connection to the Midlands can sign up to Amplify here, for latest callouts, opportunities and industry information straight to your inbox, as well as access to a range of exclusive workshops, one to one support and space at Nottingham Playhouse.

All productions are now on priority sale to members, public booking opens 31st March. Visit the website: or call the Box Office on 0115 941 9419.

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