Skip to content

NEWS: Punch cast announced

12 March 2024

Julie Hesmondhalgh is announced in the cast of the world premiere of James Graham’s new play Punch, directed by Adam Penford and opening at Nottingham Playhouse on 4 May.

 Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street 1998-2014, ITV – National TV Award 2014, Royal Television Society Award 2013; The Jungle, St Ann’s Warehouse, New York; The Greatest Play in the History of the World, Royal Exchange) is a Manchester based actor, writer, theatre-maker and activist. The BAFTA-nominated actor will play the role of the victim’s mother, Joan. This follows ITV’s hit Mr Bates vs the Post Office, another issue-led drama, in which Julie starred opposite Toby Jones.

Tony Hirst (Coronation Street, ITV; Hangmen, Royal Court and Wyndham’s Theatre) will play the role of the victim’s father, David, and Derby-born David Shields (Masters of the Air, Apple TV: Hush, Paines Plough at The Gate Theatre) will feature as Jacob Dunne. Other cast members so far include Shalisha James-Davis (Casualty, BBC; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, London Theatre Company) as Claire and Emma Pallant (Cowbois, and A Christmas Carol, RSC; Enemy of the People, Nottingham Playhouse) as Jacob’s mother. Shalisha and Emma both hail from Nottingham, where the play is set.

Punch is based on the book Right from Wrong by Jacob Dunne, an unflinching true-life account of how Nottingham teenager Jacob throws a single punch – with fatal consequences. Released from prison, the parents of the victim ask to meet him. Their quest for answers results in an unlikely connection and Jacob’s life begins to turn around.

This fascinating new play examines the incredible power of forgiveness, whilst asking important questions about toxic masculinity, class and our education system.

James Graham commented:

“The more I’ve worked on Punch with Jacob, and with Adam, the more convinced I am of its power as a real story for our time. One that reveals so much about our current justice system, our culture, and the impact of politics on our community over the past decade. I’m so delighted with the cast we’ve assembled to come on this moving journey with us.”

Adam Penford, Artistic Director at Nottingham Playhouse and Director of Punch, said:

“We have been working on this powerful and unforgettable true-life story for four years. To now be announcing the cast, marking the return of Julie Hesmondhalgh to the Playhouse stage, alongside a formidable set of local actors, led by David Shields in the title role, is a significant moment. James Graham is an international writer of unparalleled talent. He returns to his home city of Nottingham with this vital play, which we hope will change hearts and minds in the way that only culture can.”

Alongside the play, a number of strands of engagement activities will seek to explore and highlight the themes within it. Following an open callout, Nottingham Playhouse have commissioned local designer Imogen Melhuish to design the ‘Talking Circle’ – a physical installation which will sit outside the theatre for the duration of the production. A series of post-show panel discussions will be hosted by Jacob Dunne in the Talking Circle, each on a different theme relating to the show and with invited panels of guest speakers. Audience members and key community stakeholders will also be invited to take part.

In addition, Michael Palin (Full Circle and Great Railway Journeys of the World, BBC; Monty Python’s Flying Circus, BBC) will lead one of the two post-show on stage Q&A sessions, in conversation with Jacob Dunne. Michael met Jacob in 2015 and has since supported his work in promoting restorative justice. ‘The F Word’ exhibition from The Forgiveness Project will also sit in Nottingham Playhouse’s Company bar throughout the run of the play, displaying real-life stories of when individuals have chosen non-violet methods to resolve conflict.

Nottingham’s James Graham is one of Britain’s most celebrated writers, winning multiple Olivier Awards, as well as BAFTA, Emmy and Tony Award nominations. His most recent play, Boys from the Blackstuff, written in conjunction with Alan Bleasdale will shortly transfer to the National Theatre after a run at Liverpool Everyman last year. Dear England recently transferred from the National Theatre to the West End. The second series of his BAFTA-award winning BBC series, Sherwood, also set in Nottingham, premieres this year. His musical collaboration with Sir Elton John, Tammy Faye, transfers to Broadway this year.

The creative team includes: Production Designer Anna Fleischle (Death Of A Salesman, Broadway; 2:22 A Ghost Story, Young Vic Theatre); Lighting Designer Robbie Butler (Cinderella, Watford Palace Theatre; Oh No It Isn’t, Jack Studio, London); Sound Designer and Composer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite (Work It Out, HOME; Lost and Found, Factory International); Movement Director Leanne Pinder (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Mountview; Disruption, The Park Theatre); Movement Consultant Lynne Page (Lyssa, Royal Opera House; Judy, Calamity Films); (Casting Director Christopher Worrall CDG (The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Nottingham Playhouse; Call the Midwife, BBC); Production Consultant Jacob Dunne and Talking Circle Designer Imogen Melhuish (Brassed Off, Derby Theatre; Not The Last, The MAC, Birmingham).

Punch is kindly sponsored by Nottingham Trent University.

Sign up to our newsletter for all the latest shows and news

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
COOKIES The Nottingham Playhouse website uses cookies to help give you the best experience on our site, analyse our website traffic and for advertising purposes. By continuing to use the site you agree to our use of cookies. Read more here