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|As well as choosing Willy’s season at the Menier Chocolate Factory as one of its 'Theatre Picks of the Week', The Guardian also carries a short interview with Meera Syal in which she talks about how she resonates with Shirley. You can read the interview here.
During the 2010's...
Whilst we still have a good few years of the 2010 decade ahead of us, Willy Russell's Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine enjoyed a highly successful season at London's Menier Chocolate Factory. Our Day Out - The Musical repeated it's sell out production at Liverpool's Royal Court. Willy donated his personal archive to John Moores University and was commissioned to create Radio 4's Front Row's neon art sign in Media City, Saltford. And an exhibition was held in Kirby which showcased Willy's work over the five decades since he first started writing. He continues to write and has several projects in the pipeline which we'll annnounce here at WillyRussell.com in due course.
WILLY RUSSELL SEASON IN LONDON
The Menier Chocolate Factory revives Willy Russell's award winning plays Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, starring Meera Syal, Larry Lamb and Laura Dos Santos. Shirley Valentine, was directed by Glen Walford, who commissioned and directed the original 1986 Liverpool Everyman production and Educating Rita, directed by Jeremy Sams. 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of Educating Rita which was originally commissioned by the RSC in 1980. After their sell out at the Chocolate Factory, both plays move to the Trafalgar Studios in July 2010. REVIEWS & MORE INFO HERE
OUR DAY OUT - THE MUSICAL
2010 also sees the new musical (premiered in September last year) return to Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre. Originally written for television in 1976, Willy together with director Bob Eaton have created a new, improved, all singing, all dancing Our Day Out - their third collaboration on the seminal school tale in 25 years. “One of the very very best theatrical experiences of my life – I can’t wait to do it again”. Willy Russell.
Following a hugely successful run in 2010 both at the Menier Chocolate Factory and in London's West End, EDUCATING RITA returns to Southwark Street for three weeks only, prior to a UK tour. Matthew Kelly and Claire Sweeney star in Willy Russell’s modern classic, directed by Tamara Harvey.
DANCIN' THRU THE DARK on DVD
The DVD of Dancin' Thru The Dark is now available twenty odd years after it was first released. A BBC & Formost Films Production, directed by Mike Ockrent, and produced by Annie Russell and Andree Molyneux. The film starred Claire Hackett, Con O'Neill, Simon O'Brien, Angela Clarke, Julia Deakin, Mark Womack, Louise Duprey, Colin Welland, Conrad Nelson, Andrew Naylor, Peter Watts and Sandy Hendrickse. The Evening Standard said, " Sharply-observed, full of humour, it just reeks truth."
ONE FOR THE ROAD
Olivier Award winning actor (and Tony nominated) – Con O’Neill – featured in Willy Russell’s comedy play OneFor The Road, produced by Northampton’s Royal & Derngate theatre at the beginning of February 2013. Con plays Dennis, a role previously covered by Alun Armstrong, Russ Abbot and Drew Schofield, on the eve of his birthday and trying to desperately to ditch his middle class lifestyle. The hugely funny play also stars Matthew Wait (Casualty & Holby), Michelle Butterly (Benidorm)and Nicola Stephenson (Brookside & Homefront).
WILLY RUSSELL'S PERSONAL ARCHIVE COLLECTION IS DONATED TO THE LIVERPOOL JOHN MOORES UNIVERSITY
"It has always been my intention that if ever my papers and manuscripts were to be deposited, then it would be with a Liverpool institute. I'm delighted to have come to this arrangement with Liverpool John Moores University...", writes Willy Russell.
Playwright Willy Russell’s personal archive collection is now available for access at Liverpool John Moores University’s Special Collections and Archives department.
The archive collection is a comprehensive representation of Willy Russell’s work to date; it contains material relating to each of his theatrical works, and also to his early work writing for television, his multiple tours and performances as a musician and songwriter, and his novel, published in 2000. The collection contains manuscripts, programmes, publicity material including newspaper cuttings and press releases, correspondence, legal, financial and administrative documents, material relating to the casting and audition process, administrative material, audio and film material, and promotional ephemera.
Willy agrees to a special adaption of BLOOD BROTHERS, which will tour South Africa in late 2013. As Willy explained, “The adaptation is by David Kramer and myself and adopts the mix of Afrikaans and English that’s unique to this area as well as bringing some of the particular rhythms and instrumentations of the area to the musical arrangements.
FRONT ROW NEON
Willy Russell is asked to design BBC Radio 4 Front Row’s 2014 Neon Artwork in Salford. The large neon sign featuring the word 'Words' in Willy's handwriting was switched on live on Front Row programme on 15 December. " It was also really refreshing to be asked to do something that's an art project...."
Three decades ago the Liverpool Playhouse staged the first performance of Educating Rita outside the West End. Now, in 2015, Willy Russell’s iconic story returns to the same theatre, with the Whiston playwright’s blessing and with a Liverpool dream team taking to the stage to play Rita and Frank. Leanne Best plays Rita and Con O'Neill plays Frank.
SHIRLEY VALENTINE 30th Anniversary UK Tour
WILLY RUSSELL: Behind The Scenes
This exhibition, currently running at Kirby Gallery, Knowsley, showcases material from the Willy Russell Archive at Liverpool John Moores University and celebrates a selection of Willy Russell’s work spanning five decades from early works referencing the local area, to Our Day Out, Stags and Hens, Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers. Archive film of performances, posters, playbills, handwritten notes and scripts bring his stories to life, alongside items from his own personal collection to give a rare insight into his work. The exhibition runs until 23 January 2016.
Jodie Prenger stars in the 30th anniversary UK tour of Willy Russell’s SHIRLEY VALENTINE which opened in March at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley and runs until the end of September. SHIRLEY VALENTINE is directed by Glen Walford, who directed the very first production in 1986. The production runs from March through to September.