EVENTS WHILE GUARDING THE BOFORS GUN Opens at Finborough Theatre Tonight, May 22

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The Summer Season at the Finborough Theatre continues with rediscoveries of EVENTS WHILE GUARDING THE BOFORS GUN and MERRIE ENGLAND. Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the death of playwright John McGrath, and unseen in a professional production in London since 1966, John McGrath's Events While Guarding The Bofors Gun opens at the multi-award-winning Finborough Theatre for a limited four-week season from tonight, 22 May 2012 directed by Robert Hastie.  Merrie England plays at the Finborough Theatre for a limited run of nine Sunday and Monday evening performances and Tuesday matinees, opening on Sunday, 27 May 2012.

The first London production in over 45 years of EVENTS WHILE GUARDING THE BOFORS GUN by John McGrath will be directed by Robert Hastie.

"It is an inefficient and obsolete weapon, sirs, of which our Army has many thousands: and you have, in your wisdom, asked me to guard it with my life, thinking that I would indeed do anything, anything, to preserve and shelter from all harm, a thing so beautifully useless, so poignantly past it, so wistfully outdated, as my youth, or a Bofors gun. I would, and I shall, lay down my life for it."

Germany, 1954. A bitterly cold winter in the early years of the Cold War. In a wind-swept corner of a British Army base, six soldiers are posted to guard an obsolete anti-aircraft gun. Their task is futile and the gunners know it. Placed under the command of an inexperienced teenager, their boredom turns to frustration and their thoughts turn to trouble as the banter and squabbles of the barrack room harden into a battle of wills between the callow NCO and a disillusioned fighting man with his finger on the self-destruct button...

Directed by acclaimed emerging director Robert Hastie, John McGrath's startling, darkly comic depiction of young men coming to terms with a new, inhuman era of warfare is based on his own experience of National Service in the 1950s. Originally produced at Hampstead Theatre in 1966 with a cast including James Bolam, Barry Jackson and Brian Murphy, Events While Guarding The Bofors Gun was filmed in 1968 by Jack Gold as The Bofors Gun, starring David Warner, Ian Holm, Nicol Williamson and John Thaw.

Director Robert Hastie was Associate Director for Sixty-Six Books which opened the new Bush Theatre where he also directed the world premieres of In The Land of Uz by Neil LaBute, The Middle Man by Anthony Weigh, David and Goliath by Andrew Motion, Snow In Sheffield by Helen Mort and A Lost Expression by Luke Kennard. He was Associate Director of Much Ado About Nothing starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate (Novello Theatre). He co-founded The Lamb Players, for whom he has co-directed As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice. He has assisted Josie Rourke, Peter Gill and Laurie Sansom, and is an Associate Artist of the National Youth Theatre and a Connections Director for The National Theatre Connections programme. Robert originally trained as an actor at RADA, and his acting credits include work at The National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, with Cheek by Jowl, Frantic Assembly and Headlong, and in the West End.

Playwright John McGrath (1935-2002) was a prolific writer best known for his work with the 7:84 Theatre Company and for his extraordinary commitment to the importance of popular theatre. Born in Liverpool and raised in Wales, his writing career began at the BBC, where he wrote and directed many of the early episodes of Z Cars. He continued to work in television and film throughout his career including writing the screenplays for the films Billion Dollar Brain (1967) and The Bofors Gun (1968), but his chief passion was for the theatre. In 1971, he founded 7:84 Theatre Company, deriving its name from the statistic that 7% of the UK population own 84% of the wealth, dedicated to taking popular, political theatre far and wide, particularly to towns and villages usually considered to be off the cultural map, and often presenting plays specially written for the company by McGrath. His plays include Random Happenings in the Hebrides (1970), The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil (1973, and subsequently televised), Fish in the Sea (1972), The Game's A Bogey (1974), Little Red Hen (1975), Yobbo Nowt (1975), Out of Our Heads (1976), Joe's Drum (1979), Blood Red Roses (1980), Mairi Mhor (1985, and subsequently televised), Border Warfare (1989), Watching for Dolphins (1992) and Hyperlynx (2001). He also wrote two seminal books on popular political theatre – A Good Night Out: Popular Theatre: Audience, Class and Form (1981) and The Bone Won't Break: On Theatre and Hope in Hard Times (1990). He received Lifetime Achievement Awards form both BAFTA and the Writers Guild of Great Britain, and Honorary Doctorates form the University of Stirling and the University of London. John McGrath died in 2002.

As part of the Finborough Theatre's Celebrating British Music Theatre series, Citric Acid in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre presents the first professional London production for 52 years of MERRIE ENGLAND, with music by Edward German, libretto by Basil Hood. This production is directed by Alex Sutton.

Originally written for the Savoy Theatre in 1902 and a longtime British musical classic, this rediscovery celebrates both the Queen's Diamond Jubilee as well as the 150th anniversary of the birth of composer Edward German.

Edward German's patriotic pageant deals with love and rivalries at the court of Queen Elizabeth I as the monarch visits the townsfolk of Windsor to celebrate May Day. With a plot that includes such historical personages as Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Essex, murder plots and tales of witchcraft unravel to the background of the May Day revels...

An English light opera in the style made famous by Gilbert and Sullivan, Merrie England features a prominent chorus and a range of principal numbers including ballads, patter songs, duets and quintets. German's engaging score, evoking the colourful Tudor period, includes the ballad Dan Cupid hath a Garden; Queen Elizabeth's song, O Peaceful England; and the stirring The Yeomen of England which was performed at Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002.

Sir Edward German (1862-1936) was born in Whitchurch, Shropshire. After studying at the Royal Academy, he was briefly an orchestral violinist before being employed as Musical Director at The Globe Theatre where he composed highly popular incidental music for plays. He also wrote symphonies, orchestral suites, symphonic poems, etc., of which his Welsh Rhapsody is best known. After Sullivan's death in 1901, German was commissioned to complete his unfinished opera The Emerald Isle, the success of which led to his own operettas Merrie England, A Princess of Kensington, Tom Jones and Fallen Fairies to W.S. Gilbert's libretto. Merrie England in particular quickly established itself as a British staple. In Queen Elizabeth II's coronation year, over five hundred amateur societies staged the piece. Edward German was knighted in 1928, and died in London in 1936.

Librettist and Lyricist Basil Hood (1864 - 1917) wrote the libretti of many Savoy Operas and English adaptations of operettas. Acclaimed as the 'new Gilbert', he turned out to have a much wider range than his famous predecessor at the Savoy Theatre. Hood's first major success was with the long-running show, Gentleman Joe, after which he worked with such composers as Arthur Sullivan and Edward German. Hood and German's collaborations included Merrie England and A Princess of Kensington. He later turned to adaptations of continental operettas, writing English versions of such works as The Merry Widow, The Dollar Princess and The Count of Luxembourg. At the outbreak of the First World War, he took up a demanding post in the British War Office, which is believed to have contributed to his early death.

Director Alex Sutton returns to the Finborough Theatre where he has directed the sell-out production of Chu Chin Chow (2008), starring Adele Anderson and Alan Cox, and was Assistant Director on Our Miss Gibbs (2006). Trained at Bristol University, VGIK Moscow, The Video College and the Young Vic. Directing includes the European premier of Ricky Ian Gordon's Orpheus and Euridice (Tête à Tête), The House Of Mirrors And Hearts (Edinburgh Festival and Arcola Theatre – MTM Fringe First winner) and The Elixir Of Love (Somerset Opera). As Assistant Director, he has worked on Zaide (Sadler's Wells), Coram Boy (National Theatre), Skellig: The Opera (The Sage, Gateshead), We Are Shadows (Spitalfields Music Summer Festival), La Traviata (Loughborough Festival Opera) and Gaudeamus (Arcola Theatre). Alex was the curator of the Grimeborn Opera Festival for which he also directed La Voix Humaine and was nominated for a Peter Brook Empty Space Award.

Tickets and more information: 0844 847 1652 and www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk.

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