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Fire Curtains

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tmbyru
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joined:12/4/11
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 07:37am
Hi Londoners,

I am an American recently in London and saw some shows. Was curious as to why during intermission, the fire curtain is lowered.
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ukpuppetboy
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joined:2/12/13
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 08:29am
From Wikipedia:
"regulations in some jurisdictions state that it must be shown to the audience, to prove its effective operation, for a certain amount of time during every performance. This usually occurs during the intermission."

Westminster and Lambeth definitely require the safety iron to be raised and lowered during a performance in this way.
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Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 12:01pm
This is more for tradition, than it being needed, like coppers wearing the old police helmet, as British love tradition. This is a throw back to when theatres did catch fire, in the day lighting was done by candle, before the electric lamp was invented, even then in the early days of electrics, circuit design and protection was very poor, today electrics are better designed and modern circuit protection are a lot better and will blow/trip as they are very sensitive. Also they go under regular testing.
2014 Theatre: Billy Elliot***** Meet Me In St Louis*** American Psycho**** Tell Me On A Sunday**** Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense* Stephen Ward**** Charlie and the Chocolate factory*** Dirty Dancing** Stephen Sondheim's Puttin It Together*** Candide*** The Lion King***** The Book of Mormon****** Les Miserable***** Stephen Ward**** The Weir**** Fortune's Fool*** Spamalot*** Superior Doughnuts**** Seven Brides For Seven Brothers**** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Finans Rainbow**** The Commitments** Boeing Boeing*** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) The A-Z of Mrs P** Billy Elliot***** Wicked** Good People***** Urinetown***** Spamalot*** The Full Monty**** Other Desert Cities*** Ghosts*** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels***** It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman*** Stephen Ward**** King Lear**** A Taste Of Honey** Blithe Spirit**** From Here To Eternity**** Spamalot*** Fiddler On The Roof** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Relative Values**** Fatal Attraction*** Matilda***** 39 Steps**** Another Country** Handbagged** Two Into One*** The Beautiful Game***** Let The Right One In**** Once**** Privacy***** Home** Best of Friends** Avenue Q*** Good People***** Betty Blue Eyes*** (Tour: Salisbury Playhouse) I Can't Sing* A View From The Bridge***** Water Babies **** (Tour: Leicester Curve) Miss Saigon***** In The Heights*** The Testament of Mary*** This May Hurt A Bit*** The Last 5 Years* (Greenwich Theatre) All My Sons*** Happy Days** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels**** Bakersfield Mist**** Ushers** The Pajama Game*** Evita*** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford)Fings Ain't What They Used To Be**** Billy Elliot***** Titus Andronicus**** 1984*** Clarence Darrow**** Miss Saigon***** A Small Family Business*** Things We Do For Love**** Hobson's Choice*** Rock of Ages*** (Tour: Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Zanna, Don't!*** The Silver Tassie** Bring Up The Bodies** Forbidden Broadway**** Carousel**** Hotel*** The Crucible**** Annie Get Your Gun*** (Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Medea*** The Importance of Being Earnest*** The Pajama Game*** Skylight**** Pacific Overtures** The Invincibles*** Julius Ceasar*** Porgy and Bess**** Dessa Rose** Great Britain**** One Man, Two Guvnors**** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Dogfight** My Night With Reg*** Book of Mormon***** Richard III**** See Rock City** Guys and Dolls*** Wicked* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*** The Apple Tree*** The Jersey Boys*** Miss Saigon***** Matilda***** A Streetcar Named Desire**** The Dreamling** The Play That Went Wrong*** The Phantom of the Opera**** Fully Committed*** Bedroom Farce**** (Salisbury Playhouse) Sweeney Todd**** King Charles III*** Here Lies Love**** The Vertical Hour**** Love Story***** Altar Boys*** Evita**** Next Fall***** Cat On A Hot Tin Roof***** (Tour: Royal Deansgate, Northampton) Memphis*** The Scottsboro Boys**** Shakespeare In Love* Neville's Island*** East Is East**** Evita**** Into The Woods*** Gypsy***** (Chichester) Billy Elliot***** Seminar*** Damn Yankees*** Teh Internet Is Serious Business***
tmbyru Profile Photo
tmbyru
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joined:12/4/11
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 04:11pm
makes sense! Thanks for the insight.
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ClapYo'Hands
Broadway Legend
joined:11/29/09
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 05:34pm
It definitely is a legal requirement though!
2014 Theatre: Strangers on a Train 3.5 * From Here To Eternity 3.5* Stephen Ward ***** The Full Monty ***** Fiddler on the Roof (UK Tour) *** Stephen Ward ***** Jersey Boys ***** Blithe Spirit ***** Wicked (UK Tour) *** Arcadia ** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels *** Urinetown ***** Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 3.5* Other Desert Cities **** Birdland **** The Phantom of the Opera **** Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake ***** In The Heights ***** Miss Saigon **** Clarence Darrow ***** Great Britain **** The Crucible **** The Pajama Game **** Mamma Mia *** Anna Nicole **** Barnum (UK Tour) ***** Simon Callow: The Man Jesus *****
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Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 05:57pm
I don't doubt that, but it's ambiguous.

Where some theatres can't have them such as the Donmar, New London and Oliver etc, hence a safety curtain is only really suitable for proscenium arch theatres.

I think the Cambridge falls under the jurisdiction of Camden, so different council, different laws and I don't recall Matilda ever having a safety curtain?
2014 Theatre: Billy Elliot***** Meet Me In St Louis*** American Psycho**** Tell Me On A Sunday**** Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense* Stephen Ward**** Charlie and the Chocolate factory*** Dirty Dancing** Stephen Sondheim's Puttin It Together*** Candide*** The Lion King***** The Book of Mormon****** Les Miserable***** Stephen Ward**** The Weir**** Fortune's Fool*** Spamalot*** Superior Doughnuts**** Seven Brides For Seven Brothers**** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Finans Rainbow**** The Commitments** Boeing Boeing*** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) The A-Z of Mrs P** Billy Elliot***** Wicked** Good People***** Urinetown***** Spamalot*** The Full Monty**** Other Desert Cities*** Ghosts*** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels***** It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman*** Stephen Ward**** King Lear**** A Taste Of Honey** Blithe Spirit**** From Here To Eternity**** Spamalot*** Fiddler On The Roof** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Relative Values**** Fatal Attraction*** Matilda***** 39 Steps**** Another Country** Handbagged** Two Into One*** The Beautiful Game***** Let The Right One In**** Once**** Privacy***** Home** Best of Friends** Avenue Q*** Good People***** Betty Blue Eyes*** (Tour: Salisbury Playhouse) I Can't Sing* A View From The Bridge***** Water Babies **** (Tour: Leicester Curve) Miss Saigon***** In The Heights*** The Testament of Mary*** This May Hurt A Bit*** The Last 5 Years* (Greenwich Theatre) All My Sons*** Happy Days** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels**** Bakersfield Mist**** Ushers** The Pajama Game*** Evita*** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford)Fings Ain't What They Used To Be**** Billy Elliot***** Titus Andronicus**** 1984*** Clarence Darrow**** Miss Saigon***** A Small Family Business*** Things We Do For Love**** Hobson's Choice*** Rock of Ages*** (Tour: Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Zanna, Don't!*** The Silver Tassie** Bring Up The Bodies** Forbidden Broadway**** Carousel**** Hotel*** The Crucible**** Annie Get Your Gun*** (Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Medea*** The Importance of Being Earnest*** The Pajama Game*** Skylight**** Pacific Overtures** The Invincibles*** Julius Ceasar*** Porgy and Bess**** Dessa Rose** Great Britain**** One Man, Two Guvnors**** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Dogfight** My Night With Reg*** Book of Mormon***** Richard III**** See Rock City** Guys and Dolls*** Wicked* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*** The Apple Tree*** The Jersey Boys*** Miss Saigon***** Matilda***** A Streetcar Named Desire**** The Dreamling** The Play That Went Wrong*** The Phantom of the Opera**** Fully Committed*** Bedroom Farce**** (Salisbury Playhouse) Sweeney Todd**** King Charles III*** Here Lies Love**** The Vertical Hour**** Love Story***** Altar Boys*** Evita**** Next Fall***** Cat On A Hot Tin Roof***** (Tour: Royal Deansgate, Northampton) Memphis*** The Scottsboro Boys**** Shakespeare In Love* Neville's Island*** East Is East**** Evita**** Into The Woods*** Gypsy***** (Chichester) Billy Elliot***** Seminar*** Damn Yankees*** Teh Internet Is Serious Business***
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Mr Roxy
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 06:03pm
All of the old picture palaces in the U.S. had them. Some had really great scenes painted on them.

It is interesting to go to some old derelict theaters and many times the curtain is down and the scene is still on it. An old theater I tried to save with others had a mural of Columbus flagship on it.
Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth - Lillian Hellman.
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ukpuppetboy
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joined:2/12/13
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 07:01pm
Granted - it's not especially memorable.
The safety curtain at Matilda
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ukpuppetboy
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joined:2/12/13
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 07:11pm
Fire Curtain

If you're interested I think the Iron at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane is probably considered one of the more elaborate in London Mr Roxy. But mostly they're far more practical and plain than decorative. With a few exceptions (The Palladium and The Phoenix among a select few).

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Mr Roxy
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 07:23pm
In the US they used to be called asbestos curtains.

Cannot remember this ever being done in NY and I am almost 68 years old.
Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth - Lillian Hellman.
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ukpuppetboy
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joined:2/12/13
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/20/14 at 07:40pm
Ha! And many flame free theatre trips down i'm sure.

As the previous poster suggested it does seem like a bit of an antiquated regulation now to be honest. It's not as if they set the escape slides off every time you board a plane or turn the sprinklers on you every morning at work. But some examples are actually quite interesting to see. That Barbican has a Metropolis style psedu-futuristic split wall "curtain" as I recall..

I think Once don't lower theirs at The Phoenix (also Camden)
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devonian.t
Broadway Legend
joined:7/26/04
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/21/14 at 02:21am
The legal required to lower the fire curtain- thereby proving to the audience that it a) exists and b) is operational- depends on the capacity and layout of the venue. The threshold used to be 500 seats but it may have changed.

Fire curtain regulations in the UK were introduced after a major tragedy at the Theatre Royal in Exeter in 1887 when almost 200 people died.
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tmbyru
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joined:12/4/11
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/21/14 at 09:29am
I know that our US theatres have the fire curtains as well. It is a legal requirement in case of fire emergency. They are just not lowered like they are in the UK.
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FireFingers
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joined:11/16/10
Fire Curtain
Posted: 5/21/14 at 04:52pm
Theatres take fire safety very seriously. West End houses (not sure if some or all) are also fitted with a "chimney". This is essentially a massive hatch above the stage. This means that if there is a fire on stage, the iron (safety curtain) is dropped and the chimney opens. The iron stops fire coming off the stage, and the chimney draws the fire upwards, ensuring that only the set and backstage equipment is lost, not the areas where the audience might be. I was told that if there was a fire, neither the smoke nor fire would be an issue, but the water that had been sitting in the sprinkler system for years could well cause an issue due to bacteria.
vassey
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joined:2/26/08
On the subject of the Exeter fire.
Posted: 5/22/14 at 04:44am
Fire curtains were quite recent developments at around the time of the Exeter fire in 1887. Despite being a new theatre, the Theatre Royal, Exeter didn't have one, and had MANY other dangerous features, including very limited exits, a painting gallery above the stage, large windows backstage, and of course gas lighting. For example, coloured lighting on stage was obtained by pointing open gas jets at a coloured cloth! It was designed by notable architect CJ Phipps aswell, who seemed quite indignant later of the inherent dangers. At the time, theatres burned down a LOT, but the Exeter case prompted change owing to the sheer number of deaths, and apparent disregard for the safety of the public by the architect and management.

The tragedy was caused by one of the stage clothes catching light, fanning out into the auditorium due to the lack of a 'chimney', and cremating people in the narrow corridors. There was a massive panic by theatre owners and local authorities, who rapidly checked venues around the country for dangers, and subsequent regulations ensured that safety curtains were lowered and raised in front of the audience to prove they were in working order. This was/is deemed so important that theatre programmes contained a statement saying such.

Later theatres were designed to be safer, with steel doors and curtains separating the stage house and auditorium, electric lighting, improved exits with easy-open locks, however devastating theatre fires were still relatively common until the 20th century at least.
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Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
On the subject of the Exeter fire.
Posted: 5/24/14 at 11:26am
In times gone by wasn't fire curtains made of asbestos?

Forgot the Matilda safety curtain, but interesting that Once doesn't have a safety curtain and why it is not needed?

Today a fire in the theatre is very unlikely, as no doubt every theatre would have to do a comprehensive risk assessment, and assess everything that is a possible fire risk and remove these if possible, if not possible how can you contain the fire and add a fire suppression system to mitigate. With modern wiring in theatres and material that is fire resistant, also people cannot smoke so this is another risk that had been eliminated.

In recent set design there have been deliberate fire onstage as part of the set design, I am thinking Grandage season with Henry V and at the Gielgud Strangers On. A Train, also on Broadway the recent production of Romeo and Julliet had fires on stage, so even more fire safety comes to the forefront, also productions, can use pyrotechnics which again is another potential fire hazard.

As I said I would think a fire today would be very unlikely, but my biggest misgiving is that a lot of theatres go back to Victorian and Edwardian era and the designs reflects this and in some theatres if a fire did happen, many lives would perish where it is impossible to evacuate the front of house, as exits are small and can be impeded by stairs.
2014 Theatre: Billy Elliot***** Meet Me In St Louis*** American Psycho**** Tell Me On A Sunday**** Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense* Stephen Ward**** Charlie and the Chocolate factory*** Dirty Dancing** Stephen Sondheim's Puttin It Together*** Candide*** The Lion King***** The Book of Mormon****** Les Miserable***** Stephen Ward**** The Weir**** Fortune's Fool*** Spamalot*** Superior Doughnuts**** Seven Brides For Seven Brothers**** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Finans Rainbow**** The Commitments** Boeing Boeing*** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) The A-Z of Mrs P** Billy Elliot***** Wicked** Good People***** Urinetown***** Spamalot*** The Full Monty**** Other Desert Cities*** Ghosts*** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels***** It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman*** Stephen Ward**** King Lear**** A Taste Of Honey** Blithe Spirit**** From Here To Eternity**** Spamalot*** Fiddler On The Roof** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Relative Values**** Fatal Attraction*** Matilda***** 39 Steps**** Another Country** Handbagged** Two Into One*** The Beautiful Game***** Let The Right One In**** Once**** Privacy***** Home** Best of Friends** Avenue Q*** Good People***** Betty Blue Eyes*** (Tour: Salisbury Playhouse) I Can't Sing* A View From The Bridge***** Water Babies **** (Tour: Leicester Curve) Miss Saigon***** In The Heights*** The Testament of Mary*** This May Hurt A Bit*** The Last 5 Years* (Greenwich Theatre) All My Sons*** Happy Days** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels**** Bakersfield Mist**** Ushers** The Pajama Game*** Evita*** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford)Fings Ain't What They Used To Be**** Billy Elliot***** Titus Andronicus**** 1984*** Clarence Darrow**** Miss Saigon***** A Small Family Business*** Things We Do For Love**** Hobson's Choice*** Rock of Ages*** (Tour: Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Zanna, Don't!*** The Silver Tassie** Bring Up The Bodies** Forbidden Broadway**** Carousel**** Hotel*** The Crucible**** Annie Get Your Gun*** (Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Medea*** The Importance of Being Earnest*** The Pajama Game*** Skylight**** Pacific Overtures** The Invincibles*** Julius Ceasar*** Porgy and Bess**** Dessa Rose** Great Britain**** One Man, Two Guvnors**** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Dogfight** My Night With Reg*** Book of Mormon***** Richard III**** See Rock City** Guys and Dolls*** Wicked* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*** The Apple Tree*** The Jersey Boys*** Miss Saigon***** Matilda***** A Streetcar Named Desire**** The Dreamling** The Play That Went Wrong*** The Phantom of the Opera**** Fully Committed*** Bedroom Farce**** (Salisbury Playhouse) Sweeney Todd**** King Charles III*** Here Lies Love**** The Vertical Hour**** Love Story***** Altar Boys*** Evita**** Next Fall***** Cat On A Hot Tin Roof***** (Tour: Royal Deansgate, Northampton) Memphis*** The Scottsboro Boys**** Shakespeare In Love* Neville's Island*** East Is East**** Evita**** Into The Woods*** Gypsy***** (Chichester) Billy Elliot***** Seminar*** Damn Yankees*** Teh Internet Is Serious Business***
ukpuppetboy Profile Photo
ukpuppetboy
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joined:2/12/13
Fire Curtains
Posted: 5/24/14 at 11:48am
I didn't mean Once doesn't have one - it just doesn't get lowered in the interval when they use the on stage bar. I think I recall the set extension breaking the pros has a hinged piece to to allow it to lower at the end lf the show following the curtain call though. (Not sure how this would work in the event of an actual fire!)
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FireFingers
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joined:11/16/10
Fire Curtains
Posted: 5/24/14 at 06:30pm
The curtain at the Pheonix is solid metal. It'd pass straight through if released in an emergency situation.
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Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
joined:3/26/08
Fire Curtains
Posted: 5/24/14 at 07:21pm
What do you mean 'it'd would pass straight through if released In an emergency situation'?

Because Once invites the audience on stage, to buy beverages from the bar, before and in the interval, it would be impossible to have a safety curtain, so one isn't offered.

I was at the Pajama Game this evening, which is at the Shaftsbury Theatre, which also comes under the remit of Camden council also, a curtain did come down, but it was just plain white and nothing on it, to denote it was the safety curtain.

So wonder if Camden Council has different rules than Westminster?
2014 Theatre: Billy Elliot***** Meet Me In St Louis*** American Psycho**** Tell Me On A Sunday**** Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense* Stephen Ward**** Charlie and the Chocolate factory*** Dirty Dancing** Stephen Sondheim's Puttin It Together*** Candide*** The Lion King***** The Book of Mormon****** Les Miserable***** Stephen Ward**** The Weir**** Fortune's Fool*** Spamalot*** Superior Doughnuts**** Seven Brides For Seven Brothers**** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Finans Rainbow**** The Commitments** Boeing Boeing*** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) The A-Z of Mrs P** Billy Elliot***** Wicked** Good People***** Urinetown***** Spamalot*** The Full Monty**** Other Desert Cities*** Ghosts*** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels***** It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman*** Stephen Ward**** King Lear**** A Taste Of Honey** Blithe Spirit**** From Here To Eternity**** Spamalot*** Fiddler On The Roof** (Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Relative Values**** Fatal Attraction*** Matilda***** 39 Steps**** Another Country** Handbagged** Two Into One*** The Beautiful Game***** Let The Right One In**** Once**** Privacy***** Home** Best of Friends** Avenue Q*** Good People***** Betty Blue Eyes*** (Tour: Salisbury Playhouse) I Can't Sing* A View From The Bridge***** Water Babies **** (Tour: Leicester Curve) Miss Saigon***** In The Heights*** The Testament of Mary*** This May Hurt A Bit*** The Last 5 Years* (Greenwich Theatre) All My Sons*** Happy Days** Dirty Rotten Scoundrels**** Bakersfield Mist**** Ushers** The Pajama Game*** Evita*** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford)Fings Ain't What They Used To Be**** Billy Elliot***** Titus Andronicus**** 1984*** Clarence Darrow**** Miss Saigon***** A Small Family Business*** Things We Do For Love**** Hobson's Choice*** Rock of Ages*** (Tour: Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Zanna, Don't!*** The Silver Tassie** Bring Up The Bodies** Forbidden Broadway**** Carousel**** Hotel*** The Crucible**** Annie Get Your Gun*** (Churchill Theatre, Bromley) Medea*** The Importance of Being Earnest*** The Pajama Game*** Skylight**** Pacific Overtures** The Invincibles*** Julius Ceasar*** Porgy and Bess**** Dessa Rose** Great Britain**** One Man, Two Guvnors**** (Tour: Orchard Theatre, Dartford) Dogfight** My Night With Reg*** Book of Mormon***** Richard III**** See Rock City** Guys and Dolls*** Wicked* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*** The Apple Tree*** The Jersey Boys*** Miss Saigon***** Matilda***** A Streetcar Named Desire**** The Dreamling** The Play That Went Wrong*** The Phantom of the Opera**** Fully Committed*** Bedroom Farce**** (Salisbury Playhouse) Sweeney Todd**** King Charles III*** Here Lies Love**** The Vertical Hour**** Love Story***** Altar Boys*** Evita**** Next Fall***** Cat On A Hot Tin Roof***** (Tour: Royal Deansgate, Northampton) Memphis*** The Scottsboro Boys**** Shakespeare In Love* Neville's Island*** East Is East**** Evita**** Into The Woods*** Gypsy***** (Chichester) Billy Elliot***** Seminar*** Damn Yankees*** Teh Internet Is Serious Business***

 

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