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Sasha Regan Steers her Pirate Ship to London's Palace Theatre

After a chance meeting with Laurence Miller, Commercial Director for Nimax Theatres, Regan’s long held dream of taking Gilbert & Sullivan to the West End was realised.

Sasha Regan Steers her Pirate Ship to London's Palace Theatre

Running a small Off-West End Theatre, planning tours, staging a concert and bringing up a young family during the Coronavirus pandemic might sound daunting to many, but to Sasha Regan it's a daily challenge. Since March, the award-winning director and theatre owner has been fighting a long battle to keep the Union Theatre in Southwark open. "There have been many dark days," she says, "but I have an amazing team of helpers and we just keep going and are pulling out all the stops to keep theatre alive."

Little did she know at the beginning of March that the run of Noël Coward's 'Peace in Our Time' would be cut short when Coronavirus first hit and she was forced to close her doors. Regan faced a further battle when her sell-out run of Gilbert & Sullivan's 'H.M.S. Pinafore' at Wilton's Music Hall and subsequent tour were postponed. "It was terrible," she said. "We were suddenly faced with losing everything - total collapse which was hard to take. It was heartbreaking for everyone involved." Her daughters set up a fundraising campaign and the fightback began.

Theatres everywhere went into darkness and life changed dramatically but they carried on finding different ways of working. Despite the odds, Regan and her amazing team turned the theatre into a Covid-secure venue - a space where producers and artists can rehearse and film in a safe environment and her upstairs studio is let to performers for just £15. During the summer she produced an outdoors concert on a farm and planned a new events programme. "We've tried our best and found new ways to keep theatre going," she says.

After a chance meeting with Laurence Miller, Commercial Director for Nimax Theatres, Regan's long held dream of taking Gilbert & Sullivan to the West End was realised when he offered her one night at the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue to stage her award-winning all-male version of Gilbert & Sullivan's 'The Pirates of Penzance'. "I still can't believe it," she said, "in the midst of all this chaos our pirate ship will be sailing to the West End for one night on 13th December. This moment has taken us years and despite the lockdown, tickets are selling fast."

The production was first staged at her original 50-seater Union Theatre in Southwark over a decade ago. From day one it became a critically acclaimed overnight hit, winning Best Off-West End production in the 2009 WhatsOnStage Awards. Following several sell-out runs in the UK, the merry band of pirates toured Australia including a month-long run at Cate Blanchett's Sydney Theatre - a tremendous feat for a small Off West End company.

Regan's swashbuckling crew will bring some much-needed post lockdown Christmas cheer to families and friends. In what is considered a shrewd move by Nimax Theatres, they have chosen the Palace Theatre, a venue commissioned and originally owned by Richard D'Oyly Carte in the 1880s, for a socially-distanced, Covid-secure performance on Sunday 13th December at 7:00pm.

In a statement last night, Sasha Regan paid tribute to her crew, Nimax Theatres and the men who changed the face of opera in the 1800s: "The pirate ship has travelled a long way and we are very grateful to Nimax Theatres for allowing us to bring one of Gilbert & Sullivan's most popular operettas to the West End for one night of joy during these dark times. It's lovely to think our award-winning Company are able to share Gilbert & Sullivan's magic with families and friends in a theatre originally commissioned as a grand opera house by Richard D'Oyly Carte who years earlier built the Savoy Theatre to host their comic operas in. I'd say this is pretty historic and I am sure their spirits will be with us that night."

The ornate Victorian Palace Theatre, originally known as the Royal English Opera House, was commissioned and founded by the late theatrical impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte and designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt in the late 1880s. Carte who was already producing comic operas at his Savoy Theatre, decided to commission the Opera House as a home for grand operas. The Royal English Opera House opened 10 years after the Savoy Theatre which championed Gilbert & Sullivan's well-known "Savoy operas". Although their operettas never ran at the Royal English Opera House, it opened in January 1891 with Sir Arthur Sullivan's 'Ivanhoe'. Sadly, Carte's cherished opera house came under financial pressure leaving him with no alternative but to lease it and eventually sell it within one year of opening.

Throughout his life, Carte managed Gilbert & Sullivan and nurtured their careers including setting up the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Together these talented men introduced a new way of presenting light opera to families, touring these works to bring them out to the wider community.

After performing at The Prince of Wales Theatre for the WhatsonStage Awards in 2010, Sasha Regan's all-male 'The Pirates of Penzance' transferred to Wilton's Music Hall and then moved to The Rose Theatre, Kingston before completing a Number One tour of Australia. The All Male Company also toured with 'Iolanthe' (Critics Choice & Time Out's top 10 musicals of 2010) which transferred to Wilton's Music Hall where its sell-out run broke their box office records. The all-male 'Mikado' opened at the Theatre Royal, Bath, before touring to cities including Winchester, Edinburgh, London, Exeter and Salford in 2017 and next year the all-male 'H.M.S. Pinafore' is set for another comeback tour which was postponed earlier this year due to Coronavirus.

Today, the theatre world is facing immense pressure due to Covid-19 which makes this small theatre company and their journey to the West End all the more remarkable.

Sasha explains: "Nimax Theatres are doing all they can to make our cast and audiences feel safe in this beautiful Gothic theatre. It's been a long journey and we've taken over 10 years to get here, but the pirates are on their way to a theatre once owned by the man who discovered Gilbert & Sullivan. It will be a very special historic night on many levels."

DETAILS:

Runs on 13th December for one night only.

The Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 5AY

Tickets online: https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/pirates-of-penzance/

Box Office: 0330 333 4813

Performance Time: 7:00pm

Running time: 2 hours including an interval

For all group and school bookings, please contact: groups@nimaxtheatres.com.
School bookings rate: £25

Creatives

Director and Co-Producer - Sasha Regan

Choreographer - Lizzi Gee

Designer - Robyn Wilson-Owen

Musical Director - Richard Baker

Associate Choreographer - Lee Greenaway

Lighting Design - Ben Bull

Casting - Adam Braham Casting

Marketing and Public Relations - Fiona Lockley
Co-produced by Ben De Wynter for HMS2020 Productions

Casting to be announced shortly.




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