THE WICKER HUSBAND Has its World Premiere at the Watermill Theatre

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THE WICKER HUSBAND Has its World Premiere at the Watermill Theatre

This Spring, the acclaimed Watermill Theatre presents the World premiere of a captivating and powerful new folk-inspired musical. The Wicker Husband, by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark, was the winner of the inaugural MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award in 2016 celebrating new British musical theatre writers and was included in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's 30th Annual Festival of New Musicals in New York.

In a superficial world, where beauty is only skin-deep, the so-called 'Ugly Girl' is ostracised by the shallow townsfolk because she doesn't fit in. However, when the mysterious old Basket Maker makes her a strong and loving husband woven from living wicker, The Ugly Girl becomes the envy of her neighbours. As bitter rivalry and jealousy threaten to tear the neighbourhood apart, the townsfolk embark on a cruel and destructive plan. Will the Ugly Girl's happiness be ruined forever? The Wicker Husband tells a timeless and emotive tale of an outsider shunned by a hostile community.

The cast of this powerful and heart-rending new musical comprises :- Laura Johnson (I Love you You're Perfect, Now Change - Chiswick Playhouse Productions) as The Ugly Girl, Yazdan Qafouri (The Band - West End and tour) as the voice of The Wicker Husband, Eilon Morris (Day of the Living - RSC, These Trees are Made of Blood -Southwark Playhouse and Arcola Theatre) and Scarlet Wilderink (Pinocchio - National Theatre, The Wolf Wilder - Complicité, Watership Down - Watermill Theatre) as the puppeteers of The Wicker Husband, Stephen Leask (Waitress The Musical - West End, School of Rock -West End) as The Cobbler, Angela Caesar (Caroline or Change - Playhouse Theatre/Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Shaw Goes Wilde - Pegasus Opera Company) as The Cobbler's Wife, Jonathan Charles (The Butterfly Lion - Barn Theatre Cirencester, War Horse - national tour) as The Innkeeper, Claire-Marie Hall (Operation Mincemeat - Southwark Playhouse, The Colours - Soho Theatre) as The Innkeeper's Wife, Jack Beale (As You Like It - Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, The Lorax - The Old Vic, Wind in the Willows - Watermill Theatre, Spend, Spend, Spend -Watermill Theatre) as The Tailor, Zoë Rainey (An American In Paris - West End, Romeo and Juliet and A Winter's Tale - Kenneth Branagh / West End) as The Tailor's Wife, Julian Forsyth (Local Hero - Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, Sunset Boulevard - ENO) as The Old Basket Maker and Jon Whitten as on-stage band.

The Wicker Husband is directed by Charlotte Westenra with set design by Anna Kelsey and puppetry design and direction by Finn Caldwell. Choreography is by Steven Harris with lighting design by Hartley T A Kemp, sound design by Ella Wahlström and musical direction by Pat Moran.

The show will feature handcrafted wicker puppets created by Finn Caldwell whose credits include War Horse (West End & International), Life of Pi (Sheffield Crucible) and The Grinning Man (Bristol Old Vic & West End).

Artistic Director of The Watermill Theatre Paul Hart says - "We're thrilled to be presenting the premiere of this highly anticipated new musical. Darren Clark and Rhys Jennings have created a piece of astonishing power, intricacy and ambition and it's a perfect fit for the Watermill's bucolic setting. I can tell that this cast and creative team are going to produce something incredibly special and we're very proud to be championing this new British musical."

Writers of The Wicker Husband Darren Clark and Rhys Jennings say - "After seven years of writing, workshops, presentations and competitions, we are so delighted that The Wicker Husband is finally going into production at our dream venue The Watermill. Paul Hart and his team have put their faith in a brand-new UK musical and we are absolutely thrilled with the cast that has been assembled by our extraordinary leader Charlotte Westenra. We can't wait to show our audiences the wonders that are hidden in the heart of the weave."

Darren Clark is a composer & lyricist living and working in London. Amongst his many shows, his recent sold out critically acclaimed musical The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was nominated for six Off West End Awards including Best Musical Director and Best Musical. His political musical theatre work, Days of Living and These Trees are Made of Blood received praise from critics and audiences alike. His company Paper Balloon produces and writes original musical theatre for children, including The Grumpiest Boy In The World which continues to receive productions across Australia and throughout the USA. Darren's musical theatre writing has received numerous awards including selection to the NAMT Festival of New Musicals in New York, and The MTI Stiles & Drewe Mentorship Award. He has been a finalist for The Fred Ebb Award for Musical Theatre, The Perfect Pitch Award, The Old Vic 12 and The KSF Artist of Choice. He has been a three time finalist for the Cameron Mackintosh Composer in Residence Award and a three time finalist for The Stiles & Drewe Best New Song, winning runner up in 2015. Darren is also the recipient of the Musical Theatre Executive Trust Award and is a passionate advocate for promoting the work of new British musical theatre writers.

Rhys Jennings trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has been working professionally in theatre and audio drama since graduating in 2009. During a tour of a childrens' show with Paper Balloon Theatre- for which Darren wrote the music - the two began writing their first show together, The Wicker Husband, and are currently working on their second, about the life and work of World War II codebreaker and computer scientist Alan Turing. He has also written a large scale community theatre show in Burgaw, North Carolina called The Color Goblins. As an actor, Rhys won the 2009 BBC Carleton Hobbs Award and joined the BBC Radio Drama Company for six months upon graduation.

Charlotte Westenra is a stage director and dramaturg specialising in political theatre and new writing, with an emphasis on the development of British musicals. Her credits include Lower Ninth - Donmar at Trafalgar Studios; Decade -Theatre 503; Kiss of The Spider Woman -Donmar Warehouse; My Dad's A Birdman - Sheffield Crucible Theatre; Darfur - How Long Is Never? (co-directed with Nicolas Kent) - Tricycle Theatre; Gladiator Games - Sheffield Theatre Studio. Blair's Children - Cockpit Theatre, Return of The Soldier - Jermyn Street Theatre and many more. Charlotte has been recognised for numerous awards, including a 2006 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre as associate director to Nicolas Kent for Bloody Sunday - Scenes from the Savile Inquiry. She received a nomination for a 2006 Whatsonstage Theatregoers Choice Award for Gladiator Games; the same play was part of a season at Stratford East, which was nominated for the 2007 Olivier Award for outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. Waiting for Lefty was a finalist for 2003 James Menzies Kitchin Award for Young Directors (BAC).

The Watermill Theatre has developed a reputation as one of Britain's leading regional theatres. From its beautiful home in a small Berkshire village, work has been created that is admired around the world. Over 67,000 people attend shows or attend one-off events at The Watermill each year, where some 12 new productions are staged annually, ranging from Shakespeare and musicals to classics, new plays and youth theatre productions. The Watermill tours regularly across the UK as well as rural touring productions, which play in village halls and small arts centres in the South. Recent and upcoming tours and London transfers have included Amélie (National Tour), Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream (UK Tour and Wilton's Music Hall), One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (Jermyn Street Theatre), Assassins (Nottingham Playhouse) Twelfth Night (Wilton's Music Hall), Burke and Hare (Jermyn Street Theatre and The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich), Trial By Laughter (National Tour), Teddy (National Tour and The Vaults), Crazy For You (National Tour), The Wipers Times (West End and Tour), Loot (Park Theatre), Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet (International Tours), Murder For Two (The Other Palace) and Frankenstein (Wilton's Music Hall).

The Watermill Theatre aims to be a focal point for the local community and is proud to play a leading part in helping the careers of the theatre-makers of tomorrow. The Watermill's unique environment encourages a real sense of ensemble, and its intimate 200-seat auditorium also means that there is a particularly strong connection between the actors and audience. This combination makes The Watermill a very special place to visit.

Tickets: Online: www.watermill.org.uk
Box Office: 01635 46044




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