Arcola Theatre, led by Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen, and Executive Producer, Leyla Nazli, today announces the reopening of Studio 2 for the first time since the pandemic, and the initial programming for that space which includes three transfers from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The Mistake, Afghanistan Is Not Funny and VERMIN.
Studio 2 will reopen with The Mistake, an urgent new play by Michael Mears exploring the events surrounding the catastrophic ‘mistake’ that launched our nuclear age. The production opens on 31 January, with previews from 30 January, and runs until 4 February. Rosamunde Hutt directs Emiko Ishii as atomic-bomb survivor Nomura Shigeko, and Mears, as nuclear physicist Leo Szilard and General Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay – reprising their roles.
This is followed by comedian Henry Naylor’s award-winning show, Afghanistan Is Not Funny, directed by Darren Lee Cole and Martha Lott. Performed by Naylor himself in front of Sam Maynard’s photography, this docu-drama tells the true story of their trip to war-torn Afghanistan in 2002, and winning multiple awards including Best International Act, Hollywood Fringe 2022 and Adelaide Critics Circle Weekly Award, Adelaide Fringe 2022. This sell-out sensation opens on 23 February, with previews from 21 February, and runs until 11 March.
Recreate Agency and Triptych Theatre then present the critically acclaimed dark comedy VERMIN, written by Benny Ainsworth and directed by Michael Parker. An unsettling, unrelenting and heart-breaking dark comedy starring Ainsworth and Sally Parfett, VERMIN opens on 16 March, with previews from 14 March, running until 1 April.
Further programming to be announced for Studio 1 in the Spring.
Mehmet Ergen, Artistic Director of Arcola Theatre, says today, “We are thrilled to be reopening Studio 2, our new writing powerhouse, after a closure of 2 years. Studio 2 has always been a platform for young companies, emerging directors and artists, new stories and pushing the boundaries of theatre with premières of works like Barney Norris‘ Visitors, Spun by Rabiah Hussain and but i cd only whisper by Kristiana Colón, directed by Nadia Latif. As we reopen, we continue that journey by showcasing three of the most exciting shows to emerge from this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Each work is a powerful, unique and compelling piece of storytelling and we hope you will be as excited and inspired by these stories as we are.”
General on-sale Tuesday 13 December.
Essential Theatre presents
Cast: Emiko Ishii and Michael Mears
Director: Rosamunde Hutt; Set Designer: Mark Friend;
Edinburgh Lighting Designer: George Tarbuck; Sound Designer: Claire Windsor
1 – 5 February 2023
Press night: Tuesday 31 January at 8pm
A hit production from the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe now transferring to London, Michael Mears‘ timely new play explores the events surrounding the catastrophic ‘mistake’ that launched our nuclear age.
1942. On a squash court in Chicago a dazzling scientific experiment takes place, which three years later will destroy a city and change the world – forever. Through the lives of a brilliant Hungarian scientist, a daring American pilot and a devoted Japanese daughter, this fastmoving, compelling drama confronts the dangers that arise when humans dare to unlock the awesome power of nature.
Rosamunde Hutt directs, returning to Arcola Theatre for the first time since New Nigerians by Oladipo Agboluaje. She also directed award-winning play Love, Bombs and Apples by Hassan Abdulrazzak which premièred at Arcola before touring the UK and transferring stateside to San Francisco and Washington DC. In addition, she has directed three productions for East 15 School of Acting in Arcola’s Studio 1. Hutt has co-led three major theatre companies: Hijinx Theatre from 1990-1993, Theatre Centre from 1993 -2007 and the Unicorn Theatre from 2007-2011 and is now Artistic Director of Pursued By A Bear. She has worked as a director in India, Romania, Japan and Bangladesh, regularly directs for Goldsmiths, RADA and East 15, and specialises in new writing, often developing new work with Kali Theatre. She collaborates regularly with Michael Mears and directed his play, This Evil Thing (Edinburgh Fringe, UK and USA tours). Currently she is the Workshop Director for The Shadow World Musical, which is being developed in association with the Arcola; and is producing and directing the brand-new play Nothing on Earth which will tour Hertfordshire and UK venues in March 2023.
As well as writing The Mistake, Michael Mears plays Leo Szilard, Paul Tibbets, Albert Einstein and others. He has acted with major theatre companies including The National Theatre, the RSC and the Peter Hall Company, and has frequently performed in the West End, most notably for nine months in long-running hit The Woman in Black. His other acting credits onstage include The Herbal Bed and Our Lady of Kibeho. He has written three solo plays for the stage and seven solo plays for BBC Radio 4, all performed by himself. His acclaimed production, This Evil Thing, depicts the struggle of Britain’s WW1 conscientious objectors, and was performed in venues across the UK and US. His 1995 play about homelessness, Soup, won a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival. His other plays include Tomorrow We Do the Sky, A Slight Tilt to The Left, Slow Train to Woking, Uncle Happy, Jam and Arnold Darwin’s Feeling Better. His television credits include Sharpe’s Rifles, The Lenny Henry Show, Parade’s End, Sanditon and The Crown; and for film, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Little Dorrit, The Good Soldier Schwejk and Last Night in Soho.
Emiko Ishii plays Nomura Shigeko and the Woman. Ishii’s stage credits include Bring on the Bollywood (UK tour), The Cafe (A Season of Bangla Drama, The Brady Arts and Community Centre), Illicit Worlds of Indian Dance (Rich Mix) and But I Don’t Like Girls (Pleasance London). Her television credits include: Half Bad, Secret Invasion, Giri & Haji, Banged Up Abroad and India at 70; and for film: The World Mission, Serenade’s End, Apartment 7A, The Marvels, People Just Do Nothing, Bhangra Paa Le, Someday, Jewel Balkans and Heropanti 2.
Redbeard Theatre presents
AFGHANISTAN IS NOT FUNNY
Written and performed by Henry Naylor
Directed by Darren Lee Cole and Martha Lott
Featuring photography by Sam Maynard
21 February – 11 March 2023
Press night: Thursday 23 February at 8pm
In 2002, whilst researching a comedy, triple Fringe First winner Henry Naylor and two-time Scottish Feature Photographer of the Year Sam Maynard went to the Afghan Warzone… Naylor recounts their extraordinary life-changing trip, in which they were abducted by the mujahedeen and menaced by a war criminal…
Amusing and moving, Afghanistan Is Not Funny is one of the leading award-winners on this year’s international fringe circuit, and has won top prizes at the Edinburgh, Hollywood and Adelaide Fringes. Now it comes to the Arcola after a successful run in the ‘Best of All the Fests’, the Fringe Encore Series, in the Soho Playhouse New York.
Henry Naylor has been described as ‘one of our best new playwrights’ (Ann Treneman, The Times), and returns to Arcola Theatre following sell-out runs of The Collector, Echoes, Games, Borders and Angel. His plays have won, or been nominated for, 45 leading international awards, including three Fringe Firsts, the Best of Edinburgh, a record-breaking three Overall Adelaide Critics’ Circle Awards, Norway’s Hedda Award and the Globes De Cristal (the French Golden Globes). Angel was selected as one of the Times’ 10 Best Plays of The Year. Naylor’s plays have been staged in five continents and have been translated into eleven languages. Many of his plays have had month-long runs off-Broadway; Echoes (Ecos) played at Madrid’s Teatro Español; and Angel ran for three months in Paris’s Théâtre Tristan Bernard. Before becoming a playwright, Naylor had a long career performing and writing for television and radio. He wrote for Alas Smith & Jones, Lenny Henry, Dead Ringers – and was a lead writer on Spitting Image. As a performer, Naylor shared a successful double act with Andy Parsons; together the duo hosted nine series of Parsons & Naylor’s Pull-Out Sections on Radio 2, garnering some of the highest ratings in Europe for a radio comedy in the 2000s.
Sam Maynard started his career as a press photographer, twice winning Scottish Feature Photographer of The Year and has had pictures on the front pages of every UK newspaper. He then moved into television, running his own BAFTA-winning production company, making documentaries across the world. He is now Executive Vice President at Raw TV, and has been pivotal in developing, setting up and overseeing Raw’s big returnable US series such as Gold Rush (Discovery Channel’s #1 show) and NGC’s cult drama doc Locked Up Abroad (now in its 14th season). He has also developed and executive-produced further long run repeat series for Discovery such as Homestead Rescue Parker’s Trail and Dave Turin’s Lost Mines. Recent productions include Presidents at War for History Channel, Auto Biography for Discovery+ and a new three-part premium documentary series for Netflix.
The REcreate Agency in Collaboration with Tryptch present
Written by Benny Ainsworth
Cast: Sally Parfett and Benny Ainsworth
Director: Michael Parker
14 March – 1 April 2023
Press night: Thursday 16 March at 8pm
Besotted couple Billy and Rachel have a rat problem. But lurking below the floorboards of their first home together is a much darker, deep-rooted horror the couple must confront – no matter how damaging or deadly. VERMIN is an unsettling, unrelenting and heart-breaking dark comedy that peels back the layers of unchecked grief.
Following a runaway Edinburgh Fringe success, VERMIN is presented by The REcreate Agency in collaboration with multiple award-nominated and critically acclaimed theatre company Triptych Theatre.
As well as writing VERMIN, Benny Ainsworth plays Billy. Ainsworth is the co-founder of Triptych Theatre and writer of their shows, An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe and VERMIN. His recent theatre credits include Hamlet (Coin Theatre/international tour), The Duchess of Malfi (Shakespeare’s Globe), Mercury Fur, Black Snow (Tristan Bates Theatre) and Dinosaurs in the Wild (Greenwich Peninsula). His television credits include: The Ghostwriter, The Nevers and Confessions of Frannie Langton.
Sally Parfett plays Rachel. Parfett is a performer, producer, director and co-founder of Triptych Theatre. Her recent theatre credits include VERMIN (Gilded Balloon Edinburgh), Beginnings (Lion & Unicorn Theatre), My Name is Cathy (Chapel Theatre) and The House (Maltings Theatre/Bread & Roses Theatre). For television, her credits include Self Help, All of Them and The Burying Party.
Michael Parker makes his directorial debut with VERMIN. Parker is a producer and co-founder of Triptych Theatre and he performed in their production of An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe (Pen Theatre, ZOO Venues Edinburgh, Cat’s Back, Etcetera).