Panto season returns this autumn at the Belgrade Theatre


Iain Lauchlan in Aladdin at Belgrade Theatre - credit Robert Day


Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre has announced the final line up for its brand new Autumn Season which includes new Marc Bolan musical 20th Century Boy and BAFTA Award-winning, Coventry writer Geoff Thompson’s new drama Fragile. The theatre has also revealed that Coventry’s panto legend Iain Lauchlan will not only be writing and directing this year’s production of Sleeping Beauty, he will also be donning a frock to reprise his role of panto Dame after an absence of five years.

On sale from 2 July, the season gets off to a spectacular start with the Belgrade’s brand new musical 20th Century Boy, which will play on the Main Stage from 14 to 29 Sept. This full scale musical production is inspired by the life of glam rocker Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex and coincides with the 35th anniversary of the iconic star’s death.

Featuring all of T. Rex’s ‘70s hits, including Ride a White Swan, I Love to Boogie, and Children of the Revolution, 20th Century Boy looks behind the glitter and the sequins to tell the story of Marc Bolan’s life from the perspective of his son Rolan, as he seeks to find out more about his father who died when he was just two years old.

Running alongside this in B2 from 8 to 22 Sept is Fragile, a brutally compelling, new drama from BAFTA award-winning, Coventry writer, Geoff Thompson. Starring film, TV and stage actor Craig Conway, Fragile charts one man’s remarkable journey through traumatic abuse, self-discovery and ultimately redemption.

The play will be directed by Nick Bagnall, who said, Fragile is challenging and dangerous as well as being extraordinary in its poetry and theatricality. As a new play it deals with a domestic situation in epic proportions. Geoff is an incredible writer and being a Coventry lad, it makes perfect sense to do Fragile here at the Belgrade.”

Geoff Thompson’s acclaimed writing includes screenplays for the BAFTA nominated Bouncer starring Ray Winstone, BAFTA winner Brown Paper Bag, full length feature film Clubbed and Romans 12:20 starring Craig Conway. He also wrote the best-selling book Watch My Back, which is his account of nine years as a doorman and bouncer in Coventry.

A series of one night music and dance shows will take to the Main Stage throughout October starting with the return of Eagles tribute band Talon on 2 Oct, Abba Mania on 3 Oct and The Magic of Motown on 4 Oct. The House of Burlesque bring their new show Shipwrecked to the Main Stage on 5 Oct and on 6 Oct the Belgrade will celebrate 50 years of Jamaican independence with JA Story – The History of Jamaica Musical. In B2 from 8 to 10 Oct there is physical theatre from Coventry’s Highly Sprung theatre company in their new show Child of Terror.

Following the hugely successful productions of And Then Were None and Witness for the Prosecution, the Official Agatha Christie Theatre Company returns with a stylish new production of the Queen of Crime’s classic thriller Murder on the Nile from 8 to 13 Oct.

Hit West End show Calendar Girls will make its debut on the Belgrade’s Main Stage from 15 to 20 Oct, featuring an all-star line up including Lesley Joseph, Kacey Ainsworth, Camilla Dallerup, Helen Fraser, Sue Holderness, Deena Payne, Kathryn Rooney, Ruth Madoc and Kevin Sacre.

Alongside 20th Century Boy and Fragile, the Belgrade will also be producing American family drama The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, which will run in B2 from 20 Oct to 10 Nov. Written by William Inge, who dedicated the play to his friend, rival and contemporary Tennessee Williams, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1957 and was made into a successful film in 1960 with Angela Lansbury. It has not been seen in England for over a generation.

The play is set in Oklahoma in the early 1920s and it follows the trials and tribulations of the Flood family as they are each forced to face their fears and accept that the world as they know it is changing forever.

From 22 to 27 Oct John Chapman’s comedy Dry Rot will play on the Main Stage starring Liza Goddard, Susan Penhaligon and Gareth Hale and Norman Pace. This is followed by Ike and Tina Turner musical Soul Sister, which comes to the Belgrade direct from London’s West End for a week long run on 29 Oct to 3 Nov.

Following the success of Henry V and The Winter’s Tale, award-winning all male Shakespeare Company Propeller make their way back to the Belgrade from 8 to 10 Nov with Twelfth Night. The classics continue on 14 and 15 Nov with Tacit Theatre’s take on Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in B2.

Throughout November the Main Stage will host another series of one night music and dance shows starting with The Bootleg Sixties on 12 Nov, Phantom & the Musicals on 13 Nov and The Circus of Horrors on 14 Nov. Following previous sell-out productions of Swan Lake, Moscow Ballet are returning with The Nutcracker from 15 to 17 Nov.

Christmas at the Belgrade sees the long awaited return of Coventry’s panto legend Iain Lauchlan as he returns to the theatre’s Main Stage to play the Dame in Sleeping Beauty from 28 Nov to 5 Jan.

Iain Lauchlan holds legendary status in Coventry following twelve unforgettable years as Dame in Belgrade pantomimes between 1988 and 1999. He was last seen on the Belgrade stage in 2007 when he made a spectacular, one off return to play the Dame in Aladdin to celebrate the reopening of the theatre after its £14 million redevelopment project.

Iain said returning to the Belgrade and donning the frocks once again as the panto Dame is like coming home, “I feel so comfortable with the Coventry audiences. They have supported me over many years and don’t seem to forget me when I am not there. I am really, really looking forward to playing Dame in Sleeping Beauty this year and catching up with old friends … thousands of them. I can’t wait!”

Christmas cheer continues with the B2 Xmas Show, which this year sees the return of the critically acclaimed musical comedy Crackers. The show will play from 8 to 22 Dec and in true B2 Xmas Show style it will provide an evening of festive entertainment for grown-ups.

The Belgrade kicks off the New Year with a series of one night music and dance shows including A Night of Dirty Dancing on 16 Jan, Taking Care of Elvis on 17 Jan, An Evening of Burlesque on 18 Jan and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute Big Girls Don’t Cry on 19 Jan.

Opera makes its way to the Belgrade on 22 Jan when OperaUpClose’s Olivier Award-winning production of La Bohème makes its way to the Main Stage. This will be followed by The Johnny Cash Roadshow on 23 Jan, Michael Jackson tribute Forever Michael on 24 Jan, Sing-a-Long-a Grease on 25 Jan and The Rat Pack is Back on 26 Jan.

Following a sell out tour two years ago, BBC favourites The Hairy Bikers are hitting the road again with a brand new show, Larger than Live, which will stop off at the Belgrade on 14 and 15 March. The show will include lots of cooking, which some lucky audience members will be invited to taste.

Coventry’s finest variety show, Midday Variety, will also be back on 27 Sept with Steve Hewlett and impressionist Peter Lindup and on 25 Oct with Matt Ford and the Fast Lane Orchestra. Throughout the season Barnstormers Comedy will be bringing a series of late night comedy shows to B2 with performances on 28 Sept, 26 Oct, 23 Nov and 25 Jan.

As ever, the Belgrade Community & Education Company will continue its valuable work in the local community and on 16 and 17 Nov the company’s third New Black Showcase will feature rehearsed readings of scenes from new plays created by the Belgrade’s Critical Mass writing programme.

Tickets for all of these shows are available from the Belgrade’s box office from 2 July on 024 7655 3055 or from where cheaper tickets can be purchased.