This season, the Belgrade Theatre hosts a fantastic range of shows for children of all ages. Little ones can take a stroll through the deep, dark wood with The Gruffalo, and enjoy magical puppetry with Oi Frog and Friends! Live on Stage. There’s something for older ones too, with brand new stage adaptations of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful.
Fun for all the family kicks off with Billionaire Boy on the Belgrade’s Main Stage from Thurs 17 – Sat 19 Feb. Birmingham Stage Company (Gangsta Granny, Horrible Histories) present the story of Joe Spud, who at twelve years old is the richest boy in the country. Despite having his own sports car and £100,000 a week in pocket money, Joe doesn’t have any friends. Follow Joe as he tries to find what money can’t buy. Billionaire Boy stars Matthew Gordon (Midsummer Night’s Dream – GB Theatre, Macbeth – Rotherham Underground) as Joe and Jason Furnival (Waterloo Road, Scott & Bailey) as Joe’s dad.
From Tues 12 – Sat 16 April, a brand new stage adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm arrives in Coventry. Written and directed by Robert Ike (1984, co-directed with Duncan Macmillan), the production is presented by Children’s Theatre Partnership in association with Birmingham Rep, with puppetry design and direction from Toby Olié. Follow the animals of Manor Farm as they drive out the farmer and run the farm themselves in a daring revolution.
An action-packed stage adaptation of Kes Gray and Jim Field’ best-selling books Oi Frog and Friends! arrives in the B2 auditorium on Fri 13 & Sat 14 May. Adapted for the stage by Emma Earle, Zoe Squire, Luke Bateman and Richy Hughes, Oi Frog and Friends! features a magical combination of songs, puppetry, comedy and rhymes, perfect for kids ages 3+.
Private Peaceful comes to the Main Stage from Tues 17 – Sat 21, adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s acclaimed novel. The Peaceful brothers, Tommo and Charlie, have a fierce loyalty to each other, following a childhood of hardships. Will their relationship endure when they both fall for the same girl, and when the Great War comes? Set against a backdrop of World War I, the new ensemble retelling of Morpurgo’s story is adapted by Simon Reade and directed by Elle While.
Oddsocks return to the Belgrade this season with their calamitous take on Hamlet – The Comedy from Tues 14 – Thurs 16 June. Shakespeare’s famous tragedy is performed like never before with lots of laughs and music. Follow the eponymous royal student who returns home for the summer holidays to find something rotten in the state of Denmark – and it’s more than just the bag of dirty washing!
The season of children’s treats is completed with Tall Stories’ musical adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler classic picture book, The Gruffalo on Fri 1 & Sat 2 July. Perfect for kids aged 3+, join Mouse on a daring adventure through the deep, dark wood. Will the story of the terrifying Gruffalo save him from ending up as dinner for hungry woodland creatures? After all, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo – is there?
Tickets for all of these shows are available by phoning the Box Office on 024 7655 3055 (phone lines open 10:30am – 2pm, Mon – Sat), or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where tickets are even cheaper. With a My Belgrade Subscription, book 3 or 4 shows and save 15%, or book 5 or more shows and save a huge 25%.
ABOUT THE BELGRADE
The Belgrade is Coventry’s largest professional theatre, producing and presenting a diverse range of shows, events and ground-breaking community and education initiatives. In its landmark building, across the region, the UK and online, it uses theatre to entertain, inspire, share the city’s stories, uncover hidden histories, and unleash the creativity of diverse communities.
After a year of partial closure due to the pandemic, Belgrade reopened to a socially distanced public in May 2021, determined to be open as much as possible during City of Culture, and moved into a non-socially distanced programme in the autumn.
A key partner of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, the Belgrade Theatre’s 2021 programme has been led by three artists from diverse backgrounds, under the role of Co-Artistic Directors, alongside members of the local community. Corey Campbell, Balisha Karra and Justine Themen are developing a new vision and way of working for a 21st Century Theatre, bringing with them a unique perspective that celebrates Coventry’s diversity and drives positive change. The KEYS project aims to achieve a strategic shift to embed diversity, community collaboration and talent development at the heart of the theatre process.
In October 2021, Corey Campbell was appointed to the new post of Creative Director, focusing on the Theatre’s artistic output across both its professional and community areas, with Laura Elliot appointed as Chief Executive, responsible for overall strategy and to run the commercial side of the Belgrade. The new leadership team took up their posts at the beginning of January 2022.
BACKGROUND TO THE KEYS PROJECT
Outgoing Chief Executive and Artistic Director Hamish Glen’s original inspiration for this project came from Coventry’s Ira Aldridge story. Coventry has a reputation for offering both welcome and opportunity to all and in 1828 this spirit was captured when Aldridge, an African-American actor, travelled to England and was made manager of the Coventry Theatre. Not even 21 years of age, he became the country’s first theatre manager of colour at time when slavery was still widespread throughout the British Empire.
Ira Aldridge remains a key part of the City’s cultural heritage, but 150 years after his death there is still a distinct lack of diversity amongst the UK’s artistic leaders, despite the hugely diverse make-up of the UK.
Fired by Ira Aldridge’s legacy to the city, Hamish Glen “handed over the keys” of the Belgrade Theatre to the next generation of theatre-makers, and has allowed them the opportunity to do it their way in 2021.
The Belgrade’s City of Culture programme has included a festival of new writing in a co-production with Paines Plough in Paines Plough’s Roundabout, the world’s first plug-in, pop-up and play theatre, with four new plays performed in repertory from July to August. As part of UK Asian Film Festival in May the Belgrade Theatre hosted five film premieres, socially distanced in their B2 auditorium. The brand-new digital version of Like There’s No Tomorrowwas also produced in May, a National Theatre Connections play first created in 2020 that gives voice to young people’s climate concerns, presented by Belgrade Youth Theatre.
November saw the red carpet premiere of SeaView, an original digital series developed by Strictly Arts Theatre Company and Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd using theatre techniques, conceived before Covid-19 took the world of theatre online, and directed by Corey Campbell. Inspired by a true story, and lived experiences, SeaView is a supernatural drama centred on urban, working class communities in the Midlands.
Other 2021 highlights included the world premiere of This Little Relic by Karla Marie Sweet, a metaplay about producing Ira Aldridge’s The Black Doctor, as part of the BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival, performed in front of a live audience in September at the Belgrade, and subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
In March 2022, The Belgrade will present the world premiere of Kerbs, a debut play from Michael Southan exploring taboos around sex, romance and disability, in association with Graeae Theatre Company.
Fighting Irish, a new Belgrade Theatre production by Coventry writer, Jamie McGough, premieres in April, and is the extraordinary, true story charting the rising and falling fortunes of the McGough brothers, and maps the journey of the Irish diaspora through one family’s story. Fighting Irish is co-directed by the Belgrade’s Creative Director, Corey Campbell, and former Artistic Director, Hamish Glen.