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Emma Rice’s musical adaptation of Malory Towers opens at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake

Malory Towers 2019 cast. Photo by Steve Tanner

Theatre by the Lake and David Pugh, the Olivier and Tony Award-winning producer, are delighted to present Emma Rice’s critically acclaimed musical adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, originally created with Wise Children.  This new production by Wise Children will open on 27 March 2020 at Theatre by the Lake, before going on a national tour, concluding at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, where it will play from 27 July to 31 August, with national press performances on 31 July, 1 and 2 August.

This production will star Rosie Abraham as Sally Hope, Alison Arnopp as Gwendoline Lacey, Georgia Bruce as Bill Robinson, Mirabelle Gremaud as Irene Dupont, Bobbie Little as Alicia Johns, Naomi Morris as Mary Lou Atkinson and Alice Vilanculo as Darrell Rivers, with  Katy Ellis and Stephanie Hockley.

Nostalgic, naughty and perfect for now, Malory Towers is a musical of high jinks, high drama and high spirits.

Darrell Rivers is starting school with an eager mind, a fierce heart and a quick temper. Can she learn to tolerate the infuriating Gwendoline Lacy? Can she rescue terrified Mary Lou from the grip of a raging storm? And who is the mysterious Wilhelmina whose bed lies empty at the start of term?

Malory Towers is the original ‘Girl Power’ story, reimagined for the 21st Century and set to sensational live music and breathtaking animation. A glorious celebration of friendship and finding yourself, this is a show for girls, boys and all us grown up children who remember the joys – and pains – of growing up. Set and costume design are by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, sound and video by Simon Baker and original music by Ian Ross.

The show is officially licensed by Enid Blyton Entertainment, a division of Hachette Children’s Group (HCG). Karen Lawler, Head of Licensed Content at HCG, says, “Enid Blyton created incredible female characters at Malory Towers: strong, capable and always, always kind. ‘Women the world can lean on,’ in Enid’s own words. We share Emma’s passion for these characters and we couldn’t be more excited to see Emma’s vision of Malory Towers come to life.”

Emma Rice on Malory Towers…

I’ve always been drawn to the years that followed the Second World War. It’s a time that feels close enough to touch, as I vividly remember my grandparents and how the war affected their lives. My Mum’s parents – poor and largely uneducated – decided that their children would have access to all the things that they hadn’t. I don’t know how they managed it on a railway worker’s pay, but my mother was sent to a remote grammar school in Dorset: Lord Digby’s School for Girls.

Whilst not a boarding school, Lord Digby’s was an extraordinary place of learning that changed my mother’s, and by extension my own, life. The tendrils of passion and education that Lord Digby’s stood for reach out across 60 years and more. They reached out over my inner city comprehensive education and have shaped my own beliefs and choices to this day.

My adaptation of Malory Towers is dedicated to the generation of women who taught in schools in that period. With lives shaped by the savagery of two wars, these teachers devoted themselves to the education and nurture of other women. It is also for the two generations of men that died in those same wars, leaving us with the freedom to lead meaningful, safe and empowered lives. And it is for Clement Attlee and his Labour government of 1945 who looked into the face of evil and chose to do what was right. These people changed the political landscape in their focus on care, compassion and the common good.

Malory Towers was written at the heart of this political revolution, and embodies a kindness, hope and love of life that knocks my socks off. ‘Long live our appetites and may our shadows never grow less!’ the girls cry.

My mother wrote to her teachers at Lord Digby’s until they died and is still friends with many of the girls she met there. And when I see my Mum, born into the poorest of rural backgrounds, enjoying Dickens and Almodovar and speaking French to her childhood pen-friend, I am stopped in my tracks. She went on to dedicate her life to the NHS and the helping of others whilst never losing her appetite for life, culture and hope. I salute her, and I cheer the education that threw this mind and soul into the air and said, “be a woman that the world can lean on”.

So that’s why I have made Malory Towers, with gratitude, hope and sheer pleasure! I call it my ‘Happy Lord of the Flies’ and it is joyfully radical to its bones. Imagine a world where (left to their own devices), people choose kindness. Imagine a world where difference is respected and arguments resolved with thought and care. Imagine a world that chooses community, friendship and fun. Now that’s a world I want to live in and, at Malory Towers, you can!

27 March – 18 April Theatre by the Lake, Keswick  017687 74411 www.theatrebythelake.com

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