Student discount for two special shows at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre until 31 October

Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre is offering discount tickets for two great productions this October. You can see Brave New World and A Winter’s Tale for only £10 per ticket. Check your University email for details and the special booking code you’ll need to use when you book online. We’re very grateful to our friends at the Everyman for this offer. 

Chloe Phillips’ reviews ‘Absence of War’ at the Cheltenham Everyman

On Thursday 19th March, twenty two students from across Humanities enjoyed a brilliant staging of David Hare’s Absence of War at the Cheltenham Everyman. Chloe Phillips, a third year English Literature and English Language student, shares her thoughts on the production:

Last week’s performance of The Absence of War by David Hare at the Everyman Theater, Cheltenham went beyond all my expectations of this play. Although a great piece of writing, I was slightly concerned that this was going to be a disinteresting play (too political) and a little bit tedious with its focus on a failed politican, George Jones. However, for me, the performance was a memorable success.

Headlong Theatre’s take on the text was powerful and enlightening, making me care about politics and politicans in ways that are not part of my normal day to day life. As an audience, we were offered an intimate look into the trouble and care politicians put into trying to make their visions part of Britain which was really refreshing. Although Hare wrote his play for the 1992 elections, we cannot deny that the issues raised have many similarities with those of the all important 2015 elections, with just as much scrutiny being put on our politicians today. Due to these electric parallels, Absence of War could not have been staged at a better time.

It was not just the star cast that were brilliant but all of the company performed their parts to perfection. Their accents, while distinct, were not overbearing and difficult to understand. The thread of humour that ran throughout gave us moments of relaxation before the stress and frustration of political reality took hold of us, too. Another portrayal of political parties came through with this performance, that of a family. The party members showed their affection and ease with each other whilst also expressing respect and protection towards their leader.

As someone who has no interest in politics of any era, it was going to be difficult to impress me. This play, however, came across as not only intelligent, but also easy for the everyday audience to understand without having an in depth knowledge of the political world. The emotion was understandable and even made me feel sympathetic towards the characters. Overall the experience was highly enjoyable and has left me watching out for other Hare and Headlong Theatre performances.

English Society Event: ‘King Lear’ at the Everyman

The English Society is planning to go and see Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Cheltenham Everyman.
Tickets are a bargain at £12 and are the best seats available so this will be a wonderful evening. Please let Beth Norris ( know before 12pm Friday 6th March if you would like to go.

 The performance is on Tuesday 24th March, and starts at 7:45pm. Please be outside the theatre at 7:30pm to receive your tickets. Information on how to pay will be posted shortly on the societies Facebook page, or please feel free to contact Beth Norris ( with any questions.

 Please be aware tickets are non-refundable due to the commitment to the theatre. The Society looks forward to hearing from you soon!

Theatre Trip: Cheltenham Everyman, David Hare ‘Absence of War’ March 19th

On March 19th English Literature students have the opportunity to go and see David Hare’s politcial play ‘Absence of War’ at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre. We study David Hare on the third year theatre module ‘Staging the Twentieth Century and Beyond’ so this is very fortuitous! However, everyone is welcome.

Tickets cost £12 (rather than £26) and numbers need to be confirmed by Friday 27th February. So please email Rebecca Bailey ( if you would like to attend.

Chloe Phillips reviews ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ from a student perspective.

Northern Broadsides is a company I had not come across before. However I was completely won over by their performance of She Stoops to Conquer. I thought this was a really successful staging of this fun loving, comic masterpiece just as Oliver Goldsmith originally intended.

The over-dramatization of the characters, especially the animal print costumes and the use of a transvestite maid, shows the brilliant silliness that cannot simply be portrayed through the text alone. The multiple characterisations of the actors, such as the shy yet blundering Marlow who somehow manages by the end of the play to have engaged himself to Kate Hardcastle was really effective.
Likewise, Kate’s effortless transformation from the well educated daughter of Squire Hardcastle to the lower class barmaid clearly and comically accomplished laugh-out-loud moments from the audience: just the sort of ‘laughing comedy’ which Goldsmith was attempting to achieve.
The traditional characters of the fool, the hero and heroine, the mother and the characters of the sub plots were kept and played to perfection – especially Tony Lumpkin (pictured) who stole the show for most of the students!
Now I’m looking forward to ‘The White Devil’ at Stratford in November!

Dr Rebecca Bailey reports on a very lively theatre trip to see ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre.

Theatre enthusiasts from across the English course enjoyed a wonderful evening at the Cheltenham Everyman last week when Northern Broadsides gave a sparkling performance of Oliver Goldsmith’s exuberant comedy, ‘She Stoops to Conquer’.  

Tony Lumpkin, played by Jon Trenchard, stole the show with an irrepressible eighteenth-century zaniness – creating the outrageous ‘mistakes of the night’ before deftly offering resolution. The costumes were fabulous, embodied by Mrs Hardcastle’s wild orange wig and ludicrous leopard print Georgian gown, which perfectly matched Gilly Tomkin’s brilliant portrayal of an outlandish, overly-protective mother. Equally impressive were the musical interludes which deftly enhanced the performance and added to the jollity of the occasion. 

Many thanks to Sally-ann Rhodes at the Everyman for being so patient and helpful in arranging this event which whetted the theatrical appetites of over twenty five students. Personally, I think this is quite possibly one of the best performances we have seen at the Everyman. 
Undoubtedly, it’s a huge boon for an English Literature department to have such excellent live theatre right on our doorstep. I am sure that this performance of She Stoops to Conquer will prove central to our discussion of this text, next semester, on HM5305: Staging the Cultural Moment.

Take a trip around the fabulous Everyman Theatre next Wednesday!

During Activity Week, on October 8 we are going to have a guided tour around the fabulous Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. For an hour, you’ll have a VIP view behind the scenes of one of the country’s oldest rep theatres. You’ll be taken around the theatre, backstage, under the stage, above the stage; see the costumes and props, and find out about the theatre’s history (and current  productions).
If you are going to the performance of She Stoops to Conquer on the evening of Thursday 9 October, this tour around the Everyman is an absolute must.  And it’s on us – there’s no charge.
The tour runs on Wednesday 8 October from 2:00 – 3:00pm. We’ll gather in front of the CEAL building at 1:30 and walk over. Please email me on if you want to go.

She Stoops to Conquer plays at the Everyman in October

I have reserved 30 seats to see Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer at the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre on October 9th 2014. This promises to be a great production!

As some of you will know we study this play on HM5305: Staging the Cultural Moment. However, even if you are not taking this marvellous module next semester you are welcome to come along to the performance.

Tickets are a snip at £12. I need to know numbers by Friday 26 September so please email me to let me know if you would like to attend.

Induction Week diary: Wednesday


Today was Project day. Creative Writing students took the low-key approach – excellent in its way – with an open-mic reading; English Literature opted for a long walk before lunch. About twenty-five students set out on a Magical Mystery Tour armed with town maps and a set of questions to answer, and luckily, the day was beautiful, sunny and warm. We walked to Pittville Park where Professor John Hughes and I heartlessly abandoned the students, but everyone made it back to town, and at one o’clock we joined Dr Charlotte Beyer and Dr Rebecca Bailey at the celebrated Everyman Theatre for our quiz. Things got a little noisy and I would like to apologise to patrons of Cafe Everyman who had hoped for a peaceful lunch.

Since the Quizmaster couldn’t hear the answers, we gave up on the competition and decided that everyone was a winner. The superb staff at Cafe Everyman made us so welcome; many thanks to them for treating us handsomely.

The cakes looked like this. We ate twenty-five pieces between us. Some of us had seconds.

Students will now produce a small research project on ‘Literary Cheltenham’ to present on Friday morning. It was great fun and we hope that they were inspired by our walk around the town. Students, do please send us your photos.

Three great names in theatre


Regular readers of this blog know that we love Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre.  Designed by the Victorian architect Frank Matcham, the Everyman has been at the centre of the town’s cultural life since 1891. Each autumn, we take our new students to the Everyman for a guided tour behind the scenes, and it remains a very special place for all students of English Literature at the University.

Last week, the Everyman hosted a performance of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, in a new production by the celebrated Hull Truck Theatre company. Now with a permanent base in Hull, this touring company lived on the road for many years, travelling around Britian’s small theatres. Its founding director John Godber gave up teaching for a peripatetic life in theatre, writing and producing many of Hull Truck’s plays as well as developing an extended repertoire of new, modern and classic plays.

The Everyman, Hull Truck, and Delaney: I wasn’t going to miss the chance to experience three great names in British theatre. I was also curious to see how the play would be performed. The Everyman’s proscenium arch was designed for a particular type of nineteenth-century theatrical experience. John Barnes notes that to modernist writers ‘the proscenium appeared conservative and restrictive, encouraging a private response in each spectator rather than a shared audience experience.’* Yet far from separating the audience from the action, the arch invites us to step through the frame while reminding us that art is not life itself, but life represented, mediated, made more intense and universal.

Mark Babych’s excellent new production explores the claustrophobic physical and mental spaces of Delaney’s radical play.  A buckled street lamp projects just beyond the edge of the arch, and between scenes the actors (who are also singers and musicians) step forward, stand under the dismal low-watt light to sing or play the washboard or ukelele. A grim iron walkway marks the entrance to the unheated one-room flat where the action takes place, its lattice standing in for the gasworks that the characters (but not the audience) see when they look out of the window. Like the stage set, the songs refer to a world beyond, and drew collective recognition and response from the audience; the actor playing Helen kept breaking the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly.

The best dramatic productions use material and spatial conditions to project a world, and to project us, the audience, into that world. Only our imaginations lay down the limits.

*Reference: The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance, ed. Dennis Kennedy (Oxford: OUP 2010), p. 481.

Images: Shelagh Delaney, early 1960s. Hull Truck Theatre. Decorated safety curtain at Cheltenham’s Everyman theatre.