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Wednesday, 21 February 2018
AN Oscar-winning actress and TV comedian are among the acts signed up to appear at the Kenton Theatre in Henley.
Hayley Mills, one of the biggest film stars of the Sixties, will launch the venue’s new programme for the 2017/18 season next month in an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, to mark the bicentenary of author Jane Austen.
Stand-up comedian Dara O’Briain will then perform a rare intimate show in October where he will be trying out new material ahead of a nationwide tour in 2018.
Other performances include Sixties singing icon PP Arnold and talks from leading speakers while this year’s much-anticipated pantomime will be Robin Hood.
Following the traditional summer closure, the New Street venue reopens its door on Saturday, September 16 where Mills recreates Austen’s living room readings of her best-loved book to friends and family.
She is accompanied by two of the UK’s most-respected classical musicians, pianist Ashley Wass and violinist Matthew Trusler, performing music from the score of the BBC1 series, specially adapted by composer Carl Davis.
Mills was a global star and has appeared in hits including The Parent Trap, Whistle Down The Wind and Pollyanna, for which she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Pollyanna Whittier.
O’Briain, who is the host of Mock the Week and Stargazing Live will be swapping the stage of the Sydney Opera House and the London Apollo for the Kenton on Sunday, October 1.
The Irish funnyman started his career in television as a children’s presenter whilst performing his first stand-up gigs on the Irish comedy circuit, after studying at University College, Dublin, where he studied mathematical physics.
His big break in UK television came in 2003 when he became host of BBC2’s Live Floor Show. This led to an appearance as a guest and then four appearances as guest host of news quiz, Have I Got News For You.
The theatre will be hosting a series of talks, including Henley’s Farrow & Ball experts in September, historian Elizabeth Hazeldine on haunted Henley in October, as well as BBC star Lucy Worsley and feminist icon Germaine Greer in November.
Music events at the theatre will include a capella quintet Africa Entsha on September 29 and Sixties singer PP Arnold, who is best-known for The First Cut is the Deepest, on October 27.
Fawley-based Opera Prelude will stage The Three Tenors Live on October 28 and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra perform on November 3.
Family shows include an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s Why the Whales Came from the award-winning team behind West End hit I Believe in Unicorns, as well as The Nutcracker and Henley Children’s Theatre’s Cinderella.
After their award-winning production of Spamalot Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society return in November with A Chorus Line, while Henley Players present Sense & Sensibility in October and locals and Archers co-stars, husband and wife Lucy Fleming and Simon Williams perform a moving and funny evening of wartime correspondence in Posting Letters to the Moon.
In the run-up to Christmas, the theatre will again be staging a professional panto. After previously starring at the Kenton in Aladdin and Peter Pan to great acclaim, James Clifford and Rochelle Parry, of the Immersion Theatre Company, return with Robin Hood, which promises a traditional family show full of sword-fights, songs and jokes. It runs from December 15-28 at a variety of times.
Other festive productions include the inaugural Christmas at the Kenton concert and Blake’s Christmas Classics.
This is the first season line-up that Tom Ryan, programming and communication manager at the Kenton, has put together since he took up the role, alongside general manager Paula Price-Davis, in April, He said: “These are our first shows since we have taken over and to get Hayley Mills for our first proper show is really exciting.
“They have only done the performance once or twice before, it hasn’t been a toured production, so it is going to be quite a unique show and perfect for Henley with its history.
“The adaptation was done by author Gill Hornby, whom I met at the Henley Literary Festival, and she put me in touch to organise it. I could only see a couple of videos and pictures because it hasn’t been done very much but it looks amazing.”
Mr Ryan said it was a bit of “good luck” to get O’Briain as he managed to secure the comic when getting in touch with old contacts. He added: “We have had Russell Brand and Michael McIntyre and they have enjoyed coming here and I am sure word of mouth has helped us.”
Mr Ryan said what’s particularly pleasing is the standard of offering across the board.
He said: “We also have the Henley Players, the award-winning HAODS and Opera Prelude, all local people and organisations and we are trying to build on that talent. With our other events we are trying to match the bar that they continue to raise.”
For more information, a full schedule and to book tickets, visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk or visit the theatre (11am-3pm Monday to Friday, 10am-1pm Saturdays) or call (01491) 575698.
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