Casting announced for Emma Rice's Malory Towers

Theater

Wise Children’s adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, co-produced by York Theatre Royal in association with Bristol Old Vic, will star Rebecca Collingwood as Gwendoline Lacey, Mirabelle Gremaud as Irene Bartlett, Vinnie Heaven as Bill Robinson, Izuka Hoyle as Darrell Rivers, Renee Lamb as Alicia Johns, Francesca Mills as Sally Hope and Rose Shalloo as Mary Lou Atkinson. Adapted and directed by Emma Rice, the musical opens on 25 July 2019 at The Passenger Shed in the company’s home city of Bristol, before embarking on a national tour to Cambridge, York, Exeter, Manchester and Oxford.

Rebecca Collingwood has previously appeared in Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost for the RSC at Chichester Festival Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket. Mirabelle Gremaud has worked for dance-theatre and circus companies in Switzerland and England and was cast in Emma Rice's first production of her new company, as Young Nora in Wise Children (Old Vic and UK Tour). Vinnie Heaven is a non-binary trans performer. They are an associate artist of Strike A Light who produced She’s A Good Boy, written and performed by Vinnie, which toured nationally in 2019. Vinnie’s recent performance credits include Pingu in Cuckoo at Soho Theatre and Imaginary Friend in the national tour of Half The World Away. Vinnie is also the co-artistic director of Raised Eyebrows Theatre, which is touring Charmane, a family show written by Vinnie, autumn 2019 to spring 2020. Izuka Hoyle has previously played Emily Davison in Sylvia (Old Vic), The Boy in The Selfish Giant (Royal & Derngate / Vaudeville), Catherine Parr in Six (Arts Theatre) and Selina in Working (Southwark Playhouse), as well as Mary Seton in the Working Title film Mary Queen of Scots. Renee Lamb has previously played Armelia in Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Southwark Playhouse, Mercury Colchester), Chiffon in Little Shop of Horrors (Regent’s Park Open Theatre) and Catherine of Aragon in Six (Arts Theatre). Francesca Mills has appeared most recently in The American Clock(Old Vic), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Sheffield Crucible), Pity (Royal Court), The Two Noble Kinsmen (Shakespeare’s Globe), A Tale Of Two Cities (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), and she was nominated for the 2017 Ian Charleston Award for her performance in The Government Inspector (Birmingham Rep). Her television work includes seasons two and three of Harlots (ITV) and film work includes Zoolander 2. Rose Shalloo has previously played Little Boy in The Selfish Giant(Vaudeville Theatre, Royal & Derngate), Margalit in To Paint the Earth (Southwark Playhouse), Chava in Fiddler on the Roof (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Shannon in A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer (National Theatre). Her television roles include Ellen Maccoubrie in Holby City (BBC), Tasha in The Five (Sky), Hannah Commander in The Scandalous Lady W (BBC) and June Colter in Call the Midwife (BBC) and her film credits include Hannah in Emma (Working Title).

The windows shone. A green creeper climbed almost to the roof. It looked like an old-time castle. My school! thought Darrell, and a little warm feeling came into her heart. How lucky I am to be going to Malory Towers!

Nostalgic, naughty and perfect for now, Malory Towers is the original ‘Girl Power’ story, filled with high jinks, high drama and high spirits, all set to sensational live music and breathtaking animation. 

Darrell Rivers is starting school with an eager mind and fierce heart. Unfortunately she also has a quick temper! Can she learn to tolerate the infuriating Gwendoline Lacey, or value the kind-hearted Sally Hope? Can she save the school play and rescue terrified Mary Lou from the grip of a raging storm? If she can do these things anywhere, she will do them at Malory Towers!

Adapted and directed by Emma Rice, this is a show for girls, boys, and all us grown up children who still dream of midnight feasts and Cornish clifftops. With set and costume design by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, sound and video by Simon Baker and original music by Ian Ross.

This production is generously supported by Bristol City Council Culture Team and Sherborne Girls School.

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 am making 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!

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