Mamma Mia!'s Johnson Pens New Play for Bristol Old Vic; New Artistic and Executive Directors Appointed

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25 Feb 2009

The Bristol Old Vic will offer the world premiere of Catherine Johnson's latest play, written specially for the theatre, called Suspension, which begins performances Feb. 27 in the Studio auditorium.



The playwright – best known for her work authoring the book of the musical Mamma Mia! and the subsequent screenplay for the film version – began her career at the Bristol Old Vic, when her first play Rag Doll premiered in the studio in 1988. She has since also penned such plays as Where's Willy? and Renegades for the venue. Other plays include Dead Sheep, Shang-a-Lang and Little Baby Nothing, all seen at the Bush Theatre, and Through the Wire, written for the National's Shell Connections season in 2005.

According to press materials, the new play – set against the backdrop of Bristol's famous bridge, where two fathers stage a traffic-stopping demonstration of love – is a "hard-edged comedy" that "tells a story of parenting, relationships and the thrills of mountaineering in a morning suit."

Heather Williams directs a cast that includes Louise Plowright (the original Tanya in the West End's premiere production of Mamma Mia!, subsequently also taking over as Donna), April Pearson (TV's "Skins"), Rosalind March (the film "Calendar Girls") and Stuart McLoughlin (A Matter of Life and Death and Coram Boy at the National). The cast also includes Nik Howden and Sasha Frost.

In separate news, Tom Morris and Emma Stenning have been appointed as, respectively, artistic director and executive director of the venue. They will take up their posts in September when they have fulfilled their current commitments. Morris is currently associate director at the National, where his credits have included co-directing A Matter of Life and Death, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and War Horse (which transfers to the West End's New London Theatre in March). Steadman is currently head of producing for the Manchester International Festival, where she is producing several world premieres this year including Rufus Wainwright's debut opera Prima Donna. Morris and Stenning previously worked together as artistic and executive directors, respectively, at BAC.

In a press statement, they have jointly said, "We are delighted to join the Bristol Old Vic at this unique moment in its history. Bristol has the most exquisite 18th century playhouse in the country in an extraordinary, flexible and under-used building. Now, through the initiative of Dick Penny and board, the Old Vic feels ready to re-engage with the city as it did in the brightest moments in its past. The opportunity to rediscover the potential of this globally celebrated theatre in partnership with the people of Bristol is thrilling."

Catherine Johnson, who is a member of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre's board, has also said in a press statement, "These appointments firmly announce that BOV is back in business - it is terrific news for Bristol, for practitioners and audiences alike."

To book tickets for Johnson's Suspension, contact the box office at 0117 987 7877 or visit www.bristoldvic.org.uk.