Union Theatre’s Essential Classics season opens with Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House

London’s Union Theatre starts off 2018 with Essential Classics and The Phil Willmott Company presenting a third annual season of topical productions in which issues tackled by great playwrights and composers of the past reflect on today’s world.

Chaos in Europe, Catalan independence and hard line Russian politics inform sharply focused new productions of Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House, George Bizet’s Carmen and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.

HEARTBREAK HOUSE opens the run with West End and Broadway leading lady Helen Anker, as Hesione Hushabye, who gathers the outrageously eccentric family of Captain Shotover together in their country house to save her young protégé from a marriage of convenience to an ageing industrialist.

But the bride to be is not as naive as she appears, inconvenient sexual desires bubble to the surface in the most unusual places and all the while what we think of as Europe, teeters on the brink of self-destruction.

Bernard Shaw’s classic, pitch-black comedy of manners exposes the deceptions, passions and pursuits of England’s ruling class in an entertaining, gently political satire that’s as biting amidst today’s uncertainty over Europe as it was when it was performed a century ago.

Heartbreak House, directed by Phil Willmott, stars Helen Anker, Lianne Harvey, Toby Spearpoint, Ben Porter, JP Turner, Mat Betteridge, Francesca Burgoyne, James Horne, Alison Mean and Richard Harfst.

Running from tomorrow, January 4, until February 3.

It is followed by a new musical theatre adaptation of CARMEN, based on the opera score by George Bizet, libretto by Ludovic Halévy & Henri Meilhac, original novel by Prosper Mérimée and adapted & directed by Phil Willmott.

Bizet’s unforgettable tunes, re-conceived as musical theatre, bring to life the story of a dangerous, seductive Spanish heroine recklessly playing with her fate and that of her lovers at a time of civil unrest and political uncertainty.

An easily accessible, invigoratingly fresh look at perhaps the most familiar, beloved and popular operas ever written. ​

Young Corporal José has a girl he plans to marry back at home and a strong sense of duty.

When he breaks up a fight between the cigarette factory girls on the streets of a Seville bristling with rival factions, he meets the wild and reckless gypsy, Carmen.

The passion that flares between them is intense, intoxicating and deadly.

CAST: Rachel Lea-Gra, Maximilian Marston, Bronia Pearce, Ellie Ann Lowe, Jasmine Bradford, Thomas Mitchells, Pantelakis Christou, Alexander Barria, Charlotte Haines, Harry Powell, Charlotte Haines, Brett Sinclair, Chris Britton, Jack Malin, Kerry Way and Samantha Richards.

Carmen runs February 7 – March 10.

The season ends with THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Based on a translation by Constance Garnett.

Anton Chekhov’s final masterpiece, a poignant comedy about a family facing ruin, is a vibrant snapshot of life before the sweeping changes that came to a head with the Russian Revolution.

The Cherry Orchard runs from March 14 – April 7.

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