Essential Classics 2018

Thursday 14 December 2017


The Phil Willmott Company present a third annual season of topical productions at the Union Theatre in which great playwrights and composers of the past have reflected on issues we face today.
Essential Classics 2018 at The Union Theatre

Image: Phil Willmott Company

Chaos in Europe, Catalan independence and hard line Russian politics inform sharply focused new productions from The Phil Willmott Company of:

Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House

George Bizet's Carmen

Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard

Heartbreak House - By Bernard Shaw

4 January to 3 February 2018

West End and Broadway leading lady Helen Anker plays Hesione Hushabye gathering 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.


Helen Anker - Hesione Hushabye

Lianne Harvey - Ellie Dunn

Toby Spearpoint - Randal Utterward

Ben Porter - Manzini Dunn

J.p. Turner - Boss Manghan

Mat Betteridge - Hector Hushabye

Francesca Burgoyne - Lady Utterward

James Horne - Captain Shotover

Alison Mead - Nurse Guinness

Richard Harfst - The Burglar

Helen Anker's roles in the West End include Zelda Fitzgerald in BEAUTIFUL & DAMNED (Apollo Theatre), Girl on the Swing in Susan Stroman's CONTACT (Queens Theatre), Ivy Smith in ON THE TOWN at ENO and Mrs Phagan/Sally Slaton in PARADE directed by Rob Ashford (Donmar Warehouse).

She continued her association with Ashford in New York playing Miss Olson in his Broadway production of PROMISES PROMISES, alongside Sean Hayes & Kristin Chenoweth and in CAROUSEL at Houston Grand Opera.

Other notable work in the U.S includes Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY at The Guthrie Theatre and Guinevere in CAMELOT at the Chanhassen Theatre, Minneapolis. States side her TV work includes appearances in WHITE COLLAR, LAW AND ORDER and THE GOOD WIFE.


7 February to 10 March 2018

Bizet's unforgettable tunes, re-conceived as musical theatre, stirringly 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.

Choreography by Adam Haigh 

Set design by Justin Williams, 

Costume design by Penn O'Gara

Cast includes: 

Rachel Lea-Gray (Carmen)

Maximilian Marston (Don José)

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

Samantha Richards

The Cherry Orchard

14 March to 7 April 2018

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.

Populated by colourful, vivid and unforgettable characters this much loved play comes to new life in a daringly fresh production that anticipates the regime change to come.

Since the death of a child, the old house, set amidst its beautiful cherry orchard, has been abandoned for years by most of the family.

But Russia has moved on and their privileged aristocratic life can no longer be taken for granted.

A new middle class is buying up parcels of the old estates for holiday homes whilst on the streets of St Petersburg civil unrest threatens all the old certainties of class and privilege.

Now the family, their staff and hangers-on are back to decide what to do with the property and the remains of their rapidly depleting fortune.

Three generations of masters and servants must assess their best chance of survival and the future of the cherry orchard, in a changing world where nothing can be taken for granted.

To be directed by Phil Willmott - other creatives and cast to be announced.


The Union Theatre

Old Union Arches

229 Union Street

London SE1 0LR


Heartbreak House: 4 January to 3 February 2018

Carmen!: 7 February to 10 March 2018

The Cherry Orchard: 14 March to 7 April 2018


Full price - £22.50

Concessions - £20

Under 18s - £15

Season ticket: Contact the venue to see all three productions for just £50


Union Theatre

Phil Wilmott Company

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