BBC Radio 4 announces new show celebrating regional theatre

Clockwise from top left: Edinburgh Fringe, Liverpool’s Everyman, Manchester’s Royal Exchange and the Leicester Curve, which are all planned to feature in Opening Night. Photos: Shutterstock/Philip Vile/Leicestershire Promotions
Clockwise from top left: Edinburgh Fringe, Liverpool’s Everyman, Manchester’s Royal Exchange and the Leicester Curve, which are all planned to feature in Opening Night. Photos: Shutterstock/Philip Vile/Leicestershire Promotions
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The BBC has unveiled a new radio programme dedicated to regional theatre.

Radio 4’s Opening Night will visit a different UK town or city each month and meet the actors, writers and directors working on local professional productions.

The plans follow an announcement last year of a regional theatre show to be fronted by Libby Purves, however she later dropped out.

The first episode, on August 5 at 3.30pm, visits the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, while episode two on September 2 will centre on the East Midlands and Leicester, focusing on Curve’s new production of Sunset Boulevard.

Belfast International Festival will feature in episode three on October 7, with Liverpool’s Everyman and Manchester’s Royal Exchange also planned to appear in the programme.

Opening Night will also visit smaller venues, such as Cardiff’s the Other Room and Exeter’s Bike Shed, as well as touring organisations such as Paines Plough.

Programme editor Philip Sellars said: “It’s completely apparent that there is such a great wealth of talent in regional theatre and it is what most of us go to see.

“There isn’t currently a dedicated programme to celebrate and interrogate those performances and productions.”

He added: “These are productions that are incredibly important, and in a Britain that is divided in so many ways there is a lot to be discovered by looking at a locality and how theatre in the area responds.”

Sellars explained that each programme will be presented by a different BBC journalist with knowledge of the region, with Janice Forsyth lined up for the first episode.

Guests in the first show will include director of Edinburgh International Festival Fergus Linehan, playwright Zinnie Harris and Jackie Wylie, artistic director of National Theatre Scotland.

The programme will interrogate the challenges facing the industry, including the lack of regional funding.

Sellars said: “I think the programme will raise the bar in the [theatre] coverage we have on radio and shine a spotlight on some of the most exciting and inventive productions, giving them their rightful place on the network.

“We called the programme Opening Night because we wanted to give that kick of adrenaline you get from knowing you are going to launch something new.”

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