Jonathan Coe’s iconic 1970s coming-of-age novel, The Rotters’ Club is brought to life on stage for the first time at Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 2 – 9 April. Inspired by Jonathan Coe’s own school days in Birmingham, and adapted for the stage from a young person’s perspective by Richard Cameron, this production, commissioned by The REP and directed by Gwenda Hughes, will feature a cast of brilliantly talented young performers drawn from The REP’s youth theatres.
The Rotters’ Club follows Ben Trotter through the hilarious and, at times, touching trials and tribulations of growing up in an era of IRA bombs, industrial strife and punk rock.
While Doug tries to shoehorn left-wing politics into the school newspaper and harbours dreams of writing for NME, Ben and Philip are more concerned with recruiting members for their prog-rock band while attempting to pass their A-levels, and Claire and Miriam are concealing secret love affairs and unrequited affections.
Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing 1970s Birmingham, where factory strikes in Longbridge are on the rise and social tensions mount, the group advance through the minefield of typical teenage worries such as first dates, sports matches and exams. However, they are unable to avoid the impact of the unstable world around them, with tragedy bubbling beneath the surface. The Rotters’ Club is a rebellious, earnest and heartfelt account of growing up.
Playwright, Richard Cameron says of the stage adaptation:
“My focus for this wise and witty story of 70’s Birmingham is school life, which can’t escape events beyond. Love and understanding are not on the curriculum, and definitely not a matter left to parents, who continue to get it wrong. I hope I’ve managed to capture something of the place, the time, and that journey into adulthood which the novel does so well.”
Richard Cameron writes for theatre, television and radio, and won the inaugural Dennis Potter Award in 1997 for his television play, Stone, Scissors, Paper. Richard has written a number of critically acclaimed stage plays, including Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down which won a Fringe First and The Independent Theatre Award, and The Glee Club for the Bush Theatre, which transferred to the West End before a national tour. He has also won The Sunday Times Playwriting Award three times.
Gwenda Hughes returns to Birmingham Repertory Theatre to direct. She was previously Associate Director at The REP where she directed over twenty five productions, including the Olivier Award-winning musical, Once On This Island, and was also previously Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the New Vic Theatre in Staffordshire. Most recently she directed These Four Streets and The Wind In the Willows for The REP and Proof and Spring and Port Wine for the New Vic.
The talented young cast includes: Anna Bradley (Claire Newman), Daniel Carter (Malcolm), Jasmin Melissa Hylton (Miriam Newman), Alice McGowan (Lois Trotter), Maggie McGuire Smith (Cicely Boyd), Charlie Mills (Ben Trotter), Andrew Morrin (Culpepper), Haris Myers (Sean Harding), Yusuf Niazi (Phil Chase), Adnahn Silvestro (Doug Anderton) and Louis Sutherland (Steve Richards).
The Rotters’ Club is designed by Michael Holt, with lighting design by Simon Bond, sound design by Clive Meldrum. Tom Saunders is Associate Director.
During the run in Birmingham, Jonathan Coe and Richard Cameron will discuss their careers, and this production of The Rotters’ Club on Saturday 9 April at 6.30pm. This In Conversation will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Arts and Ideas programme, Free Thinking.