The first production from Leicester’s newly re-opened Haymarket Theatre will be the world premiere of Treasure Island, penned by national treasure and established author Sandi Toksvig (The Great British Bake Off, QI).
Co-written with her sister Jenifer Toksvig, this new version of the quintessential adventure story by Robert Louis Stevenson will be a co-production between Haymarket Productions, Director Matthew Forbes (War Horse) and Producer Debbie Hicks (West End and international tours).
With Toksvig’s trademark razor (or should we say cutlass?) sharp wit, Jim Hawkins’ adventure across the High Seas in search of treasure will appeal to all ages. Along the way Jim encounters deadly storms and even deadlier pirates, led by the infamous one-legged Long John Silver. The show is a treasure chest of delights; featuring rousing sea shanties and daring sword fights, piratical parrots and acrobatic puppets, making this new adaptation a wonderfully theatrical tale of adventure.
Since it reopened in March 2018, the city has been eagerly awaiting the Haymarket Theatre’s first home-grown show. Launching with a swashbuckling swagger meant assembling a team of pirates with world renowned credits. Jenifer Toksvig’s lyrics will be accompanied by music written by Composer David Perkins. The Haymarket Consortium’s Ellyn Phillips (Studio 79) will choreograph.
“We couldn’t be happier that the Haymarket will present the world premiere of our adaptation of this classic novel. It’s exciting to be writing the first Christmas show since the building was refurbished, and we can’t wait to invade Leicester with our piratical shenanigans!”
“We couldn’t be happier that the Haymarket will present the world premiere of our adaptation of this classic novel. It’s exciting to be writing the first Christmas show since the building was refurbished, and we can’t wait to invade Leicester with our piratical shenanigans!” laughs Sandi Toksvig, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Leicester this July.
The producers for Haymarket Productions said: “Having been presented with the opportunity to work with Sandi, Jenifer, David and Matthew, we grabbed it with both hands. We wanted to launch with a bang and, as bangs go, this new version of Treasure Island couldn’t be louder!“
Director Matthew Forbes approached the theatre as soon as its doors reopened, having fond memories of it as both a performer and audience member. “Having grown up in Leicester, the Haymarket Theatre holds a special place in my heart,” he smiles. “It was here that I first experienced theatre; as both an audience member and performer. I feel a strong connection to the building and being able to create a brand-new show, specifically for it, that reignites the magic and brings the theatre back to life is a wonderful honour. My hope is to engage and excite our audiences and share this thrilling story in a wonderfully imaginative and playful way. In a world where we’re all searching for treasure, this production will show that you don’t need to look very far; it’s right here, at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre”
Last year Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby announced his intention to support the Haymarket Consortium’s proposal to re-open the city centre venue, investing £3.6 million in the dilapidated building. The Haymarket Consortium – Chris Knight, Jed Spittle, John Jenkins, Ellyn Phillips and Natalie Cheary – were brought together specifically to tackle the challenge of bringing the much-loved theatre back to life.
The Haymarket is already hosting theatre productions, esports tournaments, live music and award ceremonies. The main auditorium has been refurbished with 901 new seats, sound desks and lighting systems, as well as the installation of two café bars and a TV gallery. The foyer and studio theatre have been modernised, while retaining the original feel of the old theatre.
Sandi Toksvig will also receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Leicester on Tuesday 17 July. She will join a number of other distinguished figures for a week of celebrations of University of Leicester graduates and their achievements at their graduation ceremonies from 17 – 20 July at De Montfort Hall.
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester Professor Paul Boyle said: “Graduation is when we celebrate the culmination of the years of hard work and determination of our students, as well as individuals who have distinguished themselves through their careers. As our students look to their futures and launch their own careers we are fortunate to also be honouring Sandi Toksvig and hearing her inspiring story.”
Commenting on her honorary degree, Sandi Toksvig said: “I am thrilled to be receiving this unexpected honour.”
Sandi Toksvig OBE – Writer
Sandi was born in Copenhagen, Denmark but grew up travelling the world with her family as they followed her father, Claus Toksvig’s work as Danish television’s most famous foreign correspondent. Sandi gave her own first television interview when she was six. After graduating with a first-class degree from Cambridge, Sandi began her acting career first at Nottingham Playhouse and then the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park.
Sandi’s first experience of live television was when she hosted the children’s Saturday morning show No 73, which she did for six years. Other TV followed including the improvisation show, Whose Line is it Anyway? and six years as team captain on Call My Bluff. For a decade Sandi was the host of Radio 4’s The News Quiz.
Sandi currently hosts the BBC entertainment show QI and co-hosts The Great British Bake Off. She has just concluded her tenth season hosting the game show 15-1 for Channel 4.
Sandi has written over twenty books including fact and fiction for both children and adults. Recent titles include Hitler’s Canary and A Slice of The Moon. Her stage play, Bully Boy, was the opening production of London’s newest theatre, the St James. Her latest play Silver Linings opened in February 2017. Her latest novel, The End of the Sky, was published the same year
In 2015, along with journalist Catherine Mayer, Sandi co-founded Britain’s newest political party The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) which now branches right across the UK.
Jenifer Toksvig – Lyrics
Jenifer writes the words for musicals, songs, plays, and spoken word poetry. Stage adaptations include Terry Pratchett’s Mort, Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Stones Are Hatching and David Almond’s The Savage. With composer David Perkins, she has written many shows for young performers, published by Samuel French.
Spoken word poetry includes What They Took With Them – a List for UNHCR benefit Moving Stories (National Theatre, Theatre Royal Haymarket). A short film of the poem was released by Facebook, featuring UNHCR ambassador Cate Blanchett. It has been translated into several languages and performed worldwide, including at the United Nations and in the Houses of Parliament.
Jenifer also produces and directs theatre, designing new systems for audience-involved storytelling that blend gameplay with devised immersive theatre. She is a gatherer of Fairytale Moments, and the guardian of The Fairytale Library of those moments.
An active advocate for her fellow artists, Jenifer is current co-chair of the Theatre Committee of the Writers Guild of Great Britain. She facilitates several creative communities including The Larder, UK LGBTQ+ Theatre Makers, The Gathering (for those who make community-embedded theatre), and an international community of Women Who Write Musicals. These are free support and information hubs, encouraging ethical best practice. Regular community events include Tiny Shows, an immersive weekend of devising scratch work, most recently at Omnibus Theatre in Clapham.
Matthew Forbes – Director
Matthew works internationally as a Performer and Director, with a strong focus on physical theatre, movement and puppetry. He originally trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as an Actor, specialising in Collaborative and Devised Theatre.
Matthew has most recently been working for the National Theatre’s production of War Horse, a production he has a nine-year history with. He is one of the Creatives on the current UK Tour of the production and worked as the Associate Movement Director for the Holland & Belgium Tour 2014-2016. Prior to that he was the Resident Puppetry & Movement Director for UK, Ireland & South African Tour 2013-2015, and has also worked on the production in America, Australia, Berlin, China and New Zealand.
Matthew developed a knowledge of producing whilst working for the award-winning Tom O’Connell Productions; during his time there he was the Senior Production Co-ordinator on the critically acclaimed production The Boys in the Band, starring Mark Gatiss at the Park Theatre, on UK Tour and in London’s West End. Other productions include: Ray Cooney’s Out of Order (UK Tour), Raising Martha (Park Theatre) and Joe Orton’s Loot (Park Theatre & Watermill Theatre).
In addition to his Directing, Producing and Performing work, Matthew also regularly teaches at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, ArtsEd and East15.
Recent Creative credits include Holes (Nottingham Playhouse), War Horse (UK Tour 2017-2018), Babe The Sheep-Pig (Polka Theatre, National Tour, Australia), Kiki’s Delivery Service (Southwark Playhouse), Dinner at the Twits (Les Enfants Terribles, The Vaults), The Witches (Dundee Rep), Alice’s Adventures Underground (Les Enfants Terribles, The Vaults), Adventures in Wonderland (Les Enfants Terribles, The Vaults) and The Steadfast Tin Soldier (Little Angel Theatre & The Old Vic).
Recent Performance credits include The Little Gardener (UK Tour), Kiki’s Delivery Service (Southwark Playhouse), The Wizard of Oz (UK Tour), The Witches (Dundee Rep), War Horse (West End), Beauty and the Beast (Dundee Rep) and Permission to Play (Shakespeare’s Globe).
David Perkins – Composer
Recent writing projects include the current UK tour of David Baddiel’s Ani Malcolm and tours of Arabian Nights and The Nutcracker (Story Pocket Theatre); The Snow Queen (Yvonne Arnaud Theatre); The Railway Children (Watercress Line & Didcot Steam Museum); The Secret Garden (Guilded Balloon); Just So Stories (Apollo Theatre Company); Puss in Space, Macladdin and Bob and the Beanstalk (Hotbuckle Productions).
Published musicals with Jenifer Toksvig include Shake Ripple & Roll, Pandemonium! (a Greek Myth-adventure), Skool & Crossbones (Samuel French); with Adam Forde, The Wind in the Willows, Arabian Nights (StageScripts); and with Caroline Dooley, The Selfish Giant, The Happy Prince, The Mystery of Dumsey Meadow (Samuel French).
David has been the composer/musical director at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre for over 20 years. Venturing out of the theatre, works include Flying! – an aerodynamic cantata (Hillingdon Borough Council / RAF); Re:Creation, an oratorio (St John’s, Smith Square, London), several commercials for Hasbro games, and two short films: Panic and Rooftop (New Screen Elite).
Ellyn Phillips – Choreographer
Born and raised in Leicester, Ellyn is the founder of Studio 79, a successful dance school and college offering high quality training to students from varied backgrounds. Her college course for 16-19 years who want to pursue a career in dance/musical theatre is now in the top 5% in the country.
With links to the UK’s top conservatoires in Dance and Musical Theatre, Ellyn is continually working within the industry teaching, choreographing and training the new generation of professional artists.
Choreography credits include Annie, West Side Story and Oliver for Curve Theatre, Clothes Show Live, Schwarzkopf Hair Show and numerous dance shows across the UK.
Debbie Hicks – Producer
Debbie is a theatre producer and manager working independently to deliver theatre and events in the West End, off West End, and on tour in the UK and internationally. Trained as an apprentice under the Stage One initiative for new producers, she now collaborates with a host of both emerging and established theatre makers across the world.
Debbie is also a postgraduate student of the University of Oxford and a member of the Society for Theatre Research.
Recent Producer credits include For Reasons That Remain Unclear (King’s Head Theatre); Good Girl (Vault Festival & West End); The Retreat (Park Theatre); Cosmo (in development); North of the Sunset: Thelonious Monk & The Jazz Baroness (in development); Shakespearience (Underbelly & UK Tour); Ray Cooney’s Olivier award-winning Out Of Order (UK Tour); Million Dollar Quartet (International Tour); Dinner With Friends (Park Theatre), and Tom Basden’s Holes (Arcola).
Recent Management credits include Pressure (West End); The Bicentenary Ball (Old Vic); Five Guys Named Moe (Underbelly Marble Arch); Brokeback Mountain (in development); Joe Orton’s Loot (Park Theatre); The Boys In The Band (Park Theatre, UK Tour & West End); Babe, the Sheep-Pig (UK Tour); Raising Martha (Park Theatre); Impossible (West End & International Tours); Let It Be (West End & International Tours), and Neville’s Island (West End).