The Director of Norwich Playhouse, Caroline Richardson is to retire this month after more than an incredible 25 years in the role. The 2022 spring season goes on sale today, comprising more than 50 shows, will be her farewell season, championing the themes and acts she loves so much.
Caroline joined Norwich Playhouse in 1996, six months after it opened, and has made its reputation as a leading arts venue in the East. She is a huge fan of the building: “it’s such a lovely space, such a gorgeous building, and people – whether they’re sitting in the audience or standing on the stage – they love it here. It’s hardly surprising because it is unique, it’s inviting and it’s so intimate and warm.”
The spring 2022 season includes comedy with Ed Gamble, Simon Brodkin and Lou Sanders; issue based drama such as Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and Twelfth Night from the much loved HandleBards; and amazing music such as Camille O’Sullivan. There are many children shows including Oi Frog! and The Smartest Giant in Town. And many of Caroline’s favourite shows, including Norfolk favourite comedians the Nimmo Twins in a Norwich Theatre production celebrating their 25th anniversary.
Caroline said: “There should be something for everyone, in fact more than one thing I hope! Theatre is so important because it’s live; every time someone goes to see it, it’s different. Theatre informs, it entertains, it gives out wisdom, and it gives out mirth. It gives out everything that makes life worth living.”
We asked Caroline if she had any personal highlights,
“Yes many! A particular career triumph was securing comedian Tim Minchin, who was for a time a regular at the Playhouse. I started going to Edinburgh Fringe back in 2006 and I would see about 10 shows a day. I looked at Tim and I thought, “oh, I love you” and that was the beginning of a lovely relationship. He first came to the Playhouse in 2007 and then again in 2008 and we always put on extra nights not even in the brochure because he always sold out. I think I was one of the first to get a tour going.
Another great time was when Ian McKellen came to the Playhouse as part of his 80th birthday tour in 2019. I think we were the only venue in the UK to get three performances as we wanted to do a free one for older people, so anyone who was going to be 80 in that year could get free tickets! It was wonderful, and an amazing occasion.
Another personal highlight was also in 2019 when I was awarded the Norfolk Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of my contribution to the arts in Norfolk and Norwich. That was pretty special to me.”
Norwich Playhouse is part of Norwich Theatre, a leading arts organisation in the UK which also runs Norwich Theatre Royal and Stage Two. Together, we welcome more than 600,000 visitors each year enjoying a vibrant programme of live performance and creative engagement activities. Future programming of the Playhouse will sit with the Norwich Theatre team, led by Norwich Theatre CEO and Creative Director, Stephen Crocker and Creative Programmes Director, Wendy Ellis.
Caroline is confident about the future of the Playhouse: “I’m sure it will be in extremely good hands with Stephen Crocker, that it will have very adventurous programming with brilliant new work. The Playhouse has come through some real hard times and it’s wonderful that its future is safe now as part of Norwich Theatre.”
Stephen Crocker said: “Before I came to Norwich I had heard so much about Caroline and the amazing work she had done to establish the Playhouse but also the very particular care and support she always gave to artists. To work alongside her and see this in action for the past five years has been an absolute honour and I will always remain in awe of her achievements. As she begins her very well-earned retirement, I know I offer the heartfelt thanks and appreciation not only from all of us here at Norwich Theatre, but from all those artists she has supported and programmed and the many millions of people who have enjoyed visits to the Playhouse across her 25 years. Thanks to Caroline, Norwich can now boast one of the leading mid-scale venues in the UK and in true Caroline style, her final season will be truly spectacular, packed with incredible theatre.”
Caroline retires at the end of the month after a triumphant career. On reflecting on what she’ll miss the most, she said: “I think I’ll miss the audiences’ enjoyment the most. It’s a great gathering of people who all really care about what we do. Whether it’s being able to hear a pin drop in an agonising drama, or gusts and roars of laughter, both are delightful.
“It’s team work and I’ve had amazing staff over the years. It’s absolutely wonderful to stand at the back of the auditorium in a sold out show and think ‘I helped do this’.”
Image of Stephen Crocker and Caroline Richardson celebrating 25 years of the Playhouse.
Read on to find out more about the shows that will feature in Caroline’s farewell season:
The Nimmo Twins: A Load of Old Squit
5 & 6 January Previews / 7 – 23 January 2022
Norfolk’s legendary sketch duo The Nimmo Twins (Owen Evans and Karl Minns) return with a two hour ‘Best Of…’ featuring their favourite sketches, songs and monologues.
Jekyll and Hyde
24 – 25 January 2022
Get immersed in the myth and mystery of 19th century London’s fog-bound streets where love, betrayal and murder lurk at every chilling twist and turn.
31 January – 1 February 2022
After a sell-out tour of his house in 2020, star of Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo is charged up and ready to flick the switch on another night of attention seeking.
9 – 13 February 2022
Join Frog, Cat and Dog in the Olivier Award nominated action-packed stage adaptation of Kes Gray and Jim Field’s bestselling books. Expect songs, puppets, laughs and more rhymes than you can shake a chime at.
Round the Horne
14 February 2022
From 1965 to 1968 there wasn’t a bigger radio programme in Britain than the ground-breaking Round the Horne. Come and take a step back in time to the BBC’s Paris Studios and experience this comedy classic live.
Here’s what she said to me
15 February 2022
Here’s What She Said to Me combines drama with music, poetry and movement to tell a moving story of daughters and mothers braving life with an undying hope, optimism and resilience.
21 February 2022
Don’t miss the thrilling adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Gothic horror masterpiece, fusing ensemble storytelling, live music, puppetry and stunning theatricality.
24 February 2022
Winner of the 2019 Pleasance VAULT award, Ladykiller was a sell out at Edinburgh Fringe 2018 and Vault Festival 2019. This jet-black comedy is a blood-soaked morality tale about victimhood, power and flipping the gender rule book on psychopathy.
Flo & Joan
26 – 27 February 2022
Multi-award winning musical comedy duo Flo & Joan are climbing out of their pits, armed with a piano and percussion section to bring you a brand new show of their critically acclaimed songs and comedy.
6 – 8 March 2022
The BAFTA and Perrier award winning comedian, Dylan Moran, is back with a brand new show and it promises to be a joyously furious romp through the frustration and folly of modern day life.
All of Me
10 March 2022
All of Me is an intimate and absurd exploration of wanting to live, wanting to die and what can happen if we sit together with the dark.
14 – 15 March 2022
Join Pip the orphan on a journey through his eventful life via hilarious turns and tragic twists; filled with escaped convicts, eccentric spinsters, mysterious benefactors and gut-wrenching heartbreak.
Eric n Ern
16 March 2022
For all the family from 8 to 108 Eric and Ern is a brilliant homage to Morecambe and Wise crammed full of famous comedy sketches.
Kiri Pritchard McLean
19 March 2022
Kiri Pritchard-McLean is back with a brand new tour! You can expect jokes about skinny jeans, learning Welsh and white supremacy – something for everyone.
22 – 23 March 2022
Grab your gin in a tin, put your control pants on, and pop in a pantyliner – the Scummy Mummies are BACK! And after the year they’ve had, Helen and Ellie are going OUT-OUT!
24 March 2022
There are wallies everywhere and half of them are running the country. The other half are trying to. Matt Forde lashes out right, left and centre and chucks in some funny voices.
The Greatest Magician
25 March 2022
Focusing on mind-bending feats of illusion, from making people forget their own names to transporting iPhones from the auditorium into blocks of ice – this sensational will leave you aching from laughter and dizzy in disbelief.
Morgan and West
27 March 2022
Morgan and West present captivating chemistry, phenomenal physics, and bonkers biology in this fun for all the family science extravaganza!
31 March 2022
The bawdy comedy queen returns to Norwich with another fantastic show that will leave you wanting more.
Black is the Color of My Voice
2 April 2022
Inspired by the life of Nina Simone, Black Is The Colour Of My Voice follows a successful jazz singer and civil rights activist seeking redemption after the untimely death of her father.
7 April 2022
Mike Bubbins, star of hit podcast The Socially Distant Sports Bar, unleashes Throwback, his first ever solo UK stand-up tour. And things may never be the same again.
The Smartest Giant in Town
16 – 18 April 2022
This heart-warming tale about friendship and helping those in need is brought to life in a musical, puppet-filled adventure.
1 May 2022
World-famous prankster and creator of the hugely popular Lee Nelson is back on stage with Troublemaker his sensational new stand-up show!
2 May 2022
A thrilling story delivered through performance, games and creative play that explores Roald Dahl’s extraordinary stories, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG and The Twits along the way.
The Gigspanner Big Band
4 May 2022
The Gigspanner Big Band’s high-energy, virtuosic performances appeal equally to traditionalists and to those looking for something more experimental.
Count Arthur Strong
5 – 6 May 2022
After many years of giving his wonderful lecture talks, Count Arthur Strong has at last bowed to substantial pubic demand and allowed himself be talked into making the show about himself for once.
11 May 2022
Celebrated actor and impressionist, Colin Elmer, tells the great man’s story in his own words, using anecdotes, writings and some of the material for which the comedy legend was so well-known.
The Bloody Chamber
13-14 May 2022
Using circus as a physical vocabulary, the award-winning Proteus will translate the fever dream style of Angela Carter’s macabre fairy tales to the stage.
Camille O’Sullivan sings Cave
20 – 21 May 2022
Join the world-renowned Irish/French singer Camille O’Sullivan as she explores the dark and light of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ music.
Handlebards’ Twelfth Night
27 May 2022
Join the beloved bicycle troupe for their adaptation of Twelfth Night. With music, mayhem and more costume changes than you can shake a spear at, expect the HandleBards usual irreverent, charming and hilarious style.
28 May 2022
Now in its ninth successful year of touring, come and celebrate with the band as they commemorate 34 years since the Wilburys original album release.
The Nimmo Twins: Holt? Who Goes There?
3 & 4 August Previews / 5 – 21 August 2022
In the second of the twenty-fifth anniversary shows, The Nimmo Twins return with their first brand new show in six years.