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KHT50: Barstools To Broadway Final Details Released.

Final details have been announced for KHT50: Barstools to Broadway from the King’s Head Theatre the celebration taking place from 14 – 19 February, marking the successes of the world-renowned pub theatre’s first 50 years with a series of readings of plays that started their lives there, with cast and creative teams with links to the playwrights and original shows.

Gemma Whelan will join Dame Harriet Walter for the opening event at the V&A in South Kensington on Monday 14 February for the staged reading of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Third (first staged in 1980), directed by Audrey Sheffield. This is followed by a Panel Discussion on New Women’s Theatre and Lunchtime Theatre, where Dame Harriet is joined by playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker, and King’s Head Theatre co-Artistic Director and Joint CEO Hannah Price, hosted by theatre historian Susan Croft. The Panel Discussion will be available to access online, with the play reading only accessible to the in-person audience. Tickets are available now as part of the KHT50: Barstools to Broadway Sovereign experience and via the V&A website

Karl James, Gareth Tudor-Price, and John Warnaby will return to the King’s Head for the reading of Artist Descending a Staircase by Tom Stoppard (first staged in 1988), directed by Tim Luscombe on Tuesday 15 February at 7.00pm. They are returning to the production in the roles of ‘Martello’, ‘Donner’ and ‘Beauchamp’ respectively; having played the younger incarnation of the characters they return to perform the older characters. They will be joined by Nicholas Armfield as ‘Young Martello’, Benjamin Prudence as ‘Young Beauchamp’, Francesca Eldred as ‘Sophie’, and Rosalind Lailey doing Stage Directions.

Karl James said, “It will be wonderful to be reunited in this way - John has stepped away from theatre and I have not acted for 30 years! I suspect we are only returning to the stage to pay homage to the play and out of the sheer craziness and uniqueness of being able to play the older version of me!

Director Tim Luscombe, original director of the King’s Head Theatre, West End and Broadway transfer, returns from life in Berlin to direct the reading. There will also be a post-show discussion with Tim Luscombe and original cast members, to hear all about working with Tom Stoppard and on the show. 

Annabel Arden – co-founder of Complicité, and widow of Stephen Jeffreys – will direct his play Like Dolls or Angels (first staged in 1977) on Wednesday 16 February at 7.00pm, starring Isabel Adomakoh YoungThere will be a post-show discussion with Oliver Award winning playwright April De Angelis.

Annabel has directed plays for the National Theatre, Royal Court, Almeida Theatre, BBC, Sydney Theatre Company and for Theatre de Compliciteì of which she remains an Associate Artist. Isabel recently won the  Black British Theatre Award for her performance in Romeo and Juliet at the Open Air Theatre and will be featuring in two major movies later this year.

Bryony Lavery’s Grandmother’s Steps will be directed by Abigail Anderson, (Thursday 17 February at 7.00pm). Grandmother’s Steps – first staged in 1977 - was part of the lunchtime theatre offering at the King’s Head Theatre. The original score was feared to be lost, but was eventually sourced in one of the original cast member’s homes. Whilst the search for it was ongoing, the producers decided to bring in musical improv legends Lucy Trodd and Ruth Bratt, who star in Showstoppers - the Musical, as ‘Crystal’ and ‘Iris’ respectively, alongside Musical Director Jordan Paul Clarke. The team will use the original score for pre and post show, and will use it as inspiration for the five songs they create.

Lucy Trodd and Ruth Bratt said, “the King's Head was where we had our first runs of Showstopper in 2008 and beyond! And Mark Ravenhill was even a guest writer on the show there!”


There will be a post-show discussion with original cast members, Su Elliot, Pippa Sparkes and Bryony Lavery, hosted by David Benedict. 

Victoria Wood’s Good Fun (first staged in 1980) will be directed by Annabel Leventon on Friday 18 February at 7.00pm, featuring Julia Romano as ‘Liz’, Will Robinson as ‘Frank’, Colm Gleeson as ‘Mike’, Chloe English as ‘Elsie’, Joshua Eldridge - Smith as ‘Kev’, Katherine Rodden as ‘Gail’ and Paul Ansdell as ‘Maurice’.  King’s Head Theatre Trainee Resident Director Ella Murdoch will be Assistant Director and George Strickland will be Musical Director. Jasper Rees – Victoria Wood’s biographer – will be joining for a post-show discussion to shed light on her life and work.

Annabel Leventon worked closely with Victoria Wood, patron of the King’s Head Theatre, on the original version of the show, and will be part of a post-show discussion on 18 February.

The KHT50: Barstools to Broadway celebrations will close on Saturday 19 February with a double bill reading of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens written and directed by Bill Russell with music by Janet Hood (at 3pm and 7pm). Charles Quittner will be Assistant Director and Gareth Bretherton will be Musical Director.

This special day also serves to celebrate 30 years since the original King’s Head Theatre production of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens in 1992, and is taking place during LGBTQIA+ month. The King’s Head Theatre is working with The Grad Fest to cast the show, and so far over 1,200 performers have applied for the reading. Casting will be announced on 4 February.

The Grad Fest is an organisation set up in 2020 as a response to the lack of professional opportunities 2020 Graduands had access to, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. More information regarding The Grad Fest is available via their website

Bill Russell said, “Directing the London premiere of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the King’s Head Theatre in 1992 with the largest cast ever to appear on that stage was one of the highlights of my career and life. The power of having 33 extraordinary performers in that intimate space was thrilling. I will treasure those memories forever and am excited to revisit the show for the 50th anniversary celebration of this historically important theatre.”


There will be a post-show discussion with Bill Russell after the evening performance.

Founded by original Artistic Director Dan Crawford, The King’s Head Theatre opened its doors behind a pub on Upper Street in 1970. Over the last 50 years, playwrights, plays and creatives that have passed through its doors have gone onto great heights: spring-boarding them from the Fringe into the West-End, Broadway and beyond. KHT50 Barstools to Broadway celebrates the last fifty years, whilst looking forward to the next fifty years in a new purpose built 220 seat Islington theatre due to open in late 2022. 


Ticket prices will range from £10 - £250, with funds going towards supporting and sustaining the theatre’s work in the future.

Visit The King's Head website to book tickets to any of the events.

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