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Tooting Arts Club revive Barbarians by Barrie Keeffe

Barbarians cast - from back Thomas Coombes Jake Davies Josh Williams
Barbarians cast – from back Thomas Coombes Jake Davies Josh Williams

Tooting Arts Club will revive their own production of Barbarians by Barrie Keeffe at the former Central Saint Martins School of Art building in Soho. The temporary venue is being launched in collaboration with Emily Dobbs of Jagged Fence Theatre. Previews start on Tuesday 29 September, with press performances on Saturday 3, Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 October.

A limited number of tickets will be available at £10 for under-26s, students and the unemployed.

Tooting Arts Club’s most recent production was the acclaimed revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop, Tooting, transferring to a found space on Shaftesbury Avenue.

The former Central Saint Martins School of Art building on the Charing Cross Road housed the art school until 2011. Alumni include Jarvis Cocker, Paul Simonon of The Clash, Shane MacGowan, Adam Ant and Glenn Matlock of the Sex Pistols, who played their very first gig in the building in November 1975. They were thrown off stage after 20 minutes.

In 1977, Britain had just emerged from a worldwide recession. It was the Queen’s silver jubilee year but Paul, Jan and Louis had little to celebrate. With widespread youth unemployment and little opportunity on the horizon, there was anarchy in the air. Barbarians follows the fluctuating fortunes of its three male characters on a journey that is as humorous as it is brutal, to the soundtrack of The Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Jam. Saint Martins provides the perfect setting, steeped in the punk culture of that time, to revive this acclaimed production which is as relevant now as it was then.

“I’m delighted that Barbarians is going to St Martins. It’s the perfect home for it. When I wrote Barbarians I was trying to capture that energy of punk on the stage, so to have it performed at such an important building from that time is very exciting. It sounds odd to say, but I’ve mixed feelings about seeing Barbarians revived. When I wrote it, I thought it was a play of its time, but in a way it’s sad that it’s still so relevant to the situation of young people today. Obviously I’m very happy to see it produced, but shocked that the problems in it are still around today.”– Barrie Keeffe

“We knew the venue for this production had to be right, and we sought long and hard for the right location. St Martins embodies the creativity and imagination of the young people of that era and, as such, it provides a perfect playground for the uncontained, rebellious energy of the young men we meet in Barbarians.” – Rachel Edwards, producer

The production will be directed by Bill Buckhurst (Sweeney Todd) with design by Simon Kenny, sound design by Joshua Richardson and lighting design by Rob Youngson.

Cast: Thomas Coombes (The Father) Jake Davies (Yen, X+Y) and Josh Williams (Lord of the Flies, Love and Information)

Barbarians consists of three separate short plays featuring the same characters at different stages in their lives. Killing Time was first presented by the National Youth Theatre at the Soho Poly Theatre Club (now the Soho Theatre) in 1977, with Dotun Adebayo, Robert Glenister and Michael Kelly. Abide With Me was first presented by the Soho Theatre Company at the Soho Poly Theatre Club (now the Soho Theatre) in 1976, with Karl Johnson, Philip Davis and Elvis Payne. In The City received its first production at the Greenwich Theatre, London in 1977, with Nick Edmett, Karl Johnson and Jeffery Kissoon.

Abide With Me – the first part of Barbarians to be written – was originally commissioned by Verity Bargate, co-founder of the Soho Theatre, and later Barrie Keeffe’s wife. The Verity Bargate Award for new writing is presented by the Soho Theatre every two years. The 2015 winner will be announced on 5 November 2015.

Barrie Keeffe, who wrote the film The Long Good Friday, and whose other works for the stage include Sus, Not Fade Away, A Mad World My Masters, Only A Game, My Girl and King of England, was born and brought up in the East End of London. He was an actor with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and worked as a journalist before becoming a playwright.

Barbarians is directed by Bill Buckhurst, who also directed Sweeney Todd for Tooting Arts Club (Harringtons Pie and Mash Shop and West End). He previously co-directed the international touring production of Shakespeare’s Globe’s Hamlet alongside Dominic Dromgoole. Also for Tooting Arts Club, Bill has directed Tinderbox in 2011, Barbarians in 2012 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2014. His other directing credits include The Vegemite Tales in the West End and numerous touring productions for Shakespeare’s Globe.

Barbarians is produced by Rachel Edwards for Tooting Arts Club.

by Barrie Keeffe
Central St Martins School of Art, 111 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H ODU
Tuesday 29th September – 7th November 2015
MondaySaturday, 7.30pm; Saturday and Thursday matinees 3pm
Tickets: £10 (under-26s, students and unemployed), £26 and £32 (plus booking fees)
Book via Soho Theatre
Online www.sohotheatre.com
Phone 020 7478 0100
In person Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE

Paul: Thomas Coombes
Jan: Jake Davies
Louis: Josh Williams
Producer: Rachel Edwards (for Tooting Arts Club)
Co- Producer: Hilary Williams
Director:  Bill Buckhurst
Designer: Simon Kenny
Sound Designer: Joshua Richardson
Lighting Designer:Rob Youngson


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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