The Dukes, LancasterOur previous articles about The Dukes,

The Dukes Announces Precious New Patron

An actor who achieved worldwide fame portraying Gollum on the big screen is to be an Honorary Patron of Lancaster’s Dukes theatre where he began his career.

Andy Serkis has taken on this role just as The Dukes presents its own outdoor walkabout version of The Hobbit in Williamson Park.

“I am delighted to become an Honorary Patron of The Dukes where I started to learn my craft,” said Andy. “I performed here in 14 plays on the trot, appearing in a wide variety of plays and I remember my time in Lancaster with great fondness.”

Among the productions Andy appeared in was The Dukes very first outdoor walkabout play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – in 1987.

The Dukes Artistic Director, Joe Sumsion said: “We’re excited that Andy has agreed to be an Honorary Patron of The Dukes and the timing couldn’t be better as we look forward to a recordbreaking season with The Hobbit – a story with which Andy has such a strong connection.

The Dukes will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of our walkabout productions next summer so it’s great that Andy, who appeared in the very first one, is now our Honorary Patron.”

Andy last visited The Dukes about seven years ago when he brought his children to look around the theatre which played such an important part in his life.

Andy is currently directing a feature film so unfortunately is unable to return to Lancaster this summer but he is looking forward to being an ambassador for the theatre.

Andy studied visual arts at Lancaster University in the Eighties and while there, he became heavily involved in the theatre studies department and decided to become an actor.

The Dukes now has a Cultural Partnership with Lancaster University which encourages young people from a wide variety of backgrounds to also follow their dreams.

After leaving The Dukes, Andy had a busy stage career across the country and in London and in the Nineties his film and television career took off. In 1999, he was offered the role of Gollum in the epic film trilogy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga and he received many accolades for his motion capture performance.

Other films in which Andy has appeared include King Kong and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He’s also played Ian Drury in the film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and Einstein and Ian Brady for television.

In 2011, Andy set up Imaginarium Studios in London which specialises in performance capture technology for film, television, video games and digital applications.

Most recently, he has turned to directing feature films, firstly with Warner Bros’ The Jungle Book, due for release in 2018 and currently on independent feature – Breathe – starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy. Earlier this year he presented the Academy Award for Visual Effects at the Oscars.

As Honorary Patron of The Dukes, which is a registered charity, Andy joins Sarah Lancashire, Cherylee Houston and Christine Mackie in supporting Lancashire’s only building based professional producing theatre.



The Dukes present 

The Hobbit

5 July 2016 - 13 August 2016


hobbit comes to LancasterSince 1987 more than 1/2 a million people have shared some magical experiences watching outdoor theatre in Williamson Park, Lancaster. This year, Tolkien's fantastical adventure celebrates its 80th anniversary and will be performed outdoors here in Lancaster.

As in previous years the audience will move to different locations in the park as they follow the action. Some of those walks have been amazing experiences as characters from the story move about in amongst the trees and shrubbery and the audience is immersed in the story.

Bilbo, the dwarves and Gandalf will take the audience on one such journey this year, through the woods and along pathways that become enchanted forests and misty mountains full of wonderful and strange creatures.

If past performances are a guide then this will be a truly memorable experience for all the family.


The Dukes video trailer for The Hobbit 

 Production photos of The Hobbit can be seen in our review.

Comedy Revived For 20th Anniversary Celebration

The Dukes will launch the 20th anniversary production of the worldwide comic theatre sensation – Stones In His Pockets – from February 25, 2016 - March 12, 2016.

visual id

Performed at a breakneck pace, Stones In His Pockets has become internationally renowned and deeply loved among audiences in more than 30 countries since it was premiered in 1996.

Two actors play a vast array of eccentric and lovable characters in this universally loved play by Marie Jones about the arrival of a Hollywood film crew looking for the ‘real’ Ireland for their latest schmaltzy blockbuster.

The pair watch with amazement, envy and delight while their quiet Irish village community is turned upside down as cultures clash and divas strop.

Playing Charlie and Jake are Irish actors Conan Sweeny and Charlie de Bromhead who both have extensive stage, television and film careers.

The latest version of the Olivier Award winning play is a co-production between The Dukes, Lancaster and The Theatre Chipping Norton in association with Oxfordshire Theatre Company.

The play’s director, John Terry said: “Stones in His Pockets is the most theatrical of theatre experiences. Two actors embody two whole communities of people – a rural Irish village, and a Hollywood film crew – in all of their vivid, eccentric glory.

Before our eyes, without so much as a costume change, the actors transform from character to character – the stage feels crowded with people. It is a magic trick full of delight and discovery, endless hilarity and astonishing skill.”

Stones In His Pockets, which is suitable for ages 13 plus, opens at The Dukes on February 25 and will tour nationwide, supported by Arts Council England, until May 28, 2016.

Read our review of Stones In His Pockets


For more information and to book tickets, phone The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit The Dukes website

Please note that bookings via the website have a £1 transaction fee. 




Be Inspired By Top Stage And Screen Writer

A multi award-winning writer for film, television and theatre will be passing on words of wisdom to aspiring dramatists at The Dukes this February.

Jonathan Harvey will be opening up the writing process at a two-hour workshop on February 5, 2016 from 3-5pm.

Jonathan Harvey

Jonathan, who comes from Liverpool, wrote the film Beautiful Thing, the BAFTA nominated sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme and Beautiful People which won a Best Comedy Award.

He has written for both Coronation Street and Shameless and his other television work includes Rev (which won a BAFTA for Best Sitcom); At Home With The Braithwaites, Lilies, The Catherine Tate Show and Murder Most Horrid.

Jonathan has also written 20 stage plays including Corrie!, Canary, Hushabye Mountain, Babies, Boom Bang A Bang and Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club. He also wrote the 2001 stage musical Closer To Heaven with the Pet Shop Boys.

His theatre work has won him an Evening Standard Award, two Manchester Evening News Awards, the George Devine Award and the John Whiting Award.

The Writing What You Know workshop coincides with The Dukes new production of I Was A Wife by first time writer Polly Lister who will also lead the event which explores some of the prizes and pitfalls of writing from an autobiographical perspective.

This workshop would particularly appeal to professional or aspiring professional drama writers.

Places are limited and cost £25 which includes a ticket to that evening’s performance of I Was A Wife.


For more information and to book tickets, phone The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit The Dukes website

Please note that bookings via the website have a £1 transaction fee. 




A Beautiful Way To Spend Christmas

beauty and the beast visual smallA beastly tale beautifully told will entertain audiences at The Dukes in Lancaster this festive season.

Beauty and the Beast, which runs from November 20, 2015 to January 2, 2016, is a classic fairytale full of adventure, fun, wonderful characters and drama.

The audience is invited to join Belle as she leaves her family and ventures deep into the forest towards the magical castle. There she confronts the Beast, a grizzly and gruesome creature who’s in hiding from the world.

Can the Beast soften and change during Belle’s stay in his home or must Belle look beyond his grotesque appearance to what really matters?

Performed in The Round, this new version of Beauty and the Beast has been adapted by the Lancaster-based writer and father-of-two, Eddie Robson.

It promises to be a feelgood festive treat for all the family and is the perfect Christmas play for anyone aged 5 plus.

Beauty and the Beast is the fourth Dukes Christmas production in The Round to be directed by Joe Sumsion who saw a version of this fairytale when he made his first ever theatre visit to The Dukes in 1973 aged 5.

He said: “Beauty and the Beast is a fantastic, rich and moving story – the best of all fairytales for my money. It’s about the idea of true beauty and how it could be that a young, beautiful woman would fall for a hideous beast. Presenting this story in The Round, with the audience in touching distance of the characters, will give it an extra frisson.”

Beauty and the Beast is the highlight of The Dukes festive season which also includes a Christmas Cabaret with Slightly Fat Features on December 10 & 11 and a selection of seasonal film screenings.

To book tickets for Beauty and the Beast, ring The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit (opens The Dukes website in a new window)


Beauty and the Beast is written by Lancaster-based Eddie Robson who has previously contributed to The Dukes youth theatre productions of Your Country Needs You (But I Don’t Need My Country) and Your Country Called(And It Wants You Back) as well as Late Night Lock-In. He has written episodes of Sarah & Duck for Cbeebies and Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, sketches for Mitchell and Webb, and ten episodes of Radio 4 Extra’s Doctor Who series. His other work includes a novel, non-fiction books on film and TV, and comic strips for Marvel Comics and 2000AD.

All but one of the cast will be familiar to Dukes audiences.

Victoria Brazier (Adelaide/Narrator 2/Whitelaw/Hatstand) played Nancy/the Judge/Noah Claypole in Oliver Twist this summer.

Gareth Cassidy - shown below, (Beast/Narrator/Judge/Factory Worker) played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol in 2013 and has also appeared in Treasure Island, Hansel & Gretel And More Tales From The Forest, The Life and Times of Mitchell & Kenyon, Pierrepoint and Peter Pan.

Polly Lister(Felicity/Narrator 3/Statue) appeared as the Witch in Hansel & Gretel And More Tales From The Forest in 2014 and has just won a UK Theatre Award for her performance in Abigail’s Party at Keswick’s Theatre By The Lake. She will also take the lead in her self-penned one woman show I Was A Wife early in the New Year at The Dukes.

Guy Hargreaves(Beaumont/Armour 2) also appeared in Hansel & Gretel And More Tales From The Forest, Robin Hood, Peter Pan and Accrington Pals.

Derek Elwood(Narrator 1/Mayhew/Clock) appeared in The Twits in 2006.

Making her Dukes Christmas show debut will be Natasha Davidson - shown below) who plays Belle and was seen in The Round as Fanny in Bolton Octagon’s production of Hindle Wakes earlier this year.

Gareth CassidyNatasha Davidson