Sign Of The Times - New Wolsey Theatre

Sign Of The Times

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Presented by Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
By Tim Firth

From award-winning comedy writer Tim Firth (Calendar Girls, This Is My Family) and directed by Karen Simpson (Some Like It Hotter), this comedy drama explores the power of words and dreams in our changing world.

Frank is the Head of Installation at Forshaws, a commercial lettering factory, and an aspiring novelist. Teenager Alan is his reluctant trainee, more interested in his band and his iPod than the complexities of bracketing systems and electrical isolators.

However, this pair of Yorkshiremen have a lot more in common than they realise…

‘excellent… splendidly funny and touching’ - Daily Telegraph

Please note that the production contains pyrotechnics and smoke effects.

Cast & Creatives

Robert Gill — Frank

Robert trained at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff.

Theatre credits: The Bodyguard (Adelphi Theatre, London); Ghosts (Greenwich Theatre); Two National tours of the hit show Calendar Girls; The Death of Norman Tortilla (Tristan Bates Theatre, London); The Years Between (Royal Theatre, Northampton); Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Barons Court Theatre, London); Edward II and Don Juan (Battersea Arts Centre, London); Next Door’s Baby (Orange Tree Theatre, London); Measure for Measure (The Peter Hall Company, Bath/Stratford); Habeas Corpus (The Peter Hall Company, Bath/National Tour); Mouth to Mouth (Albery Theatre, London); The Real Inspector Hound/Black Comedy (Comedy Theatre, London/National Tour); Tartuffe (Tour); When We Are Married (Savoy Theatre, London); A Christmas Carol (Carl Orff Theatre, Munich); Much Ado About Nothing (Southwark Playhouse, London); The Rivals (Southwark Playhouse, London); Under Milk Wood (Mermaid Theatre, Copenhagen); The Hired Man (Haymarket Theatre, Leicester & Astoria Theatre, London); Grease (National Tour); Emma Bovary and Bedroom Farce (Connaught Theatre, Worthing); The Soldier’s Tale (Tour); A Smashing Day (Tour) and Jack and the Beanstalk (Chipping Norton Theatre).

Films credits: Hugo (director by Martin Scorsese); Salsa Guy, The Wreck of the Mary Celeste, Oliver! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Television credits: Emmerdale (Yorkshire Television); Silent Witness, A for Andromeda, Derailed, Eastenders, The Forsyte Saga and Dr Finlay’s Casebook (BBC).

Musical Theatre credits: The Boyfriend, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Leave Him To Heaven, West Side Story and The Wizard of Oz.

Robert is a trustee of the JMK Trust; which was set up in memory of James Menzies-Kitchin, a young theatre director of thrilling promise. Each year, the trust gives an award in his name to an emerging young director. The JMK Award is the single most sought-after prize for outstanding young theatre directors. For more information,
and to support the work of the trust, visit

Thomas Pickles — Alan

Theatre credits: The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Mouse and His Child (Royal Shakespeare Company); Blink (Soho Theatre and Nabokov) which toured the UK and was part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters in New York and Kes (Derby Theatre).

Television credits: Guest leads in Casualty and Doctors (BBC) and Shameless (Channel Four).

Thomas is the inaugural winner of The Adrian Pagan Award for Playwriting with debut play Dead Party Animals, in which he also performed. Dead Party Animals was also short listed for the Verity Bargate Award, and Thomas and the play have since been nominated for three Off West End awards including Best Actor and Most Promising New Playwright.

Tim Firth — Writer

Theatre credits: Neville’s Island (Nominated for Best Comedy - Evening Standard & Olivier Awards 1994, winner Best Play MEN Awards 2006), The Safari Party, the musical Our House (Olivier Award for Best New Musical 2002), The Flint Street Nativity (Liverpool Playhouse) and Sign Of The Times (UK tour and West End). Tim's stage adaptation of Calendar Girls, produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers Ltd, broke all British box office records for a play, has been produced worldwide and was nominated for an Olivier. In 2010 it won the Whatsonstage Best Comedy Award.

Film credits: Blackball, Calendar Girls (British Comedy Awards, Best Comedy Film 1993) and Kinky Boots (Sundance Selection, Best International Feature, Florida Film Festival). Tim’s most recent film The Wedding Video was released in 2012 directed by Nigel Cole.

Television credits: Money For Nothing (Writer's Guild Awards - Best Television Film), The Rottentrolls (4 series: BAFTA Award, Best Children's Entertainment 1997), Cruise Of The Gods, The Flint Street Nativity, Preston Front (3 series Writer's Guild of Great Britain Best Original Series; Comedy Awards, Best Comedy Drama, RTS Awards Best Series, BAFTA nominated Best Drama Series). In 2004 Tim developed a season of single comedy plays entitled Trapped. Tim’s additional credits include a tour of words and original music co-written with Willy Russell in 2004 called The Singing Playwright.

Tim’s brand new musical comedy This Is My Family opened at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre studio and won the UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical. This year it is being remounted to reopen the Lyceum Theatre and tour the UK. Tim is currently working on a stage musical with Gary Barlow.

Karen Simpson — Director

Karen trained at Bretton Hall and has taught at a range of Universities and Drama Schools prior to joining Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds as its Director in 2013. She had also been Artistic Director of two touring companies and the Education and Creative Development Director for The Crucible, Sheffield.

Directing credits: Some Like it Hotter (Watermill Theatre/Fresh Glory); Vertigo, Jungle Book, Loving April, Hansel and Gretel, River’s Up, Peach Boy and Alice in Wonderland (Oxfordshire Theatre Company); Handful of Henna (Rasa Theatre and Sheffield Theatres) Battina and the Moon, The Minotaur, Eyecatcher, Leopard, The Sound Collector, The Magic Book, Jago's Box, Warrior Square and The Jazz Conductor (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield); The Ugly Duckling (Nottingham Playhouse) and Nanna’s Nightingale (Haymarket Theatre, Leicester).

Karen founded new writing company, Action Transport Theatre for which she produced and directed over 60 productions.  She has also directed open-air productions of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Caucasian Chalk Circle, Comedy of Errors and Midsummer Night’s Dream, two community plays; The Pool of Dreams and The Big Ditch; and a number of family Christmas shows including The Snow Queen, Pinocchio, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperors New Clothes, ‘1001 Nights’ and Gawain and the Green Knight.

Radio credits: Young Voices (BBC Radio Sheffield).

Lucy Sierra — Designer

Design credits: We Have Fallen (Underbelly); We Are All Misfits (Cardboard Citizens); Pub Quiz: 2014 Gala, If You Don’t Let Us Dream and We Won’t Let You Sleep (Royal Court); Meet George (Camden People’s Theatre); The Bear (Improbable); Symmetry (Southwark Playhouse); Sweeney Todd, David Copperfield and White Nights (Octagon Bolton); Songs Inside (Gate); The Guests (Etcetera); Grimethorpe Race (Arcola); Fewer Emergencies (Oxford Playhouse); The Tempest (BBC & Barbican); Into The Woods (Greenwich) and Blue Funk (Old Red Lion).

Associate designer: Hotel and Earthquakes In London (NT); Public Enemy, Wild Swans and Government Inspector (Young Vic); In The Republic of Happiness, Love & Information, Cock, Suckerpunch and Get Santa! (Royal Court); Benvenuto Cellini and Turandot (ENO); Sweet Bird of Youth (Old Vic); Carmen (Salzburg Festspielhaus); Decade (Headlong); Anna Nicole and Suor Angelica (ROH).

Ziggy Jacobs — Lighting

Ziggy is a freelance designer creating lighting, video, and custom technology for productions. Her passion lies in weaving together the art of theatrical production with the art of hands-on digital and mechanical design to create new and exciting interactive tools for live performance.

An American transplant to the UK, Ziggy trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Lighting Design and specializes in design for widely varying venues and unconventional spaces, as well as the creation of new bespoke technology for performance. Ziggy has worked with English National Opera.

Recent credits: The Fourth Wise Man (Unicorn Theatre); RashDash’s Oh I Can’t Be Bothered (International tour); Silent Opera’s L’Orfeo (Trinity Buoy Wharf); Live/Revive/Lament (Aldeburgh Music); The Laramie Project and The Eleventh Hour (The Egg, Theatre Royal Bath);  Open Clasp Theatre’s The Space Between Us (UK Tour); RIOT, The Rite of Spring, Throb, Of Saints and Go-Go Boys with physical theatre company PanicLab and Uncuckoo with puppetry collective The Rainbow Collectors.

She is also the recipient of the 2010 Michael Northen Bursary for a production of Harold Pinter’s Remembrance of Things Past (RCSSD).

For more information please visit

James Mackenzie — Production Manager

James trained at Rose Bruford College.

Recent credits: Out of His Skin and In the Dust (2Faced Dance); Jason and the Argonauts (Courtyard Theatre); Close Distance (Parlor Dance); Finding Joy (Vamos Theatre); Rock and Suitcase Story (Dance East); The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth (Unicorn Theatre); DNA (Hull Truck); Macbeth (Courtyard Theatre); Herding Cats (Hampstead); See (Company Decalage); Shattered (Feral Productions); Steam (Royal Festival Hall); Cut it Out (Young Vic) and Speaking on Tongues (Birmingham School of Acting).

James is also the Director of the award winning ZOO Venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Reviews of Sign Of The Times

What the press say

"Worldly wise with a winning mix of light and dark comedy"

Doug Coombes, InSuffolk

"Firth’s script is packed full of his trademark observational humour. There are laugh out loud comedy set pieces, but the real wit comes from the everyday recognition. The piece may be set in Yorkshire and packed with local idioms, but the situations are universal."

Glen Pearce, The Public Reviews

"the true test of a play is when it can hold a full theatre spellbound with just the power of the writing and the performances of the actors, happily this beautifully staged production is just such a show."

Andrew Clarke, East Anglian Daily Times

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