Michael Rosen’s Unexpected Twist, a new musical will open at Royal & Derngate, Northampton before embarking on a National Tour






    Royal & Derngate, Northampton 🎟 royalandderngate.co.uk
    11 – 25 February 2023 📞 01604 624811

    Workshop images are released for The Children’s Theatre Partnership and Royal & Derngate, Northampton’s co-production of Unexpected Twist. The new musical will open at Royal & Derngate, Northampton on 11 February 2023 before embarking on a National Tour from 28 February 2023.

    Unexpected Twist is a re-telling of the Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, by one the best-loved figures in the children’s book world, Michael Rosen. Adapted for the stage by BAFTA award-winning playwright Roy Williams (SoulSucker Punch), with original music by rising R&B star Yaya Bey and BAC Beatbox Academy’s Conrad MurrayUnexpected Twist is a thrilling new production from the producing partnership behind Holes and The Jungle Book, that will tour the UK following its Northampton premiere.

    Shona and her class are studying Oliver Twist. She’s new in school and keeps finding herself in trouble – much like Oliver himself! When she’s given a new phone by a stranger, she begins to suspect there’s something fishy about the new kids she’s met…

    Directed by James Dacre (Olivier Award-nominated Our Lady Of Kibeho and Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate, Northampton) with design by Frankie Bradshaw’s (Two Trains Running) Unexpected Twist brings to vivid life the worlds of both Shona and Oliver, as their stories twist together, unexpectedly! 

    Michael Rosen (Writer) said: I have always been a huge lover of theatre and the dramatic arts. I believe in the power and value of live performance and rate it as an equal to all the other literary activities. I can’t describe what a thrill it is for me to know Unexpected Twist is going to be a play. I’ve already seen a draft script and it leapt off the page. I could immediately ‘see’ it as being a funny, tough, edgy, contemporary, powerful show. I am desperate to see it.” 

    Roy Williams (Stage Adaptation) said “If there is no children’s theatre, there will be no theatre at all in years to come. It is essential theatre gets them early. It’s the opportunity for them to express themselves. Unexpected Twist is a story about young people for young people! That is how I felt when I first read Oliver Twist when I was a child. Those are always the best stories to hear.” 

    Yaya Bey (Music) said: “Working on Unexpected Twist has been such a pleasure. Everyone has been so kind and willing to collaborate. I wasn’t sure how I would relate to the story coming from the States, but there is such an emphasis on important issues that transcend culture barriers, and it has made it easy for me to pull from my experience.” 

    Conrad Murray (Music) said: “Working on this show is like assembling The Avengers! The creative team is top notch, and the cast are incredible. I love that it takes Oliver Twist as a story about poverty, which seems to tell a story about our current times. Being able to bring beatbox, hip hop and grime to the show is sick, as it helps modernize the story and create a new language and theatrical form on the stage. Can’t wait for audiences to see and hear it.” 

    James Dacre (Director and Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate Theatres) said: “take Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, Oliver Twist and add the literary magic of Michael Rosen and the theatrical verve of Roy Williams to tell this classic story in a radically new way. Mix with Conrad Murray and Yaya Bey’s breath-taking contemporary beatboxing, R&B, rap, grime and soul music. The result? Unexpected Twist is a joyful family tale which weaves the streets of Victorian London into the school corridors of contemporary Britain.”

    Unexpected Twist follows The Children’s Theatre Partnership’s hugely successful production of Robert Icke’s Animal Farm, a reimagined version led entirely by puppets, which toured nationally from February 2022.


    Michael Rosen is one of Britain’s best loved writers and performance poets for children and adults. His first degree in English Literature and Language was from Wadham College, Oxford and he went on to study for an MA at the University of Reading and a PhD at the former University of North London, now London Metropolitan. He is currently Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London where he co-devised and teaches critical approaches to reading on an MA in Children’s Literature, having done the same at Birkbeck, University of London. He has taught on MA courses in universities since 1994. He was the Children’s Laureate from 2007-2009 and has published over 200 books for children and adults, including the recent bestseller Many Different Kinds of Love and On The Move.


    Roy Williams began writing plays in 1990 and is now arguably one of the country’s leading dramatists. In 2000 he was the joint-winner of The George Devine Award and in 2001 he was awarded the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright. He was awarded an OBE for Services to Drama in the 2008 Birthday Honours List and was made a fellow of The Royal Society of Literature in 2018.

    His plays include: The Fellowship (Hampstead Theatre); Go, Girl (Lyric Hammersmith); Death Of England (Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre); Death Of England: Delroy (Olivier Theatre, National Theatre) both co-written with Clint Dyer, The Firm (Hampstead Theatre, Downstairs); Soul: The Untold Story Of Marvin Gaye (Royal & Derngate/ Hackney Empire); Antigone (Pilot Theatre/UK Tour); Wildefire (Hampstead Theatre); Advice For The Young At Heart (Theatre Centre); an adaptation of The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (Pilot Theatre/ UK Tour); Sucker Punch (Royal Court Theatre, nominated for Olivier Award for Best Play), Kingston ’14 (Theatre Royal Stratford East); Category B (Tricycle Theatre); Angel House (Eclipse Theatre, UK Tour); Days Of Significance (RSC); Joe Guy (Tiata Fahodzi); There’s Only One Wayne Matthews (Polka Theatre); Baby Girl (NT Connections); Absolute Beginners (Lyric Hammersmith); Little Sweet Thing (Nottingham Playhouse); Slow Time (NT Education); Fallout (Royal Court Theatre); Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads (NT); Clubland (Royal Court Theatre); The Gift (Birmingham Rep/Tricycle Theatre); Local Boy (Hampstead Theatre); Souls (Theatre Centre); Lift Off (Royal Court); Starstruck (Tricycle, Winner of John Whiting Award, Alfred Fagon Award & EMMA Award for Best Play); Josie’s Boy (Red Ladder Theatre Co); The No-Boys Cricket Club (Theatre Royal, Stratford East). He also contributed to the Royal Court’s Peckham The Soap Opera.

    His work for screen includes the BAFTA nominated Death Of England: Face To Face (co-written with Clint Dyer for Sabel Productions/National Theatre/Sky Arts), BAFTA nominated Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle (Douglas Road Productions/BBC4); Fallout (Company Pictures/ Channel 4, Screen Nation Award for Achievement in Screenwriting); Offside (BBC, Winner of BAFTA Children’s Film & TV Award for Best Schools Drama) and Babyfather (BBC). For Film he has co-written Fast Girls (DJ Films).


    Enigmatic, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, Yaya Bey, is a multi-hyphenate artist who “effortlessly mingles the personal and political with enthralling freshness,” as described by Pitchfork. Bey’s most recent album, Remember Your North Star has received critical acclaim and is her most expansive work to-date. 

    As a New York native of African American and Caribbean descent, Yaya’s new LP showcases her experimental approach to R&B, Hip Hop, Jazz, Reggae and Afrobeat.


    Conrad Murray is a theatre maker, director, musician, writer and composer. As Artistic Director, he has led the BAC Beatbox Academy for the last decade, innovating and pioneering hip hop/ beatbox theatre.

    His last major production Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster got 5-star reviews from The Stage, The Guardian and others and won the Off West End award, Total Theatre award, and pick of the fringe at the Adelaide fringe festival.  It was adapted into a BBC film in 2020. 

    Pilots’ Crongton Knights (Musical Director / composer) was picked as one of the top theatre shows of the year by the Guardian in 2020.

    He was chosen as part of the Stage’s top 100 people in their 2020 list which highlighted his show High rise eState Of Mind with his theatre company Beats & Elements, and a finalist in The Arts Foundations theatre makers category. 

     Current projects include – new BAC Beatbox Academy hip hop theatre show for kids based on the Pied Piper for Battersea Arts Centre 2023. He was recently Beatbox Coach on Giles Terera’s The Meaning Of Zong for the Bristol Old Vic. 

    In 2022, his first published works were published by Bloomsbury/Methuen Drama, Making hip hop theatre and three original texts Beatbox & Elements – A Hip Hop Theatre Trilogy

    He has collaborated and/ or made work for various venues and institutions including Battersea Arts Centre, The National Theatre Studio, The Lyric Hammersmith, Mountview School of Theatre Arts, The Tate, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Camden People’s Theatre, Roundhouse, Theatre Royal Stratford East, UCL, The Courtyard Theatre.


    James has been Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate for the past ten years, during which time he has produced more than 120 shows of which 60 have toured both nationally and internationally and 42 have transferred to London and been recognised with Olivier, Evening Standard, WhatsOnStage and The Stage awards. The venue has been twice shortlisted for Regional Theatre of the Year by The Stage (2022 and 2016) and chosen as 2020 Outstanding Theatre of the Year by Michael Billington. Its touring productions have been seen by a further million people nationwide and made over 500 venue visits across the UK and abroad, winning three UK Theatre Awards. They have been broadcast to yet wider audiences on Sky Arts, BBC, On Demand and in cinemas. 

    Recent directing includes Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange with Giles Terera and Michael Balogun, The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten with Anton Lesser, subsequently adapted into the 2020 Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated film; Arthur Miller’s The Hook (UK Theatre Award for Touring); Roy Williams’ Soul with Adjoa Andoh, which transferred to Hackney Empire; and the 2020 Olivier Award nominated Our Lady of Kibeho, James’s third collaboration with playwright Katori Hall since premiering her first play The Mountaintop with David Harewood and Lorraine Burroughs, which won the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play. 

    Previous work includes four productions at Shakespeare’s Globe – As You Like It (World Tour and UK Theatre Renee Stepham Award), David Eldridge’s Holy WarriorsKing John (UK Theatre Award for Best Touring Production) and a short film of Othello (Complete Walk) as well as King James Bible at the National Theatre; The Accrington Pals (UK Theatre Best Design Award) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Manchester’s Royal Exchange; Ella Hickson’s Precious Little Talent (Evening Standard Award nomination, London Theatre Festival Best Play Award) at Trafalgar Studios; Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles (Pulitzer Prize) at Bath Theatre Royal; Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American (Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play, Evening Standard Best New Play Award Nominee) at The Gate; and new plays by Ron Hutchinson, Dawn King, Mike Poulton, Alistair Beaton, Amanda Whittington, Bekah Brunstetter, Nanna Mwaluwko and Molly Davies, amongst others. 


    Frankie has worked across the UK in the West End and in venues including the National Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse, the Young Vic, the Royal Exchange in Manchester and Nottingham Playhouse.

    In 2019 she won the Stage Debut award for Best Creative West End Debut with director Lynette Linton for their partnership on creating Sweat at the Gielgud in 2019. Frankie was also a Linbury Prize Finalist in 2015, a Jerwood Young Designer in 2017.

    She was a winner of the Off West-End Award for Best Set Design in 2016 for Adding Machine (Finborough Theatre) and was nominated for the Off West-End Award for Best Set Design in 2017 for Assata Taught Me (Gate Theatre).

    Frankie has run workshops and educational projects for the Bush Theatre, English Touring Theatre and Whitecard Collective. She took part in the Donmar on Design Festival in 2018.

    Royal & Derngate, Northampton royalandderngate.co.uk 11 – 25 February 2023

    Theatre Royal, Newcastle theatreroyal.co.uk 28 February – 04 March 2023

    Marlowe, Canterbury marlowetheatre.com 08 – 11 March 2023

    Rose Theatre, Kingston rosetheatre.org 15 – 19 March 2023

    Theatre Royal, Nottingham trch.co.uk 21 – 25 March 2023

    Theatre Royal, Norwich norwichtheatre.org 28 March – 01 April 2023 

    Belgrade, Coventry belgrade.co.uk 11 – 15 April 2023 

    Everyman, Cheltenham everymantheatre.org.uk 18 – 22 April 2023 

    Lowry Theatre, Salford thelowry.com 02 – 07 May 2023 

    Malvern Festival Theatre malvern-theatres.co.uk 09 – 13 May 2023 

    The Grand, Wolverhampton grandtheatre.co.uk 16 – 20 May 2023 

    The Grand, Blackpool blackpoolgrand.co.uk 23 – 27 May 2023 

    Playhouse, Oxford oxfordplayhouse.com 30 May – 03 June 2023 

    Curve, Leicester curveonline.co.uk 06 – 10 June 2023

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