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Further casting announced for Gregory Evans’ Shirleymander at The Playground Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE Playground Theatre has announced further casting for Gregory Evans’ Shirleymander, which receives its UK premiere at the end of May.

Joining Jessica Martin, who plays Shirley Porter, the former leader of Westminster Council, will be Jack Klaff, Omar Baroud and Amanda Waggott with further casting to be announced.

Anthony Biggs’ production runs from May 23 to June 16, 2018.

Previously Posted: On June 14, 2017, a massive fire swept through the twenty-four-story Grenfell Tower block of public housing in West London, killing seventy-one people. What has followed since these tragic events has highlighted the huge social housing crisis across London and the rest of the UK.

To coincide with the first anniversary of the fire The Playground Theatre, situated barely five minutes walk from the burnt-out building, is to stage the dramatisation of another social housing scandal that rocked the country.

The UK stage premiere of Gregory Evans’ Shirleymander charts the events behind the Shirley Porter Westminster Council ‘homes for votes’ scandal of the 1980s. Anthony Biggs’s production will run from May 23 to June 16, 2018 and will star Jessica Martin as the former leader of Westminster Council.

London 1986 – London is in the midst of a housing crisis. Homes stand empty while homelessness soars. Close-knit communities are destroyed for profit. Tory councils are accused of ‘social cleansing’ as families are evicted and forced to move far away or into unsafe flats, while affordable homes are sold as investment properties.

First presented as a radio play in 2009 and inspired by BBC journalist Andrew Hosken’s book Nothing Like A Dame, Gregory Evans’ comedy drama, tells the story of the flagship London council, which, thirty years ago, was at the centre of a major scandal. Porter’s controlling, bullying, autocratic style led Westminster Council into a mire of paranoia, fear and skullduggery as she pursued, secret, illegal policies that destroyed communities, reputations and lives.

Exploring the perennial themes of greed, ambition and the normalisation of corruption, Shirleymander is a shocking, funny and often times moving reminder of how it is the weakest who bear the brunt when institutional wrong-doing takes control.

Jessica Martin made her name as a comic impressionist on television as one of LWT’s Copycats team and voice artist on Spitting Image. Her role as Sally Smith in the hit musical Me and My Girl at the Adelphi Theatre established her as a West End leading lady and she has performed in many successful productions since, including Mack and Mabel, Sunset Boulevard, Spamalot, and most recently Elf the Musical which was also broadcast on Channel 5 last Christmas.

Martin is also a critically acclaimed graphic novelist and is working on her graphic memoir, Life Drawing. A Life Under Lights to be published by Unbound in 2019.

Director Anthony Biggs said:

“The rise and fall of Shirley Porter is an extraordinary story – you really can’t make this stuff up. I read Shirleymander last year shortly after the Grenfell Tower tragedy and I was determined that my first play as Artistic Director at the Playground Theatre had to focus on social injustice and the stark inequalities we witness around us in London. Shirley Porter is not responsible for the fire at Grenfell, but her lack of care for those less fortunate chimes loudly today.”

Tickets: £25, £15 concession for students/unemployed/senior citizens. Mailing List Member 15% off full price. £15 Previews – May 23 and 24. To book, call 020 8960 0110 or visit

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.