Entertainment & Arts

Marvin Gaye 'thriller' set for world premiere

Marvin Gaye Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Soul, by Roy Williams, has been written in close collaboration with members of Marvin Gaye's family

A play about the life and death of Motown legend Marvin Gaye is to have its world premiere in Northampton.

Roy Williams' Soul will open in May 2016 after several years' close collaboration with members of the singer's family.

Gaye, whose hits include Sexual Healing and Let's Get It On, was shot dead by his father in 1984.

"It's a dramatic thriller, not a musical," said James Dacre, the Royal & Derngate theatre's artistic director.

"It will have the spirit and energy of Motown and will include music from the time."

Williams' play will be set within the confines of the Los Angeles home that Gaye bought for his extended family.

"Whilst the piece looks at three generations of a post-war African American family, everything roots back to the home and what happened in the course of 18 days underneath that roof," Dacre told the BBC.

"It's a story that the world knows very well, but we hope that Roy's close access to so many of the people who were there gives him a unique perspective and will allow our audiences an unusual insight to what happened."

'Anarchic and mischievous'

Image copyright Royal & Derngate
Image caption Michael Pennington will lead the cast in King Lear

The Royal & Derngate's 2016 season also includes four new productions to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

Peter Whelan's The Herbal Bed - opening in February - is about the life of William Shakespeare's daughter, and is the first revival of the playwright's work since his death last year.

In April, two-time Olivier nominee Michael Pennington will play King Lear with a cast of 14 actors ahead of a national tour.

That will be followed in May by an "anarchic and mischievous" play that compiles all 75 of Shakespeare's onstage deaths.

Spymonkey's The Complete Deaths, directed by Tim Crouch, includes everything from the bloodbath at the end of Hamlet to the poisonous asp in Antony and Cleopatra.

The Shakespeare mini-season concludes in June with a "fresh, abridged" musical theatre version of The Tempest by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, whose Ida won the Oscar for best foreign language film this year.

The play will be performed by a company of 18-25 year olds in a co-production with the National Youth Theatre.

Dacre said: "Northampton has long been known for its exports and we're thrilled that Royal & Derngate productions will tour to over 40 theatres across Britain next year in what is perhaps our most ambitious season yet."

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