Continental’s season

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The Continental in Preston has a strong line-up of studio-sized drama in coming months from the very best in new writing from Battersea Arts Centre and Manchester’s 24:7 Theatre Festival, to an interpretation of a much-loved children’s classic from Horse + Bamboo, through to a night of bite-sized theatre pieces from the nation’s freshest new playwrights.

Over the past four years the city venue, on South Meadow Lane, has become renowned for championing quality new writing, and this season it starts next Thursday with My Arms, a new Manchester-set drama by James Leach, exploring the limits of love and the willingness to forgive.

The multi-award-winning Horse + Bamboo always prove hugely popular on their visits to the venue and this time they’re bringing The Nightingale, just in time for half-term on Thursday February 21.

March 7 brings the first cross-regional Word:Play as six emerging playwrights rise to the challenge of writing a 15-minute work inspired by a single word: in this case ‘division’.

Coming up from London on March 12-13 is Fuel’s production The 14th Tale, in which spoken word and graphic artist Inua Ellams performs a comic and moving self portrait which challenges the audience’s expectations of what it is to be young, black and male.

From closer to home comes Thrasher by Manchester playwright Conor McKee, whose debut drama Burnt enjoyed two successful nights at The Continental in 2010.

A complete sell-out at the Royal Exchange Studio, the new play revolves around the lives of six very different people one night in Conor’s adopted home city.

The writer of the acclaimed live show (adapted for BBC Radio 4) Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think Of You, Molly Naylor, comes to the venue on Saturday April 13 with My Robot Heart, a storytelling show with a live soundtrack performed by quirky all-girl anti-folk band The Middle Ones. Preston-based DNA Puppetry have an international reputation for creating visual theatre for families with children of all ages, and they return to The Continental with a brand new show ideal for children aged between two and five.

Cloud Child, on Saturday May 4, explores the bond between parent and child in a very special way.

Box Office: 01772 499 425 or www.newcontinental.net.

The story of Lancashire pub landlord and England’s most famous hangman, Albert

Pierrepoint, comes to the county’s Hanging Town next week. Pierrepoint – The Hangman’s Tale is Lancaster Dukes Theatre’s first co-production of 2013 and will be presented in the round from Thursday to February 23.

Preston’s crown court sentenced more people to hang than any other in England outside London.

The play is set in 1957 as Pierrepoint resigns after more than 25 years as the country’s Official Executioner.

He tells the chilling truth about a career in which he executed more than 400 men and women including Ruth Ellis, Lord Haw Haw, Derek Bentley, Timothy Evans and 202 war criminals.

When not carrying out his trade at prisons nationwide, Pierrepoint was serving customers at the pubs he ran near Oldham and at Much Hoole, near Preston.

He later retired to Southport where he died in 1992, aged 87. This strange double life is portrayed by Martin Oldfield in a play which The Dukes presents with Manchester-based Café Society.

Peppered with charm and humour, despite its subject matter, the play was written by former crime reporter Peter Harrison who covered a court case where one of Pierrepoint’s subsequent convicts was sentenced to death.

Box office: 01524 598500 or www.dukes-lancaster.org.