Living Southampton

📰 Southampton's new theatre opens with the world premiere of Howard Brenton's The Shadow Factory

Director of Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Samuel Hodges, has announced the inaugural production at Southampton’s new city centre theatre, NST City – the world première of Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory . Hodges’ production opens on 15 February, with previews from 7 February, and runs until 3 March. Further programming for the opening season at NST City will be announced shortly.

Autumn 1940. The Battle of Britain rages in the skies. Southampton is home to our only hope of victory: the Spitfire.  But when the Luftwaffe drops 2,300 bombs in three devastating raids, the city goes up in flames and the Woolston Supermarine Spitfire factory is destroyed.  From the ashes, a story of chaos, courage and community spirit emerges. 

This spectacular world premiere will open Southampton’s brand-new theatre, NST City, conceived by NST’s director Samuel Hodges and 59 Productions, the Tony Award-winning artists behind the video design of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Director Samuel Hodges said today, “I first heard about this story months after starting this job and was immediately struck by its significance. Not just for what it says about Southampton’s past, but as an example of what the future can be. We famously live in a particularly segregated country right now – and our political leaders do nothing to reassure us that cohesion and empathy will be at the forefront.

“This story is both epic in its power and impact, but also incredibly human – it’s about individuals coming together, overcoming personal bias and mistrust, to achieve something great on their own terms.

“Working with Howard, who has proven himself time and time again to be the master of this style, is an honour and a great statement of intent for this new theatre at the heart of Southampton’s fast-rising cultural quarter.”

Howard Brenton commented, “The creation of the shadow factories is an inspiring story from a frightening time, something for Southampton to celebrate.

“We may be uncertain about what is going to happen in the next few years.  But our present anxiety pales beside the dire straits the townspeople found themselves in during the September of 1940.  Their lives were torn apart – German bombing raids above, on the ground their work places requisitioned by the ruthless Ministry of Aircraft Production. 

“But people responded with a mixture of courage, bloody-mindedness, anger and humour.  They made sacrifices, improvised – and six weeks after the big factory’s destruction Spitfires were being made in small places all over the town.

“I’ve written characters across the generations, with scenes in Government bunkers, the town and partying on the Common as bombs fall.  It was an extraordinary display of common determination.   If chaos returns to Britain, we should remember its example.”

Alongside the production, the company will mount The Shadow Factory Exhibition , giving audiences the opportunity to step into the stories behind The Shadow Factory in an installation featuring the visually stunning moving set designed by 59 Productions. 

    • Southampton's new theatre opens with the world premiere of Howard Brenton's The Shadow Factory

    Southampton's new theatre opens with the world premiere of Howard Brenton's The Shadow Factory - Photo Credit: Nuffield Southampton Theatres