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Full Casting Announced for the World Premiere Stage Adaptation of Bill Byron’s Award Winning Memoir3 FEBRUARY – 18 MARCH


The Watermill have today announced the full cast of the brand-new stage adaption of Bill Bryson’s award-winning memoir NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, affectionately celebrating the quirks and eccentricities of British life,adapted by BAFTA and Olivier Award winning playwright Tim Whitnall (Les Dawson: Flying High – UK Tour, Morecambe – West End, Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story – BBC4). Directed by The Watermill’s Artistic Director Paul Hart, designed by Katie Lias, and produced in association with Simon Friend Entertainment, Notes from a Small Island kicks off the Newbury-based award-winning theatre’s spring season, and will star Olivier-nominated Mark Hadfield (Thérèse Raquin – Olivier, NT, Into the Woods – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), as ‘Bill Bryson’.

Starring alongside Mark in this world premiere, playing from Friday 3 February to Saturday 18 March, are Bryony Corrigan (The Play That Goes Wrong – West End & Broadway, Magic Goes Wrong & Peter Pan Goes Wrong – West End), Wendy Nottingham (Vera Drake, Mr Selfridge, Peaky Blinders), Anne Odeke (As You Like It, The Merry Wives of Windsor & The Comedy of Errors – Shakespeare’s Globe), Steve Pinder (Brookside, C4, Wicked – UK and Ireland tour), Akshay Sharan (Jack Absolute Flies Again – National Theatre, 2018 Stage Debut Award for ‘Best Actor in a Play’ for The Reluctant Fundamentalist –Yard Theatre) and Hayden Wood (The Play That Goes Wrong & Doctor Who: Time Fracture – West End, Richard II – Arcola).

What makes us love this country we call our own?

 From Calais to Scotland, Bill travels the length and breadth of Britain.

Why does the nation that produced Marmite, Gardener’s Question Time and people who say “Ooh lovely” at the sight of a cup of tea, hold such a special place in this American’s heart?

 Notes from a Small Island spent three years in the Sunday Times bestsellers list, sold over two million copies and was voted on World Book Day by BBC Radio 4 listeners as the book that best represents our British identity.

With signature invention and imagination, the production will embrace the full breadth and playfulnessof Bryson’s life affirming travelogue in The Watermill’s fittingly intimate, quintessentially rural space.

Tim Whitnall said, “It’s been both a privilege and a delight to have distilled Bill Bryson’s hilarious and affecting 379-page travelogue into a two-act stage play.

This wonderful book has been a firm favourite of mine since its publication, and I’m still pinching myself to believe I’ve been permitted anywhere near it as a playwright!”

Notes From A Small Island contains a wealth of wry observations and pithy insights – albeit recorded almost 30 years ago – that will resonate with a contemporary audience, particularly as Britons reassess their national identity in a post-Brexit, politically turbulent, and technology-driven world. Back in 1995, Bill set off on his eventful road-trip to discover “for better and for worse” what might have changed and what had endured since his first visit to these shores in 1973.

The stage version evokes a similar journey of discovery, allowing audiences to connect with their own past, take stock of the present, and consider what the future might bring for the UK and its place in the Global Village.

 As we heal and rebuild following the ravages of the past three years, the play also gently reminds us that being British allows us plenty to be grateful for.

To quote Bill: “You have plenty to eat, you live in a time of peace, and you can rest easy in the knowledge that “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” will never be Number One again.”

Notes from a Small Island will be adapted by Tim Whitnall, directed by Paul Hart, with design Katie Lias, lighting design by Ali Hunter, sound design by Ed Lewis, projection design by George Reeve, and with Sibylla Archdale Khalid as assistant director.

The Watermill is a 200-seat regional powerhouse, with an unparalleled reputation for producing bold, world-class theatre with local and national reach from its home in West Berkshire.

It also has an extensive programme of community outreach, and schools touring work, and a firm commitment to diversity, education, and talent development. 

In the wake of the shock news that The Watermill Theatre had 100% of its annual funding from Arts Council England cut, the Newbury venue has launched a new fundraising campaign – THRIVE.

Individuals  can donate from as little £1 to show their support and ensure that the work of The Watermill, and everyone who is part of its community, can continue to thrive. 

There is also the option of becoming a Friend of the Watermill, from as little as £30 per year.


The Watermill Theatre is a regional powerhouse, consistently making an innovative contribution to the vibrant and diverse landscape of UK Theatre reaching far beyond the 200 seats of the theatre itself. One of the most beautiful theatres in the country, it can be found nestled on the banks of the River Lambourn, in the hamlet of Bagnor, just outside Newbury, Berkshire. The theatresits at the heart of its community to whom it offers a wide programme of work, nurturing emerging artists, generating new piecesand offering a thriving Outreach programme.

From its home in a converted watermill in rural West Berkshire, The Watermill Theatre has produced award-winning work that has been recognised throughout the UK and abroad. The very best artists and creative teams, both established and in the early stages of their careers, are the theatre’s lifeblood, earning The Watermill a reputation as one of the very best producing theatres in thecountry.

From new writing and musicals to Shakespeare and classic plays, The Watermill’s artistic ambition is shown in its choice ofwork. The theatre has become a leading figure in the work of actor-musicianship; its bold approach to this work has led to innovative reimaginings of large-scale musicals and classics as well as the development of new work.

Recent tours and transfers have included Spike (UK Tour), Lone Flyer (Hull Truck Theatre), Tell Me On A Sunday (UK Tour), Amélie The Musical (West End and tour), The Wipers Times (West End and Tour), A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth(National Tour and Wilton’s Music Hall), Crazy For You (National Tour), Trial By Laughter (National Tour), Burke and Hare and OneMillion Tiny Plays About Britain (Jermyn Street Theatre), Twelfth Night (Wilton’s Music Hall), Teddy (National Tour and TheVaults).

Alongside transfers and national and international tours of its work, The Watermill create productions for small-scale touring,ensuring that those living in rural isolation are able to enjoy high quality theatre on their doorstep. The Watermill also tour to schools taking new interpretations of classic texts into the classroom to support students’ learning.

The theatre also runs its own restaurant and bar from the beautifully converted and refurbished 18th century tithe barn, situatedadjacent to the theatre. The Riverside Restaurant serves fresh   home cooked and where possible locally produced food. In addition, The Watermill’s beautiful venue is available to hire for parties, wedding receptions, meetings and seminars.

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