Credit: BGT recently got the opportunity to talk with Tony Kingston, the director of the upcoming BGT English-language play "We Happy Few", which is being performed in Salle Robert Krieps at Neumünster Abbey (neimënster) in Luxembourg-Grund from 1 to 4 December 2021.

Following the success of its one-woman show "The Road to Huntsville" earlier this year, the Berliner Grundtheater (BGT) is returning with a larger ensemble piece next month.

Written in 2004 by the actress Imogen Stubbs, "We Happy Few" tells the story of the “Artemis Players”, an all-woman theatre company which challenges the male-dominated world of the 1940s to bring theatre to the furthest-flung parts of Britain. Based on the real but now largely-forgotten Osiris Players, the play is a celebration of both the tireless energy of these determined women and of the joys, frustrations and general madness of a life in theatre.

Discussing what inspired him to choose this specific play, director Tony Kingston emphasised how "We Happy Few" fits BGT's agenda to promote plays written by and for women. Indeed, the aim of the theatre company's recent productions has been to shift the traditional gender imbalance in theatre and to showcase some of the female acting talent that exists in Luxembourg.

Delving deeper into the story itself, Tony explained how "We Happy Few" is based on the true story of a group of women who toured all of England performing theatre in schools and other venues where access to entertainment was limited during the Second World War. Whilst theatres largely remained open, access was often restricted in wartime. Similar to the First World War, women began to replace men in wartime industries at home, although WW2 saw this role gradually extend to the arts, including the traditionally male-dominated theatrical world. Despite this early progress, it was not until 40 to 50 years later that "gender-blind casting became a bit more mainstream", according to Tony.

"We Happy Few" is thus the untold story of women and their contribution during the Second World War. Whilst a few men do feature in the play, they are mainly in the background. 

One scene that is sure to stand out is the two-women sword fight - a sight rarely seen on stage, particularly in Luxembourg. Tony explained how the cast, especially Kim Birel and Gina Millington, had worked with a swordplay expert and dedicated a lot of their time over the summer to rehearsing this unique scene. 

Regarding his approach to casting, Tony explained that finding the "right" people to play some of the main roles was "pretty straightforward". Casting began in April this year, with auditions being held for certain parts. That being said, the play's director acknowledged that this is a very ensemble piece, where stage time is divided fairly evenly. "There is always a trade-off", he added, explaining that smaller casts (like in "The Road to Huntsville") are easier to coordinate and can focus on deeper character development, whereas with larger casts, the focus is on creating atmosphere and keeping everyone active without making it seem "overstaged or totally chaotic".
As the performance dates fast approach, rehearsals are currently "full-steam ahead" and there is still some "background work" to be done, such as finalising the programme.
Regarding how the live theatre situation has changed since “The Road to Huntsville”, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tony stressed that the introduction of the CovidCheck system is "the big game changer". The system has faciliated full cast rehearsals - there are around fifteen people in the theatre company - and spectator capacity is set at around 150, compared to around 40 as was the case for "The Road to Hunstville". 
As for what’s next for Tony Kingston, preparation is underway for the Festival of English-language School Theatre (FEST) 2022, which is scheduled for mid-March, and the director has another BGT show in the pipeline, a smaller piece expected to take place at neimënster in late September or early October 2022.
Five performances of "We Happy Few" are scheduled, on Wednesday 1, Thursday 2 and Friday 3 December at 19:30 and on Saturday 4 December at 14:30 and 19:30.
Tickets cost €20 (€12 for students) and are available from neimënster via tel.: 262-052 444 or online at