NEWS: Sharon D Clarke plays Ma Rainey in new NT season

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The National Theatre has announced new production dates and casting updates for its next booking period, running from January to April 2016. Highlights include: Sharon D Clarke (pictured) in the title role of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by Dominic Cooke; Katie Mitchell’s revival of Sarah Kane’s 1998 play Cleansed; Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs, directed by Yael Farber; a modern take on Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide by Suhayla El-Bushra, directed by Nadia Fall; and the New York transfer of Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Flick.

Full details of all productions follow.



Previews from 26 January, press night 2 February, in repertoire until 18 May

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM by August Wilson will be directed by Dominic Cooke, opening in the Lyttelton Theatre on 2 February. The cast is led by Sharon D Clarke as Ma Rainey, and also includes Clint Dyer, O-T Fagbenle, Tunji Lucas, Lucian Msamati and Giles Terera. The production will be designed by Ultz, with lighting by Charles Balfour, music by Tim Sutton, movement by Coral Messam and sound by Paul Arditti.

Chicago, 1927. In a recording studio on the city’s South Side, a battle of wills is raging.
Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, uses every trick in the book to fight her record producers
for control of her music. Hardened by years of ill-treatment and bad deals, she’s determined that ‘Black Bottom’, the song that bears her name, will be recorded her way. But Levee, the band’s swaggering young trumpet player, plans to catapult the band into the jazz age. His ambition puts them all in danger.

Inspired by the real-life Blues legend and infused with her music, August Wilson’s play speaks powerfully of a struggle for self-determination against overwhelming odds. August Wilson (1945-2005)’s many plays include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences and The Piano Lesson, as well as Jitney and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

Sharon D Clarke won an Olivier Award for her performance in The Amen Corner at the National in 2013; her other NT appearances include Everyman, 50 Years on Stage and Guys and Dolls. Her West End work includes the original cast of We Will Rock You, Porgy and Bess, Ghost, Hairspray, Chicago, The Lion King and Rent; and her extensive TV appearances include Holby City, The Shadow Line and The Singing Detective.

Dominic Cooke is an Associate Director of the NT. His production of Caryl Churchill’s new play Here We Go opens in the Lyttelton in November, and he directed The Comedy of Errors for the National in 2011. He was Artistic Director of the Royal Court from 2007 – 2013, where his productions included Caryl Churchill’s Identical Twins, This is a Chair, Seven Jewish Children and Ding Dong the Wicked; and The Low Road, In the Republic of Happiness, Choir Boy, Chicken Soup with Barley, Clybourne Park, Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Fever, Wig Out!, Now or Later, The Pain and The Itch and Other People. For the BBC, he has directed the forthcoming The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses; his production of Teddy Ferrara is currently at the Donmar Warehouse.


CLEANSED Dorfman Theatre

Previews from 16 February, press night 23 February, booking until 2 April with further performances to be announced.

The playwright Sarah Kane (1971-99) receives her National Theatre debut with an unflinching new production of CLEANSED directed by Katie Mitchell. It opens on 23 February, with set design by Alex Eales, costumes by Sussie Juhlin-Wallen, lighting by Jack Knowles, movement by Joseph Alford, music by Paul Clark and sound by Melanie Wilson.

Tinker practises the art of atrocity, but even he isn’t immune from the need for love. Existing on the border between beauty and brutality, CLEANSED imagines a world in which language, human relationships and the body itself are pared away to bare bone. CLEANSED contains graphic scenes of physical and sexual violence.

One of Britain’s most influential playwrights, Sarah Kane’s first play Blasted opened at the Royal Court Theatre in 1995. It was followed by the television screenplay Skin and plays Phaedra’s Love, Cleansed, Crave and 4.48 Psychosis, which was completed shortly before her suicide in 1999 and performed at the Royal Court the following year.

Katie Mitchell’s previous productions at the National Theatre include Women of Troy, Pains of Youth, Waves, Some Trace of Her, A Woman Killed with Kindness, The Cat in the Hat, Beauty and the Beast and Hansel and Gretel.



LES BLANCS Travelex £15 Tickets, Olivier Theatre

Previews from 22 March, press night 30 March, booking until 4 May with further performances to be announced

Yaël Farber directs LES BLANCS by Lorraine Hansberry, opening in the Olivier Theatre on 30 March as the first of the year’s Travelex £15 Tickets plays. The production will be designed by Soutra Gilmour with lighting by Tim Lutkin and movement by Imogen Knight. This will be the first play by Lorraine Hansberry to be produced at the National Theatre, and also Yaël Farber’s first production for the National.

An African country teeters on the edge of civil war. A society prepares to drive out its colonial present and claim an independent future. Racial tensions boil over. Tshembe, returned home from England for his father’s funeral, finds himself in the eye of the storm. A family and a nation fall apart under the pressure to determine their own identity as this brave, illuminating and powerful play confronts the hope and tragedy of revolution.

Staged eleven years after A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s final drama is an unknown masterpiece of the American stage and a highly theatrical search for the soul of post-colonial Africa. Lorraine Hansberry (1930-65) was a playwright, journalist and activist whose work includes The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and A Raisin in the Sun (1959), for which she won a New York Critics’ Circle Award – the first black playwright and the youngest American to do so.

Yaël Farber’s recent work in the UK includes The Crucible for The Old Vic, Nirbhaya at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival, and Mies Julie at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival and Riverside Studios.


THE SUICIDE Travelex £15 Tickets, Lyttelton Theatre

Previews from 6 April, press night 13 April, booking until 21 May with additional performances to be announced

THE SUICIDE by Suhayla El-Bushra, after Erdman, will open at the Lyttelton Theatre on 13 April as part of the Travelex £15 Tickets season, directed by Nadia Fall and designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting by Paule Constable.

Things are getting tough for Sam. No job, benefits stopped and stuck in a tiny flat with his girlfriend Maya and her mum. The pressure is building. It feels like there might be only one way out. But every ending is a beginning and there are plenty of people keen to capitalise on Sam’s momentous decision. From corrupt local politicians to kids trying to raise the number of views of their online videos, everyone wants a piece of Sam’s demise. It scarcely matters what Sam actually wants. Faced with the promise of immortality, what’s his life worth?

Suhayla El-Bashra takes the satiric masterpiece by Nikolai Erdman (1900-1970) and smashes it into contemporary urban Britain. Currently Writer in Residence at the NT Studio, Suhayla El-Bushra’s plays include Pigeons at the Royal Court, Cuckoo at the Unicorn,The Kilburn Passion at the Tricycle and Fingertips for Clean Break at Latitude; she was a core writer on the TV series Hollyoaks .

Nadia Fall’s productions for the NT include Our Country’s Good, Dara, Home, The Doctor’s Dilemma, Chewing Gum Dreams and Hymn; her other work includes Hobson’s Choice (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Disgraced (Bush Theatre), and Alan Ayckbourn’s Way Upstream at Chichester.


THE FLICK Dorfman Theatre

Playing from April 2016; press night to be announced.

Annie Baker’s play THE FLICK arrives at the National Theatre direct from New York, where it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Obie Award for Playwriting. The production is directed by Sam Gold, with design by David Zinn, lighting by Jane Cox and sound by Brady Poor. THE FLICK is produced in association with Scott Rudin and is currently playing at the Barrow Street Theatre, New York, having originally been produced by Playwrights Horizons.

In a run-down movie theatre in central Massachusetts, three underpaid employees mop the floors and attend to one of the last 35-millimetre film projectors in the state. Their tiny battles and not-so-tiny heartbreaks play out in the empty aisles, becoming more gripping than the lacklustre, second-run movies on screen.

With keen insight and a finely-tuned comic eye, THE FLICK is a hilarious and heart-rending cry for authenticity in a fast-changing world.

Annie Baker’s other plays include John (currently running at the Signature Theatre, New York), Circle Mirror Transformation and The Aliens (which jointly won the Obie Award for Best New American Play), and an adaptation of Uncle Vanya. All were directed by Sam Gold, who recently won a Tony Award for his direction of the Broadway musical Fun Home; his other work includes The Real Thing, The Realistic Joneses, The Village Bike and Look Back in Anger.




Previews from 27 January, press night 29 January, playing until 20 February.
Suitable for 14 years+

Sherman Cymru presents IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT by Gary Owen in the Temporary Theatre from 27 January – 20 February, following lauded runs in Cardiff and Edinburgh. It is directed by Rachel O’Riordan, with Sophie Melville recreating her award-winning performance as Effie. The designer is Hayley Grindle, with lighting by Rachel Mortimer and sound by Sam Jones.

Effie’s life spirals through a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, and a hangover worse than death the next day – till one night gives her the chance to be something more. IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT is suitable for 14yrs+. Contains strong language and themes of an adult nature.

For the NT Gary Owen has written The Shadow of a Boy. His other work includes Violence and Son at the Royal Court; Perfect Match and Mrs Reynolds and the Ruffian for Watford Palace Theatre, where he is a creative associate; Love Steals Us From Loneliness (National Theatre Wales & Sherman Cymru); Amgen:Broken, A Christmas Carol (Sherman Cymru) and The Drowned World (Paines Plough).

Rachel O’Riordan is the Artistic Director of the Sherman Theatre, where she has directed Romeo and Juliet, Arabian Nights and Sherman Cymru’s co-production with Òran Mór A Play, A Pie and A Pint: Leviathan. Before joining the Sherman, she was Artistic Director at Perth Theatre.

Sherman Cymru is one of three key producing houses in Wales, working in both English and Welsh with a particular remit for the development and presentation of new writing.



Previews from 26 February; press night 29 February, playing until 19 March.

THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER, a Graeae Theatre Company and Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production, written by Jack Thorne and directed by Amit Sharma, plays in the Temporary Theatre from 26 February – 19 March. It is a fully accessible production, integrating captions and audio description at all performances.

Phil and Alice are in love. Phil and Alice are healing wounds. Phil and Alice are desperate to communicate. Candid, uninhibited and visceral, this is an intimate, tender portrait of loss, hurt and recovery. THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER was winner of the Accessible Theatre Award 2015. It contains strong language and scenes of an adult and sexual nature.

Jack Thorne’s theatre work includes Hope (Royal Court), Let The Right One In (Dundee Rep/Royal Court/West End, NTS) and an adaptation of The Physicists (Donmar Warehouse). His new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open in the West End in 2016. His television work includes Glue, This is England 88 and 86, Skins and Shameless.

Amit Sharma is an Associate Director for Graeae. He co-directed Prometheus Awakes in 2012, marking the first large-scale outdoor production to be artistically led by Deaf and disabled people in the UK. His other work for Graeae includes Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man and Rhinestone Rollers in Sequins and Snowballs (co-directed with Jenny Sealey at Southbank Centre).

Graeae breaks down barriers, challenges preconceptions and places Deaf and disabled artists centre stage. Artistically led by Jenny Sealey MBE, Graeae’s signature characteristic is the compelling creative integration of sign language, audio description and captioning, which engages with both disabled and non-disabled audiences.


BRAINSTORM Temporary Theatre

Playing from 29 March – 2 April

Islington Community Theatre, one of the UK’s leading companies making theatre with young people, presents BRAINSTORM by Ned Glasier, Emily Lim and the company, returning to the Temporary Theatre from 29 March – 2 April following a sell-out run in 2015.

A fearless company of teenagers investigate the workings of the adolescent brain. Created with leading cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and drawing upon the life experiences of the cast, BRAINSTORM is an exploration of the most frustrating, chaotic and exhilarating changes that will ever happen to us.

Islington Community Theatre trains and supports a permanent ensemble of theatre-makers aged 11-19, all of whom are referred by teachers, youth workers or social workers as someone who will benefit from long-term involvement in the programme. BRAINSTORM was originally presented at Park Theatre and supported by the Wellcome Trust.


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Press Releases on Twitter
Press Releases
MyTheatreMates publishes a selection of daily press releases sent to us by publicists of the relevant show or theatre. We are not responsible for any inaccuracies contained within these materials.

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