Phillip Breen’s lively revival of John Vanburgh’s Restoration romp, The Provoked Wife, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, has glorious parts for both Caroline Quentin and Alexandra Gilbreath.
Few other writers other than Vanbrugh simultaneously evoke quite the savage cynicism, torrential verbal wit and real anger of The Provoked Wife, this slightly alarming and ceaselessly entertaining piece about men, women, and social hypocrisies.
How many productions does it take for a playwright to have a moment? We could be on the cusp of a William Wycherley wave, with the second production of The Country Wife to arrive this year (the first being at the Southwark Playhouse in April).
Following in the footsteps of Emma Rice’s production of the same play in her final summer season at the Globe, director Christopher Luscombe moves from Nell Gwynn’s 17th century setting to a Belle Époque version of Twelfth Night.
I always find it fascinating to watch how the critical community deals with a play that becomes a big success. The overnight rush to acclaim genius, the enthusiasm with which some greet it, the scepticism that that inspires in others followed by the relief that comes when someone publishes a well-reasoned critique that allows them to say ‘well it isn’t that good, see’.
Jez Butterworth and Sam Mendes are names pretty much guaranteed to make any theatregoing regular pay attention, both are synonymous with high quality productions (Butterworth’s Jerusalem regularly crops up among best play lists while Mendes’ list of director credits is too long to replay here) and they worked together on Spectre, the most recent movie in the James Bond franchise.
Set in rural County Armagh, Northern Ireland, in August 1981, the play takes place in the Carney home. This is a farming family, who grow cereals for export, and the head of the household is Quinn Carney (Considine), a former IRA man.
The play’s the thing though and here, Butterworth has constructed a Northern Irish epic. Set at harvest-time in 1981, deep in County Armagh, the Carney clan are gathering for a humdinger of a do once the work in the field is done.
Jez Butterworth’s immense, ambitious new play takes us deep into that world and roams beyond it into universal themes of history and legend, memory and love, childhood, song and poetry and national identity and the way national dreams sour to vicious partisan expediency.
A couple of years ago the Royal Shakespeare Company paired Love’s Labours Lost with Much Ado About Nothing (renamed Love’s Labours Won) in a gorgeous setting amidst the Great War to much acclaim. This year they’ve revived the productions, with many of the original cast and have brought it to Chichester Festival Theatre ahead of the West End.
Since I got back from my month of remote working in Mallorca, I’ve been lucky enough to pack in lots of trips to the theatre, including this quintuplet of limited season plays that are all worth a look. As usual, I’ve listed productions in closing date order, and the first on the list finishes this Saturday, so don’t delay if you want to see it…
35 years after his death, Kenneth Tynan still has the power to slice through the loudest chatter a rabble of theatre-goers can summon up. In Orson’s Shadow – Austin Pendleton’s knowingly smug biography of the founding fathers who devised the blueprint for the National Theatre – the legendary critic, played by a dashing Edward Bennett, strolls onto the stage before the lights go down. Right from his nonchalant entrance and through a meta-fictional commentary that sees him refusing to leave his profession in the wings, Bennett’s character casts himself as the driving force behind this show.
WHEN LARRY MET ORSON AND KEN AND IT DIDN’T GO WELL… Sir Larry spreads his arms wide in the rehearsal room and moans “I am a giant in chains!” His director rolls his eyes. The critic-dramaturge in the corner cringes. … Continue reading →
Final casting is announced today for the European premiere of Orson’s Shadow, a critically acclaimed comedy by Austin Pendleton, about the time when Hollywood giants Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier worked together for the first time – the inspired idea of legendary theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan.
Set in 1960 backstage at London’s Royal Court Theatre, Welles has agreed to direct Olivier and Joan Plowright in a production of Eugène Ionesco’s masterpiece Rhinoceros. But with Olivier’s eccentric wife Vivien Leigh added to the volatile mix, legendary egos collide both on stage and off.
Gina Bellman will play Vivien Leigh, Edward Bennett (Kenneth Tynan), Louise Ford (Joan Plowright), John Hodgkinson (Orson Welles),Adrian Lukis (Laurence Olivier), Ciaran O’Brien (Sean).
Based on true events, Orson’s Shadow is a sharp-witted yet tender-hearted expose’ of the thin skins, hot tempers, and rampaging egos that exist when two titans of the stage and screen come together. It was nominated Outstanding Play of the Year in the Lortel Awards on its New York debut.
Produced by Emily Dobbs Productions and Smith & Brant Theatricals, Orson’s Shadow will get its European premiere, directed by Alice Hamilton, at Southwark Playhouse from Wednesday 1 July to Saturday 25 July.
Gina Bellman (Vivien Leigh)
Gina made an unforgettable TV debut when she was cast in the title role in Dennis Potter’s BBC drama, Blackeyes. She starred as Jane Christie in all four series of Steven Moffat’s award-winning Coupling in the UK and as Sophie Devereaux, “The Grifter”, an accomplished British grifter with a taste for art theft, in all five series of cult US TV series Leverage. On stage, she appeared at the National Theatre in Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years, The Crucible and in Cleo, Camping Emmanuelle and Dick. She played Marilyn Monroe in Rupert Goold’s production ofInsignificance. Her West End roles include Ophelia in Hamlet directed by Peter Hall, Karen in Speed The Plow and Janet in The Rocky Horror Show.
Edward Bennett (Kenneth Tynan)
For the Royal Shakespeare Company, Edward played Laertes in Hamlet, Demitrius, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Benedict in Love’s Labour’s Won. As part of Sam Mendes’ “The Bridge Project”, he played Oliver in As You Like It and Ferdinand inThe Tempest. He was Stanley Stubbers in the National Theatre’s One Man Two Guvnors.
Louise Ford (Joan Plowright)
Louise recently filmed We Hate Paul Revere, a TV comedy pilot. In September she starts filming Horrible Histories. On stage she recently appeared in Knight of the Burning Pestle at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse. At Shakespeare’s Globe she appeared in The Bible and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
John Hodgkinson (Orson Welles)
John recently appeared in Love’s Labour’s Lost, as Don Armado and Love’s Labour’s Won, as Don Pedro for the Royal Shakespeare Company. At the Open Air Theatre he played Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. He was last seen on stage as Sainsbury, in Donkey’s Years at the Rose Theatre, Kingston.
Adrian Lukis (Laurence Oliver)
Adrian was Geoffrey in Versailles, directed by Peter Gill at the Donmar Warehouse and Mycroft Holmes, in Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret at West Yorkshire Playhouse. On TV, he played George Whickham in Pride and Prejudice and Sir John Darnley in Downton Abbey and is series regular Blair Toast in C4’s award-winning Toast of London.
Ciaran O’Brien (Sean)
Ciaran was Jack the Ripper in BBC1’s Ripper Street. His stage roles include Gar Public in Philadelphia, Here I Come in, Manus in Translations and Curley in Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Austin Pendleton (Writer) is an Obie Award-winning actor who has appeared in more than 120 films and TV shows since the late 1960s. He is an ensemble member of the SteppenwolfTheatre in Chicago. As a writer, his plays Orson’s Shadow, Uncle Bob and Booth have all premiered Off Broadway. As a director, he was Tony nominated for directing Elizabeth Taylor in The Little Foxes. In 2012 he directed a production ofDetroit in London at the National Theatre.
Alice Hamilton (Director) is co-artistic director of Up In Arms, for whom she recently directed Linda Bassett in the award-winning Visitors at the Bush, Arcola and on a UK tour. Other directing credits include Fear of Music for Up In Arms/Out Of Joint; Missing at Tristan Bates, and At First Sight at Latitude Festival and on UK tour. She has also directed shorts for the Miniaturists at Arcola, Courting Drama at the Bush and Hatch at the Park Theatre. She was Staff Director on Man and Superman at the National Theatre.
Ruth O‘Dowd (Casting Director) As Casting Director for the Unicorn Theatre: The Velveteen Rabbit (dir. Purni Morell), Henry The Fifth (dir. Ellen McDougall), Britain’s Best Recruiting Sergeant (dir. Lee Lyford), Caucasian Chalk Circle (dir. Amy Leach), The Nutcracker (dir. Ellen McDougall), How Nigeria Became (dir. Gbolahan Obisesan) and Seesaw (dir. Sarah Argent). As Casting Associate to Anne McNulty: Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (dir. Michael Attenborough, Chichester and West End), Outside Mullingar (dir. Sam Yates, Ustinov Studio, Bath), Bakkhai (dir. James Macdonald, Almeida Theatre), and Carmen Disruption (dir. Michael Longhurst, Almeida).
Emily Dobbs Productions (Producers) was founded by Emily Dobbs. The company creates fresh, fearless and innovative theatre with a focused artistic policy that includes commissioning original adaptations, new writing and re-imaginings of classics. They have produced critically acclaimed work across London, at regional venues and in New York. Theatre includes: The Father (Trafalgar Studios), Uncle Vanya (St James’ Theatre – part of the One Stage season), Three Sisters, The Love Girl And The Innocent, The Seagull, The Only True History Of Lizzie Finn, Antigone, The Hostage (Southwark Playhouse), Cornelius (New York transfer to 59E59 Theater), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Gotcha, Stars In The Morning Skies (Riverside Studios), Dusa Fish Stas & Vi, Love On The Dole, Ours (Finborough) and Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down (Arcola). www.jaggedfence.co.uk
Smith & Brant Theatricals (Producers) Smith & Brant Theatricals is independently owned and run by the international and award-winning producers, Joseph Smith and John Brant. With a background that encompasses the commercial and subsidised sectors, Smith & Brant Theatricals are passionate about developing new work, as well as regularly collaborating on co-productions and offering general management services, supported by Robyn Keynes. Current projects include: executive producing the UK production of the Tony award-winning musicalMemphis (Shaftesbury Theatre), co-producing the comedy revival of Richard Bean’s The Mentalists (Wyndham’s Theatre), and general managing August Strindberg’s The Father (Trafalgar Studios). Previous producing credits include: The Pajama Game (Shaftesbury Theatre, 2014); How to
Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Broadway, 2011/12) starring Daniel Radcliffe; Promises, Promises (Broadway, 2010) and Jonathan Kent’s production of Sweeney Todd (West End, 2012), winner of 3 Olivier Awards including “Best Musical Revival”, 5 WhatsOnStage Awards including “Best Musical Revival” and the Evening Standard Theatre Award for “Best Musical”. www.smith-brant.com
77-85 Newington Causeway
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Wednesday 1 July to Saturday 25 July
Times: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday matinee at 3.00pm
all previews £10.00 (Wednesday 1 July – Saturday 4 July, including