Throughout Britain, theater is uniquely valued as the preeminent art form–deeply woven into the culture. While we continue to embrace its rich theater history, Britain continues to be an incubator of ground-breaking new work. In our globalized arts world, many would argue that London is the de-facto capital of the international theater community. The British stage balances the best of the old with a propulsive commitment to the new.
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES:
Dancing at Lughnasa
In the Olivier Theatre, London's National Theatre opens its revival of Brian Friel's Olivier-winning play Dancing at Lughnasa April 18. Previews began April 6 for the engagement which will play through May 27. It's 1936, and harvest time has come in Ballybeg, a village in the Ireland's northwestern county, Donegal. Five sisters living in poverty are struggling to raise seven-year-old Michael while also caring for their Uncle Jack. As they fight and love, yearn and survive, the family's world arrives on the brink of change during the Festival of Lughnasa where pagan and Christian traditions convene.
I’m Not Running
David Hare (Plenty, Skylight, Stuff Happens) was described by the Washington Post as ‘the premiere political dramatist writing in English.’ I’m Not Running is his explosive new play which portrays personal choices and their public consequences, through the tale of a young doctor who becomes the face of a campaign to save her local hospital. She becomes a member of Parliament, and must deal with the realities of politics when she is thrust into leadership. We talk about the multiplicity of the role with Sian Brooke, who plays the titular Pauline.
The Motive and the Cue
The Motive and the Cue, a new play by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child's Jack Thorne, officially opens at London's National Theatre May 2 following previews that began April 21.
Sam Mendes directs the play, which continues in the Lyttelton through July 15. Inspired by the making of John Gielgud’s Hamlet, as well as Letters from an Actor by William Redfield and John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet by Richard L. Sterne, the cast features Johnny Flynn as Richard Burton, Mark Gatiss as John Gielgud, Tuppence Middleton as Elizabeth Taylor, and Janie Dee as Eileen Herlie.
The new Artistic Directors of London’s cutting edge theatres – The Royal Court, the Donmar Warehouse, the Kiln Theatre, and Shakespeare’s Globe are notably women, all taking charge at theaters that have been headed by men since their foundings. Applause for Vicky Featherstone now heading the Royal Court, Josie Rourke directing the Donmar, Indhu Rubasingham leading the Tricycle, and Michelle Terry helming the Globe. Their individual merits and prior achievements make them more than worthy successors, gender aside, but their appointments also mark a major step forward for women in theater. An inspiring landmark moment as four powerful women take four powerful positions. Emily Mann, revered playwright and Artistic Director of acclaimed American theater, the McCarter, considers whether and how the British theater culture poses greater obstacles to women.
Difference Engine are taking the concept of immersive theater to a new level. The company runs various experiments including public interaction, audio installations and live pieces like Virus, an interactive virtual reality game which took place over the course of one night where audience members were forced to make a moral decision to save themselves, loved ones, or risk humanity. Their recent piece, Heist turns audience to accomplice in a complex robbery of a five story building. Again, there is an element of virtual reality as your choices affect the outcome of the crime. Aiming to combine theater, gaming and technology in an experience that evokes more of an event than a traditional play, this group of young artists are creating a new type of audience, and teaching us how to gain the most from the experience.
New American playwrights including Tarell Alvin McCraney and Christopher Shinn and mid-career writers who had found themselves marginalized in the U.S. such as Richard Nelson and Wallace Shawn have found enormous support in England. Most notably from The Royal Court Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse and the Royal Shakespeare Company. We ask Christopher Shinn to tell us about his experiences in working with a famed British theater company and how their audiences differ from American ones.
The Prince of Egypt
A new stage musical based on the DreamWorks animated motion picture The Prince of Egypt is set to open in the West End at the Dominion Theatre on February 5th. The musical features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, who write the songs of Wicked, with a book by the film’s writer Philip LaZebnik, and will be directed by Scott Schwartz. Featuring songs such as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’s hit, “Deliver Us,” plus “All I Ever Wanted” and “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” The Prince of Egypt is based on the book of Exodus and tells the story of Moses, who was born a child of Israel, and brought up in Egypt after he was found by Pharoah’s wife in a wicker basket floating on the Nile.