Butterworth Premiere Replaces Churchill Play at London’s Royal Court

News   Butterworth Premiere Replaces Churchill Play at London’s Royal Court A new play by Jez Butterworth, The Winterling, will fill the gap in the Royal Court’s 50th anniversary season left by the withdrawal of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine.

The Winterling will be helmed by the Court’s artistic director, Ian Rickson, and after a week of previews it will open March 9, running until April 8.

Rickson, who was due to direct Cloud Nine, also directed Butterworth’s previous Royal Court offerings, Mojo and The Night Heron, which premiered in 1995 and 2002, respectively.

Casting has yet to be announced for The Winterling, which is set in rural Devon, South West England. The five-hander centers on a man waiting in a barn for two other men from London to complete some unfinished business.

The Court’s spokesman described the play as having the same sense of menace as Mojo, Butterworth’s stage debut.

The Royal Court has been on the lookout for a play to fill the gap in its 50th anniversary season since Caryl Churchill withdrew the rights to Cloud Nine on the grounds that she did not want to be distracted from writing her latest play. But there has been speculation that Churchill was unhappy at the inclusion of the season’s most high profile contributor, Tom Stoppard, whose new play Rock ‘N’ Roll, which is to be directed by Trevor Nunn, opens at the Royal Court in June 2006.

The rumors increased last month when William Gaskill, who was artistic director of the Royal Court from 1965-1972, withdrew his "Ulysses" play Sirens from the 50th anniversary celebrations. Gaskill made plain his motives. “Stoppard and Nunn have no connection to the Royal Court, but they obviously feel they have a right to do a play there,” the Royal Court veteran is reported to have said last December.“The Royal court should steer a different course from the big battleships.”

The LAMDA student production of Churchill’s 1982 play Top Girls, also part of the Royal Court’s 50th anniversary program, remains unaffected.