Previews began May 29 for the new play, which features direction by Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, nominated again this season for his direction of Hairspray. The Guare play — adapted from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page as well as the Columbia Pictures film it inspired — plays National’s Olivier Theatre through Nov. 22.
Alex Jennings and Zoë Wanamaker star as, respectively, editor Walter Burns and his ex-wife and star reporter Hildy Johnson. The company also includes Helen Anderson-Lee, David Baron, Sam Beazley, Paul Benzing, Paul Birchard, Judith Coke, Dermot Crowley, Tim Donoghue, Kieran Flynn, Demetri Goritsas, Mike Grady, Stephen Greif, Paul Grunert, Tony Haygarth, Richard Hollis, Richard Lintern, Penelope McGhie, Breffni McKenna, Nathan Osgood, David Ross, Christopher Ryan, Kerry Shale, Nicola Stephenson, Russell Tovey, Harry Towb, Margaret Tyzack and Andrew Westfield.
The creative team comprises Bob Crowley (designer), Mark Henderson (lighting) and Colin Pink (sound) with music by Neil McArthur and Jonathan Cooper.
Part of Nicholas Hytner’s first season as director of the National Theatre, His Girl Friday, says director Hytner, “nails the press, and rakes in the laughs.” The press statement adds, “They're newspaper men, Mollie. They can't help themselves. The Lord made them that way. . . . He'll stop at nothing to block his ex-wife's wedding. She'll sell her soul for a scoop. He'd kill his mother to get elected. He shot a man because he could.”
The battle of the sexes approach is taken from the 1940 Cary Grant Rosalind Russell movie. Hecht and MacArthur's original set up a love-hate relationship between ace reporter Hildy Johnson, who is trying to leave the newspaper racket, and hard-boiled editor Walter Burns, who wants to keep him on the beat. The Howard Hawks film, looking for a romantic angle, made Hildy a woman and Burns' ex-wife, on the brink of remarrying. The "His Girl Friday" plot has since proved more popular with both audiences and interpreters. Hecht and MacArthur both began their careers as reporters. The Front Page is still considered the best play ever written about the newspaper business.
Playwright John Guare has written Cop, Bosoms and Neglect, The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun and Chaucer in Rome. He also wrote the books for the musicals Two Gentlemen of Verona and Sweet Smell of Success. Guare received a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical (with Mel Shapiro) for the former and a Tony nomination for the latter.
Tickets to His Girl Friday — priced between £10 and £25 — are available by calling 011 44 20 7452 3000.