The New Year at Royal Court will also feature new plays by Mark Ravenhill (starring twin acting brothers Harry and Luke Treadway) and Marius von Mayenburg — both presented as part of a season of new plays about Germany being staged under the umbrella title "Off the Wall" — as well as plays by Polly Stenham (whose first Royal Court play That Face transferred from the Theatre Upstairs to the West End's Duke of York's) and Jez Butterworth (starring Tony winning actor Mark Rylance).
The Wallace Shawn season will comprise revivals of his plays The Fever, starring Higgins, and Aunt Dan and Lemon, starring Horrocks, both of which Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke will stage in the mainhouse Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. There will also be the premiere of Grasses of a Thousand Colours, which Shawn's longtime directorial collaborator André Gregory will stage in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, with a cast that includes Richardson and Shawn himself.
The Fever, which was originally written by the playwright to be performed for small audiences in apartments and was adapted for a film in 2004 that starred Vanessa Redgrave, will begin performances April 2, 2009, prior to an official opening April 6, for a run to May 2. Aunt Dan and Lemon, which originally premiered at the Royal Court in 1985, will begin performances May 20, prior to an official opening May 27, for a run to June 27. Grasses of a Thousand Colours will begin performances May 12, prior to an official opening May 18, for a run to June 13.
In a press statement, Cooke said, "Wallace Shawn is a true iconoclast and I have been a fan of his work for many years. He is a daringly inventive, experimental playwright who exposes, with painful honesty, the dualities of liberalism in a divided world. Following the debates I've explored in The Pain and The Itch, Rhinoceros and Now or Later, I hope to continue my own examination of what it means to be a liberal humanist in the twenty-first century with revivals of Wallace's classics The Fever and Aunt Dan and Lemon. These will play alongside an extraordinary new play, directed by the legendary André Gregory, and a series of readings of Wallace's earlier plays, starting with his debut piece The Hotel Play, directed by David Hare."
Cooke adds, "A key part of our commitment to writers is the Royal Court's tradition of attracting the very finest actors to our stages. Rarely has this commitment been more apparent than in the remarkable triumvirate of actresses – Clare Higgins, Jane Horrocks and Miranda Richardson – who will join us in our Wallace Shawn season, and in the exceptional talents of Mark Rylance and the Treadaway twins." Rylance, who returns to the London stage from his Tony-winning triumph in Boeing-Boeing, will star in the world premiere of Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, which begins performances July 10 prior to an official opening July 15, for a run to Aug. 15, in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. It will be directed by Ian Rickson, former artistic director of the Royal Court, returning there for the first time since he directed The Seagull, the final production of his tenure, which is currently on Broadway. Butterworth's previous plays at the Royal Court include The Winterling, The Night Heron and Mojo. The new play is described as "a comic, contemporary vision of life in our green and pleasant land" and is set on St. George's Day on the morning of a local county fair. Johnny Byron, local waster and modern day Pied Piper, is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his children want their dad to take them to the fair, Troy Whitworth wants to give him a serious kicking and a motley crew of mates want his ample supply of drugs and alcohol.
Luke and Harry Treadway will star in the premiere of Mark Ravenhill's Over There, co-produced with Berlin's Schaubühne Theatre and presented as part of the Royal Court's Off the Wall season of new plays about Germany, in the Jerwood Theatre Downstiars. It will begin performances Feb. 25, prior to an official opening March 2, for a run to March 21. According to press materials, Ravenhill's visceral new play examines the hungers released when two countries, separated by a common language, meet again. When Franz's mother escaped to the West with one of her identical twin boys, she left the other behind. Now, 25 years later, Karl crosses the border in search of his other half. As history takes an unexpected turn, the brothers must struggle to reconnect. It is being directed by Ramin Gray.
Gray also directs The Stone, a new play by Marius von Mayenburg, which launches the season, beginning performances Feb. 5, prior to an official opening Feb. 9, for a run to Feb. 28, in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. The play examines the reverberations created by 60 years of German history. Von Mayenburg's The Ugly One and Fireface have previously been produced at the Royal Court.
In a press statement Cooke said of this pair of plays, "The Royal Court must constantly seek to examine and explain the world beyond our borders. 2009 is a year of anniversaries for Germany, marking both the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 60th anniversary of its division into East and West. The Royal Court will present British theatre's first marking of these momentous anniversaries, with new plays by Britain's Mark Ravenhill and the German writer Marius von Mayenburg."
The rest of the season in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs will see two new plays being presented as part of the Young Writers Festival 2009: Alia Bano's Shades, directed by Nina Raine (performances begin Jan. 28), and Molly Davies' A Miracle, directed by Lyndsey Turner (performances begin Feb. 27). Polly Stenham's latest, Tusk Tusk, will also be presented. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, performances will begin March 28.
In his press statement, Cooke added, "In the summer of 2006, among hundreds of others, three remarkable scripts came out of our Young Writers Programme, written by three first-time writers: Bola Agbaje, Polly Stenham and Alexandra Wood. A year later, those scripts had received full productions at the Royal Court. Two years later, they had won, between them, an Olivier Award, an Evening Standard Award, a Critics' Circle Award, a TMA Award and a George Devine Award. One transferred to the West End, and another came back to the Royal Court and packed out our main auditorium. The three young women who wrote these plays are all still in their 20s, and I am happy to say that all three are still linked to, and writing for, the Royal Court. I am delighted to announce the return of Polly Stenham with her new play, Tusk Tusk, developed for the Royal Court, and the arrival of two very exciting new talents in Alia Bano and Molly Davies, both graduates of our peerless Young Writers Programme. Alia and Molly's plays will headline our Young Writers Festival in January 2009, under the guidance of the Festival's patron, the wonderful comedy writer and actress Ruth Jones."
He concludes, "It is impossible to express just how exhilarating it is to be Artistic Director of the unique group of people who make up the Royal Court, especially in these shifting and perplexing times. The Royal Court explores today's headlines, tomorrow's inheritance, and the shockwaves of our recent past. Our programme for the next six months will tackle head on what it means to be alive now, with the legacy of the last century on our shoulders."
To book tickets for productions at the Royal Court, call the box office at 020 7565 5000 or visit www.royalcourttheatre.com.