Boris exits the race to become Prime Minister—but a Shakespearean biography to follow.
It was a week in which the theatre simply couldn’t compete. In the wake of the June 23 U.K. referendum that led to a vote for the country to withdraw from membership of the European Union, both of Britain’s major political parties went into meltdown, with the Opposition Labour party Members of Parliament launching a full-on attack on their elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. Then, the ruling Tory Party’s election to replace its leader, David Cameron—who had announced his intention to stand down as Prime Minister after the failure of his campaign to remain in the Union—broke down into its own civil war.
At the eleventh hour, just as former London Mayor Boris Johnson who had led the Brexit campaign with fellow Tory Party cabinet minister Michael Gove was about announce his candidature for the post, Gove himself trumped him by declaring Johnson’s unsuitability for office, and saying he was standing himself. Johnson immediately withdrew from the race.
As veteran British political playwright David Hare has suggested in an article for The Guardian, “It’s a revolution, and like all revolutions, it will eat its own. Nobody yet knows who’s going to end up with an ice-pick through their skull, but history had told us it was likely to be Boris Johnson. People who professed themselves shocked to discover, post-referendum, that Johnson told lies are like people who complain that Barbra Streisand sings. It’s what they do for a living.”
When Gove announced his candidature, Johnson’s father, Stanley, was reported to have said, “Et tu, Michael?” invoking the betrayal of Julius Caesar by Brutus in Shakespeare’s play. And as another Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff has commented, “There is something about the ruthlessness of it all—Boris felled by his trusted friend and deputy, just as he was within touching distance of the thing he has wanted all his life—that takes the breath away. This was perhaps the most vertiginous fall in modern political history. Seven days ago the party was bracing itself for BoJo, trying to bury all those nagging doubts about his suitability for high office. Now he is yesterday’s man, seemingly undone like all good tragic heroes by his own fatal flaws. What rich insights he now has to draw upon for his most pressing current professional commitment, a forthcoming biography of Shakespeare.”
Johnson is nothing if not resilient, and at least he has a book in the works. And here’s one that theatre people will be dying to read.
Faith Healer revived at London’s Donmar Warehouse with Tony winner Stephen Dillane.
The Tony-winning actor Stephen Dillane—who won the accolade for transferring to Broadway in 2000 in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Stoppard’s The Real Thing—has returned to the Donmar to star in a new production of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer. The play originally debuted on Broadway in 1979 in a short-lived production that starred James Mason, but has since become a contemporary classic.
Lyndsey Turner, who directed Machinal on Broadway and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet in London, is at the helm of a production that has already received two five-star notices since opening June 28. In The Guardian, Michael Billington dubbed it, a “magical play” and a “beautiful revival,” and concluded his review with this lovely anecdote: “More than ever, the play struck me as a masterpiece: one in which Friel wrestles with the artist’s dependence on the unpredictability of inspiration. I was reminded of a famous story of Laurence Olivier who, having given a spectacular performance as Othello, was found in despair at curtain-fall. Told he had been brilliant, Olivier said: ‘Of course, I fucking know it, but I don’t know WHY.’ That sense of inexplicable mystery lies at the heart of Friel’s play.”
In my own five-star review for The Stage, I wrote of the play that it has been “done and redone in productions that have variously starred Patrick Magee, Helen Mirren, Ken Stott, Ian McDiarmid, Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones, among others, it now gets a cast to match any of those illustrious names in the superlative company of Stephen Dillane, Gina McKee and Ron Cook (the latter returning to the role of the manager, Teddy, that he previously played in a production in New Haven in 1994). ... Dillane’s Frank—perplexed, humbled and overwhelmed by the erratic nature of the gifts he may have—is poetic and powerful. Gina McKee brings a keen intelligence to the role of Frank’s wife, locked into an angry co-dependence with him. But best of all may be Ron Cook’s Teddy, providing the evening’s only laughs as he tells of some of the previous acts he has represented, but also full of humanity and humility.”
Adam Cooper to star in world’s first immersive ballet.
The worlds of classical ballet and immersive theatre will collide for the first time this Christmas, when the seasonal favourite The Nutcracker will be staged in a 360-degree immersive environment being created in a new a 20,000 square foot temporary structure at Wembley Park, near the famous North London sports stadium, for performances from November 30-January 8.
Adam Cooper, who originated the role of the Swan in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake in the West End and on Broadway, will star as Uncle Drosselmeyer in a production directed and choreographed by Olivier-winning William Tuckett. In a press statement, he Tuckett commented, “This is a completely fresh approach to a classic ballet. We’re excited that our production will enable us to bring the world of the Nutcracker to the widest possible audience; a world in which families can interact with dancers, visit our toy factory and travel through snow-topped trees. A cast of world class performers and classical dancers will make this a production that, whilst reimagining Tchaikovsky’s score, keeps all the beauty of the Sugar Plum Fairy and all the wonder of Drosselmeyer’s magic.”
Dinner theatre comes with a Twits twist.
Another interactive show heading to London will see theatregoers invited to join Roald Dahl’s (in)famous Twits family for Dinner at the Twits, beginning performances September 8 at the Vaults, near Waterloo station. The show marks the first time one of Roald Dahl’s titles has been adapted into a production specifically for adults. According to press materials, the evening will include a banquet of deliciously disgusting dishes, to be enjoyed with homemade cocktails: Mr. Twit’s special brew and Mrs. Twit’s potent punch.
More production and casting news...
The current West End production of the musical Funny Girl, currently at the Savoy Theatre through October 8, has announced plans to launch a U.K. tour that will kick off from Manchester February 20, 2017. There is no word yet on who will play the title role of Fanny Brice.
The Donmar Warehouse has announced two new productions for the fall season. This adds to the lineup of the previously announced repertoire of all-female Shakespeare productions that will be play at King’s Cross Theatre. Actor, playwright and director Kwame Kwei-Armah is to return to the London stage to direct the U.K. premiere of Kemp Powers’s One Night in Miami..., beginning performances October 6, with a cast that includes Broadway actor Francois Battiste as Malcolm X. Josie Rourke (currently transferring the Donmar’s Privacy to New York Public Theatre) will direct Gemma Arterton in the title role of Shaw’s St Joan, beginning performances December 9.
For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com—and follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.