Casting Announced for National Theatre Productions of Strange Interlude, The Amen Corner and Liolą

By Mark Shenton
02 Apr 2013

Plans for the National Theatre for the new booking period through August will include productions of Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude, James Baldwin's The Amen Corner and Pirandello's Liolà.



Strange Interlude will begin performances May 28 prior to an official opening June 4 in the Lyttelton Theatre, with Anne-Marie Duff returning to the National where she last played the title role of Shaw's Saint Joan, for which she won the Best Actress Awards at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards and was nominated for an Olivier. Simon Godwin will direct a cast that also includes Geraldine Alexander, Patrick Drury, Charles Edwards, Darren Pettie, Wilf Scolding and Jason Watkins.

In the play, Duff plays Nina, who — shattered when the love of her life is killed in the war and haunted by their unconsummated passion — escapes her jealous Ivy League father and embarks on a series of tawdry sexual escapades until, cajoled by her appalled, long-suffering suitor Charles, she marries the amiable young Sam. But while pregnant, Nina learns a horrifying secret that precipitates a desperate, life-changing decision and propels her fatally into the arms of another.

Duff was most recently seen on the London stage in Cause Célèbre at the Old Vic and the title role of Berenice at the Donmar Warehouse.

The Amen Corner will begin performances June 4 prior to an official opening June 11 in the Olivier Theatre. Rufus Norris directs a cast that includes Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies," and seen in the long-running U.S. TV series "Without a Trace," and Sharon D. Clarke, whose West End credits include We Will Rock You, Hairspray, Chicago and Ghost the Musical, and was previously seen at the National in Guys and Dolls. The cast also includes Eric Kofi Abrefa and Lucian Msamati. 

As the gospel singing soars in the play, Sister Margaret, uncompromising pastor of her Harlem church, has a congregation already in revolt against her hardline leadership. Their resentment escalates with the return of her absentee husband, a trombone-playing sinner, and the wayward conduct of her formerly paragon, musical son. Charges of hypocrisy hang in the air and Margaret's devout world looks perilously close to falling apart.

Liolà will begin performances July 31 prior to an official opening Aug. 7 in the Lyttelton Theatre. Former NT director Richard Eyre will return to direct the play, presented in a new version by Tanya Ronder, with a cast that includes Lisa Dwyer Hogg, James Hayes, Rory Keenan, Carla Langley, Niamh McGowan, Roxanna Nic Liam and Jessica Regan. According to press materials, the play takes us to the heart of a rural community where property and kinship provoke fierce passions. Liolà, a young man untroubled by tradition, takes the part of nature all the way.

Keenan, who plays the title role, has recently appeared in The Kitchen and Damned by Despair at the National and Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Dublin Carol at the Donmar Warehouse.

Further ahead, booking is also opening early for some November and December performances of Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner, adapted by Carl Miller, in the Olivier Theatre. Bijan Sheibani directs a classic tale of a boy learning to rely on himself and his new friends in 1920s Berlin.

Further productions have also been announced for The Shed, the temporary venue in front of the NT that provides a third stage during the Cottesloe's closure for the NT Future redevelopment. Roy Mullarkey's The Grandfathers will run July 9-13, produced by Bristol Old Vic Young company and first seen in NT Connections in 2012. The Hush, created by Matthew Herbert and Ben Power, with original music and sound scores by Herbert, will begin performances July 17 prior to an official opening July 22, for a run through Aug. 3. It is described as a unique aural adventure commissioned especially for The Shed.

HOME, created and directed by Nadia Fall, with a team of musicians and actors including Michaela Coel, Kadiff Kirwan, Grace Savage, Shakka and Toby Wharton, will begin performances Aug. 7 prior to an official opening Aug. 9 for a run through Sept. 7. In the show, verbatim material gathered through interviews combines with original and existing music to give voice to the dispossessed: all coming from a different place, all sharing a need for HOME.

Romeo and Juliet will be presented in a version for young audiences, suitable for families with children aged 8 and over, from July 24-Aug. 18, following a tour of London schools during the summer term. Presented in a version by Ben Power, and directed by Bijan Sheibani, the cast includes Esh Alladi, Ashley Chin, Natalie Dew, Tendayi Jembere, Bunmi Mojekwu and Archana Ramaswamy.

Public booking for The Amen Corner, Strange Interlude, Liolá and Emil and the Detectives opens April 19; public booking for new productions in The Shed opens May 17. To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7452 3000, or visitnationaltheatre.org.uk for more details.