By Mark Shenton
17 Feb 2014
Artistic director Tom Littler will stage the first-ever revival of Terence Rattigan's first play First Episode, co-authored with Philip Heimann, that was written in 1933 when Rattigan was still a student at Oxford University and first produced in the West End and on Broadway in 1934. Littler will also direct the first revival for over a quarter of a century of Jean-Jacques Bernard's Martine, and Abbey Wright will direct the first-ever revival of Arthur Wing Pinero's Victorian drama The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith.
The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith will begin performances at London's Jermyn Street Theatre April 8 prior to an official opening April 10, for a 4 week season through May 3. In the play, originally premiered in 1895 and not seen since, the English ex-pat community is scandalized by rumors about the latest arrivals in Venice. Lucas Cleeve, an up-and-coming politician, is travelling with a woman named Agnes Ebbsmith. Defying convention, they are refusing to marry, and living in a "compact" together. But before long their peace is shattered by the arrival of Lucas’ family from London, who want to compel him to return to his wife and career. Agnes Ebbsmith is a radical feminist preacher and writer, but can she resist the forces of the English establishment? Agnes was played in the original production by Mrs Patrick Campbell, with Johnston Forbes-Robertson as Lucas.
Pinero's better known, more frequently produced plays include The Magistrate, Dandy Dick, The Second Mrs Tanqueray and Trelawny of the Wells. Director Abbey Wright was resident assistant director at the Donmar Warehouse and staff director on Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle (NT). Recent work includes Mrs Lowry and Son (Trafalgar Studios), Dublin Carol (Donmar at Trafalgar) and Bitch Boxer (Soho Theatre).
Martine will begin performances at the Finborough Theatre April 22 prior to an official opening April 24, for a run through May 17. Written by Jean-Jacques Bernard and presented in a translation by John Fowles, it is a play that was produced all over the world during the 1920s with many leading actresses of the day in the title role, including Madeleine Renaud. It was first produced in English at the Gate Theatre in 1929, and played the West End in 1933. The last major London production was at the National Theatre in 1985, where Peter Hall directed it.
In the play, the Great War is over. It is the summer of 1920, in rural France. By a dusty road, a girl is sitting under the shade of an apple tree. She sees someone walking towards her. He is a young man, just back from fighting in Syria. He joins her under the tree, and a tragic love story begins. According to press materials, the playwright is often compared to Chekhov, and much admired by Harold Pinter, with Jean-Jacques Bernard creating a unique emotional landscape of beauty and longing, desire and disappointment.
First Episode will begin performances at Jermyn Street Theatre Oct. 28, prior to an official opening Oct. 30, for a run through Nov. 22. Based on the true story of a movie star's appearance in an Oxford student play, it revolves around Tony and David who have been best friends throughout their time at university. But does their loyalty go deeper than ordinary friendship? When Tony falls in love with the beautiful movie star Margot Gresham, in Oxford to appear in a play with the undergraduates, their relationship is put to the test.
Tom Littler, who directs both Martine and First Episode, has recently directed Dances of Death (Gate Theatre) and Good Grief with Penelope Keith (Theatre Royal Bath and tour. His productions for Primavera include The Living Room, Bloody Poetry, Anyone Can Whistle, Saturday Night, Shiverman, Madagascar and Antigone (Southwark Playhouse). He was associate director of the Peter Hall Company for three years, and worked four times as Trevor Nunn's associate. He is associate director of Theatre503.