Imelda Staunton and Toby Jones to Star in Circle Mirror Transformation in London; Royal Court Season Announced

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19 Apr 2013

Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton

Incoming Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone has announced her inaugural season at the helm of the theatre, both at its home base in Sloane Square and further afield.

Amongst the opening slate of productions, James Macdonald will direct Imelda Staunton and Toby Jones in Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation. It will begin performances July 5, prior to an official opening July 11, for a run through Aug. 3, as part of the Royal Court's ongoing Theatre Local project of productions being staged outside the building, in this case at the Rose Lipman Building in Haggerston, London N1.

Baker has previously been represented in the U.K. by The Aliens, seen at the Bush in 2010.  Her most recent play, The Flick, has just completed a run at New York's Playwrights Horizons. Macdonald's previous directorial credits at the Royal Court include the world premieres of Caryl Churchill's Love and Information (which he will direct at New York Theatre Workshop in 2014) and Drunk Enough to Say I Love You (also at New York's Public Theater), Mike Bartlett's Cock (subsequently also Off-Broadway) and Sarah Kane's Blasted and 4.48 Psychosis.

Also as part of Theatre Local, the Royal Court will present the National Theatre of Scotland's production of David Greig's The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, beginning performances at the London Welsh Centre in Gray's Inn Road, London WC1, July 12 prior to an official opening July 15, for a run through Aug. 9, to be followed by a run at CLF Theatre in the Bussey Building in London SE15 from Aug. 5-9.

Meanwhile, Featherstone will hand over the Royal Court's Sloane Square base to a group of over 140 playwrights for a six-week festival called Open Court, running June 10-July 20, in which different plays and events will take place and ideas explored, ahead of Featherstone's first full season of plays that will start in September (with details to be announced in June).



In a press statement, she commented, "With the summer a blank canvas before my first season of plays at the Royal Court starts in the autumn, I turned to the only people who could possibly answer the question of what to do with it, how to fill it. The writers. It is because of them, after all, that we exist. I asked each member of staff here to come up with three writers each that they would like to see take over at the Royal Court and the reasons why. I then invited 80 writers to a town meeting on 14 February this year and met with a further 60 writers from all the Court's writers' programmes and laid down the challenge. I was going to give them the keys of the Royal Court for six weeks in the summer. What did they want to do with them? What ensued has been a testament to the creativity, the anarchy, the playfulness, the restless questioning of who we are and the desire to surprise and thrill an audience, of our brilliant writers. They are showing us what the Royal Court is and what it can be – as they have always done. They have started the adventure for me."

She added, "It is also thrilling to place two such exceptional plays Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker and The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart by David Greig in site specific productions, in the heart of different communities continuing and developing the work of Theatre Local."

The Open Court season will include creating a weekly repertory company, in which 14 actors and four directors will perform six new plays in six weeks, by playwrights from Britain, New York and Georgia. The plays are Lasha Bughadze's The President Has Come to See You (running June 11-15), New York-based writer Lucas Hnatch's Death Tax (running June 18-22), Suhayla El-Bushra's Pigeons (running June 25-29), Clare Lizzimore's Mint (running July 2-6), New York-based writer Nikole Beckwith's Untitled Matriarch Play (running July 9-13), and Alistair McDowall's Talk Show (running July 16-20).

Further events will include Surprise Theatre, taking place every Monday and Tuesday during the season in the Theatre Upstairs, in which a different surprise performance will be presented twice nightly and live-streamed online. It will also be made available to view subsequently for the duration of the festival.

There will also be opportunities for audiences to hear writers read their own plays aloud at secret locations around the building every Saturday, in a season called Playwright @ Your Table, with chance encounters drawn from a tombola draw with playwrights that include Caryl Churchill, David Eldridge, David Greig, Terry Johnson, Dennis Kelly, Joe Penhall, Simon Stephens, Roy Williams, Penelope Skinner, Moira Buffini, John Donnelly, Tanika Gupta and Rob Evans.

A theatrical treasure-hunt, in which writers have concealed ten new five-minute plays around the Royal Court, will be offered in which audiences can pick up headphones and go behind-the-scenes or download their own podcast to explore the nooks and crannies of the theatre's public areas at their leisure.

Royal Court playwrights Bola Agbaje and Rachel De-Iahay will work with people from the Peckham area of London to come up with ideas for a fictional soap opera from an original idea by playwright Lucy Kirkwood, that will then be played out live in front of a studio audience by actors from the local community, culminating in a Saturday omnibus edition at Peckham's Bussey Building.

Events will also be held exploring The Big Idea, including talks and plays on subjects including collaboration, death, sex, age and European austerity, as well as a week of events and workshops for children aged 8-11 and their families.

Tickets for Open Court and Theatre Local will go on sale to friends and supporters of the Royal Court April 22, and to the general public April 23. To book contact the box office on 0207 565 5000 or visit www.royalcourttheatre.com for more details.