London's National Theatre Season to Include Fiona Shaw in Scenes from an Execution and James Graham's This House
By Mark Shenton
The new season at London's National Theatre, running through November, is to include a new production of Howard Barker's Scenes from an Execution starring Fiona Shaw, the premiere of James Graham's This House and Tirso de Molina's Damned For Despair.
This House, which will begin performances Sept. 18 prior to an official opening Sept. 25, will run in repertoire in the Cottesleo Theatre through Dec. 1. Jeremy Herrin will direct a cast that includes Phil Daniels, Philip Glenister and Julian Wadham. Set in 1974, when the U.K. faces economic crisis and a hung parliament, the play goes behind-the-scenes of Westminster, looking at the party whips who roll up their sleeves and on occasion bend the rules to shepherd and coerce a diverse chorus of MPs within the Mother of all Parliaments. Daniels has previously appeared at the National in Carousel, The Dealer's Choice and The Winter's Tale. His screen credits include "Quadrophenia," "Scum," "Breaking Glass," "EastEnders" and Blur's "Parklife."
Scenes from an Execution, which will begin performances Sept. 27 prior to an official opening Oct. 4 in the Lyttelton Theatre, will be directed by Tom Cairns, with Fiona Shaw leading the cast as Galactia, who, commissioned to paint a vast canvas celebrating the triumphant Battle of Lepanto, creates instead a breathtaking scene of war-torn carnage. In her fierce determination to stay true to herself, she alienates the authorities and faces incarceration. Her younger lover Carpeta is approached to take over and seizes the assignment for himself. According to press materials, the play makes sixteenth-century Venice the setting for a fearless exploration of sexual politics and the timeless tension between personal ambition and moral responsibility, between the patron's demands and the artist's autonomy. Shaw has previously appeared at the National many times, including productions of London Assurance, Mother Courage and Her Children, Happy Days (also Paris, Madrid, Epidaurus, Washington, New York, Amsterdam and Dublin), Richard II, The Good Person of Sichuan (Critics' Circle Award for Best Actress), The Powerbook and Machinal (Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Actress).
Damned for Despair, which begins performances Oct. 2, prior to an official opening Oct. 10 in the Olivier Theatre, is directed by Bijan Sheibani, and is the final production in this year's Travelex £12 tickets season. The cast includes Sebastian Armesto, Bertie Carvel, Rory Keenan and Amanda Lawrence. Written in 1635 by the great Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina, it is presented in a new version by Frank McGuinness. It is described as a fast-paced adventure story embracing bandits and beautiful women between glimpses of heaven and hell. Obsessed with his own salvation, the hermit Paulo (Armesto) dedicates himself to ten years of prayerful penance. When his faith wavers, the ever-watchful Devil seizes the moment to convince him that he shares the fate of one Enrico (Carvel), a notorious Neapolitan gangster destined for damnation. Swearing vengeance, Paulo lashes out against God and assembles a band of rival outlaws. And yet, even as their villainous crimes escalate, the possibility of redemption hovers over the two men, perhaps within reach.
Public phone/online booking for new productions in the June to November period opens June 22. To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7452 3000, or visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.
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