Waiting for Godot Opens at Theatre Royal, Haymarket, With McKellen Newly Joined by Rees

News   Waiting for Godot Opens at Theatre Royal, Haymarket, With McKellen Newly Joined by Rees
Last year's sell-out production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot, starring Ian McKellen as Estragon, returns to its original home at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, re-opening Jan. 27 following previews from Jan. 21.
Waiting for Godot stars Roger Rees, Matthew Kelly and Ian McKellen
Waiting for Godot stars Roger Rees, Matthew Kelly and Ian McKellen Photo by Sasha Gusov

McKellen is newly joined by Roger Rees, replacing Patrick Stewart as Vladimir, with Matthew Kelly also joining the cast to replace Simon Callow as Pozzo, and Ronald Pickup reprising his previous role as Lucky. It will run for an 11-week season, through April 3.

The production originally premiered at the Haymarket in May 2009, following a national tour, and played a sell-out season through August. It is directed by Sean Mathias, whose first production as artistic director of the Theatre Royal Haymarket company it represented. (It was followed by Breakfast at Tiffany's). Designs are by Stephen Brimson Lewis with lighting by Paul Pyant and sound by Paul Groothuis. Waiting for Godot is produced by the Theatre Royal Haymarket Company in partnership with Duncan C. Weldon Productions Ltd and Paul Elliott.

The play follows two consecutive days in the lives of Vladimir and Estragon, who divert themselves by clowning around, joking and arguing, while waiting expectantly and unsuccessfully for the mysterious Godot. The play was originally premiered in French as En attendant Godot in Paris in 1952, before receiving its English language premiere at London's Arts Theatre in 1955 in a production directed by Peter Hall. Prior to this production, it was last seen on the West End stage when Hall directed it again with Ben Kingsley and Alan Howard at the Old Vic in 1997. It was last seen on Broadway earlier this year in a production that starred Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin at Studio 54.

McKellen, who made his Beckett debut as Estragon, has previously collaborated with director Mathias in productions in which he played the title role of Uncle Vanya (at the National Theatre), the Captain in Strindberg's Dance of Death (at the West End's Lyric Theatre, and subsequently on Broadway) and Widow Twanky in the Old Vic's pantomime Aladdin in two consecutive years in 2004 and 2005. McKellen was last seen in the West End in the title role of the RSC's production of King Lear (at the New London Theatre in 2007). Among his numerous film credits, he produced and wrote the screenplay for "Richard III" and was nominated for an Oscar for "Gods and Monsters" and for Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings." He recently played in "Coronation Street" and has completed ITV's remake of "The Prisoner," and recently won the Lebedev Special Award for his contribution to Theatre at the Evening Standard Awards.

Rees, the British-born actor who has long been resident in the U.S and returns to the London stage to play Vladimir, famously reprised his performance in the title role of the RSC's adaptation of Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby in 1981, for which he won the 1982 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play; he was also Tony nominated in 1995 for his performance in Indiscretions. The latter was directed by Sean Mathias. Rees' other Broadway appearances include London Assurance in 1974, The Red Shoes in 1993 (from which he was replaced during previews), The Rehearsal in 1996 and Uncle Vanya in 2000. Other appearances Off-Broadway include starring in the original Lincoln Center Theater production of Ahrens and Flaherty's A Man of No Importance in 2002. On the London stage, he worked extensively for the RSC, and also appeared in the original productions of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing in 1982 (at the Strand Theatre, now the Novello) and Hapgood in 1988 (at the Aldwych Theatre). He has been seen on TV as a series regular in "Cheers" and has guested regularly, too, on "Grey's Anatomy," "The West Wing," "M.A.N.T.I.S" and "Law and Order". and "The West Wing" His film credits include "Almost Perfect," "The Pink Panther," "Frida," "A Christmas Carol" and "Robin Hood Men in Tights." He was previously artistic director of Williamstown Theatre Festival from 2004 to 2007. Pickup, who returns to play Lucky, has been seen in Look Back in Anger at the Theatre Royal Bath, Proof for the Donmar Warehouse, Amy's View, Peer Gynt, Three Sisters, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Richard II and As You Like It all for the National Theatre, The Norman Conquests at the Gielgud, Julius Caesar for the Royal Court, Hobson's Choice and Little Eyolf for the Lyric Hammersmith, The Cherry Orchard at the Aldwych and Uncle Vanya both on tour and for the Rose Theatre Kingston.

Kelly, who joins the company to play Pozzo, was most recently seen on the London stage in Comedians at the Lyric Hammersmith. Other major theatre appearance last year include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Trafalgar Studios), Victory (Arcola) and Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare's Globe). In 2003 he won the Olivier Award for Best Actor for playing Lenny in a stage version of Of Mice and Men, seen at the West End's Savoy Theatre. He previously played Vladimir in Waiting for Godot in a production at Oxford Playhouse, and last year was seen opposite his actor son Matthew Rixon in a production of Beckett's Endgame at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre, in which they respectively played the roles of Hamm and Clov.

Director Mathias' previous theatre credits include directing Triptych for the Market Theatre, Johannesburg and Southwark Playhouse, Ring Round the Moon at the West End's Playhouse Theatre, Uncle Vanya, Bent, A Little Night Music and Les Parents Terribles all for the National Theatre, Dance of Death in London, on Broadway and in Australia and Aladdin for the Old Vic. On Broadway he has been represented by the transfers of Les Parents Terribles (renamed Indiscretions), and Marlene, and regionally, he has directed Sondheim's Company as part of the Kennedy Center's Sondheim Celebration in Washington, DC, and The Cherry Orchard at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles with Annette Bening.

To book tickets, contact the box office on 0845 481 1870, or visit www.trh.co.uk.

Ian McKellen, Ronald Pickup, Roger Rees and Matthew Kelly in <i>Waiting for Godot</i>
Ian McKellen, Ronald Pickup, Roger Rees and Matthew Kelly in Waiting for Godot Photo by Sasha Gusov
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