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Ben Whishaw leads Almeida Greeks season

Published 12 March 2015

Ben Whishaw, Lia Williams, Bertie Carvel and Kate Fleetwood will star in the Almeida Theatre’s forthcoming season, which sees a trio of Greek tragedies – Oresteia, Medea and Bakkhai – staged at the Islington venue.

Skyfall and Paddington star Whishaw will make his Almeida Theatre debut in the role of disgruntled deity Dionysos, starring opposite Olivier Award winner Carvel, who created the role of the despicable Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical, in Euripides’ hedonistic visceral tragedy Bakkhai (23 July to 19 September).

Adapted by Anne Carson, whose adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone is currently playing at the Barbican Theatre, the electrifying tragedy follows the story of Pentheus as he bans the wild ritualistic worship of the god Dionysos, before a stranger arrives to persuade him to change his mind.

Directed by James Macdonald, Bakkhai will be staged using three actors and a chorus including Kaisa Hammarlund and Carvel’s previous Matilda co-star Melanie La Barrie. The third member of the central trio is yet to be announced.

Returning to the London stage for the first time since her 2013 performance alongside Kristin Scott Thomas in Old Times, Williams will play the vengeful Klytemnestra in the season opening Oresteia, a family drama about sparring parents that asks whether justice can ever be done.

Running from 29 May to 18 July, Oresteia, which is reimagined for the modern stage by Almeida Associate Director Robert Icke, opens at the Islington venue prior to another London production of Aeschylus’ play, adapted by Rory Mullarkey, which will be staged at Shakespeare’s Globe this summer.

The trio of Greek tragedies will be completed by Medea, in which Fleetwood takes on the role of infamous title character.

Directed by the Almeida’s Artistic Director Rupert Goold, the production will be brought ferociously to life at the venue from 25 September to 14 November.

Marking Fleetwood’s venue debut, Rachel Cusk’s adaptation of Euripides’ classic charts the story of Medea as her marriage – and everything else – begins to fall apart. Testing the limits of revenge and liberty, the play cuts into the heart of gender politics and asks what it means to be a woman and a wife.

Fleetwood, who is soon to be seen in the Old Vic’s High Society, has notched up a string of recent stage credits including the National Theatre’s Simon Russell Beale-led King Lear and unconventional musical London Road.

Talking about his forthcoming Greek season, Goold said: “At the Almeida we strive to create theatre that asks questions of its audiences, of who they are and the world they live in, work that is alive and resonant. When we came to the writers of Ancient Greece we wanted to be true to their plays – staging them in full complexity, presenting their formal iconoclasm, their humour, musicality, politics, violence and unswerving drama.

“These writers took society’s old myths and made them new: changed them, exploded them, set them loose as contemporary stories that spoke to their city. At the same time they posed big, provocative, uncomfortable questions; ones which two thousand years later we still struggle to answer. We want to follow their example. We are taking the Greeks out of the attic.”

The season of Greek classics will open at the Islington venue following the current run of Mike Bartlett’s Game and Simon Stephens’ forthcoming take on an opera classic, Carmen Disruption.

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