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Caryl Churchill (Photo: Stephen Cummiskey)

Caryl Churchill (Photo: Stephen Cummiskey)

Churchill opens Royal Court 60th year

First Published 12 October 2015, Last Updated 16 October 2015

The world premiere of a new play by renowned writer Caryl Churchill will open the Royal Court’s 60th anniversary season as part of an exciting programme including six world premieres and a new partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas.

Describing the theatre as “60 years new” at a press launch led by Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, the year-long celebration of the legendary venue’s milestone birthday will include a hefty six world premieres, five UK and worldwide collaborations and a brand new strategy to put young people at the heart of the theatre, including the return of Open Court.

Churchill’s Escaped Alone will open the season from 21 January in the theatre’s Downstairs space, reuniting the seminal Royal Court regular with her former collaborator director James Macdonald.

An apocalyptic drama, Escaped Alone will tell the story of three old friends and a neighbour who sit drinking tea while the end of the world approaches.

The Downstairs season will continue its science fiction theme for Alistair McDowall’s space-set drama X, which plays under the direction of Featherstone from 30 March.

The new play from the writer of the hugely successful recent National Theatre hit Pomona tells the story of a skeleton crew who are stationed to a research base on Pluto. When they lose contact with Earth, they are unable to do anything but wait; time eating away at them as their sanity lies in the balance.

The third production in the Downstairs season marks a new partnership between the Royal Court and Berlin’s legendary Schaubühne, as innovative director Katie Mitchell collaborates with Alice Birch on Ophelias Zimmer, a new exploration of Hamlet’s female protagonist Ophelia.

Playing from 17 May, the run will follow a European premiere in Berlin this December and will be presented at the Royal Court in its original German translation with English surtitles.

The world premiere of Unreachable, a new devised production directed and written by Anthony Neilson, follows from 1 July to tell the story of a film director on the obsessive quest to capture the perfect light.

Completing the Downstairs season from 15 September is Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), a new 19th century play directed by Jo Bonney about a Texas slave who is promised his freedom if he joins his master in the ranks of the Confederacy against the Union.

The theatre’s intimate Jerwood Theatre Upstairs’ season is equally diverse, with five new plays taking audiences from Middlesex to South Africa for tales of everything from foxes taking over the streets of London to the timely issue of FGM.

Pomona director Ned Bennett will open proceedings with Anna Jordan’s critically acclaimed YEN, which transfers following its premiere at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Playing from 22 January, the Bruntwood Prize-winning piece tells the story of two teenage boys who are home alone in Feltham with PlayStation and porn to keep them entertained until the arrival of Jenny turns everything upside down.

Described by the Guardian in its five star review as “extraordinary”, the Royal Court run will reunite its original cast Alex Austin, Sian Breckin, Jake Davies and Annes Elwy.

The play will be followed from 25 February by Olivier Award-winning actor Noma Dumezweni’s directorial debut with Post-Apartheid South Africa-set drama I See You, a co-production with Johannesburg’s Market Theatre.

Created by Handspring Puppet Company’s Mongiwekhaya, the challenging piece, based on the real story of a young student accused of a crime he didn’t commit, addresses the questions of a new generation of South Africans encountering their country’s traumatised past.

Featherstone will take her second directorial credit in the season with David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue, which follows from 5 April.

A co-production with Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, the story centres on Belfast Loyalist Eric Miller, a man obsessed with both his belief that his cultural heritage is under siege and the fact that his granddaughter is in fact Gerry Adams.

Taking things in an entirely different direction, Stef Smith’s tale of a city where nature is out of control, Human Animals, plays from 18 May.

Directed by Royal Court Associate Director Hamish Price, the dystopian vision sees mice scratching between walls, pigeons deceased and foxes ruling the streets as humans are forced to take action before it’s too late.

Completing the season are two dramas about family secrets, Charlene James’ Cuttin’ It (from 24 June) and actor Nathaniel Martello-White’s debut Royal Court play Torn (from 7 Sep).

Directed by Gbolahan Obisesan, Cuttin’ It centres on two teenagers, both born in Somalia but from very different worlds. Tackling the urgent issue of FGM in the UK, as the girls get closer, they discover their families share the same painful secret.

In Martello-White’s Torn, generations of family secrets have broken up the Brook family, but one member is determined to sift through the wreckage and confront the truth.

If the packed programme didn’t mean the Royal Court would be busy enough for its 60th birthday year, it also announced a line-up of events to run alongside.

Continuing its commitment to the development of international writing, the theatre will present readings of plays developed with Syrian and Lebanese writers (7 to 12 March) and partner with annual festival LIFT to present a series of works developed with the theatre’s international communities (June). The year will also launch a series of new initiatives to help get young people involved in the theatre, as well as to take its work outside of its Sloane Square surroundings, both continuing to create work with local artists, schools and organisations in Pimlico and Tottenham, and through a new partnership with Piccadilly’s Picturehouse Cinema, with a gala season of screenings of past Royal Court work planned.

Speaking about the hugely exciting year ahead, Featherstone described the season as “undoubtedly among one of the most internationally outward-looking years the Royal Court has ever seen,” concluding: “The Royal Court has been unique for 60 years – I look forward to launching it into the next 60.”

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