Benedict Cumberbatch leads the cast of European classics Rhinoceros and The Arsonists, playing in rep at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs this autumn, while five contemporary international plays run upstairs.
Cumberbatch is a familiar face on both stage and screen. He has worked extensively at the Almeida, appearing in The Lady From The Sea, Period Of Adjustment and Richard Eyre’s multi-award-winning production of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Performance Laurence Olivier Award in 2006. His television work includes Tipping The Velvet, Cambridge Spies and Hawking, which won him a BAFTA nomination. On the big screen he has appeared in Starter For Ten and Amazing Grace and will soon be seen in Atonement and The Other Boleyn Girl.
In Eugène Ionesco’s satire Rhinoceros, in a new version by Martin Crimp, Cumberbatch plays Berenger, a man whose whole world comes under threat when a rhinoceros charges across the town square one Sunday afternoon. The play is directed by Royal Court Artistic Director Dominic Cooke. Cumberbatch also leads the cast of Swiss playwright Max Frisch’s The Arsonists, directed by Ramin Gray, a parable about accommodating the very thing that will destroy you.
Rhinoceros opens on 29 September (previews from 21 September) while The Arsonists opens on 6 November (previews from 1 November); the two plays run in repertoire with the same cast until 15 December. Details of who is joining Cumberbatch in the cast have not yet been released.
Meanwhile, in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Cooke honours his commitment to making internationalism one of the Royal Court’s core principles with a season of plays by contemporary international playwrights. They are: The Ugly One by Germany’s Marius von Mayenburg (13 Sep-13 Oct), Kebab by Gianina Carbunariu from Romania (19 Oct-3 Nov), Free Outgoing by Indian playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar (8-24 Nov) and a double bill of The Good Family by Sweden’s Joakim Pirinen and The Khomenko Family Chronicle by Natalia Vorozhbit of the Ukraine (30 Nov-21 Dec).
Speaking about his decision to stage the plays, Cooke said: “The Royal Court has always been an international theatre, and I intend to celebrate that with the very best drama, new and old, from around the world. Here at the Royal Court, we believe in developing playwriting talent from the grass roots. Each of the writers in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs this season has had an ongoing relationship with the Royal Court’s International Department. These complement our shows in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, which plug back into the early internationalist days of the Court, and a spirit of European iconoclasm.”