Sinead Cusack and Ethan Hawke are among those joining Simon Russell Beale in The Cherry Orchard and The Winter’s Tale, the first double bill in director Sam Mendes’s transatlantic venture The Bridge Project, which kicks off in January 2009.
The project, developed by Mendes’s Neal Street Productions, aims to link London’s Old Vic with New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) through a series of co-productions featuring a single British/American company. The inaugural year’s double bill – Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, in a new version by Tom Stoppard, and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale – plays first at BAM from January to March 2009, followed by international residencies in Singapore, New Zealand, Spain and Germany, before arriving at the Old Vic to play in repertoire from May to August 2009.
The Bridge Project had been due to start this year with a double bill of Hamlet and The Tempest, but the season was cancelled when lead actor Stephen Dillane withdrew for personal reasons. Russell Beale, who previously worked with Mendes on Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night at the Donmar Warehouse in 2002, had already been confirmed to lead the cast in the 2009 season, playing Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard and Leontes in The Winter’s Tale.
Joining him, Cusack plays Madame Ranevskaya and Paulina. The Irish actress has worked frequently with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in London, where her credits include Our Lady Of Sligo (National Theatre), Lie Of The Mind (Donmar Warehouse) and Faith Healer (Royal Court). She received both Laurence Olivier and Tony Award nominations for her role in Stoppard’s award-winning play Rock ‘N’ Roll, which premiered in London before transferring to Broadway.
American actor Hawke plays Trofimov and Autolycus. A star of stage and screen, Hawke recently appeared on Broadway in Stoppard’s trilogy The Coast Of Utopia, receiving a Tony Award nomination. He is best known for his many films, which include Gattaca, Dead Poet’s Society, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Reality Bites and Training Day.
Two theatrical colleagues of Hawke’s, Josh Hamilton and Richard Easton, also join the inaugural season of The Bridge Project. Hamilton, who plays Yasha and Polixenes, co-founded the Malaparte Theatre Company with Hawke and also starred alongside him in The Coast Of Utopia, HurlyBurly and Things We Want. Hamilton’s other stage work includes Proof and The Violet Hour, and he has been seen on film in The Bourne Identity and With Honors. Easton (Firs and Old Shepherd/Time) appeared on stage with Hawke in Henry IV and The Coast Of Utopia and has Broadway credits including The Rivals, Noises Off and The Cherry Orchard. In the UK he has worked frequently with Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company and the RSC.
Young British actress Rebecca Hall completes the cast to date as Varya and Hermione. On stage Hall has been seen in Galileo’s Daughter (Theatre Royal Bath), As You Like It and Mrs Warren’s Profession (West End). Her recent screen work includes Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Frost/Nixon, The Prestige and Starter For Ten.
Commenting on his cast, director Mendes said: “I’m particularly looking forward to reuniting with my friend and collaborator Simon Russell Beale for what will be our seventh Shakespeare production together and thrilled that he will be leading a transatlantic company of exceptional talent. I’m also delighted to be working with two of the greatest theatres in the world and continuing my relationship with their artistic directors, Joe Melillo [BAM] and Kevin Spacey”.
Exact dates for the double-bill’s stay at the Old Vic are yet to be announced. Artistic Director Spacey said: “I couldn’t be happier to be announcing such wonderful casting for the first year of this ambitious and thrilling venture with Sam and BAM.”
Booking for The Bridge Project opens in October 2009.