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Fiona Shaw brings Mary to Barbican

First Published 29 October 2013, Last Updated 30 October 2013

Acclaimed actress Fiona Shaw will recreate her performance as the mother of Jesus in the Tony Award nominated production of The Testament Of Mary when it is staged at the Barbican in May 2014.

The Olivier Award-winning performer played the role when the play, adapted by Colm Tóibín from his own Man Booker Prize nominated novel, ran on Broadway earlier this year. The production, as with the novel before it, gives a voice to the Virgin Mary as she attempts to cope with the events leading up to the execution of her son and his death.

Speaking about the production, Shaw, who is directed in the show by long-time collaborator Deborah Warner, said: “It’s a chance in a lifetime to play the Virgin Mary and not in a nativity play! This is a most secular piece where a mother is deserted by her son and she in turn deserts him. The playing of this universal mother-son story has in it the spirit not of religion, but of ordinary life – the loss of a child as he grows and leaves and the self-loathing of not being the mother she wanted to be. Mary’s anger and despair are all new emotions rarely associated with the woman who was washed clean by church history. And of course it is fiction so the truths are of the imagination not of history. I am delighted to play this at the Barbican where London meets the world.”

The run, the only UK performances of the production, was announced as the Barbican revealed its spring/summer 2014 season.

Barbican Artistic Associates Cheek By Jowl return to the venue with two previous popular productions, John Ford’s tale of siblings’ descent into hell ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore, first staged at the venue in 2012, and Alfred Jarry’s scandalous satire Ubu Roi, which was seen by Barbican audiences earlier this year.

Star of Palme d’Or nominee The Great Beauty and Cannes prize winners Il Divo and Gomorrah, Toni Servillo will direct and star in Eduardo De Filippo’s Inner Voices (Le Voci Di Dento) in March. Set in the aftermath of the Second World War, the plot sees Alberto accuse his neighbours of murder. His actions set a family against each other as suspicions and betrayal take hold.

A trio of shows have also been revealed for the Barbican’s section of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) 2014, playing in June. German company She She Pop bring their dads to the stage to explore the complex dynamics between generations in Testament, Korean American playwright Young Jean Lee delves into the African American experience in satire The Shipment and Russian director Dmitry Krymov uses supersized puppets and dueling pianos in Opus No. 7, a work using beguiling images to depict the oppression of Soviet Jews under Stalin.

Among the other treats on offer at the Barbican next year are multimedia piece Kiss & Cry, which sees hands perform ballet, and the mix of motion-sensing technology and choreography Zero Point, which play as part of digital arts celebration Digital Revolution, alongside musical celebrations of Sir Harrison Birtwhistle’s 80th, Bernard Haitink’s 85th and Nonesuch Records’ 50th birthdays, and the previously announced transfer for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Henry IV Parts I & II.        

The new season of shows will have a tough benchmark to beat as the multi-art venue had its most successful year ever in 2012/13, topping the 1 million visitor mark for the first time ever, an increase of 36% on the previous year.


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