Clare Higgins, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson and Mark Rylance will appear at the Royal Court during the new writing theatre’s spring/summer 2009 season.
The first half of 2009 sees the Sloane Square venue celebrate both the work of American actor/writer Wallace Shawn and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with seasons of work. Spring/summer also features the second play by That Face writer Polly Stenham, the latest piece by Jez Butterworth and the annual Young Writers Festival, which, for 2009, has named Gavin And Stacey co-writer Ruth Jones as its patron.
The Off The Wall season, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, opens proceedings in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs with new plays by Marius von Mayenburg and Mark Ravenhill. Mayenburg’s The Stone (5-28 February) is an examination of the reverberations created by 60 years of German history, while Ravenhill’s Over There (25 February-21 March) tells the story of twins divided by the wall who struggle to come together after 25 years apart. A cunning piece of casting sees twins Harry and Luke Treadaway play the separated siblings.
Both Off The Wall playwrights have previously had work staged at the Royal Court. Mayenburg’s The Ugly One was first staged in 2007 and revived a year later, while Ravenhill’s Shopping And F***ing premiered at the Royal Court in 1996.
The Wallace Shawn season spans both of the Royal Court’s theatres. The Fever (2 April-2 May) and Aunt Dan And Lemon (20 May-27 June) play Downstairs, while new piece Grasses Of A Thousand Colours (12 May-13 June) is staged in the Upstairs theatre.
In The Fever, three-time Laurence Olivier Award winner Higgins, who is currently starring opposite Ralph Fiennes in Oedipus, plays a sick traveller in a poor foreign land. As her temperature rises, she begins reassessing her impact on the world.
Horrocks leads the cast of Aunt Dan And Lemon, a tale exploring the pathways of influence, the glamour of cruelty and the dark side of nostalgia. Last on stage in the Young Vic’s production of The Good Soul Of Szechuan, Horrocks is best known for her screen appearances ranging from Bubbles in Absolutely Fabulous to The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice.
Shawn appears opposite Richardson in his own play Grasses Of A Thousand Colours, which is billed as an extreme, disturbing and funny vision of the embattled relationship between man and beast. Unforgettable as Queenie in Blackadder, Richardson started her career on the stage before making her name as a screen actress with credits including Empire Of The Sun, The Crying Game and, more recently, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. Shawn’s acting credits inlude the films Manhattan, Clueless and The Princess Bride. As a playwright he has frequently collaborated with Andre Gregory, who directs this production.
Stenham, who received much praise for her first play That Face, which debuted at the Royal Court and transferred to the West End, returns to the Upstairs theatre with new play Tusk Tusk (28 March-2 May). Directed by That Face director Jeremy Herrin, it follows three children home alone, playing hide and seek and hanging on the ring of a mobile phone.
Tusk Tusk is preceded by the Young Writers Festival, which features fully staged performances of Alia Bano’s drama about tolerance, Shades (28 January-21 February) and Molly Davies’s play about wanting a better life, A Miracle, alongside readings of pieces by Hammaad Chaudry, Nick Payne and Zawe Ashton.
The season is completed downstairs by Jez Butterworth’s return to the Royal Court with new play Jerusalem. A comic, contemporary vision of life in Britain, it tells the story of local waster Johnny Byron, a man wanted by his children, his mates, the local council officials and Troy Whitworth, who just wants to give him a kicking. Directed by former Royal Court Artistic Director Ian Rickson, Jerusalem stars Mark Rylance, who was previously Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe and more recently starred in the hit revival of Boeing Boeing. Butterworth’s previous plays at the Royal Court include Mojo, The Night Heron and The Winterling.
Royal Court Artistic Director Dominic Cooke commented: “A key part of our commitment to writers is the Royal Court’s tradition of attracting the very finest actors to our stages. Rarely has this commitment been more apparent than in the remarkable triumvirate of actresses – Clare Higgins, Jane Horrocks and Miranda Richardson – who will join us in our Wallace Shawn season, and in the exceptional talents of Mark Rylance and the Treadaway twins.
“It is impossible to express just how exhilarating it is to be Artistic Director of the unique group of people who make up the Royal Court, especially in these shifting and perplexing times. The Royal Court explores today’s headlines, tomorrow’s inheritance, and the shockwaves of our recent past. Our programme for the next six months will tackle head on what it means to be alive now, with the legacy of the last century on our shoulders.”