Celia Imrie and Michael Feast will play Sybil Thorndike and John Gielgud in the West End production of Nicholas de Jongh’s play Plague Over England.
The drama, which shows how Gielgud’s arrest for importuning played a key role in the battle to legalise homosexuality, runs at the Duchess theatre from 11 February to 16 May (press night 23 February).
Feast and Imrie are joined in the cast by David Burt, Simon Dutton, Hugh Ross, John Warnaby, Michael Brown, Steven Hansell, Sam Heughan, Leon Ockenden. Tamara Harvey directs.
Feast, whose last West End performance came opposite Patrick Stewart in Rupert Goold’s multi-award-winning production of Macbeth, actually starred opposite Gielgud in the 1975 National Theatre production of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. Feast’s other London credits include Phaedra (Donmar Warehouse), The Accused (Theatre Royal Haymarket) and Hair (Shaftesbury theatre) along with numerous appearances at the National Theatre and Royal Court.
Imrie is best known for her television appearances in shows including Acorn Antiques, Dinnerladies, After You’ve Gone and Kingdom. A rarer visitor to the London stage, Imrie has previously appeared in productions including Habeus Corpus (Donmar Warehouse), Dona Rosita The Spinster (Almeida theatre) and The Sea at the National Theatre. Her last West End appearance came in 2005’s Acorn Antiques: The Musical, giving a performance which won her the 2006 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.
Playwright Nicholas de Jongh is better known for his comments about other productions than for writing his own; he is a theatre critic for the Evening Standard.
Plague Over England opens at the Duchess following the closure of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. The musical tale of the short but hugely influential career of the recording superstar closes on 7 February after an 18 month run.