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Samantha Barks joins Donmar autumn

Published 27 May 2014

Samantha Barks will make her Donmar Warehouse debut alongside Olivier Award nominee Rosalie Craig in City Of Angels, one of three productions to play as part of a star-studded autumn season that will also see Harriet Walter return in Phyllida Lloyd’s new all-female Shakespeare production.

Announced today at a press event hosted by the much-lauded venue’s Artistic Director Josie Rourke, the season will kick off with a 20th anniversary revival of My Night With Reg, followed by Henry IV, Lloyd’s follow up to 2012’s hugely successful Julius Caesar, and the first major revival of Cy Coleman’s classic musical City Of Angels.

First seen at the Royal Court Theatre in 1994, Kevin Elyot’s Olivier Award-winning My Night With Reg is set against the mounting AIDS crisis and defined a moment in the lives of gay men with its tale of the fragility of friendship captured through the story of the reclusive Guy and his circle of friends.

Making his Donmar Warehouse directorial debut, the theatre’s current Trainee Associate Director Robert Hastie will direct the seminal drama from 31 July (press night 5 August) to 27 September.

Described by Rourke as one of “the great plays of the past 25 years”, the revival will star Ghost Stories’ Jonathan Broadbent alongside Donmar regulars Julian Ovenden (Grand Hotel, Merrily We Roll Along) and Matt Bardock (The Dark, Frame 312). They will be joined by Donmar first-timers Richard Cant (War Horse), Lewis Reeves (Our Boys) and RSC regular Geoffrey Streatfeild.

Joking that none of the staff at the Donmar were old enough to have seen it the first time around, Rourke explained this 20th anniversary revival follows the success of The Weir and continues the venue’s aim to find “extraordinary contemporary classics and… introduce them to a new generation”.

Continuing this vision for programming with young theatregoers in mind, the director stressed the impact Lloyd’s innovative and critically acclaimed Julius Caesar had had on young people, a key reason why the production has led to both Henry IV (3 October to 29 November) and the promise of a third, as yet to be announced, production to complete a trilogy of all-female Shakespeare’s on which Lloyd and the Donmar will collaborate on.

As well as revisiting Julius Caesar’s intense prison setting, Henry IV will reunite many of the cast with the award-winning Walter once again leading the company, this time as King Henry. She will be joined by Julius Caesar cast members Jade Anouka as Hotspur and Clare Dunne as Hal, while Ashley McGuire, last seen on the London stage in the National Theatre’s Home, will take on the legendary Falstaff.

Talking about the trilogy, Rourke, who described Julius Caesar as having “rocked my world”, explained: “There’s a mission behind this work, which is a really great question about who owns Shakespeare. Yes it’s about gender, it’s also about diversity, it’s also about class and it’s also, for the Donmar and for Phyllida, how we can extend the project of these productions from beyond our stage into the lives of young people.”

While the project and script, which will amalgamate both Parts I and II of Shakespeare’s famous  plays that centre on what it means to be a king, is still in development, Rourke revealed: “It will revisit the prison definitely and so there’s just a decision as to whether or not it goes back to exactly the previous environment or something else. But I think the great tension that existed between who the characters [in Julius Caesar] were within the [prison] and who they were within the play will provide part of the narrative in the production.”

Rounding up the season is City Of Angels, which will see Barks make her Donmar Warehouse debut and return to the stage following her acclaimed appearance in the hugely successful film adaptation of Les Misérables.

Playing over the festive period from 5 December (press night 16 December) to 7 February, Barks will be joined by The Light Princess star Craig and Bark’s Les Mis stage and film co-star Hadley Fraser, who returns to the Donmar following his appearance in Coriolanus.

Directed by Rourke, who described the iconic show as having “the most glorious, iconic jazz score”, City Of Angels tells the story of a New York novelist who is asked to adapt his private detective books into a Hollywood film. The siren songs of Los Angeles prove a dangerous temptation however, and while his movie plays out in black and white, his new life is all-too colourful.

Revived two decades after it made its London premiere, Rourke explained her decision to bring the glamorous show back to the stage, saying: “It’s a wonderful celebration of the era of Hollywood, which I’ve obsessed [about] since I first started watching black and white movies as a child. One thing that excited me so much about it is the strength of these roles for women… just the wit and the sass and the sex of the show is tremendous… every line is an absolute zinger.”

While today’s press event was dominated by the creative team’s excitement for these three high-profile shows, Rourke also focused on the venue’s move to its new rehearsal and educational studio premises in Covent Garden where the launch was held.

As part of its new plans for the building that has been years in the making, a new trainee Artistic Director scheme will be launched and two high-profile artists will take residence in the building; rising star Nick Payne joins as Writer in Residence following successes with plays including Constellations, Incognito and the Donmar’s Olivier Award nominated The Same Deep Water As Me, while Michael Bruce will continue his role as Composer in Residence following his work on shows including Privacy and Coriolanus at the venue.

The new season will follow Olivier Award-winning director Lyndsey Turner’s production of Fathers And Sons, which begins previews next week.

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