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Stephens and Scott reunite for Royal Court spring

Published 13 November 2013

The Royal Court theatre will present six new plays from writers including Simon Stephens and John Donnelly next year, with popular actors Andrew Scott and Russell Tovey also set to return to the venue.

The programme announced today by the venue’s Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone runs from January to July 2014 and also reveals a new direction for the acclaimed Sloane Square venue, with three of the plays presented in collaboration with regional theatres across the UK, enabling the work to reach a wider audience.

“I am thrilled to be announcing the Royal Court season from January to July 2014,” Featherstone commented. “With six fantastic new plays from Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Tim Crouch, John Donnelly, Vivienne Franzmann, Jennifer Haley and Simon Stephens – each pushing the boundaries of storytelling and theatre to ask the vital question of what it means to be alive today – the range and subject of these plays will hopefully challenge, thrill and delight audiences. As well as three home-grown commissions the Royal Court is beginning its new commitment to significant co-productions with several wonderful partners outside London as well as Clean Break. This means that for the writers and audiences the work will have as wide a reach as possible.”

The season will open on 13 January in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs with The Pass, Royal Court Young Writers Programme graduate Donnelly’s new work about two rising football stars whose careers are threatened even before they’ve made their team debuts.

The agile work exploring sex, fame and how much people are willing to lose in order to win will be directed by new Royal Court Associate Director John Tiffany, whose production of Let The Right One In opens next month at the venue. Being Human star Tovey, whose many theatre credits include A Miracle and Plasticine at the Royal Court theatre, and The History Boys and His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, will lead the cast alongside Gary Carr (Earthquakes In London, National Theatre) and Upstairs Downstairs star Nico Mirallegro, who both make their Royal Court debuts in the football drama.

The piece will be followed in the venue’s intimate upstairs theatre by the first co-production of the season, Mogadishu playwright Vivienne Franzmann’s Pests (27 March to 3 May), which is co-commissioned by Manchester’s Royal Exchange and leading theatre company Clean Break, whose Head of Artistic Programme Lucy Morrison directs.

Continuing the critically acclaimed company’s remit to produce work to support and make a difference to the lives of female offenders, Pests tells the story of two sisters from the same nest. Pink loves Rolly. Rolly loves Pink. And Pink loves getting bombed off her face. Both trapped in a tiny rotting world and both cuffed to a past that refuses to release them, one wants out while the other needs in.

Following his multi award-winning adaptation of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Stephens returns to the Royal Court to follow premieres of his plays Wastwater, Motortown, Country Music, Herons and Bluebird with his latest work Birdland (3 April to 24 May).

Collaborating once again with director Carrie Cracknell on the production following their hit adaptation of A Doll’s House at the Young Vic, the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs production will star Sherlock actor Scott as an international rock star Paul for whom the end of a tour marks the start of a reality he may not be ready to face.

Returning to the Royal Court to star in Stephens’ piercing new work, which takes an unflinching look at empathy, money and fame following his last credit at the venue in hit production Cock, Scott was last seen on stage in the revival of Stephens’ emotive Sea Wall at The Shed. His many other theatre credits include Emperor And Galilean and Aristocrats at the National Theatre, and Design For Living at the Old Vic.

From 11 June to 28 June, Khandan (Family), Gurpeet Kaur Bhatti’s familial drama will play in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, directed by Roxana Silbert, Artistic Director of the show’s co-producing venue, the Birmingham Repertory theatre.

Set in the Gill family’s living room, where cultures clash, siblings fight and endless cups of chah are drunk, and tackling the conflict of tradition and ambition, the story centres on widowed matriarch Jeeto, who has spent her life working hard and making sacrifices for her children, and her eldest son Pal, who is struggling with his role at the head of their expanding household. Crumbling under the weight of his father’s legacy, the family business is put at risk and the last remaining link to their roots in the Punjab is in jeopardy.

Playing alongside the production from 13 June to 5 July in the theatre’s main space, controversial theatremaker Tim Crouch will present Adler & Gibb, the story of a raid on a house, a life, a reality and a legacy. Inspired by New York conceptual artists Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb, Crouch’s self-directed work follows 2010’s The Author, which divided audiences with its deliberately unsettling staging that The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner described as “a dazzling theatrical experience that lets nobody off the hook”.

The last co-production of the season comes in partnership with the theatre company behind this summer’s hit production Chimerica and forthcoming Almeida musical American Psycho, Headlong.

American playwright Jennifer Haley’s Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-winning The Nether, which plays from 17 July to 9 August, will be directed by Headlong’s Artistic Director Jeremy Herrin as his premiere production at the helm of the company.

Intriguingly described as “both an intricate crime drama and a haunting sci-fi thriller” and with an age guidance of over 18s only, Haley’s play tells the story of The Nether, a virtual wonderland that provides total sensory immersion in which you can indulge your every desire. Exploring the consequences of making dreams a reality, the drama centres on a young detective who triggers an interrogation into the darkest corners of imagination after discovering a disturbing brand of entertainment.

Also announced as part of the season is the continuation of two of the Royal Court theatre’s initiatives to extend the reach of the theatre and its shows beyond the two main spaces. The Big Idea, which programmes debates and talks alongside each show, will continue with details of events to be announced later in the year, while away from the Sloane Square venue, Theatre Local returns in autumn 2014 with more shows set to play in alternative spaces following previous productions staged in buildings including Elephant And Castle Shopping Centre and Peckham’s Bussey Building.

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