Wanamaker Stars in NT's Battle RoyalDate: 23 September 1999
The team for the world premiere of Nick Stafford's new play, Battle Royal, at the National in December includes not one, not two, but three recent Laurence Olivier Award winners - director Howard Davies, star Zoe Wanamaker and supporting actor Brendan Coyle. The production opens in the NT's Lyttelton Theatre on 9 December, following previews from 2 December.
The play charts the tempestuous marriage of George IV (played by Simon Russell Beale) and Caroline of Brunswick (Wanamaker) through a chapter in the history of the British monarchy which is full of scandals, press intrusion, illicit affairs, overspending and political meddling. It's 1795 and England is at war with France, women are seen but not heard and the Prince Regent, a man with an 'undeserved reputation for enjoying the amusements of his position whilst not embracing the duties', is under pressure to marry and produce an heir. Eighteen years later, with the influence of the French Revolution being felt throughout the world, the relationship between George IV and the woman he reluctantly wed has reached crisis point and, in an ironic twist, his outspoken wife has become a figurehead for the anti-monarchists.
Zoe Wanamaker won an Olivier for Best Actress in 1998 for her performance in the title role of the Donmar Warehouse's Electra, which also transferred to Broadway. Her other recent stage credits include The Old Neighbourhood (Royal Court), The Glass Menagerie (Donmar and West End), and Dead Funny (Hampstead and West End). She last appeared at the National in Howard Davies' production of The Crucible. Her television work includes Love Hurts, Gormenghast, A Dance to the Music of Time and Memento Mori.
Wanamaker's co-star Simon Russell Beale is currently appearing with the NT Ensemble as Pangloss/ Voltaire in Candide, Alfred Evelyn in Money and Dudakov in Summerfolk. He won the BAFTA Best Actor award for A Dance to the Music of Time on Channel 4, and his films include An Ideal Husband and Alice in Wonderland.
Brendan Coyle, who plays Colonel McMahon, an informer to the king, won a Best Supporting Performance Olivier this year for his role as the barman in Conor McPherson's The Weir at the Royal Court. Part of the original cast, Coyle also featured in the Broadway transfer.
Howard Davies won the Olivier, as well as the Evening Standard, award for Best Director this year for the Almeida production of The Iceman Cometh, starring Kevin Spacey, which subsequently transferred to Broadway. Davies' previous work for the National includes Flight, Chips with Everything, Mary Stuart and The Crucible.
Nick Stafford was writer in residence at the Birmingham Rep in 1997/98. His plays include Whisper of Angel's Wings, The Snow Queen, The Devil's Only Sleeping and The Go-Between. He won the 1998 Denis Potter Award for his television film Pity.
The rest of the cast for Battle Royal includes Suzanne Burden, Martin Chamberlain, Patrick Godfrey, Gemma Jones, Matthew MacFadyen, Iain Mitchell, Michael Mueller, William Osborne, Hugh Ross, Jay Simpson and Benny Young. The production is designed by Rob Howell, with lighting by Mark Henderson and movement by Jane Gibson.