Hytner Directs World Premiere of Ravenhill's LatestDate: 14 June 2001
Nicholas Hytner will direct the world premiere of Mark Ravenhill's new drama, entitled Mother Clap's Molly House. Described as a black comedy with music, the play aims to celebrate diverse sexuality whilst offering an insight into London's murky history. The production will preview at the National Theatre Lyttelton on 22 August, before opening on 4 September.
Ravenhill's previous full-length play, Shopping and Fucking, aroused acclaim and controversy in roughly equal measure. An unsettling work, portraying a love triangle between petty criminals and a world of drug kingpins and rent boys, the play was nonetheless well received in Britain and America. His new offering is set in both London circa 1726 and the present day. Deborah Findlay plays Mrs Tull, owner of a tavern of ill repute, who has personal and professional problems galore to resolve. Meanwhile, in 2001, a group of wealthy gay men are preparing for a raunchy party.
Findlay is currently playing Paulina in Hytner's production of The Winter's Tale at the Olivier. She has previously appeared at the National in Once in a While and Stanley, for which she won an Olivier for Best Supporting Actress. Among Findlay's numerous stage appearances are Tom and Viv (Royal Court), Hedda Gabler (Almeida) and Three Sisters for the RSC. Television and film works include Anna Karenina, Truly Madly Deeply and The End of the Affair.
Hytner's previous productions for the National number Ghetto, The Madness of George III and Carousel among others. Recently he has produced such West End works as The Lady in the Van and Orpheus Descending. His film credits contain The Madness of King George and The Object of My Affection.
Mother Clap's house, owned by Margaret Clap, was sited in Field Lane near Holborn. Following a raid on the establishment in 1726, a series of trials took place. A witness named Thomas Newton agreed to testify against certain other men in return for immunity from prosecution. And whilst the house was not necessarily a male brothel, it seems evident that it was rather more than an ordinary tavern.
Newton claimed that Clap's house "bore the publick Character of a Place of rendezvous for Sodomites" (The Trial of Gabriel Lawrence, 1726). He indicted one Gabriel Lawrence, although several others testified in the accused's favour. These included Henry Yoxan, a Cow-keeper, who said, "we have both got drunk and come home together in a Coach, and yet he never offered any such Indecencies to me". Despite the fact Lawrence had lived for many years with a wife and several children, the charge of 'Sin of Sodomy' stuck and he was hanged at Tyburn.
- by Gareth Thompson