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Hare & Mendes Opt for New York for Hour Premiere

By • West End
British theatregoers will be disappointed today to learn that, while two of their best-known homegrown talents – playwright David Hare (pictured) and director Sam Mendes - will soon be making their much-anticipated returns to the fray, they’ll be doing so across the pond first.

The world premiere of Hare’s The Vertical Hour - directed the former Donmar Warehouse artistic director, who previously directed Hare’s version of The Blue Room, with Nicole Kidman, in London and New York - will take place on Broadway, at an as-yet unconfirmed theatre, on 30 November 2006.

In the play about how western life has changed after 9/11, Hollywood actress Julianne Moore – who starred in the film The Hours, for which Hare wrote the screenplay, and who has not appeared on the New York stage for over a decade – will play American war correspondent-turned-academic Nadia Blye, whose beliefs and relationships are shaken up when she meets an Englishman on holiday in Wales.

The Vertical Hour is produced by Scott Rudin with Briton Robert Fox with Mendes' Neal Street Productions. It is the first of Hare's nine Broadway plays not to debut in London, usually at the National Theatre, where no fewer than 13 of Hare’s plays have first been seen. His last premiered at the National – 2004’s Stuff Happens, a docudrama about the Iraq war - begins previews next week at the Public Theater in New York.

In interviews, Hare has described Stuff Happens’ NT premiere as “almost the most frustrating experience I have ever had in the theatre”. In particular, he felt let down by the NT scheduling policy that limited productions’ runs – according to the author, “Stuff Happens was a runaway hit where we simply couldn’t get the audience in”.

Hare has previously fallen out with NT. During the artistic directorship of Trevor Nunn, Hare said he was “sent into exile” for five years during the “musical climate” favoured by Nunn (See The Goss, 31 Dec 2002). The situation seemed to improve with the arrival of Nicholas Hytner, under whose leadership Hare was, for awhile, regular NT fare again, not only with the premiere of Stuff Happens but also with The Permanent Way (on the privatisation of the railways, co-produced with Out of Joint) and his new translation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba.

Despite the New York start for The Vertical Hour, both Hare and Mendes have indicated that, if the play is well received on Broadway, they would like to transfer it to the West End (See The Goss, 6 Jan 2006).

- by Terri Paddock


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