While the most recent stage adaptation of the 1880 novel, the 2009 Ben Hur Live at the O2, had a cast of 400 performers and 100 animals including horses and eagles, the Watermill version will be on a rather more modest scale. The show will include, however, according to a statement from the company, “a sea battle (with real water); the recreation of Ancient Rome (no expense spared); an unexpurgated and authentic Roman orgy (suitable for all ages)” and “a sensational live chariot race (with real chariots)”. Like The 39 Steps, Ben Hur is a four-hander. The company will play 12,059 characters between them.
The four cast members are Elizabeth Cadwallader, seen most recently in the role of Bianca in the RSC’s The Taming of the Shrew; veteran stage and television actor Bob Goody; Nick Haverson, who played Mr Punch in Improbable Theatre’s The Devil and Mr Punch at the Barbican in February; and John Hopkins, who appeared as Hannay in The 39 Steps in 2009.
show is a co-production by the Watermill and Fiery Angel, the team
behind The 39 Steps, who will presumably be hoping
for a repeat of that success. The 39
Steps premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse before
transfering to the Tricycle the following year.