Last month, the National confirmed that, despite limits of a maximum of four tickets per customer, the entire repertory season to 31 January 2005 at the Cottesloe had already sold out – all 16,000 tickets – although 20 seats are being held back per performance for sale on the day.
Aside from today’s name revelation, the National is sticking to a strict embargo for Two Thousand Years. We’re told, in fact, that no one except those actually in the company have a clue what it’s about. As per Leigh’s usual improvisational style, he and his eight-strong cast - John Burgess, Ben Caplan, Allan Corduner, Adam Godley, Caroline Gruber, Nitzan Sharron, Samantha Spiro and Alexis Zegerman – have been devising the piece and exploring character together in private since 25 April 2005. (The writer/director requires a minimum of 18 weeks’ rehearsal time).
The secrecy has sparked off myriad rumours and predictions. Actress Miriam Margolyes, who auditioned for a part, told a newspaper it was about “being Jewish” while the poster image, a drooping palm tree in a desert, has had others guessing it may be an anti-war piece. When asked what content would be included in the (normally packed) NT programmes for Two Thousand Years, a show spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that it would probably only be biographies – though that couldn’t be confirmed due to the embargo.
Now best known for his films, including last year’s award-winning Vera Drake, this is Leigh’s first new stage play since 1993’s It’s a Great Big Shame at Theatre Royal Stratford East. His earlier plays include Babies Grow Old, Goosepimples and, of course, Abigail’s Party, while his other films include Naked, Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy and All or Nothing.
- by Terri Paddock