David Hare’s new political drama Gethsemane, his 14th original play for the National Theatre, received its world premiere last night (11 November 2008, previews from 11 November) in the NT Cottesloe, where its already sold-out repertory run continues 24 February 2009 ahead of a UK tour (See News, 16 Jan 2008).

Though media speculation has been intense about how much the piece is inspired by real-life figures including former culture secretary Tessa Jowell and her estranged fraudster husband, Hare makes clear in a programme note that, unlike his two other recent NT plays drawing on public events, The Permanent Way (“pure fact, transcribed”) and Stuff Happens (“one-third transcribed, two-thirds imagined”), “Gethsemane is pure fiction”.

And on press night, all eyes were on the top-notch ensemble of actors who brought that fiction to life: Tamsin Greig (who plays an embattled home secretary), Stanley Townsend (an ebullient fundraiser) and Anthony Calf (a drum-playing prime minister) as well as Daniel Ryan, Pip Carter, Jessica Raine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Adam James.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF GETHESEMANE'S 1st NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

Gethsemane is billed as a “play about British public life (which) looks at the way business, media and politics are now intertwined to nobody’s advantage, as, in an unforgiving world, one character after another passes through Gethsemane.”

The premiere production is directed by NT associate director Howard Davies and designed by Bob Crowley, with costumes by Fotini Dimou, lighting by Mark Henderson, video projection by Jon Driscoll and Dominic Muldowney, and sound by Christopher Shutt.

Following the National, Gethsemane will launch a short regional tour, from 3 March to 4 April 2009, visiting Windsor, Newcastle, Cambridge, Bath and Brighton.

- by Terri Paddock