Theatre News

Headlong 2020 season announced as final in Jeremy Herrin's tenure

Playwrights include April De Angelis, August Wilson, Chris Bush and Jack Thorne

Jack Thorne, April De Angelis and Chris Bush
Jack Thorne, April De Angelis and Chris Bush
© Left and centre: Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage, right: Attic Theatre Company

The outgoing Headlong artistic director Jeremy Herrin has announced his final season today, featuring work from Jack Thorne, August Wilson, April De Angelis and Chris Bush.

After Life will play its world premiere at the National Theatre's Dorfman space in January 2021. Written by Thorne, it will be directed by Herrin and designed by Bunny Christie and is based on the film by Hirokazu Kore-Eda (the Palme d'Or-winning director of Shoplifters). The show takes place between life and death and asks those passing through it to pick one memory that they will live in for eternity. Cast and the remaining creative team will be announced later.

De Angelis' short comedy Mrs Noah – originally written for Extinction Rebellion as an examination of climate change – will be developed by Headlong into a hybrid mix of RnB, hip hop, theatre and video in early 2020. The work retells the 15th-century mystery play Noah and the Great Flood and features Mrs Noah, who has other plans when her husband wishes to leave their whole community behind in order to escape the flood. It will be directed by Headlong associate director Holly Race Roughan, with further cast and creative team announced nearer the time.

A new production of Wilson's Jitney sees Headlong continue its relationship with Leeds Playhouse, where the show will premiere on 5 September before embarking on a UK tour. Directed by Tinuke Craig, Jitney explores the fragile bond between eight men as they live, love and work in a racially segregated, post-Vietnam America. The full cast and creative team will be announced in due course.

Also forming part of the season is the previously announced Faustus: That Damned Woman, a new play from Bush that will play at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre on 22 January to 22 February before a tour to Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle. Katherine Carlton, Alicia Charles, Emmanuella Cole, Barnaby Power and Tim Samuels will join the previously announced Jodie McNee as Johanna Faustus and Danny Lee Wynter as Mephistopheles. Caroline Byrne directs this reimagining of Faustus as a woman, with set design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita, costume design by Line Bech, lighting design by Richard Howell, sound and composition design by Giles Thomas, video and projection design by Ian William Galloway, movement direction by Shelley Maxwell, casting by Annelie Powell and associate direction by Ebenezer Bamgboye. The play is the first work as part of Headlong and the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre's commitment to commissioning and producing work of scale by women playwrights.

Continuing its ongoing partnership with The Guardian, Headlong will present Europeans: Dramas from a Divided Union – a series of short political monologues exploring the issues consuming other EU countries and how their unique histories have defined their relationship to the Union. Seven writers from across Europe have been commissioned to write film scripts in their own language, which will be performed by well-known actors from each country. The writers are Jonas Jonasson, Alice Zeniter, Lisa McInerney, Jakub Żulczyk, Marius von Mayenburg, Blanca Doménech and Clint Dyer, with performers including Viktor Åkerblom, Sabrina Ouazani, Evanna Lynch, Jacek Koman, Robert Beyer, Paul Iwasaki and Javone Prince. The films from Sweden, France, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Spain and the UK will premiere as part of the London Short Film Festival on 16 January and then be made available on The Guardian website and Headlong digital channels.

In addition to the new season, Headlong has announced its new Headlong Origins directors, a scheme that aims to celebrate and nurture emerging talent throughout the UK and diversify the pool of directors that Headlong is currently engaged with. The 2020/21 directors are are Maria Crocker, Nyasha Gudo, Alix Harris, Fionnuala Kennedy, Maisie Newman and Ellie Taylor.

Newly commissioned work still in progress includes a new play by Chloe Moss – examining women's fear of men and in turn men's fear of women's power – and a new show by Naomi Wallace on the opioid crisis in America.

Herrin said: "Running Headlong has been the privilege of a lifetime and I'm immensely grateful to the colleagues, artists, stakeholders and audiences who have been part of the journey. It seems appropriate to draw my time as artistic director to a close with a range of projects and collaborators that are close to my heart.  Bunny Christie, Jack Thorne and I have been incubating After Life for a while and I hope it will be a soulful and satisfying show that showcases what Headlong and the National Theatre can do at their best."