Theatre News

Court Marks 40 Years Upstairs, Herrin Deputises

The Royal Court has announced its autumn 2009 season, which includes new works from British playwrights Mike Bartlett, Tim Crouch, Lucy Prebble and Michael Wynne. The new season also features a week of events to mark 40 years of the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs as well as the appointment of Jeremy Herrin as the venue’s new deputy artistic director.

As previously reported, Lucy Prebble‘s new play ENRON, directed by Rupert Goold, will open the season in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs (See News, 3 Apr 2009). A co-production with Headlong Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, it premieres in Chichester from 11 July to 29 August 2009 before transferring to the Court from 22 September to 7 November (previews from 17 September).

ENRON re-imagines the story of the recent collapse of the high-profile US financial institution, and features a cast led by Samuel West, Amanda Drew, Tim Pigott-Smith and Tom Goodman-Hill (See News, 11 May 2009). Writer Prebble is a former member of the Court’s Young Writers Programme and won the George Devine award for her play The Sugar Syndrome, which premiered at the venue in 2004.

It’s followed in the Theatre Downstairs by Michael Wynne‘s new comedy The Priory, directed by  Jeremy Herrin. The play, which runs from 26 November to 9 January 2010 (previews from 19 November) centres on a group of successful thirty-somethings who retreat to a converted rural priory to celebrate New Year.

Director Herrin is being promoted from his current role as associate director to become the venue’s new deputy artistic director. A representative of the Royal Court told that, as well as directing plays, Herrin will have responsibilities for “specific artistic projects, administrative and fund-raising duties, and also … to cover any of Dominic Cooke‘s official duties when he is away or in rehearsals”. Previous incumbents of the role include Jules Wright, Nicholas Wright and Danny Boyle.

On 15 November 2009 a special evening will be held in the Theatre Downstairs to celebrate the life and works of John Mortimer, who died in January this year (See News, 16 Jan 2009). Details of the evening, which is titled John Mortimer at the Court … and Later at the Bar, are still to be announced.

40 Years Upstairs

To mark 40 years of the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, which was opened in 1969 after the conversion of a cabaret bar above the main theatre, the autumn season includes a week of events entitled Get Upstairs, which is held from 2 November.

The Theatre Upstairs, which was the first studio theatre of its kind, has staged some of the most important new plays of recent times, including The Rocky Horror Show, Road, Blasted, The Weir, East is East and That Face. Details of the events are still to be announced.

The autumn season, billed as a celebration of “the past, present and future of one of the most influential places in British theatre”, kicks off with Tim Crouch’s The Author – “a formally inventive piece which takes the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs as its setting and explores how far the artist, or indeed the audience, is prepared to go in the name of art”. Crouch himself will be among the cast, and the production, which is directed by “Karl James and a smith” runs from 29 September to 24 October (previews from 23 September). Writer/performer Crouch’s recent works include England, which was staged at the Whitechapel art gallery in May.

The Author is followed by Mike Bartlett’s new play Cock, which examines the categorisations of sexuality and features a young man who must choose between his ex-boyfriend and “the woman of his dreams”. It runs from 18 November to 19 December (previews 13 November). Bartlett’s previous plays for the Court include Contractions, My Child and Artefacts.

Also in the Theatre Upstairs, the Royal Court’s International Department presents an evening of New Writing From Nigeria, on 31 October, featuring a presentation of extracts followed by a panel discussion about the impact of new writing for the theatre in modern-day Nigeria.

Announcing the new season, Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke said: “This season sees the Royal Court doing exactly what we are here to do – producing provocative new plays by exciting young writers … In troubled times, the need to come together and share our experiences becomes stronger than ever, which is why it is so thrilling to see four of Britain’s most exciting writers engage with the world, personally and politically.”