Theatre News

Royal Court announces new season, the first for artistic director David Byrne

Ben Whishaw, Emma D’Arcy, Kayla Meikle and John Lithgow feature in the season

The nine writers featured in the season, photos supplied by the Royal Court

The Royal Court Theatre has announced its 2024 season of nine shows, the first for new artistic director David Byrne.

Byrne said today: “There are ten Royal Court debuts this season. It’s my first programme as artistic director, and it’s the Royal Court debut for each of the nine exceptional writers.

“More than just a season, this is a statement of intent for what’s to come: a new generation of bold voices with big, messy stories to tell; world-renowned artists rubbing alongside insurgent new talent, igniting some unmissable theatre on our stages.

“This is an invitation to audiences, artists and fellow playwrights everywhere: across my time at the Royal Court, we’ll be treading the path of maximum adventure. Times may be difficult but we’re up for the challenge, and the mission of the Court – to champion brave writers that push us forward – has never been more vital. Come join us, I want to take everybody along for the ride.”

Shows will run across both venues at the Royal Court – the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and the more intimate Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.

Byrne’s first programmed show will be Dugsi Dayz by Sabrina Ali, a comedic portrayal of British-Somali girls in detention, presented from 1 to 18 May. Directed by Poppy Clifford, the show previously ran at the Edinburgh Fringe and played a small season at the New Diorama Theatre, where Byrne was formerly artistic director.

Originally co-directed by Warda Mohamed, the piece will be performed by Susu Ahmed, Ali, Faduma Issa, Hadsan Mohamud.

The first show in the season downstairs will be Bluets, adapted from Maggie Nelson’s much-loved prose and poetry hybrid book by Margaret Perry and directed by Katie Mitchell. Emma D’Arcy (House of the Dragon), Kayla Meikle (The Girl Before), and Ben Whishaw (This Is Going To Hurt) star, with the show exploring themes of depression, desire and an obsession with the colour blue.

D’Arcy said today: “This production of Bluets combines some of my all-time favourite artists with my all-time favourite colour. I’m a huge fan of Maggie Nelson. If anyone can translate her work to the stage, it’s Katie Mitchell and Margaret Perry. And I’m delighted to be a part of David Byrne’s first season at the Court! What an adventure.”

Clockwise from top right: Emma D’Arcy, Kayla Meikle and Ben Whishaw, photo supplied by the venue

Continuing the programming will be Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s Lie Low, making its London premiere upstairs from 22 May to 8 June. Smyth’s play, directed by Oisín Kearney, was first seen in Ireland last summer and follows an insomniac woman trying to recover after a home invasion. 

After that in the same space will be The Bounds, also making its London premiere. Stewart Pringle’s 16th-century-set play, directed by Jack McNamara, is co-produced with Live Theatre and explores “the golden age of English football”. 

Downstairs from 13 to 27 July will be a major co-production of ECHO (Every Cold Hearted Oxygen), revealed earlier today as part of the LIFT 2024 programme. 

Upstairs from 22 August to 21 September will be the world premiere of Tife Kusoro’s G, winner of the 2023 George Devine Award. The piece follows a malevolent presence that “steals the faces and lives of Black Boys”. 

Downstairs from 20 September to 18 November will be the world premiere of Giant by Mark Rosenblatt, directed by the Bridge Theatre’s artistic director Nicholas Hytner. The piece, set in 1983, explores Roald Dahl’s antisemitic views as he prepares to release his latest book. 

Tony and Golden Globe winner John Lithgow (The Crown) will star, alongside Elliot Levey (Cold War). 

Upstairs from 3 October to 9 November will be the world premiere of Brace Brace by Oli Forsyth, directed by Daniel Raggett (Accidental Death of an Anarchist). The piece is set on a hijacked plane, and plots the lives of those affected by the act. 

One final world premiere in the season is Emteaz Hussain’s Expendable, directed by Esther Richardson with dramaturgy by Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh. Playing from 21 November to 21 December, the show places the lives of two sisters at the heart of a sexual abuse scandal. 

Hussain said: ‘I’m thrilled for Expendable to come to fruition here at the Royal Court Theatre in this exciting season. Over the years, I have been inspired by so many brilliant plays shown in this iconic building; it’s an honour now to be part of its long, ever-growing and ever-changing history.”