Exclusive: Clare Burt to star as Joan Littlewood in RSC's new musical this summer
Burt will be taking on the role of the iconic theatre director in a new musical, which opens in Stratford later this year
The musical follows Littlewood's life, born into poverty before emerging as one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century, responsible for shows including Oh, What A Lovely War!, A Taste of Honey and The Hostage and revitalising Theatre Royal Stratford East.
Directed by the RSC's deputy artistic director Erica Whyman, the piece has book, music and lyrics by Sam Kenyon with design by Tom Piper, lighting by Charles Balfour, sound by Jonathan Ruddick, movement by Lucy Hind, and video by Nina Dunn.
Kenyon, who co-directed Oh, What A Lovely War! with Whyman as part of a national tour, said: "I'd always wondered about the imaginative moment when Fanny Brice became Funny Girl; when Gypsy Rose Lee became Gypsy; when Eva Perón became Evita. When I read Joan Littlewood's autobiography, Joan's Book, and she wrote that she'd quit RADA aged nineteen and walked – walked! – to Manchester, I knew immediately that I was on to something. And then I found the most searing love letters buried in the centre of the book.
"I've written this in homage to the Stockwell-born ‘illegitimate' daughter of a teenage mother, who has inspired theatre makers worldwide and yet is barely known by her name."
Burt, who most recently appeared in Big Fish and will star in the revival Flowers for Mrs Harris this autumn, will play Littlewood, with Aretha Ayeh (Love Me Tender), Sandy Foster (The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich), Amanda Hadingue (A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer), Dawn Hope (Follies), Emily Johnstone (The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich) and Sophia Nomvete (The Wind in the Willows) also taking on the role of the director at various stages of her life.
Further casting includes Daisy Badger (The Archers, The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich) as Rosalie, Greg Barnett (The School for Scandal) as Jimmie Miller/Cedric Price, Laura Elsworthy (The Hypocrite) as Shelagh Delaney), Solomon Israel (The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich) as Gerry Raffles, Natasha Lewis (Priscilla Queen of the Desert ) and Tam Williams (Sunny Afternoon) as Murray Melvin.