Babette’s Feast | Cast Announcement

Image: Hugo Glendinning

We are delighted to announce the full casting for Glyn Maxwell’s commissioned adaptation of the much loved short story Babette’s Feast by the revered Danish storyteller Karen Blixen. Bringing their innovative style to Print Room at the Coronet, Bill Buckhurst reunites with designer Simon Kenny, following their hugely successful collaboration on “Sweeney Todd” at Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop. The 2015 production transferred to the West End and is now playing off-Broadway at New York’s Barrow Street Theatre. With new music composed by Olly Fox, this world premiere, telling the story of one community’s willingness to accept a stranger in need, begins previews on 9th May.

Karen Blixen is widely recognised for the portrayal of her by Meryl Streep in the Academy Award Winning film, Out of Africa, as well Gabriel Axel’s acclaimed screen adaptation of Babette’s Feast, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Blixen wrote some of Denmark’s most-loved fiction from the 1900’s to her death in 1962, often under pseudonyms, most prolifically as Isak Dinesen who is credited as the author of Babette’s Feast. Glyn Maxwell’s new adaptation will tell the story of Martine and Philippa, two sisters living in a remote coastal village with their father, The Dean. They live pious, simple lives until Babette arrives at their door, a refugee fleeing from the French Civil War seeking sanctuary. The sisters welcome her into their home and she works as their cook, feeding the locals for many years. In a selfless act of thanksgiving, Babette creates a lavish feast for the people of the town.

Joseph Marcell, best known for his role as Geoffrey in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, makes his Print Room at the Coronet debut in the roles of The Dean and Lorens Lowenheilm. Joining Marcell on the Coronet stage, Sheila Atim, recently seen on stage in the National Theatre’s Les Blancs, will be playing the titular role of Babette. Brideshead Revisted star Diana Quick will take on the part of Martine, with her on-stage sister Philippa being played by Majorie Yates, recognised for her role in Channel 4’s Shameless. Norma Attalah, Amanda Boxer, Richard Clews, Ladi Emeruwa, Henry Everett, Whoopie Van Raam and Rachel Winters complete the cast.

Babette’s Feast | 9 May – 3 June |

April 7, 2017

maliphantworks | In Focus: Russell Maliphant


maliphantworks sees acclaimed choreographer/dancer Russell Maliphant return to the London stage having last performed at the Coliseum in July 2014 with Sylvie Guillem. In the first of our In Focus blog posts, we look at the career of the choreographer behind maliphantworks.

Born in Ottowa, Canada in 1961, Russell Maliphant was raised in Cheltenham and trained at the Royal Ballet School. He graduated to Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (which later became Birmingham Royal Ballet) for seven years, after which he joined Dance Advance, and left ballet altogether in 1988, pursuing a career in independent dance.

He appeared in Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men by physical theatre company DV8, and worked with companies such as Michael Clark & Company, Laurie Booth and Rosemary Butcher. While working with Booth, Maliphant met lighting designer Michael Hulls, with whom he has collaborated closely for 20 years.


Russell Maliphant and James de Maria in Unspoken

Maliphant created his first solo work in 1992, and founded Russell Maliphant Company in 1996. It was during the 90s that he produced works such as Shift (1996), Unspoken (also 1996) with James de Maria, and Two (1998).

In 2001, William Trevitt and Michael Nunn (The Ballet Boyz) performed the duet Critical Mass, choreographed by Maliphant in 1991, and then commissioned Torsion in 2002. This led to Broken Fall, which premiered at the Royal Opera House in December 2003 and was awarded an Olivier Award in 2003. Broken Fall marked the beginning of a collaborative relationship with Sylvie Guillem, which led to the award winning works Push and Solo.

Russell Maliphant continues to work with his own company, which acts as a creative lab for the development and presentation of new work. 2007 saw Russell Maliphant Company featured in Cast No Shadow, a new work exploring the ideas of identity and migration created in collaboration with the visual artists Isaac Julien which was presented at Sadler’s Wells and BAM in New York. In 2009, as part of the Spirit of Diaghilev programme at Sadler’s Wells, Maliphant choreographed Afterlight (Part One) for Daniel Proietto, for which he was Olivier Award-nominated in 2010. Maliphant created The Rodin Project with Sadler’s Wells in 2012 which included The Wall, a duet for Tommy Franzen and Dickson Mbi.

Russell Maliphant became an Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells in 2005 and in 2011, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Plymouth University.


maliphantworks | 28 Feb – 11 Mar | More Info

February 9, 2017

maliphantworks | Cast and Creatives Announcement


We are delighted to announce the programme for maliphantworks, featuring world-renowned collaborators and works spanning internationally acclaimed choreographer Russell Maliphant‘s hugely celebrated 25 year career. Maliphant will make his Print Room at the Coronet debut with a site-responsive return to some of his early work, inspired by our intimate Victorian theatre.

maliphantworks will include the modern dance classic Two; Afterlight (Part One); The Wall from The Rodin Project, with stage design by Es Devlin and Unspoken. Maliphant performs in Unspoken, a duet with James de Maria, 21 years after the pair first danced the piece and marking de Maria’s return to the stage after 16 years. Daniel Proietto once again dances Afterlight (Part One), for which he received an Olivier Award nomination in 2010 and received a Critics Circle National Dance Award. The international award-winning Dana Fouras dances the electrifying Two, which Maliphant choreographed for her in 1997; Olivier Award nominee Tommy Franzen brings his eclectic dance style to The Wall duet for which he was nominated for a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award in 2013 alongside Dickson Mbi renowned for his strength and incredible popping style. With Lighting by Olivier Award winner and double Knight of Illumination Award winner Michael Hulls, projection and animation by Jan Urbanowski, costumes by Stevie Stewart and music by Andy Cowton, Alexander Zekke and Erik Satie.  

maliphantworks | 28 Feb – 11 March | 

February 1, 2017

Spring 2017 Season


Our Artistic Director Anda Winters today announces Print Room at the Coronet’s Spring / Summer 2017 programme, featuring four world premieres. Seminal British playwright Howard Barker will open the season. Three of the works are being created especially for the space, including Russell Maliphant’s site-inspired return to his early choreography and two specially commissioned works: Erratica’s Remnants and dramatist Glyn Maxwell’s new adaptation of Babette’s Feast. The renowned Kathryn Hunter is devising and starring in a second Blixen project, Out of Blixen. World renowned film and theatre composer Jocelyn Pook completes the programme with her mixed-media work Hearing Voices. This season reinforces our commitment to producing and presenting a varied and bold repertoire of work.

Anda said of the programme, “It’s hugely inspiring to be working with such a rich mixture of artists, emerging and established. Many of them — Kathryn Hunter, Howard Barker, Russell Maliphant, Glyn Maxwell and Jocelyn Pook — I have admired for years. Importantly, we are delighted to be introducing some of our more recent discoveries, Erratica and Riotous Company. This newer generation of theatre makers reassures us of the continuing vitality and diversity of theatre.”       

Coinciding with the announcement of the new season, Princess Eugenie of York was today announced as Royal Patron of Print Room at the Coronet in Notting Hill Gate, celebrating the re-opening of the Coronet as a theatre and art space for Kensington and across London.

The fifth season of work for the company commences in January, opening with the world premiere of In the Depths of Dead Love (16 January – 11 February) a dark new comedy from Howard Barker telling the story of an exiled poet who scrapes a living by renting out a bottomless well to suicidal locals. Howard Barker has worked closely with Print Room at the Coronet whilst developing this production, his first new work in five years. An extract was first presented in 2013 during Screaming in Advance, a two-day festival of readings from Barker which took place at Print Room, the venue also produced Lot and His God in 2012. The production will be directed by Barker’s long-term collaborator Gerrard McArthur, with casting to be announced.

maliphantworks (28 February – 11 March) will see award-winning choreographer, Russell Maliphant, curate an evening of intimate works tailored for the Coronet’s stage.  Featuring past and present international collaborators, Maliphant will bring some of his early choreography to this beautiful West London stage. Russell Maliphant is an Associate Artists of Sadler’s Wells and has received many of the highest theatrical accolades during his career, including an Olivier Award, two South Bank Show Awards and three Critics’ Circle Awards. This production will see the Print Room at the Coronet cement itself as a stage for presenting contemporary dance.

Out Of Blixen (3 – 22 April) by Riotous Company will receive its world premiere at Print Room at the Coronet. Inspired by the life and writings of the Danish author Karen Blixen, (known to many as the heroine of Out of Africa), this production will be directed by the award-winning Kathryn Hunter. This will be the second time Print Room at the Coronet and Riotous Company have worked together, having staged Scherzo for Piano and Stick earlier this year. Developed with the Print Room through 2016, this production is devised and performed by Kathryn Hunter, Nikola KodjabashiaMarcello Magni and Mia Theil Have, with dramaturgy by Paul Tickell, original music and sound design by Nikola Kodjabashia and design by Luis F. Carvalho.

Following on from this story of Karen Blixen’s life, Print Room at the Coronet will present a new telling of Blixen’s much-loved short story Babette’s Feast (8 May – 3 June). This world premiere of Glyn Maxwell’s commissioned stage adaptation will see the creative team behind Tooting Arts Club’s sensational Sweeney Todd in a pie shop reunite with Bill Buckhurst directing. Babette’s Feast tells the tale of Babette Hersant, a refugee from revolutionary Paris who throws a heavenly banquet to express her gratitude to the remote Norwegian village that gave her solace. Babette’s Feast was made into an Oscar-winning film in 1987 and has continued to delight readers and audiences across the globe. 2017 marks 55 years since Blixen’s death. Print Room at the Coronet will celebrate the author’s legacy in a typically innovative style.

Remnants (12 June – 1 July) from Erratica is an electro-folk opera based on a memoir by Courtney Angela Brkic telling the story of one woman’s encounter with the aftermath of war crimes at Srebrenica, and her family’s connections to the Holocaust in Bosnia 50 years before. Patrick Eakin Young will direct this tale of memory, family and the trauma that passes between generations, with performances from four singers and a dancer. Having been in workshops at Print Room at the Coronet earlier this year, the production mixes Balkan folk songs with original vocal arrangements and compositions by award winning composer Christian Mason and electronic soundscapes by DJ and installation artist Shelley Parker. Juxtaposing voices from the past with deep bass electronics, this original score evokes the pain of history and the secrets that lie beneath the ground. 

Hearing Voices (12-15 July) by composer Jocelyn Pook, directed by Emma Bernard, combines the testimony of Pook’s great aunt, who spent much of her life in an asylum, with that of four other women diagnosed with mental illness; artists Bobby Baker and Julie McNamara; Mary Pook, another of Jocelyn’s relatives; and seamstress Agnes Richter, who stitched cryptic texts into a jacket she wore in a German asylum at the turn of the last century. Singer Melanie Pappenheim duets live with recordings of the women’s words, protests and laughter and striking visuals from Dragan Aleksic. Accompanying visual art installations, by Dragan Aleksic, will appear in Studio in addition to the live performance.

Poetry at the Print Room will continue to run throughout the season with dates to be announced in due course.

November 24, 2016

The Tempest | Rehearsal Diary 1


Assistant Director Anna Mors takes us inside the rehearsal room in the first of our rehearsal diaries for The Tempest

Even before rehearsals started, a beautiful symmetry between The Tempest and it’s venue already existed: the Bard’s last solo play will be the first ever Shakespeare for the Print Room at the Coronet. Themes of ending old life and starting new, of directing a spectacle, of mysterious noises, and of withdrawal from reality are strangely intertwined and correspondent with the Coronet’s history as a theatre and cinema, and this play.

There is evidence that Shakespeare asked for The Tempest to be placed at the beginning of the First Folio publication, which has inspired us to consider the meaning of this play to its author.

A father with magic powers, a beautiful daughter, their immediate family, including a fairy and a monster, a shipwrecked king and a grieving prince; The Tempest is a story of many perspectives: for Miranda, it’s a coming of age and love story, it is a test of endurance for Ferdinand, a story of revenge and punishment for Alonso and Antonio, for Prospero, it’s a tale of justice and forgiveness.

The celestial and the domestic, the magical and the mundane, and the cruel and the humane co-inhabit the island and its characters, and in the short space of two hours (the action of the play happens almost in real time), the audience has the opportunity to witness a thrillingly theatrical mixture of events and emotions.

It’s no wonder we were all excited to begin exploring this masterpiece, and the first day of rehearsal was filled with an atmosphere of anticipation, joy, and curiosity. There were nearly thirty people gathered in the rehearsal room: apart from the main cast, there is the creative team, the Print Room’s producing and technical staff, and a Community Chorus. The Community Chorus gives local residents a chance to be part of a professional production and witness the art of theatre-making first hand. The Chorus spent two evenings with the director, Simon Usher, developing the physicality of the spirits and the mariners in the play.

The first week of rehearsals sees the actors read through the play. This is followed by few days of text analysis, and the first, tentative steps into scene composition. The opening scene, in which the sea’s tempest nearly destroys a ship and its crew, left some of participants (the author of this diary for one) with bruised knees, but ecstatically happy, like children allowed to run though the puddles of water after rain. After long days of detailed text analysis and precise stage choreography it’s easy to forget that creative process is inseparable from our ability to play.

“To play” is (from the old English) “to exercise”. However it is also to engage in games and activities, to take part, to embody a character, to cooperate, to make music and produce sounds. I think we tackled all of this in our first week.


The Tempest | 21 Nov – 17 Dec | More Info

November 3, 2016

The Tempest | Cast Announcement


We are delighted to announce the cast of The Tempest!

We are delighted to announce the full cast for The Tempest, our very first staging of Shakespeare. The production is directed by Simon Usher, who won critical acclaim for his Hamlet at Belgrade Coventry and his Timon of Athens, Pericles and The Winter’s Tale at Leicester Haymarket. For Simon, The Tempest is the world in two hours and this is what our production of Shakespeare’s final masterpiece will aim to give to audiences.

Simon will direct a cast led by Kevin McMonagle (People, Places and Things, Twelfth Night, The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors) as Prospero, alongside Charlotte Brimble (She Stoops to Conquer, Posh and Terms and Conditions) as Miranda.

The actors will be supported by a community chorus, giving local residents the opportunity to participate in a professional production of one of Shakespeare’s greatest works.

The Tempest is for and about people. What are we human beings like? Here Shakespeare gives us his mature summary of the subject, reprising all his plays in their essential aspects. It is therefore not only a culmination of, but also a perfect two hour introduction to his work. The play’s diagnosis of existence, of the problem of being in the world, feels as sharp today as it would have been in 1608 when it first appeared.

In The Tempest, Shakespeare holds a mirror up to nature, exploring the problems of living from childhood to old age through some of his greatest poetry. His superb range of characters at the extremes of good and evil gives us an extraordinary reflection of humanity: from the growing pains of adolescence and late middle age, to masters and servants, to bullies with and without a conscience, and our fear of loneliness and the future. The Tempest ultimately outlines the struggle to remain idealistic, and the hope that the younger generation can do better.


Steven Beard’s (Gonzalo) extensive theatre credits include The Trial and The Good Soul of Szechuan (both Young Vic); The Crucible (West Yorkshire Playhouse); Hamlet, Who’s There? (Flute Theatre); Teenage Bodies (Opéra Louise); Minetti (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh); A Little Hotel on the Side (Theatre Royal Bath); The Importance of Being Earnest (Opéra National de Lorraine); If So, Then Yes (Jermyn Street Theatre); Paradise Moscow; Of Thee I Sing; Let ‘em Eat Cake (Opera North); The Hypochondriac (Almeida Theatre); Romeo and Juliet; King John; Much Ado About Nothing; Ivanov; Devil’s Disciple (RSC). On screen he has appeared in Shakespeare in Love; Hoff the Record; Chalk; Cadfael; Requiem Apache; Frank Stubbs and Inspector Morse.

Charlotte Brimble (Miranda) trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has appeared on stage most recently as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (Oldham Coliseum). Other stage appearances include She Stoops to Conquer (Theatre Royal, Bath); Posh(Nottingham Playhouse); The Land (Soho Theatre); Terms and Conditions (The White Bear); Mary Broome (Orange Tree Theatre). For television, her credits include Spotless and for film, Arthur and Merlin.

Callum Dixon (Antonio/Stefano) has appeared at the National Theatre on numerous occasions in The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other; Market Boy; Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads; The Day I Stood Still; The Wind in the Willows; Somewhere; The Recruiting Officer and Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead. Further recent theatrical credits include The Hairy Ape (Old Vic); Between Us (Arcola); The Complaint (Hampstead Theatre); Hamlet and The Government Inspector (Young Vic). His television credits include : Dr Foster; Father Brown; A Touch of Cloth; Random; Casualty; Doc Martin; Doctors and Ashes to Ashes.

Paul Hamilton (Alonso) is a seasoned Shakespearean actor having appeared in Anthony and Cleopatra; King Lear; Julius Caesar; The Winter’s Tale; Henry VI Parts I, II & III and Richard III (RSC). His other stage credits include The Sisterhood (Belgrade Theatre); Secret Cinema: Star Wars (Secret Cinema); Holy Warriors; Anthony and Cleopatra; The Southwark Mysteries (Shakespeare’s Globe); Life of Galileo (Birmingham Rep / RSC Tour); Boris Godunov (RSC); The Sound of Loneliness (Actors Touring Company). His screen work includes New Worlds; 55 Degrees North; Heartbeat; Tarzan: The Untamed and Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Hugh John (Ferdinand) trained at Drama Centre London and has appeared in Romeo and Juliet (Sheffield Crucible); The Picture of Dorian Gray; The Dead Shepherd (White Bear Theatre); The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Chichester Festival Theatre / West End); Deathwatch (Roundhouse); In the Beginning (Theatre Uncut); Our Brother David (Watford Palace Theatre.

Kevin McMonagle (Prospero) recently appeared in the critically-acclaimed People, Places and Things (National Theatre/West End), his further credits include ); The Divided Laing (Arcola Theatre); No Nothing (Lemon Tree / Oran Mor); The Flouers O’ Edinburgh (Finborough Theatre); A Doll’s House (National Theatre of Scotland); Twelfth Night; The Tempest; The Comedy of Errors; Richard III (RSC); Kin; Ladybird; Thyestes (Royal Court); Pieces of Vincent (Arcola Theatre / Paine’s Plough); The Girls of Slender Means (Assembly Rooms / Stellar Quines); Ghosts; Waiting for Godot and Therese Raquin (Glasgow Citizens).

Billy Seymour (Caliban) credits for stage include Secret Theatre; Saved (Lyric Hammersmith); Pornography (Tricycle Theatre / Tour); Pretend You Have Big Buildings (Royal Exchange); Christmas (Bush Theatre); Sing Yer Heart out for the Lads (National Theatre); Herons (Royal Court). For screen he has appeared in Crazyhead; Ripper Street; Privates; Rock and Chips; Any Human Heart; A Christmas Carol; Vera Drake and Mrs Henderson Presents.

Kristin Winters (Ariel) has trained at Tisch School of the Arts, the British American Drama Academy, École Jacques LeCoq and the National Youth Theatre. She has appeared in Richard II (Shakespeare in the Square); Bloody Poetry (Brooklyn Arts); Eurydice (Columbia Stages); The Love of the Nightingale (Insomnium Theatre) and Zanna Don’t (Edinburgh Fringe). For film she has appeared in Essex Stargate and Good Knight.

October 19, 2016

The Tempest | We are Looking for a Community Chorus

tempest-community-chorus-imageThe Print Room is looking for volunteer Community Chorus members for The Tempest

Come and join the Community Chorus of the Print Room’s upcoming production of The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. As part of the Community Chorus, you will learn about the process of taking a play from page to stage, and get the chance to participate in a classic Shakespeare play with professional actors under the direction of a professional creative team.

The Tempest is the world in two hours. The celestial, the domestic and the epic combine in a single time and place. Here Shakespeare isolates a number of individual characters who represent all humanity. It is his final examination of his own kind. The mirror is unsparing.

This is the Print Room’s first-ever Shakespeare, and it is one of his most accessible works. The production will give strength and clarity to the play’s numerous competing voices in an exciting, fluid and fast-moving two hours. Combining spectacle, naturalism and some of Shakespeare’s greatest poetry, The Tempest is a masterpiece for all ages and for all time. In the year that commemorates the 400th anniversary of his death, it feels particularly appropriate that we should make our Shakespeare debut with the great playwright’s final investigation of existence.

Workshops and rehearsals for the play take place on few evenings a week in November, and you will have the opportunity to be part of the show up to 4 times per week, for 4 weeks from 21 November to 17 December.

The Print Room is committed to equal opportunities and would welcome applications from as diverse a range of the community as possible. This is not an opportunity for professional performers; it is only open to community members. To be part of the Community Chorus you must be 18+.

If you are interested in being involved in this exciting project, please email with “The Tempest Community Chorus” in the subject line, and provide the following information:

• Name
• Age
• Gender

You will then be invited to a Recruitment Day (1st half of October) – details of this will be provided in a return email.

The deadline for applications is 14 October. Auditions will take place on Monday 17 October.


The Tempest | 21 Nov – 17 Dec | More Info

September 26, 2016

Lovely Sunday | Rehearsal Diary – Week 3


Assistant Director Tommo Fowler talks about all-female casts and Brexit in the third of our A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur rehearsal diaries.

Whenever a director or producer is about to put on a particular play, one of the things they’ve got to consider is ‘why now?’. The question applies to new plays, but it’s especially pertinent for those written some time ago. Of course, lots of people would argue that A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur should be staged simply because it hasn’t been before – a sort of curio from the lesser-known ‘late period’ of a theatrical giant – but that kind of rationale isn’t the most creatively satisfying for those tasked with bringing it to life. Drama functions best when audiences see themselves onstage – something pretty much universally agreed upon, from Aristotle’s theory of mimēsis (‘imitation’), to Hamlet’s instruction “to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature”, to the contemporary idea of ‘psychopoetics’. Our job as artists, then, is to put on work which engages the audience in that moment and speaks to their present experience, no matter what period of history the play is set in. We seek, in the words of one psychologist, to “[evoke] the power of the analogical, the way in which consciousness finds analogies of its experiences in other forms of narrative” [1].

With our play, there are two stand-out themes that resonate strongly with the current socio-political climate: the place of women in society, and the integration of immigrant communities.

Williams is known for having created some of the strongest and most memorable female characters in the Western theatrical canon, but A Lovely Sunday is unusual – even today – in having a cast comprised entirely of women. And not just their sex, but their unmarried and childless status is worthy of remark. In the late 1930s, when the play is set, “women [were] coerced into bearing children by religious teaching, prescriptive literature, Freudian thought, and the like – all of which idealise motherhood while denigrating childless women as selfish, immature, and maladjusted” [2]. We may think we’ve moved on, but the same rhetoric has been evident in the Conservative leadership elections, media coverage of the Olympics, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the US presidency. It’s depressing enough that Williams seemed radical in the ‘70s for simply by having four women onstage for a couple of hours, so what does it say about our society that this is still just as unlikely an event?

But that’s not to say that A Lovely Sunday is a piece of feminist agit prop – far from it. Williams is too subtle a writer for that, giving us characters who are a maelstrom of contradictions. Dorothea, for instance, rails against “the limits, the boundaries of a woman’s life”, yet seconds later can – without irony – declare that “Without romance in my life, I could no more live than I could without breath”; she revels in her own sexual awakening (something thoroughly radical for the time), yet her calisthenics are for increasing physical allure rather than physical health.

Issues of gender and sexuality are close to the surface of this play and inform much of its action, so we’ve had that in our minds throughout as we find the most effective ways to tell Williams’ story for a modern audience. However, there’s something sinister bubbling away beneath the surface which could easily have been entirely ignored, but which has been given renewed importance in our production. Recently, we started the day’s rehearsal with a discussion about the ‘Brexit mindset’ of the play. 1930s St Louis had a huge German population, complete with its own section of the city, and the play is replete with (usually negative) references to Bodey’s Germanness – not to mention Miss Gluck, whose difficulty speaking English is dismissed as “lunatic babbling”. Probe only a little, and there’s something deeply divisive lurking here.

In the UK, many of us have grown up relating to Germany almost as a sibling: someone to tease fondly, masking a grudging respect. However, In the years immediately prior to and during WW1 (i.e. Dorothea, Bodey and Helena’s politically formative years), a strongly anti-German mindset was rife in the USA. Along with state-sponsored propaganda, German businesses and homes were vandalised, and President Wilson spoke of “hyphenated Americans” whose loyalty he felt was divided according to heritage. In the words of America’s Ambassador to Germany, “Every citizen must declare himself American – or traitor!” [3]. With government-sponsored vans bearing the monicker “go home or face arrest” only a recent memory, the most-read newspaper in the country printing an article comparing refugees to cockroaches, and a presidential nominee whose incipient foreign policy becomes more extreme by the day, the question of how we respond to those outside our immediate tribe is an urgent societal issue. Since our rehearsal-room conversation, we’ve turned our attention more to those themes, with the actors all considering what national identity means to their characters, and the beliefs / prejudices they carry into the scene. As a result, we’ve sharpened the distinct ‘otherness’ of German culture that sits underneath this play, hopefully tapping into unexpected reservoirs of post-Brexit feeling.

Williams, of course, couldn’t have intended these particular messages to be at the heart of any performance of A Lovely Sunday, but that’s what makes theatre so thrillingly unique. Given the impossibility of not reframing a work of art to reflect the present reality of the person experiencing it, we’re just going for it. It’s hard to envisage another production of this play that comes hot on the heels of a seismic secessionist event and consequent female prime minister, so A Lovely Sunday’s blend of themes won’t ever resonate in this way with audiences again.

Whatever audiences make of this bafflingly rare show, there’s no denying that there’s a strikingly good answer to the question of ‘why now?’


[1] Slattery, Dennis Patrick. “Mimesis, Neurology, and the Aesthetics of Presence”. Psychological Perspectives 56 (2013): 268-88 (271).

[2] Davis, Nancy J. “Childless and Single-Childed Women in Early Twentieth-Century America”. Journal of Family Issues 3 (1982): 431-58 (445).

[3] Gerard, James W. “Ambassador James W. Gerard Encourages German American to Be Loyal to the United States – Or Else!”. In Robert Torricelli and Andrew Carroll, eds., In Our Own Words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century. New York: Washington Square Press, 1999. 46-7 (46).


A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur | 12 Sep – 7 Oct | More Info

September 9, 2016

Lovely Sunday | Rehearsal Diary – Week 2

Rehearsal Diary 2 Image

Assistant Director Tommo Fowler takes us inside the second week of rehearsals for Tennessee Williams’ A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

The first week’s research has continued and got more pernickety now, but it’s yielding some fascinating results that both give subtle insights into character and show off the brilliance of Williams’ writing.

Bodey, for instance, occasionally gets her facts wrong – be it the stars of a film she saw with Dorothea (thanks, IMDB) or the lifespan of a canary (to have lived ten years, her taxidermied pet Little Hilda must in fact have been a Little Henry). Sometimes, characters showing off by speaking other languages get their grammar slightly wrong, and we see that they’re not as knowledgeable as they like to think – something that gives us an important decision: do we show their error through the reactions of someone else onstage, keep the knowledge to ourselves and await the tweets from pedants in the audience, or do we lay the error at the feet of Williams himself and change the line accordingly?

And what’s to be made of Miss Gluck and Bodey using the German formal ‘you’ when speaking to one another – even though, according to Bodey, Miss Gluck is “my best friend in the whole building”? Is Bodey exaggerating? Have they not known each other very long? In which case, how should they interact physically? Is there some sort of inferiority complex going on…? Questions abound!

Fortunately, all these minutiae are things that probably only the greatest of University Challenge champions would pick up on. For us, though, they’re like gold-dust in helping us to create a full life for each of the characters.

As well as paying increasingly close attention to interpretation of the words, the second week has also seen a healthy focus on their pronunciation too. With our voice coach, Judith, we’ve been exploring the different accents needed for each character. We’ve got St Louis, Missouri (upper class and blue collar), Memphis, Tennessee (just four hours to the south, and the most stereotypically ‘Tennessee Williams’ of them all), plus a German character who’s learned English in the States. Miraculously, the actors are managing to hold their own and avoid creating a strange vocal cocktail, which – with such slight differences – is no mean feat!

This week has also been the week where hysteria has begun to set in. Without fail, after lunch, we all spend at least half an hour laughing too much to do very much work, and have started developing an extensive short-hand of anecdote-inspired in-jokes and renditions of YouTube videos to punctuate any moment. With only four weeks to put on a technically complex full-length play, this might seem like dangerously frivolous procrastination – but, from the director’s perspective, this aspect of rehearsals is just as important as running sections or discussing character motivations, etc. A group of people who had never met before a week ago are now a close-knit and supportive family, buoying each other up and building a rapport that elevates the performance to something greater than the sum of its parts.

At the very end of his masterwork The Empty Space, Peter Brook says that “To play needs much work. But when we experience the work as play, then it is not work any more. A play is play.” And he’s really smart, so I reckon we can keep telling stories just a little longer.


A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur | 12 Sep – 7 Oct | More Info

September 1, 2016

Lovely Sunday | Rehearsal Diary – Week 1

Rehearsal Diary 1 Image v2Assistant Director Tommo Fowler gives us an insight into the first week of rehearsals for Tennessee Williams’ A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

You know that thing when people say, “If a play hasn’t been done all this time, there’s probably a good reason for that?” Well A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur absolutely defies the rule.

Even with the most basic first reading, this play is hilarious. You’ve got cracking gags, withering put-downs, and extraordinary situational comedy. The challenge we’ve been set by our director, Michael, is to go beyond this. As we’ve begun to scratch the surface of the story and characters in our first week of rehearsal, we’ve discovered something nuanced, impeccably constructed, and heartbreakingly human. A Lovely Sunday may not have been accorded the status of Williams’ more seminal works like A Streetcar Named Desire – in John Lahr’s vast biography, it’s not mentioned once – but it is, in the writer’s own words, “a bijou”.

Streetcar, in fact, has turned out to be a helpful point of comparison, with surprising similarities to Lovely Sunday. The character of Dorothea, for instance, with her “Southern belle complex”, was always referred to by Williams in the same breath as Blanche DuBois. They’re both teachers, fallen on hard times and clinging to vestiges of their past lives – but Dorothea is stronger, more decisive and perhaps better equipped to deal with disappointment than Blanche. As Williams used to say during rehearsals for the New York première of A Lovely Sunday, “[Dorothea]’s going to be all right, isn’t she?”

Although it’s one of William’s most farcical works, this play is one that benefits from an incredibly solid psychological backbone. The world might be falling apart in the most absurd circumstances, but it should still be believable. Williams hints at this tension between irreverent comedy and reality with a stage direction that may be one of the best we’ve ever seen: “This episode… must be handled carefully to avoid excessive scatology”.

Despite the madness, at the heart of A Lovely Sunday are four characters battling against a crushing loneliness and fear for the future. ‘Creve Coeur’, of course, means ‘broken heart’, which means we’ve spent our first week doing some rigorous analysis of the text, delving into the characters’ backstories and exploring how these might inform their beliefs about themselves and the world they carry into the play.

From there, we’ve begun charting a complex path through the relationships and social expectations of the time, bringing the world to life. Williams evokes 1930s St Louis in such detail that we’ve needed to understand the preconceptions about people who smoke Luckies as opposed to Chesterfields, and to know whether shopping at Liggett’s is normal or worthy of mockery. Every reference is so finely calibrated, so perfectly used to bring out a facet of the characters, that we’re doing everything we can to make sure the meaning is clear – even for those who’ve never been invited to feel Mr Butts’ meat at Piggly Wiggly’s, for instance.

Next week, it’s time to start bringing all of this research and contemplation to life – in all its glorious insanity.

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur | 12 Sep – 7 Oct | More Info

August 24, 2016