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Hit comedy NOISES OFF heads to the West End

Noises Off
  • West End transfer announced for Michael Frayn’s hit comedy
  • Garrick Theatre, London From 27th September
  • Tickets go on sale on Wednesday 24th July at 10AM via NoisesOffPlay.com

Two plays for the price of one!

Michael Frayn’s classic farce about a farce, Noises Off, which has played all over the world where theatre is done, returns to the West End for the fourth time as it heads to the Garrick Theatre from 27th September 2019 to 4th January 2020. “Is this the funniest farce ever?” asked the Evening Standard when this production opened at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre.  And replied: “Yes. Yes it is.”

ALSO, simultaneously, and at no extra cost, the farce that the characters of Noises Off are playing, Nothing On, is making its epic tour from Weston-super-Mare to Stockton-on-Tees. “Is this the most remarkable entertainment to hit Ashton-under-Lyne since the Black Death?” asked the Ashton-under-Lyne Advertiser.  And replied: “Possibly.  Apart from the Second World War.”

Reprising their roles for the West End in the side-splitting comedy play(s) will be:

BAFTA Television Award nominee Meera Syal (Beautiful Thing, Absolutely Anything and The Kumars at No. 42) as Dotty Otley portraying Mrs Clackett, the housekeeper with a taste for sardines.

Lloyd Owen (Cleaning Up, Monarch of the Glen and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) as Nothing On’s director extraordinaire Lloyd Dallas.

BAFTA winning Daniel Rigby (BBC Two’s Eric & Ernie and One Man, Two Guvnor) as Garry Lejeune, who in turn gives us his best Roger Tramplemain.

Simon Rouse (Hangmen, Local Hero, The Bill) is Selsdon Mowbray, who, if he can remember where he is in the script, will play the Burglar.

Further casting to be announced.

This rip-roaring production, directed by Jeremy Herrin (All My Sons, This House, Wolf Hall), is currently bringing the house down at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre.

After watching from the wings a production of his 1970 farce The Two of Us with Richard Briers and Lynn Redgrave, also at the Garrick Theatre, and noting that the goings on behind the scenes were funnier than out front, Michael Frayn wrote Noises Off. The original production directed by Michael Blakemore, opened at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in 1982 before heading to the West End, Broadway and beyond. A feature film was made ofNoises Off in 1992.

Full cast for Mamet’s Bitter Wheat starring Malkovich announced today

Teddy Kempner (Doctor Wald) Zephryn Taitte (Charles Arthur Brown) Doon Mackichan (Sondra) Matthew Pidgeon (The Writer) Alexander Arnold (Roberto) David Mamet (director and writer of Bitter Wheat) John Malkovich (Barney Fein) Ioanna Kimbrook (Yung Kim Li)

Rehearsals have begun for David Mamet’s new play Bitter Wheat which opens at the Garrick Theatre in London on Friday 7 June 2019, with a press night on Wednesday 19 June 2019.  The run, which was originally scheduled to finish on 14 September, now finishes on Saturday 21 September 2019.

Joining the previously announced John Malkovich as Barney Fein, Doon Mackichan as Sondra and Ioanna Kimbrook as Yung Kim Li are:  Alexander Arnold as Roberto, Teddy Kempner as Doctor Wald, Matthew Pidgeon as The Writer and Zephryn Taitte as Charles Arthur Brown.  (A photograph of the full company with David Mamet can be downloaded from the link above).

The multi award-winning John Malkovich returns to the West End stage after nearly 30 years to play top dog Hollywood producer Barney Fein in Bitter Wheat.

Malkovich, one of the world’s most revered actors, is best known for his many films including Dangerous LiaisonsBeing John MalkovichCon Air and Mulholland Drive. He recently received widespread critical acclaim playing Hercule Poirot in a new BBC TV Agatha Christie adaptation.

The Pulitzer prize winning David Mamet has written some of the most iconic plays of the last 50 years including Sexual Perversity in Chicago, American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, and Oleanna.

 Doon Mackichan, who is well known for her extensive TV work which includes creating and starring in the hit comedy series Smack the Pony for Channel 4, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, Plebs for ITV2 and Two Doors Down for the BBC, will play Barney Fein’s assistant, Sondra.

Ioanna Kimbook makes her debut West End performance in Bitter Wheat.  Ioanna recently filmed an episode of the BBC comedy,Inside No. 9.

Alexander Arnold’s recent theatre credits include Shopping and F***ing at the Lyric Hammersmith, Crushed Shells and Mud at Southwark Playhouse, and Luna Gale and Four Minutes Twelve Seconds at Hampstead Theatre.  For film, he will appear in Danny Boyle’s Yesterday and is in the TV BAFTA nominated and RTS Award-winning drama series, Save Me for Sky Atlantic. Further television credits include E4’s Skins and A Mother’s Son.

 Teddy Kempner’s extensive theatre work includes Caroline, or Change at the Playhouse, Hampstead Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, A Month in the Country and Six Pictures of Lee Miller in Chichester and The Merry Wives of Windsor, Three Sistersand Nicholas Nickleby for the RSC.  His films include Truly Madly Deeply and Yentl.

 Matthew Pidgeon’s theatre credits include Local Hero and The Glass Menagerie at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh;  This House in Chichester West End and on tour,  Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies for the RSC and The James Plays for the National Theatre of Scotland.  Films include Mary Queen of Scots,  State and Main and A Shot of Glory.

 Zephryn Taitte has just completed a major tour of Glengarry Glen Ross.  Other theatre includes Trust at the Gate Theatre, Result at the Pleasance Theatre, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet at Oval House and Talawa’s production of The Crucible.  His films includeNo Shade, Dirty Money, Run it Off and White.  TV credits include Call the Midwife, Urban Myths, The Hour and Brothers With No Game.

David Mamet directs Bitter Wheat, with designs by Christopher Oram and lighting by Neil Austin.

Bitter Wheat is produced by Jeffrey RichardsSteve Traxler and Smith & Brant Theatricals.

World Premiere of David Mamet’s Bitter Wheat to open in June in West End starring John Malkovich

The multi award-winning John Malkovich returns to the West End stage after nearly 30 years to play Barney Fein, a top dog Hollywood producer in Bitter Wheata new play by the legendary author, director and playwright David Mamet.  It will preview at the Garrick Theatre on Friday 7 June 2019 with a press night on Wednesday 19 June 2019 and will be directed by Mamet.

Malkovich, one of the world’s most revered actors, is best known for his many films including Dangerous LiaisonsBeing John MalkovichCon Air andMulholland Drive. He recently received widespread critical acclaim playing Hercule Poirot in a new BBC TV Agatha Christie adaptation.

The Pulitzer prize winning David Mamet has written some of the most iconic plays of the last 50 years including Sexual Perversity in Chicago, American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, and Oleanna.

 Doon Mackichan, who is well known for her extensive TV work which includes creating and starring in the hit comedy series Smack the Pony for Channel 4, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, Plebs for ITV2 and Two Doors Down for the BBC, will play Barney Fein’s assistant, Sondra.

Ioanna Kimbook will make her debut theatre performance in Bitter Wheat as Yung Kim Li. Further casting is to be announced.

 Hollywood is a hell hole.

Everything in Hollywood is for sale except the awards, which are for rent.

Bitter Wheat is a play about a depraved Hollywood mogul. It rips the pashmina off the suppurating wound which is show business, and leaves us better human beings, and fitter to once more confront the horror of life.

 Our hero, Barney Fein, is a bloated monster- a studio head, who, like his predecessor, the minotaur, devours the young he has lured to his cave.

 His fall from power to shame is a mythic journey which has been compared to The Odyssey by people who claim to have read that book.

 A new play starring John Malkovich, written and directed by David Mamet in a good mood.

 Funnier than The Iceman Cometh, more chaos than Richard III, and without all the stupid, so-called ‘poetry’.

Money, sex, power, you only need one of them to see Bitter Wheat – at the Garrick.

Joining Mamet on the creative team are designer Christopher Oram and lighting designer Neil Austin.

Bitter Wheat is produced by Jeffrey Richards and Smith & Brant Theatricals.

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Interview with Playwright Phil Porter: “I often think about the song ‘A Woman’s Touch’ from ‘Calamity Jane’.”

Phil Porter

Phil Porter is a playwright, who has brilliantly just co-adapted ‘The Miser’ with Sean Foley, a West End production due to open at the The Garrick Theatre. Hurrah.

Phil won the Bruntwood Playwriting Prize for Cracks in my Skin and the Arts Council’s Children Award for Smashed Eggs (Pentabus Theatre). His recent plays include The Man With The Hammer (Plymouth) The Christmas Truce (RSC) Blink and A Mad World Masters (RSC) The Tempest (adaptation co-written with Peter Glanville for the RSC).

I thought it would be good to chat to him ahead last week. Here is what we discussed.

Phil Porter

Phil Porter

Hi Phil, where are we and what can you see?

Right now I’m in rather delightful surroundings. A rather posher hotel I would normally find myself in. I can see you mostly and a hanging light thing over the bar with lots of fake but nonetheless beautiful candles. It reminds me of an event I went to in a park in Brighton with lots of fire-based installations and rusty metal. Lots of Pagan things go on in Brighton in the Winter.

How is ‘Dry January’ going?

I’m not big on abstinence. I’m a vegetarian – maybe that one small sacrifice is what makes me feel entitled to drink as much wine as I fancy. If I was ever going to attempt a month dry it wouldn’t be January!

You’ve had quite a busy week, haven’t you?

Well, the first two days of this week I was in rehearsals for The Miser’. This is a script I’ve co-adapted with Sean Foley and which he is now directing, with quite an impressive starry West End cast – Griff Rhys Jones, Mathew Horne, Katy Wix and Lee Mack, who is making his West End debut. We open in Bath on February 8th for a couple of weeks of previews, then a week in Richmond, then into The Garrick following ‘This House’ from March 1st.

From what I’ve heard adapting is a bit of a ball ache. With this in mind is co-adapting a bit of a double ball ache?

I don’t even know if it is an adaptation really. Adapting suggests taking it from one medium to another. Molière wrote it as a play and we continue in that fashion. The first thing I did with Sean was work on ‘A Mad World My Masters’ for the RSC a few years ago. That was kind of easier because Middleton wrote it in English, and as a result there was only so much we could change without stomping on someone’s very clever original play. So we just edited the play to make room for some songs and put in a few new jokes. But when a play is written in a different language the process is inevitably a bit more interpretive. But it wasn’t a ball ache – it was great fun. Maybe normally there would be a difficult status thing where you are fighting with your co-adaptor over every line. But Sean is the director so if we were to disagree on something – and generally we don’t – I’d probably let it go because he is the one who has to bring the thing to life. If he has a strong sense of how he’ll make a particular line work I’m happy to follow his judgement on that. I think it works well. I’m there just thinking as a writer while Sean is sort of writing and directing at the same time.

Tell me about Sausages

Eh? Oh, I know what you mean by that. Something I said in an interview I did with the Soho years ago. I wrote my first play on a train to Plymouth when I was about seven. It was about some sausages trying to escape from a freezer – written in the 1980s when all sausages were frozen. Maybe it could come back as an experimental opera; a play for voices. Looking back I didn’t really understand what screenwriting guru Robert McKee would describe as ‘progressive complication’. The sausages simply found a hole in the corner of the freezer and escaped halfway down the first page.

You can’t turn on the TV these days without seeing an advert for sausages. Anyway, what writers do you rate?

In terms of the playwriting giants my greatest hero is Federico García Lorca . He had an amazing poetic sensibility that I really love. I rate many of my contemporaries – Dennis Kelly and Mike Bartlett spring to mind. The way they can write so well, and also so much, is amazing and makes me jealous. Lucy Kirkwood is a fantastic writer. James Graham is another who is very brilliant and extraordinary prolific. And of course my pal Amy Rosenthal, a great writer who posseses a real understanding of comedy – a rare and much undervalued talent.

What are your thoughts on Hull as UK City of Culture 2017?

The choices often seem to be quite provocative. I remember when Glasgow was announced as a European City of Culture years ago, and people reacted in uproar: Glasgow?! As if it had been decided once and for all by a committee that Glasgow was Europe’s Most Cultured City. If that were the case then Hull as the UK City of Culture would be a perverse choice, but that’s not what it’s about. Overall, it’s a positive thing.

Contemporary arts centre Mac Birmingham has been hit by a 70% cut to its council funding, as part of major reductions inflicted on the city’s arts by its local authority. These are challenging times for new work, what are your thoughts on where the next Phil Porter will come from?

My very first play was on at the Mac. The landscape is obviously changing. It’s a big problem that places like Mac, where writers might find support as they’re starting out, are losing the funding they need to offer that support. Most writers, even if they’re really good, won’t get picked up by the big new writing venues, at least at first. It also damages the touring infrastructure, further limiting opportunities. And besides arts funding there are some even broader problems, in the way our society is changing, that make it very difficult for a writer from a remotely normal background to develop a career. I left university with no significant debts, moved to London, paid £250 a month in rent, and picked up a couple of commissions from new writing theatres who could afford to take a chance on an unproven writer. None of that would happen now. But on the more positive side, at least if you write a good play there are people genuinely committed to unearthing new talent.

Talk to me about your work with the RSC.

I’ve been working with the RSC for nearly 10 years now. I owe a lot to Pippa Hill, their Literary Manager, who commissioned me to write a five minute play for an event in 2008 and has been offering me bigger and bigger challenges ever since. This has culminated in ‘The Christmas Truce’ in 2014 and now ‘Vice Versa’ which is on in The Swan over the coming summer. It’s great to work somewhere with those kinds of resources. Having the support of a company like the RSC gives me a great push.

How do you feel about deadlines?

There are two kinds of projects. There are ones that are already in the brochure. Then my brain understands that it is no way a soft deadline; people are going to do this play and it needs to be ready for rehearsal and ready for an audience. Those deadlines I take very seriously. If it’s a more open commission I will always try to make the deadline or as near damn it. But I know from experience that what a theatre really wants is a play they can do rather than one that has arrived on time. I had a play on in Plymouth last year and I was quite late on the first draft deadline. For a little while I felt a bit like I was hiding which is the worst thing. If you owe someone a play you just have to keep the channels of communication open. As long as they know you’re working on it they’re generally fine. But it’s definitely a good thing career-wise to be known as someone who delivers on time.

What is your favourite theatre in London?

I still get very excited about going to The National. I think it goes back to that period when you start discovering theatre and you find this palace on the river with three plays going on a night and at least one of them is something that will completely blow your mind. I still get really excited about going to see a West End show. It’s funny doing the West End thing because as playwrights we are simultaneously taught to be slightly snooty about the West End but on the other hand if you get a West End transfer then you’ve made it.

Are West End ticket prices too high?

Undoubtedly. Some shows and some producers definitely take the piss more than others –  I’m pleased to say The Miser is relatively inclusive. I don’t understand the economics of it well enough to know why the inflation is so rapid. But yeah, it’s a crazy system.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR THE MISER

What’s your favourite musical?

I like musicals more than you might imagine. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for ‘Cabaret’. Every Christmas me and my girlfriend watch ‘Meet Me in St Louis’ and it gets me every time. And I often think about the song ‘A Woman’s Touch’ from ‘Calamity Jane’. Whenever I’m writing something and trying to think about how to transition quickly from one state to another I imagine Doris Day and her pal cleaning up that house. It’s the ultimate montage sequence – a very important artistic reference point for me.

Amazing. What have you got coming up in 2017?

We have the RSC show, ‘Vice Versa’, which is a Roman style comedy. I never wrote it as such but it’s starting to look like a Trump satire. Um, I’m writing a sort of futuristic musical for The Soho with a composer called Marc Teitler who wrote ‘The Grinning Man’. On a day-to-day basis I’m currently writing an adaptation of ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ for Joe Murphy to direct. Joe directed my play ‘Blink’ (Soho Theatre) and is directing ‘Woyzeck’ at The Old Vic this year. Then I have another commission for Plymouth and I’m trying to adapt my old play ‘The Cracks In My Skin’ into a film. But right now it’s mostly about ‘The Miser’ and ‘Vice Versa’

 

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Interview with Playwright James Graham: “I’m a human who doesn’t like or know how to talk about himself.”

James Graham
James Graham, photo by Steve Tanner

James Graham, photo by Steve Tanner

James Graham ‘mayhem’ (ie not mayhem at all)

So, I went along to a matinee of ‘This House’ at The Garrick Theatre. It’s pretty amazing. Later that day I met with the writer, James Graham, for a whiskey cocktail. Graham is a witty man, who is a curious mixture of mischief and innocence, and who has the youthful appearance of a Dorian Gray entity.

Fortunately, James is good at talking: about ‘This House’, about his place in the theatre universe, and about the physical demands of being a playwright in 2016.

Anyway, all playwrights are subject to the whims of fashion, going in and out of fashion according to fads for writing styles or categories of plays, or even the political climate. Politics aside, the vital element in the brilliance of This House’ is that the writing is of a phenomenally high standard: it is a prescient exploration of the mechanisms at play in government. Ultimately, there’s a clarity of vision that’s virtually unrivalled in the current theatre scene.

This House

This House. Click on the image to book your tickets.

This House premiered at the Cottesloe Theatre in September 2012, directed by Jeremy Herrin, and transferred to the Olivier in 2013 where it enjoyed sell-out runs with critical acclaim and admiration from current and former MP’s for his rendition of life in the Commons. It was broadcast internationally by NT Live and received nominations for the Evening Standard and Olivier Best Play awards. (‘FYI’ I’m calling it now, ‘This House’ is the greatest play written in the last five years.)

Studies of lying show that when telling a lie, most people are tempted to add a vast amount of detail to their stories; they believe that the more aspects they add, the more sound their stories will be. ‘This House’ does not feel dishonest, but you could argue that the suggested extent of this play’s familiarity is an illusion of sorts, or at least an example of sleight of hand.

Graham’s more recent work includes Privacy created with Josie Rourke for the Donmar Warehouse and receiving its New York premiere at the Public Theater this July, starring Daniel Radcliffe. His play Monster Raving Loony opened at the Theatre Royal Plymouth this year and transferred to Soho Theatre in May. The Vote at the Donmar Warehouse aired in real time on TV in the final 90 minutes of the 2015 polling day and was nominated for a BAFTA. His Channel 4 drama Coalition also aired during the election and won the Royal Television Society award for Best Single Drama. James has written the book for Finding Neverland with music by Gary Barlow. It opened on Broadway in April 2015. He remains a Writer in Residence at the Finborough Theatre. Bloody hell.

(There were lots of things covered; this is a definite cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuit job.)

What sort of human are you?
I’m a human who doesn’t like or know how to talk about himself. I’d say I am an inconsistent and uncertain person.

If they could invent a robot to replace you and do all the boring stuff political playwrights have to do, what would you get up to instead?
I’d love to write a novel; I have an idea for a fantasy adventure story set in New York and one is a time hopping piece.

So, let’s get political; is there anyone you’d like to pour boiling water over, he says
No… However, I would pour cold water over Boris Johnson; he needs some perspective and probably ought to have some discomfort.”

What’s your worst play? 
Hahahaha! Oh that’s a tough one. Only because it was the first play I ever wrote and I was still learning: ‘Coal not dole’ about the miners’ strike.

Amazing. What’s your best play? 
This House, I guess. I am relieved – that by accident or design – it’s proven itself able to survive the times.

If you don’t follow politics you’re uninformed, if you do follow politics you’re misinformed. What is the long-term effect of too much information? 
Democracy isn’t allowed to function, there is a conscious shift by some parties or media to use that as a tactic to distract or destroy any conversation.

Serious question: Baths or showers?
Oh, goodness. 100% showers. Baths are 100% evil, man. I mean, to sit their doing nothing for that period of time. No. Thank. You.

Is Nigel Farage a fictional character? 
In a way, yes; he’s a construct. I don’t believe he can possibly be a real person.

What are your three favourite apps? 
Right, The London Bus checker – I do use google maps but I think being lost sometimes can be a good thing. I love Pocket to save articles. SignEasy is amazing as I don’t have to post contracts and things!

Do you think some writers cheat when they’re working with people and go “oh I haven’t done any prep let’s just jam and let the vibes flow” or whatever it is people say in a creative scenario, when actually they’ve got a brilliant idea in their head that they’re going to pretend just suddenly appears as if by magic.
Yes, I do but it’s destructive – I remember the OVNV 24 hour plays you can always tell because the ones that are don’t normally feel as fresh or good.

Do you think drama schools should have diversity quotas? 
That’s a hard question and I understand arguments against and for them. The problem of lack of diversity, whether race or gender or class, is genuine and very serious. And if quotas can solve that problem then maybe that’s the way to go. The arts are a lot like politics – in that sense – it’s about representating a group of people you’ve failed.

What does Gary Barlow smell like? 
Oh, Heaven and the north.

Do you think people are too distracted by the internet these days?
Yes. Including me – I may switch off for a New Year’s resolution.

What were the last three things you Googled?
Okay, let me check, I’ll be totally honest:

  1. Reviews for The Missing
  2. Beyond the Waterfall A cocktail odyssey.
  3. Arts Education and Schools

 

what are your experiences of young writers programmes? 

I did the RC young writers programme – BBC writers room. Look at whatever your local theatre does get involved. NT Connections is astonishing if you’re a teacher or a writer.

Do you think it helps being friends with people in the industry because you can all sort of relate to what’s happening?
I don’t think it helps in terms of your own work. It’s psychologically and emotionally helpful yes.

Do you have anything special planned for 2017?
Well, I will finish ‘1984’. I want to stay in London more – cook and watch television and do London jobs based in this city. Just so I can be home for a while, which I miss.

*This House is currently gracing the West End in a limited run until 25 February 2017.*

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