Jonathan Pryce is right for a perfect Storm

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    Hot French playwright Florian Zeller has lured Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce back on the stage.

    The theatrical giants will star in Zeller’s new piece, The Height Of The Storm, which has been adapted — as were all Zeller’s hits, including the acclaimed The Father — by Christopher Hampton.

    Pryce said he thinks ‘really hard’ before doing a play, saying that ‘stage has to be something you can create and recreate eight times a week for two months’.

    Jonathan Pryce

    Eileen Atkins

    Eileen Atkins

    Hot French playwright Florian Zeller has lured Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce back on the stage

    He read The Height Of The Storm twice. ‘The second time I cried. It’s a very moving, passionate, poetic piece, which is what attracted me to it,’ said Pryce, who will play Andre, a novelist who has been married to Madeleine, Atkins’s role, for 50 years.

    Director Jonathan Kent also cried when he saw the play in Paris, as did Hampton.

    So, why does it have this effect on the tear ducts? ‘It’s about grief, loss but above all it’s a celebration of love,’ said Kent.

    But, he added, the play is also ‘a forum for two of our greatest actors. Eileen’s a phenomenon,’ he continued. ‘She’s of a certain age [she’s 83], but she’s ageless.’

    They will begin performances at Wyndham’s on October 2 following the theatre’s two-month period of refurbishment.

    Before it begins its run in the West End, the play’s producers, Simon Friend, Mark Goucher and Howard Panter, have booked it on a short tour playing at Richmond Theatre from September 1, followed by Cambridge Arts Theatre and Theatre Royal Bath.

    Pryce said he’d been involved with projects that Ms Atkins had worked on, but usually she’d completed her part by the time he got there. He recalled filming the BBC series Cranford, where Atkins had finished her scenes. ‘We had a cardboard cut-out of her because the rest of the cast missed her so much,’ he said.

    Now he’ll be working with her in the flesh. ‘She’s up there as one of the best,’ he said.

    Years ago Pryce thought 60 would be the best age to retire because he didn’t want to become one of those older actors who are patronised by the young.

    ‘Fortunately, I’m managing to stave that off,’ said the 70-year-old. ‘I couldn’t imagine what I’d do if I’d stopped ten years ago.’

    Sharon’s simply a maid in heaven as sweet as Caroline

    Sharon D. Clarke, who plays the maid named in the title of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical Caroline, Or Change, will be joined by some new faces when rehearsals start on Monday for the transfer from Chichester to Hampstead.

    The show — about how parenting, race, religion, money and the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy intersect in Louisiana — begins performances at Hampstead on March 12.

    New cast members include Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Carole Stennett, Sharon Rose, and T’Shan Williams

    Sharon D. Clarke who plays the maid named in the title of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical Caroline, Or Change,

    Sharon D. Clarke who plays the maid named in the title of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical Caroline, Or Change,

    Sharon D. Clarke who plays the maid named in the title of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical Caroline, Or Change,

    I saw productions at New York’s Public Theater and at the National, but I was struck by how director Michael Longhurst staged it in West Sussex and was knocked out by the power Ms Clarke invested in Caroline.

    Adam Speer, the executive producer at the Ambassador Theatre Group, told me that the show at Chichester was ‘one of the most exciting, timely and beautiful productions’ he saw last year, which is why AGT is putting what he called ‘enhancement’ money into the Hampstead move.

    The hope is that if Caroline takes off in North London, it will move to the West End.

    Speers observed that the show is ‘timely’. One lyric, ‘an orphan ship of state drifting driverless’ refers to Kennedy’s death, but ‘drifting driverless’ could allude to Donald Trump.

    Ciaran Hinds, currently whipping up a storm in The Girl From The North Country at the Noel Coward, will be heading to the National to join director Ian Rickson’s new production of Brian Friel’s Translations. 

    The play, set in Ireland circa 1833, is about how the British insisted on changing Gaelic place names into English.

     

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