The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has announced the stage premiere of a new play by Robin French.
“Journalist Katy is desperate for her big break, and an interview in Paris with world famous concert pianist Silvia de Zingaro looks like just her chance.
But the odds are against her. After a disastrous interview, Katy feels certain there’s a bigger story there than meets the eye. She hunts for clues, finding Silvia has a collection of mystical books and an apparent fixation with composer Erik Satie. Just as Katy’s hope begins to fade, a mysterious night-time encounter with the pianist may well give her the scoop she’s looking for…”
‘Crooked Dances’ examines music, time and attention in our modern digital age.
Directed by Elizabeth Freestone, the production will feature design by Basia Bińkowska.
Making their RSC debuts in the roles of concert pianist, Silvia de Zingaro and the journalist, Katy Porlock, are, respectively, Ruth Lass and Jeany Spark.
Ruth’s credits include ‘Equus’ (English Touring Theatre), ‘Great Apes’ (Arcola) and ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’ (Hull Truck). Her TV work includes ‘Silent Witness’ (BBC) and ‘Houdini and Doyle’ (ITV).
Jeany’s credits include ‘Skylight’ (Theatr Clywd) and ‘Battleface’ (Bush Theatre); and on screen ‘Collateral’ (BBC), Linda Wallander in ‘Wallander’ (BBC), and Emma Lipsey in ‘Man Down’ (Channel 4).
Ben Onwukwe returns to the RSC to play Denis Zann, Silvia’s manager. Ben’s RSC credits include ‘Days of Significance’, ‘Pericles’ and ‘The Winter’s Tale’. Other theatre credits include ‘New Nigerians’ (Arcola), ‘The Treatment’ (Almeida) and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (Tour). Television work includes: ‘Safe’ (Netflix), ‘Marcella’ (ITV) and ‘EastEnders’ (BBC).
Olly Mott plays photographer Nick Sobers. His theatre credits include ‘Milked’ (Soho Theatre), ‘Almost Near’ (Finborough Theatre) and a season at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick. He has worked for the BBC on ‘EastEnders’ and ‘Doctors’. ‘Crooked Dances’ is his RSC debut.
Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Robin French, current Artist in Residence at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, whose writing credits include BBC3’s ‘Cuckoo’, co-written and co-created by French along with Kieron Quirke, said, “Having felt ready to write a new play, I approached the RSC, knowing that Literary Manager Pippa Hill has an extraordinary talent for unlocking writers. Sure enough, the first inspiration for the play came. I was on a train, listening to a playlist on Spotify. When I heard Erik Satie’s Crooked Dances for the first time, I felt a strong intuition that that was where the treasure was buried. The play that evolved melds my fascination with Satie’s music with the preoccupations of our 21st Century digital society. I’m delighted to be working with the brilliant director Elizabeth Freestone on this, my first commission with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I can’t wait to share it with audiences.”
Freelance director Elizabeth Freestone’s previous credits include ‘Endless Light’ (Kali/Southwark Playhouse); ‘The Duchess of Malfi’, ‘Dr Faustus’, ‘The School for Scandal’, ‘Volpone’ (Greenwich Theatre); ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (Shakespeare’s Globe), ‘The Water Harvest’ (Theatre503) and ‘Left On Church Street’ (Bridewell). Previous productions for the RSC include ‘The Rape of Lucrece’, ‘Here Lies Mary Spindler’, ‘The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes’ and ‘The Comedy of Errors’.
Freestone adds, “From reading the first few lines in Robin’s play, I was hooked. He creates a funny, vivid and spell-binding atmosphere as the extraordinary story of Silvia’s life unfolds. Nothing you are told is quite as straightforward as it seems and nothing you see is quite what you expect. It’s a fantastic challenge to realise the ideas and images Robin is exploring – the power of music, the nature of time, the fragility of real human connection. Directing such a powerful and provocative new play for the RSC’s iconic The Other Place is an exciting prospect. We’ll be using projection, live music and possibly a few surprises to create a full and theatrical experience for the audience.”
‘Crooked Dances’ will run at The Other Place from Thursday 20th June to Saturday 13 July, with an official opening night on Wednesday 26th June.
Joining ‘Crooked Dances’ at The Other Place, the RSC welcomes ‘Beware the Cat’.
“Centred on the grisly alchemical experiments of a rambling priest seeking to understand the language of cats, the story asks a question that has provoked humans across the ages: do birds and beasts have reason?”
A thought-provoking, one-hour performance, ‘Beware the Cat’ sheds light on the first-ever English novel by William Baldwin.
First written in 1552, the novel tells a tale of witchcraft, religious controversy and talking cats, in a bid to help us imagine what animals might say about the world, if they had the ability to talk.
Professor Frances Babbage (University of Sheffield’s School of English) and Dr Rachel Stenner (School of English at the University of Sussex) have worked with Terry O’Connor from UK theatre ensemble Forced Entertainment on a project to adapt the novel into a theatre performance for audiences across the UK.
In this special performance, audiences are invited to share in this funny, satirical tale of alchemical exploration for the first time, featuring unique artworks representing the cat-world by artist Penny McCarthy.
‘Beware the Cat‘ will run at The Other Place on Saturday 6th July, at 5pm.
Regarding these two new productions, Gregory Doran, Artistic Director for the RSC said, “One of the things that often surprises people about the Royal Shakespeare Company is that we don’t only do Shakespeare. There’s a very healthy cross-fertilization with contemporary writers, whether that’s plays at The Other Place, the Swan Theatre or on the main stage in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Writing for big stages is what we hope to inspire playwrights to do, just as Shakespeare did. As a company, it’s vital that we listen to the voices of today in order to reflect upon the world we live in now and who knows, maybe the new works of today will be the classics of tomorrow.”