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NT New Stoppard Play, Fiennes in Shaw

National Theatre logoThe winter-spring lineup at the National Theatre in London, England, may not include any Shakespeare, but it does feature Ralph Fiennes's return to the National in Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman as well as a new play by Tom Stoppard.

Fiennes will play Jack Tanner in Simon Godwin's reinvention of Shaw's classic feminist play, which runs in the Lyttelton Theatre Feb. 25 to May 17 and will be broadcast through National Theatre Live on May 14. Fiennes appeared at the NT most recently in the title role of Oedipus and in the NT's 50th anniversary gala performance. Godwin directed Strange Interlude at the NT last year. He is an associate artist at Bristol Old Vic and associate director at The Royal Court, and he directed Two Gentlemen of Verona for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Stoppard's new play, The Hard Problem, premieres at the Dorfman Theatre on Jan. 28 and will be directed by Nicholas Hytner, his last production as director of the National Theatre. The play focuses on Hilary, a young psychology researcher at a brain science institute, who is nursing a private sorrow and a troubling question at work. If there is nothing but matter, what is consciousness? This is "the hard problem" that puts Hilary at odds with her colleagues, who include her first mentor, Spike; her boss, Leo' and the billionaire founder of the institute, Jerry. Is the day coming when the computer and the MRI scanner will answer all the questions psychology can ask? Meanwhile Hilary needs a miracle, and she is prepared to pray for one.

The Hard Problem is Tom Stoppard's first play for the stage since Rock 'n' Roll (Royal Court, 2006), and his first for the National since his trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, in 2002. His long association with the National Theatre began with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1967, and went on to include productions of Jumpers, On the Razzle, Rough Crossing, The Real Inspector Hound, Arcadia, The Invention of Love, and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (written with André Previn). His stage plays, which have won eight Evening Standard awards and five Tony awards, also include Travesties, The Real Thing, and Shakespeare in Love.

Another new play premiering next year at the Dorfman Theatre is Rules for Living by Sam Holcroft. Directed by Marianne Elliott, it joins the repertoire on March 24. In it, everyone creates his or her own coping strategies or rules for living. This dark comedy asks what happens when an extended family gathers in the kitchen for a traditional Christmas and they each follow those rules, rigidly. Sam Holcroft's work for the NT includes Edgar & Annabel, staged as part of Double Feature in the Paintframe, and The Wardrobe for NT Connections. She was the 2013 Writer-in-Residence at the National Theatre Studio. Recent works includes The House Taken Over (Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and Académie Européenne de Musique), Dancing Bears (Soho Theatre), and While You Lie (Traverse Theatre).

The NT will also be bringing Shahid Nadeem's play Dara to the Lyttleton Theatre from Jan. 20–April 4. Adapted by Tanya Ronder and directed by Nadia Fall, the play was originally performed by Pakistan's Ajoka Theatre, where co-founder Nadeem is executive director. The cast includes Nathalie Armin, Rudi Dharmalingam, Vincent Ebrahim, Ranjit Krishnamma, Anjli Mohindra, Anneika Rose, Chook Sibtain, and Anjana Vasan. The play takes place in 1659 India's imperial court, a place of opulence and excess, music, drugs, eunuchs, and harems. Two brothers, whose mother's death inspired the Taj Mahal, are heirs to this Muslim empire. Now they fight ferociously for succession. Dara, the crown prince, has the love of the people and his emperor father, but younger brother, Aurangzeb, holds a different vision for India's future. Islam inspires poetry in Dara, puritanical rigor in Aurangzeb. 

Tanya Ronder's plays include Table and an adaptation of Pirandello's Liolá for the National; adaptations of Macbett for the RSC, Filumena and Blood Wedding for the Almeida, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and Vernon God Little (nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Play), and Peribanez for the Young Vic.

For National Theatre's full lineup into next April, see Bard on the Boards.

December 12, 2014

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