Mark Rylance to star in ‘Dr Semmelweis’ in the West End

The Olivier-winning actor will play the Hungarian doctor who went on to save millions of lives. Dr Semmelweis will open at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

Mark Rylance will return to the West End as the central character in Dr Semmelweis. Dr Semmelweis begins previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre on 29 June, ahead of an opening night on 11 July, and performances to 7 October.

The play tells the life of Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor who tried to convince his medical peers about the life-saving benefits of antiseptic procedures. The play premiered at Bristol Old Vic in 2022.

"Here is a person who makes one of the most important discoveries in modern medicine - what we now call ‘Bacteria’ - and yet he is pretty much unknown because for forty years until Louis Pasteur and Dr. Lister make the same discovery, no one will listen to him. Why?

I was intrigued. The inspiration to act our story with a chorus of ballet dancers and a quartet representing the many thousands of mothers who perished unnecessarily, makes this a very powerful piece of theatre for me,” said Rylance.

Rylance will play Semmelweis. The multi-award-winning actor’s West End and Broadway credits include Jerusalem, Othello, Farinelli and the King, Nice Fish, and Twelfth Night.

He will reprise his role along with Roseanna Anderson as Marja Seidel/ Baroness Maria-Teresa, Joshua Ben-Tovim as Hospital Porter/ Death, Ewan Black as Franz Arneth, Chrissy Brooke as Lisa Elstein, Meguim Eda as Aiko Eda, Suzy Halstead as Violet-May Blackledge, Felix Hayes as Ferdinand von Hebra, Pauline McLynn as Anna Müller, Jude Owusu as Jakob Kolletschka, Oxana Panchenko as Dance Ensemble), Millie Thomas as Agnes Barta, Max Westwell as Hospital Porter/ Death, Amanda Wilkin as Maria Semmelweis, Alan Williams as Johann Klein, Daniel York Loh as Karl von Rokitansky, and Patricia Zhou as Dance Ensemble.

Helen Belbin, Jason Hogan, Andrew McDonald complete the cast along with the Salomé Quartet. They consist of music director Haim Choi as Suk Hee Apfelbaum on Violin 1, Coco Inman as Sarah Schmidt on Violin 2, Kasia Zimińska as Eszter Horowitz on Viola, and Shizuku Tatsuno as Oshizu Yukimura on Cello.

Rylance and Stephen Brown co-write Dr Semmelweis. Tom Morris directs, with set and costume design by Ti Green, lighting design by Richard Howell, choreography by Antonia Franceschi of New York City Ballet, and music by Adrian Sutton.

When is Mark Rylance onstage in the West End?

Mark Rylance will next be onstage in Dr Semmelweis at the Harold Pinter Theatre. In 2017, the eight-time Olivier Award-nominated actor and five-time Tony Award-nominated actor received a knighthood for services to theatre.

Dr Semmelweis is at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

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Photo credit: Dr Semmelweis (Photo courtesy of production)

This article was last updated with the latest cast announcements on 5 June 2023.

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