Royal Court announces year-long season of work for 2019/20

Royal Court Theatre

The Royal Court has announced its next year’s worth of work in both its Jerwood Theatre Upstairs and Downstairs spaces, with this latest season spanning from September this year to July 2020.

Artistic director Vicky Featherstone said it’s a “testament to writers” that there is such a strong “range of voices, experiences, stories and provocations” included in the programming.

She said: “I am constantly overwhelmed by our hunger and capacity for story – the human need to make sense of the world in which we live and our openness to be surprised and enlightened by it. This year attempts to reflect that from the intensely private to the global stories of our times.”

The season begins in the Upstairs space in September as Tim Crouch’s play Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, is directed by Karl James and Andy Smith. The play, which runs at Edinburgh International Festival in August, is about a writer who convinces a group of people to believe in something that isn’t true, until one defector unravels his plan. It runs from 3rd September.

The 3rd September also sees a one-off in-conversation session with writer Lemn Sissay titled My Name is Why, which includes a 40-minute reading from his new memoir and 20-minute Q&A session in the Jerwood Downstairs.

Then, from 18th September, three Caryl Churchill plays will open, titled Glass. Kill. Bluebeard, directed by James Macdonald. Press material describes the plays as: ‘A girl made of glass. Gods and murders. A serial killer’s friends. Three stories by Caryl Churchill.’ It’s the latest of Churchill’s work to open at the Court, which also includes Escaped Alone, which went on to Broadway last year, and Top Girls, currently being revived at the National.

Sabrina Mahfouz’s play A History of Water in the Middle East will then open in the Upstairs theatre from 10th October. The play is inspired by the British-Egyptian’s application to MI6, as she explores who holes the power in the Middle East. It is directed by Stef O’Driscoll.

Following a run at the Sherman Theatre, Ed Thomas’ On Bear Ridge will then play Downstairs, directed by Featherstone and Thomas. The semi-autobiographical piece is set in an abandoned village, but three of the village’s business owners refuse to move away, and reminisce about old times. It runs from 24th October.

Eve Leigh’s play Midnight Movie will run Upstairs from 27th November. It is about having a ‘digital body’, and invites the audience to meet online each night. Directed by Rachel Bagshaw, it will combine spoken English, British Sign Language, captioning, audio description and will be performed in a relaxed environment.

From 5th December, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play A Kind of People will run in the Downstairs space. It is set amidst a contemporary British community as a group of friends on the fringe of a city are having a party. Bhatti’s past work includes Khandan, which ran at the theatre in 2014.

Directed by Lucy Morrison, Mirian Battye’s Scenes with Girls runs Upstairs from 15th January. It features 22 scenes between two friends, Tosh and Lou, who have stuck together as other friends have come and gone.

Debris Stevenson’s Poet in da Corner returns to the Royal Court in January 2020 following its acclaimed run last year. Featuring grime MC Jammz and directed by Ola Ince, it is about a girl who is brought up in a strict Mormon household given Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner album, and how her view on life changes.

March 2020 will see a season titled Open Court: Climate Emergency programme new work from writers in response to the climate emergency. Details are to be announced.

Featherstone will direct EV Crowe’s Shoe Lady in the Downstairs space from 4th March 2020.  It centres on a character called Viv who has lost a shoe, as she begins to feel overwhelmed by life. Crowe’s past work at the Court includes The Sewing Group, Hero, Kin and The Unknown.

Al Smith’s Rare Earth Mettle will then be directed by Hamish Pirie in the Downstairs Theatre from 2nd April. A British doctor with a plan to save the NHS and a Silicon Valley billionaire with a plan to halt climate change meet by an abandoned train in South America, and stake a claim to a piece of land in their individual pursuits of the ‘greater good’.

Two Palestinians go dogging by Sami Ibrahim will then run in the Upstairs theatre from 9th April. Directed by Omar Elerian, the play is set in 2024 as Reem and husband Sayeed share their play about Palestine’.

Conceived by Chloe Lamford and Wende, and created with Isobel Waller-Bridge and Imogen Knight, Is In Our Blood – The Song Project will run downstairs from 7th May 2020. With words by E.V. Crowe, Sabrina Mahfouz, Somalia Seaton, Stef Smith and Debris Stevenson, the piece is performed by the Dutch singer-songwriter Wende.

Pablo Manzi’s A Fight Against… runs Upstairs from 20th May 2020. Through an odyssey across the Americas, the play explores whether violence brings us closer together. Sam Pritchard directs the piece, which marks the English language debut of the Chilean writer.

Featherstone then directs The Glow, a play by Alistair McDowall set in an asylum in the 19th century where a woman is locked in a windowless cell. It follows McDowall’s previous play for the Court, X, and runs Downstairs from 29th May 2020.

Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks is Sarah Hanly’s play which will be directed by Alice Fitzgerald Upstairs from 29th June 2020. It is about a schoolgirl Sinead Murphy, who is getting with boys in car parks at discos, doing well in her exams, but also harbouring a secret she can only share with one person.

Aleshea Harris’ Is God Is will be directed by Ola Ince Downstairs from 16th July 2020. Twins Racine and Anaia receive a letter from their mother who they thought was dead, and travel to the Dirty South of California.

The season concludes with Jude Christian’s Nanjing, directed in the Upstairs space by Elayce Ismail. A personal response to the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, in which tens of thousands were killed and raped by Imperial Japanese troops in the then capital of China, it asks: ‘what does it mean to fight hatred and love one another?’

Photo credit: Mark Hakansson (Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

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