A DANCE OF DEATH Begins Tonight at the Finborough Theatre
Commissioned by the Finborough Theatre from Cerberus Theatre, the UK premiere and the English world premiere of controversial German playwright Rolf Hochhuth's Sommer 14 - A Dance of Death in a brand new translation opens at the Finborough Theatre for a four week limited season today, 5 August 2014 (Press Night: Thursday, 7 August at 7.30pm).
In June 1914, Europe was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity.
Little over a month later, the world was at war - and only a handful of people knew it was happening.
Inspired by the medieval mystery plays Sommer 14 - A Dance of Death is an epic telling from a German and European perspective of the world's descent into war. Employing the character of Death as a guide, the play uses the classic Danse Macabre structure of a series of searing vignettes to illuminate the people and the events that led up to the outbreak of the First World War.
"The dead are amongst us, they are inside us. They demand of us that we answer for our crimes."
At the turn of the twentieth century, Germany was the cultural and economic envy of the continent - until Kaiser Wilhelm II and Admiral Tirpitz massively expand the German Navy and spark an arms race with Great Britain.
At the same time, leaders in Vienna and Berlin are convinced that a quick pre-emptive war is the safest way to deal with the military might of Russia and France.
Whilst King Edward VII repeatedly warns Austria's aged emperor of Germany's dangerous predilection for playing soldiers, British First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill invokes a plan to not-so-secretly arm the ocean liner Lusitania, so that it and its many American passengers are a target for German submarines.
In Paris in March 1914, the war-hungry Editor of French newspaper Le Figaro is murdered by the wife of the pacifist Minister of Finance. In Berlin in May 1914, German Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg plants information in the press that Great Britain plans to attack Germany as soon as it can decide a date.
Even scientific reason is distorted by the fog of war as the German Jew Fritz Haber - torn between duty to his country and the pleas of his wife - becomes the father of chemical warfare.
But, ultimately, it is a twenty year old student, Gavrilo Princip, who provides the spark that changes the world forever...
This latest work from Rolf Hochhuth (following the Finborough Theatre's acclaimed productions of two previous works by Rolf Hochhuth - Soldiers and The Representative ) Sommer 14 - A Dance of Death is a hugely ambitious epic vision of the Great War from one of Europe's most acclaimed - and most controversial - dramatists.
Playwright Rolf Hochhuth was born in West Germany in 1931. Rolf Hochhuth's provocative first drama, Der Stellvertreter. Ein christliches Trauerspiel (The Deputy, a Christian tragedy), also known as The Representative) (1963), accuses Pope Pius XII and the Roman Catholic clergy of tolerating Nazi crimes against the Jews. It received productions worldwide and caused great controversy, as well as recently being adapted for the film Amen. It was produced at the Finborough Theatre in 2006. His second play, Soldiers (1967), initially banned in England, received its world premiere in Berlin in 1967, and received its first UK revival at the Finborough Theatre in 2004. It has also received acclaimed productions from Toronto to Melbourne. Later works include Guerrillas (1970), The Midwife (1972), The Survivor (1981) and the film A Love in Germany (1984).
Translator Gwynne Edwards has prepared a new free adaptation of the play, from a literal translation by Jennifer Bakst. Gwynne Edwards is a specialist in Spanish theatre and cinema and, until recently, Professor of Spanish at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales. He has also translated and adapted more than forty plays from Spanish, French and Italian, many of which have been staged at major theatres in Britain and the United States. He has published three collections of Lorca's plays with Methuen Drama, and also collections of seventeenth-century Spanish and contemporary Spanish-American plays, together with adaptations from the correspondence and prose writings of Dylan Thomas. His books include Lorca: The Theatre Beneath the Sand, Lorca: Living in the Theatre, Dramatists in Perspective: Spanish Theatre in the Twentieth Century, The Discreet Art of Luis Buñuel and Almodóvar: Labyrinths of Passion.
Director Christopher Loscher is currently Artistic Director of Cerberus Theatre. Theatre as director includes Count Oederland (Arcola Theatre), Portrait of a Young Man, possibly an Arab (V&A Museum), Holding Hands at Passchendaele (White Bear Theatre) and The Police (BAC). Assistant Direction includes assisting on The Face of Beauty (78th Street Theatre Lab, New York City) and Stephen Jeffries' Carmen 36' (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). He co-founded Cerberus Theatre, a theatre company that produces new writing, new translations and reinventions of classic texts.
The cast is
Dean Bray | Death
Trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
Theatre includes Wuthering Heights (Baron's Court Theatre), Kiss Me Kate (Upstairs at the Gatehouse), The West End Men (Vaudeville Theatre) and The Martyr (Soho Theatre).
Sarah-Jayne Butler | Secretary, Princess Stéphanie, War Widow, Lusitania Victim
Trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Theatre includes Thark (Park Theatre), This House (National Theatre), Summer and Smoke (Southwark Playhouse), Edward II, Mary Rose, From Morning to Midnight (National Theatre Studio), The Pitmen Painters (National Theatre and Duchess Theatre), The Judas Kiss (Theatre Royal Bath and National Tour), Tim and Light (National Tour), Enter the Spokeswoman, Gently (Nabokov), The Wind in the Willows (Theatre503), Jackajack (National Tour), Total (The Old Police Cells Museum) and Miss Dorothy.com (Lyric Studio and National Tour).
Film includes Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Lie With Me: A Foreplay and Love Me Till Monday.
Television includes The Jesus Mysteries and Ashes to Ashes.
Peter Cadden | King Edward VII, General Dragutin Dimitrijevi?, General Helmuth von Moltke
Trained at St. Catherine's Drama Studio Guildford.
Theatre includes A Flea in Her Ear, Pygmalion (The Old Vic), The Sunshine Boys (Savoy Theatre), King Lear (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The Fool (Cock Tavern), The Recovery Position (Lion and Unicorn Theatre), Measure for Measure (Theatre Royal Bath), Ohio Impromptu (Gate Theatre, Dublin and The Barbican Theatre), The Creeper (Theatre Royal Windsor and National Tour), The Diary of Anne Frank (Birmingham Rep and National Tour), Sense and Sensibility (Northcott Theatre, Exeter and National Tour), The Real Inspector Hound and Black Comedy (National Tour), All My Sons (Vienna's English Theatre), Hay Fever (Eye Theatre), Lady Windermere's Fan (Birmingham Rep, Albery Theatre and National Tour), Entertaining Mr Sloane, Molly Sweeney, Frozen, Humble Boy, Ghosts and The Importance of Being Earnest (National and Irish Tours).
Film includes Silver Lining and 99 and Counting.
Television includes Crimewatch, Grange Hill and The Bill.
Nick Danan | Monsieur Gaston Calmette, Lord Admiral Winston Churchill, Fritz Haber
Productions at the Finborough Theatre include Over the Bridge.
Theatre includes When The Fallen Sang (St. Giles-in-the-Fields Church), The Titanic Boys (Grand Opera House, Belfast), Holding Hands At Paschendale (White Bear Theatre), Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Butterfly Theatre Company) The Proposal (King's Head Theatre), Antony and Cleopatra (Shakespeare's Globe), From Both Hips (Old Red Lion Theatre), The Shadow Of A Gunman (Tricycle Theatre), The Quare Fellow (Oxford Stage Company), The Lieutenant Of Inishmore (Garrick Theatre), This Lime Tree Bower (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry), One Last White Horse (Union Theatre), Juno and The Paycock (Haymarket Theatre, Leicester) and Gym and Tonic (Hull Truck).
Film includes Bubblegum Junkies, Mass, One in a Million and Silent Night.
Television includes The Challenge, Henry V and Safe.
Radio includes Vostok, It's Enough to Believe You're in Danger, Belongings and The Shadow of a Gunman.
Edmund Dehn | Franz Joseph, Admiral Tirpitz
Productions at the Finborough Theatre include Joe, The Alternative, The Police, The Don Juan and the Non Don Juan, The Optimist's Daughters, The Women's War - Press Cuttings, Coyote Ugly and The Representative.
Theatre includes Cosi (King's Head Theatre), This Story of Yours (Old Red Lion Theatre), The Tailors' Last Stand (Baron's Court Theatre), The Tempest (Regional Tour), The Book of Job (Theatre Royal Norwich), Murder in the Cathedral (Truro Cathedral), Beggars Opera (National Tour), Coriolanus (St. George's Theatre, Tufnell Park), The Alchemist (Courtyard Theatre), Last of the Red Hot Lovers (English Theatre, Hamburg), Snow White (Phoenix Theatre), King Lear (National Tour) and The Bends of the Danube (Merlin Theatre, Budapest)
Film includes Lovelorn (Best Supporting Actor award at the LA Reel Film Festival), Spoon, Cradle of Fear, Kid Gloves, Junta, Fraternity, Olive Green, K-Shop and Judge Minty Fan Film.
Television includes Oil Storm, Speer und Er, Knightmare, and The 10%ers.
Audio books include the unabridged Gormenghast Trilogy.
Reginald Edwards | Gottlieb von Jagow, Lord Alfred Booth, Waiter, Baron Nicholas, Genrikhovich Hartwig, Director of the Washington National Gallery of Art.
Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Theatre includes Abigail's Party (Gladstone Theatre), The Birthday Party, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Long Shot (Unity Theatre, Liverpool), Blinded by the Light, Fully House Trained (24:7 Theatre Festival) and The Zoo Story (The Bluecoat, Liverpool).
Film includes Sweet and Right and Tiny Ruins: Carriages.
Tim Faulkner | Editor 3, Kaiser Wilhelm II
Theatre includes Collision (Hackney Empire), Dangerous Corner (Ambassadors Theatre), The Guardsman (Albery Theatre), The Mousetrap (St Martin's Theatre), Three Women (King's Head Theatre), The Dorchester (Jermyn Street Theatre), Above All Courage (New End Theatre, Hampstead), A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet (Stafford Shakespeare Festival), Emilia Galotti (Trilogy Theatre), Lock Up Your Daughters (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry), Outside Edge (Churchill Theatre, Bromley), Boston Story, Charley's Aunt (The Mill at Sonning), First Impressions (Theatre Royal Margate) and The Dream Time (Edinburgh Festival).
Television includes Much Ado About Nothing, Messiah, Inspector Morse, Rumpole of The Bailey, Howards Way, Casualty, My Hero, The Fourth Arm, 'Allo 'Allo!, Stalkey and Co and Old Men at The Zoo.
Andrea Hart | Madame Henriette Caillaux, Lady Jennifer Randolph-Churchill, Clara Immerwahr Haber
Theatre includes The Homecoming, Miss Julie, Don Juan, Eva, A Picture of Dorian Gray, Summit Conference, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Human Voice, The Woman Destroyed, Blythe Spirit, Pal Joey, The Ice House, Women Beware Women, Quartet, The Soldiers, Pre-Paradise, Sorry Now and Major Barbara (Citizens Theatre, Glasgow), The Misanthrope (Chichester Festival Theatre), An Ideal Husband, Merlin (Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh), Semi Monde (Lyric Theatre) and Nothing (Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theatre, New York City).
Film includes Miss Monday (Special Jury Prize for Best Actress at the Sundance Film Festival), My Life So Far and Little Boy Blue.
Television includes Taggart, Rebus, River City and Doctors.
Kirby Hughes | Mrs Alice Keppel, A Girl, Miss Margot Stimson
Trained at the Royal Academy of Music
Theatre includes From Here to Eternity (Shaftesbury Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar (Ljubljana Festival), Me and My Girl (Kilworth House, Leicester) Annie (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Flashdance (Shaftesbury Theatre), Cinderella (Theatre Royal Wakefield), Crazy for You (London Palladium) and All the Town's Men (Chichester Festival Theatre).
Radio includes Friday Night is Music Night.
Concerts include A Night at the Oscars (Liverpool Philharmonic Hall), Sondheim Prom (Royal Albert Hall) and Russell Watson La Voce (National Tour).
David Meyer | Professor Willy Stöwer, Baron Wladimir Giesl von Gieslingen
Theatre includes A Midsummer Night's Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company), Flowers and Salome (Lindsay Kemp Company), The Tempest (Shared Experience), Hamlet (Steven Berkoff), As You Like It (Northcott Theatre, Exeter), The Police (BAC), Count Oederland (Arcola Theatre), Bent (Tabard Theatre), Let Newton Be (Menagerie Theatre Company) and A Massacre at Paris (Rose Theatre, Kingston).
Films include Derek Jarman's The Tempest, Lindsay Kemp's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Coronado's Hamlet, The Draughtsman's Contract, Octopussy, Bent and St John's Gospel.
Stephen Omer | Monsieur Joseph Caillaux, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, Henry Stimson
Productions at the Finborough Theatre include A Day by the Sea.
Trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.
Theatre includes Fatal Attraction (Theatre Royal Haymarket) The Long and The Short and The Tall (Albery Theatre), The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Derby Playhouse), Neville's Island (Hull Truck), To Kill A Mockingbird (New Vic Theatre, Stoke), Bella Bella Donatella (Salisbury Playhouse), Wounds to the Face (The Wrestling School), Red Princess (Red Shift), Old Times, Sailor Beware, Jane Eyre (National Tour) The Horse and His Boy (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith) and The Upstanding Member (Old Red Lion Theatre).
Film includes The Parole Officer, Married 2 Malcolm and Over the Moon.
Television includes Downton Abbey, Emmerdale, Heartbeat, Grownups, Spooks, Hollyoaks, Doctors, EastEnders, Down to Earth, Barbara, The Bill, Grange Hill, Family Affairs, The Estate Agents, My Hero, London's Burning, Peak Practice and Kavanagh QC.
Henry Proffit | Editor 2, Dr Theodor Wolff, Trifko Grabe, Lieutenant Ernst von Weizsäcker
Trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where he was chosen to represent the school at the Graduate Spotlight Showcase.
Theatre includes Kindertransport (National Tour), Romeo and Juliet (National and European Tour), Great Expectations (York Theatre Royal), Macbeth (National Tour), Alice Diamond and the Forty Thieves (The Bell Theatre, London) and The Captain of Kopenick (The Space at the Edinburgh Fringe).
Film includes The Waterloo Men, What Manner of Men, I'll Murder You, The Wilderness and Triple Theft.
THEGREATWAR100 series is a new occasional series of works about - or written during - the Great War to be presented by the Finborough Theatre from 2014 to 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.