SOMMER 14 - A DANCE OF DEATH & THE IMMORTAL HOUR to Play Finborough Theatre this Autumn
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 on Tuesday, 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 with 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 adapted 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.
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.
Celebrating the exact centenary of its first performance at the inaugural Glastonbury Festival on 26 August 1914, Rutland Boughton's record-breaking 'music-drama' The Immortal Hour, plays at the Finborough Theatre for a limited nine performance run of Sunday and Monday evening and Tuesday matinee performances from Sunday, 10 August 2014 (Press Night: Monday, 11 August 2014 at 7.30pm).
As befits the Finborough Theatre's location on one of London's major ley lines, The Immortal Hour is a magical faery tale that draws heavily from Celtic folklore and mythology.
Eochaidh, King of Éire, is drawn by visions to seek the love of the immortal Faery Folk, but in doing so inadvertently summons Dalua, the Lord of Shadows. Dalua uses his dark powers to bewilder Eochaidh and send him down a path that few return from...with tragic consequences.
Combining Wagnerian approaches to musical themes with a folk-like approach to the music itself, reminiscent of its Celtic roots, The Immortal Hour explores fate, desire and mortality in two worlds, as the unrequited love between the mortal world and the immortal Faeries collide.
Following its premiere at the first Glastonbury Festival (which Boughton co-founded), The Immortal Hour was produced in London in 1922 where it enjoyed a record breaking run of over 600 performances. Last seen in London at Sadler's Wells in 1953, it still holds the world-record for a continuous run of any serious opera written by an Englishman.
In a month that also marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, this production - which restores the piece to its theatrical roots - offers a unique opportunity to experience the musical culture of England as it was in the month that the nation went to war.
Composer Rutland Boughton (1878-1960) was one of the most prolific English composers of the 20th century - and was also well known for organising music festivals at Glastonbury, Stroud, Ross-on-Wye and Bath, and for his left wing political views. He studied at the Royal College of Music. His many other works include the operas Bethlehem, The Round Table, The Ever Young, The Lily Maid, Galahad, Avalon, The Queen of Cornwall and Alkestis, the ballets Death Dance of Grania, Snow White, The Death of Columbine and May Day, and many other orchestral concertos and musical poems. www.rutlandboughtonmusictrust.org.uk
Librettist Fiona Macleod was the pseudonym of Scottish author William Sharp (1855-1905), well known for his literary biographies of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Rossetti, Browning and Joseph Severn. Sharp used the Fiona Macleod pseudonym to write in a more whimsical and fantastical style as befitted his membership of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, one of the largest single influences on 20th-century Western occultism. Born in Paisley and studied at Glasgow University, Sharp was friends with many of the leading literary figures of his day including Rossetti and Swinburne, although his relationship with some writers - most notably W.B. Yeats - was often tumultuous as many were dismissive of Sharp's writing, but commended Macleod's. The opera libretto was based on Sharp's 1908 play of the same name.
Director Benji Sperring recently directed the professional world premiere of Ivor Novello's Valley of Song at the Finborough Theatre. Directing includes Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Prima Donna (Old Red Lion Theatre), Maurice Maeterlinck's The Blind and The Intruder (Old Red Lion Theatre and Tabard Theatre) which received an OffWestEnd Award nomination for Best Design, Assassins (Palace Theatre, Manchester), Sweet Charity (King's Theatre, Southsea), The Monk (Barons Court Theatre), Fun Like Stalingrad (Hen and Chickens Theatre), Six Characters In Search Of An Author and Under Milk Wood (Caccia Studio, Eton), Find Me (David Russell Theatre, Portsmouth, and Woking Festival), Little Shop of Horrors (Dance House Theatre, Manchester), In Camera and Party Time (John Thaw Studio Theatre, Manchester).
CELEBRATING BRITISH MUSIC THEATRE
In 2006, the Finborough Theatre began the Celebrating British Music Theatre series with a sell-out production of Leslie Stuart's Florodora. Productions since then have included sell-out rediscoveries of Lionel Monckton's Our Miss Gibbs, Harold Fraser-Simson's operetta The Maid of the Mountains, A "Gilbert and Sullivan" Double Bill featuring Gilbert's play Sweethearts and Sullivan's opera The Zoo, Dame Ethel Smyth's opera The Boatswain's Mate, Sandy Wilson's The Buccaneer, Oscar Asche's Chu Chin Chow, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, Ivor Novello's Perchance to Dream, Gay's The Word and Valley of Song, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Grand Duke, Edward German's Merrie England and Paul Scott Goodman's Rooms: A Rock Romance.
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. The Immortal Hour will run concurrently with Rolf Hochhuth's epic retelling of the outbreak of the First World War, Sommer 14 - A Dance of Death.