Christopher Ravenscroft Leads THE NOTORIOUS MRS EBBSMITH at Jermyn Street Theatre, Now thru May 3
Best known for his recurring role as DI Mike Burden in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, accomplished stage, TV and film actor Christopher Ravenscroft teams up with Rhiannon Sommers, acclaimed for her portrayal of Mary Shelley in Bloody Poetry at Jermyn Street Theatre in 2012, for the first ever revival of Arthur Wing Pinero's The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith.
When it was first performed in the West End in 1895, with Mrs Patrick Campbell in the lead accompanied by Johnston Forbes Robertson as Lucas, it was a big hit. Gripping and provocative, the work tackled the theme of social radicalism and questioned accepted conventions, posing questions that are as searching today as they were then.
The scene is The English ex-pat community scandalised by rumours about the latest arrivals in Venice. Lucas Cleeve (Max Hutchinson), an up-and-coming Tory MP, is travelling with a woman named Agnes Ebbsmith (Sommers). Defying convention, they are refusing to marry, and living in a 'compact' together. But before long their peace is shattered by the arrival of Lucas's family from London, led by the dangerous Duke of St Olpherts (Ravenscroft). Agnes Ebbsmith is a radical feminist preacher and writer, but can she resist the forces of the English establishment?
Playwright Arthur Wing Pinero was born in 1855 in London. In 1874 he joined RH Wyndham's company as the Edinburgh Lyceum, before moving to Henry Irving's company based at the Lyceum in the West End in 1876. Later, he acted at the Haymarket under the Bancrofts' management. He began writing plays in the 1870s, writing both comedies and problem plays, usually about women and morality. His major works include The Magistrate (1885), The Schoolmistress (1886), Dandy Dick (1887), The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1893), The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith (1895), Trelawny of the Wells (1898), His House in Order (1906), and The Thunderbolt (1908). He also forged a career as a successful theatre director, including of his own plays. He was knighted in 1909, and died in 1934. Recent revivals of AW Pinero's plays have included The Magistrate (National Theatre), Trelawny of the Wells (Donmar Warehouse), The Second Mrs Tanqueray (Rose Kingston), The Schoolmistress (Stephen Joseph, Scarborough) and Dandy Dick (National Tour).
Christopher Ravenscroft and Rhiannon Sommers are joined by Max Hutchinson, Richard Beanland, Julia Goulding, Peter Sandys-Clarke, Robert Benfield, Sarah Madigan and Niccolo Curradi.
Director Abbey Wright was Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse and Staff Director on Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle (NT). Her recent work includes Mrs Lowry and Son (Trafalgar Studios), Dublin Carol (Donmar at Trafalgar), Sixty-Six Books (Bush Theatre), The Song of Deborah (Lowry), Hidden Glory (Lowry and national tour), Bitch Boxer (Soho Theatre), The Lake Boat / Prairie du Chien (Arcola), The Ones that Flutter (Theatre503).
Set Designer Cherry Truluck was been nominated twice last year for an OffWestEnd Award (for Primavera's The Living Room and Thark at the Park Theatre). Her other recent work includes Samuel Beckett's All That Fall, directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins in New York and The West End, and Berkoff: Religion and Anarchy, directed by Steven Berkoff and Max Barton, at Jermyn Street Theatre. Costume designs are by Victoria Johnstone, whose luscious costumes for Primavera's revival of Saturday Night (Jermyn Street Theatre and West End, 2009) were highly praised. Lighting is by Tim Mascall (Complicite, Theatre Royal Bath, Menier Chocolate Factory, Derren Brown) and sound is by Simon Slater (Olivier Award Nomination for Constellations; over 170 compositions for the RSC, BBC television and radio, and Hampstead Theatre).
The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith is produced by Tom Littler of Primavera and forms part of a 2014 season of major revivals which also includes the first revival in over 25 years of Jean-Jacques Bernard's seminal play, Martine, and the first ever revival of Terence Rattigan's first play, First Episode.
Primavera presents THE NOTORIOUS MRS EBBSMITH by ARTHUR WING PINERO, directed by Abbey Wright at the Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street,, London SW1Y 6ST. PRESS NIGHT: 10 APRIL 7.30PM. Box office: 020 7287 2875. Book online at www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk. Tickets: £20 full price / £16 concessions. Performances run 8 April to 3 May 2014, playing Tuesday - Saturday at 7.30pm, with matinees Saturday at 3.30pm.