Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright returns to London theatre

Wright, whose films include Atonement and Anna Karenina, will take on Bertolt Brecht’s classic play Life of Galileo

The British director Joe Wright is returning to the theatre to direct an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s classic play Life of Galileo.

Wright, whose films include Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina, made his stage directorial debut in 2012 with Trelawny of the Wells at the Donmar Warehouse in London.

He followed that with a memorable production of A Season in the Congo with Chiwetel Ejiofor at the Young Vic, and it is to there he returns for what will be his third play.

David Lan, the Young Vic’s artistic director, said he and Wright began talking about the Brecht play nearly two years ago, but Wright’s filming schedule meant it could not happen until now.

But that was fortuitous, said Lan, as the rise of Donald Trump meant that now felt the right time to stage it. “This is the moment,” he said. “The resonance of the play is remarkable and that is because it is a remarkable play.”

The play centres on the 17th-century scientist Galileo Galilei and his discoveries about the solar system, which challenged the Catholic worldview. Its themes include the search for scientific truth and how it sometimes clashes with what leaders want the truth to be.

Brendan Cowell and Billie Piper in Yerma at the Young Vic.
Brendan Cowell and Billie Piper in Yerma at the Young Vic. Photograph: Johan Persson

The play will be staged in the round and feature Brendan Cowell in the title role. The Australian actor is well established in his home country but not yet a big name in the UK, though he may be familiar to some London theatregoers for his role in Yerma at the Young Vic last year with Billie Piper.

It is a meaty role that requires an actor with ample reserves of physical and emotional strength, Lan said. There have been acclaimed performances in the role over the years, including Michael Gambon in 1980 at the National Theatre.

On Wednesday, Lan announced a 2017 season that will include the return of Yerma for about 20 performances in July and August.

After that will be a production of a Wings by Arthur Kopit, a 1978 American play that is little known in the UK. It tells the story of Emily, a former aviator and wing walker whose sense of reality is destroyed by a stroke. It will star Juliet Stevenson and be directed by Natalie Abrahami, a reunion after their work together on Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days at the Young Vic in 2014.

Other productions include the London staging of Ramin Gray and David Greig’s The Suppliant Women, which has been seen in Edinburgh, Newcastle and Belfast.

In the Young Vic’s Maria studio, productions will include Taha, telling the story of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali; and Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone by Josette Bushell-Mingo.


Mark Brown

The GuardianTramp

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