LONDON — Roll up your fists: “Oleanna” has firmed up an April 22 press night for director Lindsay Posner‘s West End revival of the controversial David Mamet play, which caused a stir — and generated occasional audience fisticuffs — during its first London go-round in 1993, as it had Off Broadway the season before. Film names Julia Stiles (“Mona Lisa Smile”) and Aaron Eckhart (“The Missing,” “Possession”) will play the combatants Carol and John — roles filled previously in London by Britons Lia Williams and David Suchet.
Eckhart, 36 next month, is a good 20 years younger than Suchet, which should lend an added sexual frisson to Mamet’s controversial treatment of bad manners (or not) in the landmine that is academe.
The casting of Eckhart, says the revival’s lead producer, Edward Snape, “is very different, and I think that’s exciting: Aaron has played lecturers and professors on film before, so it’s not as if today’s audiences can’t get their head around someone not being of the Suchet generation.”
As for Stiles, Snape called the soon-to-be-23-year-old “a very refreshing actress who has done both theater and film,” even if her Central Park stand two summers ago as Viola in “Twelfth Night” got decidedly mixed reviews.
Plans are for a 13-week run through July 17 for the £275,000 ($515,000) staging at a venue to be finalized, though the Garrick is looking likely. Snape produces for his own Fiery Angel banner, alongside Clare Lawrence and Anna Waterhouse for Out of the Blue Prods. Rehearsals begin March 15.
In May, Snape partners with Scamp, Sam Mendes‘ new commercial venture post-Donmar, on the West End preem of “Fuddy Meers,” David Lindsay-Abaire‘s 1999 Off Broadway play. Director Angus Jackson‘s production is primed for a mid-May opening at the Arts, following a tryout at the Birmingham Rep.
Julia McKenzie inherits Marylouise Burke‘s Off Broadway role in the venture, capitalized at $280,000; the supporting cast could include one or more Americans.
Beeb nixes Oliviers
“The revolution will not be televised,” or so Gil Scott-Heron famously told us. Nor, this year anyway, will the Olivier Awards, which for the first time in more than two decades will hold their annual jamboree Feb. 22 without a broadcaster on board.
The more cynically minded might ask, so what? It had become increasingly difficult in recent years even to find the awards buried deep within BBC skeds — the event both delayed, so as to negate any news value whatsoever, and heavily pared down.
On Broadway, there would be a furor. Not in London, which these days has been primed to expect anything from an org whose nominations annually raise caprice to a high art. (Here’s best actress nominee Helen Mirren on the exclusion from the same category of her “Mourning Becomes Electra” co-star, Eve Best: “It sucks.”)
Still, it’s hard not to feel for the Olivier officials, who hardly need the slap in the face that the jettisoning of the ceremony represents.
“There’s always been a mood to get rid of them,” says one Olivier veteran. “The BBC are such philistines.” And pragmatists, too, who have watched viewership tumble from the 3 million mark in the early 1980s, when the ceremony was shown live on flagship channel BBC1, to less than 1 million last year, by which point the show had long since been shunted to BBC2 in its delayed, truncated form.
Of late, says Kevin Bishop, who exec produced the ceremony for the last four years for the Beeb, “We couldn’t get any excitement within the channel,” with many feeling the network was airing the awards out of duty rather than affection. (It didn’t help that Jane Root, BBC2 controller, has apparently nixed all awards shows.)
As a result, expect what organizers are saying will be a real party this year. (With no cameras present, imagine the possible shenanigans!)
And as for next year? “All I can say at the moment is we don’t quite know where it’s going to go,” says Society of London Theater chief exec Richard Pulford. In other words, bottoms up!