The title role in The Twelfth Battle of Isonzo will be voiced by Nicholas Le Prevost in an immersive experience which will be audio described throughout, connecting the audience to the two blind characters in the play. Nicholas Le Prevost is best known for his film work, including Shakespeare in Love and A Very British Sex Scandal, his Olivier nominated performance in the Drury Lane production of My Fair Lady, and his numerous other stage credits, including Man and Superman opposite Ralph Fiennes at the National Theatre. Catherine Cusack will play the lead role in Judith: A Parting from the Body. Her previous roles include Carmel in Coronation Street, Frankie Sullivan in Ballykissangel, Sarah in Finding Neverland, and her stage credits include Dancing at Lughnasa and The Crucible at the Lyric Belfast, Trevor Nunn’s production of All That Fall on Broadway and in the West End, and Bingo at the Young Vic and Chichester Festival Theatre. The other actors have been announced as Liam Smith, Kristin Hutchinson and Emily Loomes.
A dynamic team of emerging creatives bring to life two thrilling plays by Howard Barker, “England’s greatest living dramatist” (The Times) at the Arcola, in a production colliding love, truth, sex and war. This Double Bill celebrates Barker’s characteristic poetic language and vivid imagination, uniting the timely revival of Judith: A Parting From The Body with the English premiere of tragicomedy The Twelfth Battle of Isonzo, which will be an immersive experience of the blindness that is described by the characters in the play. Creatives include director Robyn Winfield-Smith, who was Assistant Director to Erica Whyman on the RSC’s Hecuba and who received multiple Off-West End nominations for her critically acclaimed UK premiere production of Barker’s Lot and His God (2012), and designer Rosanna Vize, a finalist for the Linbury Prize for Stage Design (2013) and a graduate of the RSC’s resident assistant designer scheme.
With an immersive sound concept designed to connect the audience to the two blind characters, The Twelfth Battle of Isonzo is a battle of wits played out between the aged Isonzo and his youthful bride, Tenna, receiving its London premiere in the centennial year of the first battle of the Isonzo in WWI. Isonzo, witty and roguishly mischievous, is 100, and has outlived 11 wives. Tenna, beautiful and wise beyond her years, is 17, and has never been married before. And so commences the twelfth ‘battle’ of Isonzo, set within a sightless world on the day of their wedding, in which bride and groom each discover that the other is far more of a match than they had bargained for. Nicholas Le Prevost, the Olivier Award nominated actor who returns to the Arcola following his critically acclaimed performance in last year’s The Rivals, will voice the part of Isonzo.
Isonzo, a fearlessly imaginative and controversial one-act play, is the motivating force behind an access programme including the Arcola’s first ever touch tour and audio described theatre performance, along with participatory events reaching out to people with little or no experience of theatre, or who may face obstacles in accessing theatre opportunities.
Robyn Winfield-Smith said, “Isonzo, which features two blind characters, has long been the motivating force for our attached access programme. We have now extended this idea into the heart of our creative vision for the production: in order to fully explore the literal and metaphorical blindnesses experienced by the characters onstage, we are combining live action with an immersive three-dimensional soundscape to present a thrilling performance in which the audience will pass through different degrees of sightedness during the volatile battle of wits between the characters.”
“Brilliantly, this means that Nicholas Le Prevost, who has been with this project since its inception in 2012, will be able to star as Isonzo in this gripping two-hander, whilst simultaneously performing live on the RSC’s Swan stage in Stratford! These two plays are by turns light, dark, wickedly entertaining and breathtakingly resonant with global events. The playfully imaginative and seductively charming unreality of Isonzo makes for a thrilling contrast to the all-too-grim reality of Judith, set in a Middle Eastern battlefield and brimming with political potency.”
Judith: A Parting from the Body radically reimagines the mythic tale of Judith and Holofernes with searing political topicality in the wake of the ongoing violence and instability in the middle east. Judith, an Israeli widow, infiltrates the enemy camp alongside her apparently back-chatting Servant to seduce and kill the Assyrian general, Holofernes, and save her country from invasion. But nothing is as it seems, and soon we become entangled in a gripping double-seduction: a web of truth and lies between a man who has chosen murder, and a woman who has chosen love, culminating in the transformation of Judith into the very thing she has set out to destroy.
World renowned playwright Howard Barker is one of the key players in modern theatre, notorious for his challenging, unsettling and exposing writing style. Considered the enfant terrible of the theatre scene, his extensive career stretches from 1970 when his first play Cheek was staged at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs. His works have been staged at the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Open Space Theatre, Sheffield Crucible, the Almeida, the National Theatre, which staged a 5-star, extended run of Scenes from an Execution (2012) and the Print Room which staged Robyn Winfield-Smith’s critically acclaimed UK premiere of Lot and his God. Winfield’s-Smith’s workshop production of Judith (2011) was described by Barker as ‘dynamic, intensely-imagined and chilling’. He is currently Artistic Director of The Wrestling School, formed in 1992, a company established to disseminate his works and develop his ‘Theatre of Catastrophe’ theory. A widely celebrated dramatist, he has written more than 80 plays, with 27 of his works staged in six languages in 17 countries as diverse as Canada, New Zealand and Slovenia in the last three years. He is the author of plays for marionettes, two works of theory, and five volumes of poetry and has written three librettos for opera. He is also an admired painter with works held in national collections at the V&A, London and in Europe.
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Running Time: 120 minutes plus 15-minute interval | Suitable for ages 16+
Directed by Robyn Winfield-Smith Written by Howard Barker
Produced by Rosalyn Newbery Designed by Rosanna Vize
Lighting by Christopher Nairne Sound by Iain Armstrong
Musical direction by Gregory Batsleer Movement Director Lawrence Carmichael
The Twelfth Battle of Isonzo
Isonzo (voice) Nicholas Le Prevost Tenna Emily Loomes Stage Directions read by Liam Smith
Judith: A Parting from the Body
Judith – Catherine Cusack, Holofernes – Liam Smith, The Servant – Kristin Hutchinson
Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, London, E8 3DL
November 25th 2015 – December 19th 2015