Acclaimed actress and writer Maureen Lipman is to direct the world stage premiere of Jack Rosenthal’s The Knowledge.
The Knowledge is based on the iconic 1979 TV film comedy. Maureen not only played a leading role in the film, but is also Jack Rosenthal’s widow.
Set against the backdrop of the harsh economic times of 1979, the play follows the hilarious struggles of four Londoners as they attempt to
better themselves by attempting the fearsome “Knowledge” – the process of becoming a London black cab taxi driver. Standing between them and the coveted Green Badge is the eccentric Mr. Burgess, the examiner. Also known as “The Vampire”, he is on an obsessive mission to maintain standards.”
The Knowledge will preview at Charing Cross Theatre from Monday 4 September and run 10 weeks to Saturday 11 November. Press night is Monday 11 September at 7.30pm.
Maureen said: “It is 13 years since I lost my husband, the unassuming genius Jack Rosenthal. The Knowledge is perhaps Jack’s best realised play – a hymn to the London that he came to love. It shows the years of pain, strain and sacrifice that London cabbies have to endure to acquire The Knowledge, pass the world’s toughest and most terrifying taxi examinations and earn the right to wear the Green Badge. 38 years since The Knowledge was first screened on ITV, London’s finest cab drivers face challenges from UBER and their sat navs, bike lanes, road works and terror. But they represent the unique excellence and expertise that has made London the great city we are all so proud of and they deserve our support … because they, and we, are worth it. This is my 50th year in the acting business and, having acted in the original film, I was thrilled to be asked to make The Knowledge the next show I direct. Simon Block has created a wonderful stage adaptation that preserves all the best of Jack’s original writing, and I am really excited to be involved.”
The Knowledge was nominated for a BAFTA as Best Single Play. In 1995, film historian Geoff Phillips declared it “certainly the best TV play Britain has ever produced”. In 2000, the BFI voted it as one of the TV 100 – the 100 greatest television programmes, of any genre, ever screened.
Casting to be announced.
Creative team: Director Maureen Lipman. Set Design Nicolai Hart-Hansen. Costume Design Jonathan Lipman. Sound Design Andrew Johnson.
The Knowledge is produced by Vaughan Williams and Steven M. Levy.
To qualify as a Licensed London Taxi Driver a candidate (a “Knowledge boy/girl”) must first commit to memory the Blue Book. It is not blue, but does contain 320 “runs“ or point-to-point journeys within six miles of Charing Cross. The first run is Manor House to Gibson Square. Once a candidate has passed a written exam on the runs, they then begin their Appearances: a series of one-on-one oral examinations where the examiner can ask them to “call” the shortest route between any two points “within the six”. A point can be any public building, restaurant, cinema, theatre, shop, museum, tourist attraction, park, pub, station … the range is limited only by the fertility of the examiner’s imagination. “Kinky Boots to Leather Lane via Shoe Lane” would be a standard question type. Regarded as the most difficult taxi exam in the world, and equivalent to any professional qualification, The Knowledge has a dropout rate of 70%. The elite few who make it take an average of four years, in which they must live, eat and breathe central London’s 25,000 streets and (they say) 100,000 points. It has been said that comparing a black cab driver with a minicab driver is like comparing a consultant surgeon with an aromatherapist who’s got a
Dr Google app. Who would you rather trust with your loved ones’ lives?
Jack Rosenthal (Writer)
Jack Morris Rosenthal CBE (8 September 1931 – 29 May 2004) wrote 129 early episodes of the ITV soap Coronation Street and over 150 screenplays, including original TV plays, feature films and adaptations. He wrote the 1986 TV film London’s Burning, which proved so successful that it was adapted into a TV series of the same name, which ran from 1988 until 2002. He won three BAFTA awards for Bar Mitzvah Boy, The Evacuees (based on his own wartime evacuation) and Spend, Spend, Spend (about Viv Nicholson who won £152,319 – equivalent to £3,167,827.29 adjusted for inflation – on the football pools in 1961). In 1983 he co-wrote the film Yentl with Barbra Streisand. He did uncredited work on the screenplay of Chicken Run. He also wrote the book for the musical version of Bar Mitzvah Boy, with music by Jule Styne. He married Maureen Lipman in 1974 and was awarded the CBE in 1994.
Simon Block (Adaptor)
Simon Block is a BAFTA-nominated leading writer working in both stage and TV. He is best known for his work on The Physician, Home Fires, Hotel Babylon, Wire in the Blood, Inspector Lewis and The Eichmann Show.
Maureen Lipman (Director)
Maureen Lipman was born in Hull, trained at LAMDA and learned her trade in Laurence Olivier’s Company at the Old Vic. She is well-known for playing Joyce Grenfell in the biographical show Re:Joyce! on stage and on TV and for Beattie in a long-running series of award-winning TV commercials for British Telecom. Maureen’s 19 West End productions include Wonderful Town, See How They Run (Olivier Award), Oklahoma! (Olivier nomination), Peggy For You, Lost In Yonkers, The Sisters Roseneweig, Florence Foster Jenkins in Glorious, and her one-woman show Alive and Kicking. In 2012, Maureen directed and appeared in a successful tour of Barefoot in the Park and in 2013 she appeared in Sarah Wooley’s Old Money at Hampstead Theatre. At the Garrick she played Clara in Chris Luscombe’s production of Priestley’s When We Are Married and Mme Armfeldt in Trevor Nunn’s A Little Night Music. At the Theatre Royal Haymarket she played Ellie in Oliver Cotton’s Daytona and Vita in Harvey. Last year Maureen starred in an acclaimed production of My Mother Said I Never Should at the St James Theatre. Earlier this year she starred in Trevor Nunn’s Lettice and Lovage at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Maureen’s multitude of TV credits range from playing the landlady of The Rover’s Return in Coronation Street, The Wire in Doctor Who and the Princess of France in Love’s Labours Lost to Smiley’s People, He Kills Coppers, Holby City and Midsummer Murders. Film work includes Educating Rita and the mother in Polanski’s The Pianist. Maureen’s own TV shows include Agony, Agony Again, About Face, Ladies of Letters, Plebs, Bull and the award-winning The Evacuees, The Knowledge and Eskimo Days by her late husband Jack Rosenthal. Maureen is also a prolific writer, covering a wide range from autobiography to politics. She was awarded a CBE in 1999.
Nicolai Hart-Hansen (Set Design)
Nicolai trained as a set and costume designer at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (BA) and The Slade School of Fine Art (MFA), and has worked in the UK. Europe and the US. Selected work includes: La Traviata (Stand Moutier, Switzerland), The Window (Rambert Dance Company) The Divided Laing (Arcola Theatre), Cock/Bull (Aalborg Teater, Denmark), The Lilly of The Valley (ROH2), Nordost (Salisbury Playhouse), Fanciulla del West (Opera Up Close), Vieux Carre (Kings Head/ Charing Cross Theatre), Playing the
Victim (Royal Court Theatre, Told by An Idiot).
Jonathan Lipman (Costume Design)
Selected theatre credits include: Ragtime, Death Takes A Holiday, The Braille Legacy (Charing Cross Theatre), Grey Gardens, Allegro (Southwark Playhouse), a US tour of Peter Pan, The Country Girl, directed by Rufus Norris (West End & UK tour), and the UK tours of Larkrise to Candleford and Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical.
Andrew Johnson (Sound Design)
Andrew’s recent credits include the Olivier Award-winning smash hit The Play That Goes Wrong (West End and Broadway), Titanic, Ragtime, Death Takes a Holiday (Charing Cross), Grey Gardens, The Toxic Avenger – The Musical, Grand Hotel, Dogfight, Victor/Victoria (Southwark Playhouse), Calamity Jane (UK tour), Let It Be (UK tour, Moscow, Japan), The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (UK tour), Midnight Tango (West End & UK tour), Top Hat (UK tour), A Clockwork Orange (Theatre Royal, Stratford East).
Vaughan Williams (Producer)
Vaughan has for almost 20 years lived in Islington, 30 yards from Gibson Square, and he has a serious black cab habit. Vaughan was a founder shareholder in and is Chairman of the Charing Cross Theatre, where he has been a regular producer. Following an English
Literature degree at London University, Vaughan enjoyed a long career in the City of London. Initially qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with Deloitte, he then joined merchant bankers Morgan Grenfell & Co., where he was appointed to the main Board in 1993. Following the merger with Deutsche Bank, he was appointed a Managing Director in Deutsche’s Investment Bank. Since retiring from banking in 2012, Vaughan divides his time between the theatre and property industries. His theatre productions include: Death Takes A Holiday, Christina Bianco: O Come All Ye Divas!, Ragtime (Offie Award for Best Musical), Titanic, 6 Actors In Search of A Director; the UK premiere of Jerry Herman’s Dear World, the Olivier Award-winning production of La Bohème, In the Bar of A Tokyo Hotel, by Tennessee Williams, and a number of shows currently in development. Vaughan has also recently fulfilled a long-held ambition to appear as lead guitarist in a rock and roll band.
Steven M. Levy (Producer)
Steven has spent the past 30 years as a theatrical producer, general manager and theatre owner in both New York and London. Broadway includes: Whoopi – The 20th Anniversary Show, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All starring Ellen Burstyn, Our Town starring Paul Newman, I’m Not Rappaport starring Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen, Dame Edna: The Royal Tour; The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, The Lonesome West, Waiting In The Wings starring Lauren Bacall. West End includes: Titanic, Ragtime, Death Takes a Holiday, In The Bar Of A Tokyo Hotel, Piaf, The Mikado, Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris, Long Story Short, Finian’s Rainbow, Ushers: The Front Of House Musical, Jerry Herman’s Dear World, the Olivier Award-winning La Bohème, 6 Actors In Search Of A Director (written and directed by Steven Berkoff), Fascinating Aïda – Cheap Flights, The Man On Her Mind, John Leguizamo – Ghetto Klown, Patricia Routledge – Facing The Music, Thrill Me (Charing Cross), Singular Sensations, Tom Stoppard’s The Invention Of Love (Theatre Royal, Haymarket), Nixon’s Nixon (Comedy), Gross Indecency (Gielgud), The Boys In The Band (Aldwych). Film includes: Our Town starring Paul Newman, Whoopi (HBO, starring Whoopi Goldberg), The Man On Her Mind (The Talking Pictures Company). Steven’s productions have been the recipients of 14 Tony Award nominations, 5 Tony Awards, as well as the recipients of the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and OBIE Awards.
Vaughan Williams and Steven M. Levy present
by Jack Rosenthal
adapted by Simon Block
directed by Maureen Lipman
Monday 4 September – Saturday 11 November.
Press night Monday 11 September at 7.30pm.
Charing Cross Theatre
London WC2N 6NL