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Nicholas Hytner to direct Allejujah! and Alys, Always at the Bridge Theatre

Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner. Photo credit: Antony Crolla.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOR THE London Theatre Company, Nicholas Hytner is to direct two world premieres at the Bridge Theatre – Alan Bennett’s Allejujah! and Lucinda Coxon’s Alys, Always.

Allejujah! runs from July 18 (previews from July 11) to September 28, 2018.

The Beth, an old fashioned cradle-to-grave hospital serving a town on the edge of the Pennines, is threatened with closure as part of an NHS efficiency drive.

Meanwhile, a documentary crew eager to capture its fight for survival follows the daily struggle to find beds on the Dusty Springfield Geriatric Ward, and the triumphs of the old people’s choir (newest member: the Pudsey Nightingale).

Alan Bennett’s new play is said to be as sharp as The History Boys and as funny as The Lady in the Van.

Allelujah! will be the tenth collaboration between Bennett and Hytner. They first worked together on Bennett’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows for the National Theatre in 1990. Then followed The Madness of King George III, The Lady in the Van and The History Boys, all of which were also seen on film, The Habit of Art, People and the double bill Untold Stories.

Alan Bennett is a playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. Following a hugely successful writing and performing debut in 1960 at the Edinburgh Festival with Beyond The Fringe, his first play Forty Years On was produced in 1968. Bennett is the recipient of numerous awards for his work with Hytner including, for The History Boys, the Olivier, the Critics’ Circle, the Evening Standard and South Bank Show awards as well as multiple Broadway honours.

Nicholas Hytner is, with Nick Starr, Founding Director of the London Theatre Company. He was Director of the National Theatre from 2003 to 2015, where the productions he directed include The History Boys, Hamlet, One Man, Two Guvnors and Othello. His films, as already mentioned, include The Madness of George III, The Lady in the Van and The History Boys. His book Balancing Acts was published by Jonathan Cape last year.

Hytner directed Young Marx, the opening production at the Bridge Theatre as well as Julius Caesar, the current production, running until April 15.

Allelujah! is designed by Bob Crowley, with lighting by Natasha Chivers and music by George Fenton. Casting will be announced shortly.

Public booking for Allelujah! opens on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 10am.

Lucinda Coxon’s Alys, Always, based on the novel by Harriet Lane, runs from January 30 (previews from January 23) to March 30, 2019.

Frances works on the books pages of a Sunday newspaper. She’s quiet and capable, but nobody takes much notice: her face is pressed to the window, on the outside, looking in. One evening, driving back to London after visiting her infuriating parents, she comes across an upturned car crumpled on the side of the road. She waits with the injured driver, Alys Kyte, until the ambulance arrives.

Later, when Alys’s famous family gets in touch, Frances finds herself for the first time ushered into the world on the other side of the window. And she begins to wonder: what would it take to become a player?

Alys, Always is a gripping psychological thriller that excavates the fault line that separates the entitled from the unentitled.

Lucinda Coxon

Lucinda Coxon’s previous theatre writing credits include Herding Cats, Happy Now, The Eternal Not, Nostalgia, The Shoemaker’s Wife, Vesuvius, Wishbones, Three Graces, The Ice Palace and Waiting at the Water’s Edge. Her screen writing credits include the multi award-winning The Danish Girl starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, The Crimson Petal and the White starring Romola Garai for BBC, Wild Target starring Emily Blunt, The Heart of Me starring Paul Bettany and Helena Bonham-Carter and the forthcoming The Little Stranger starring Domnhall Gleeson and Ruth Wilson.

Alys, Always was Harriet Lane’s debut novel, published in 2012, and was followed in 2014 with Her. Previously Lane wrote for the Guardian and the Observer as well as Vogue and Tatler.

Casting for Alys, Always will be announced at a later date and booking information will be announced in September.

On Monday, March 5, 2018 at 7.45pm Simon Russell Beale, actor, author and music historian, will curate the second of a series of evenings inspired by works of chamber music, this time focussing on Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 and the composer’s fraught relationship with Stalin and the Soviet authorities.

Russell Beale will be joined on stage by Nikki Amuka-Bird and Andrew Scott for a collection of poems and short dramatic readings to accompany a performance by the acclaimed Carducci Quartet of this masterpiece, written following Shostakovich’s agonised decision to join the Communist party and dedicated “to the victims of fascism and the war”.

Tickets are £20 and £25 with some general admission stage floor spaces at £5.

Image (top): Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner. Photo credit: Antony Crolla.

Image (bottom): Lucinda Coxon.