Doonreagan - Jermyn Street Theatre
Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle
DOONREAGAN, a play about poet Ted Hughes’ experiences at Doonreagan House written by current owner Ann Henning Jocelyn, receives its world premiere at Jermyn Street Theatre, where it runs from September 3 to September 21, 2013.
Following the suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes took sanctuary in Doonreagan House with his mistress Assia Wevill, a married woman with whom he’d been having an affair since before the death of Plath.
Ann Henning Jocelyn explores their doomed relationship during their brief but intense spell in the country house in Connemara, Ireland, their personal and poetical difficulties as they try to escape from the shadow of Hughes’ first marriage, and their struggles to better know each other and themselves away from the judgments, pressures and prying eyes of the rest of the world.
Ted Hughes met Assia Wevill when she and her husband were renting Hughes and Plath’s flat in Primrose Hill. Soon after their affair began, Hughes separated from his wife, and Sylvia Plath committed suicide half a year later in February 1963. Feminists blamed Hughes for her death.
His relationship with Wevill was turbulent, and in 1969 she committed suicide, also killing their four-year-old daughter Shura, by asphyxiation from a gas stove – the same way that Sylvia Plath killed herself.
Little has been written about Ted Hughes’ time in Doonreagan House, and even less is known about Assia Wevill. The poet kept details of his life very private, and in the rare instances when he gave biographical details, Assia and Shura were not mentioned. By working with Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill’s biographers and personal contacts, and through the couple’s letters, notes and photos, Anne Henning Jocelyn has pieced together their time in Ireland.
Ann Henning Jocelyn is a Swedish born author, playwright and translator who has been living in Doonreagan House for the past 32 years. She is best known for her broadcasting career in Sweden and Ireland, and her previous work includes her bestselling crossover trilogy The Connemara Whirlwind, her inspirational Keylines for a Living which has been published in nine countries including China and India, her plays Baptism Of Fire and The Alternative, and her acclaimed translations of contemporary Scandinavian playwrights Jon Fosse and Henning Mankell.
Doonreagan is directed by Alex Dmitriev, a New York based director whose previous credits include St. Nicholas (Irish Rep Company), God’s Daughter and Alan Ayckbourn’s Taking Steps and How the Other Half Loves (York Theatre Company), and Drama Desk nominated Lost in the Stars. He says:
“Doonreagan enables you to enter the lives of two very complicated individuals whose stay in Ireland led one to greater achievement as a writer, and the other to a sad and lonely suicide. We meet Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill at the crossroad. I’ve known Ann for many years, and her talent to put you right in the room with this complicated and haunted relationship is what makes the show so exciting to direct.”
The show stars Daniel Simpson (Driving Miss Daisy, UK Tour, London Road, National Theatre), and Flora Montgomery (Best Irish Actress Award).
Presented by Berislav Juraic for CTCo Productions, Doonreagan is designed by Fionntan Gogarty, with lighting by Ana Vilar and video design by Rebecca Salvadori.
Doonreagan is suitable for ages 15+.
Tickets: £20, £18 concessions, £12 preview (September 3) – available from the box office on 020 7287 2875 or online at www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/.
Times: 8pm (no Sundays), Saturday matinee at 4pm.