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The Captain of Kopenick - National Theatre (Olivier)

Sir Anthony Sher

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

NEXT YEAR, Antony Sher will play the title role in Ron Hutchinson’s new English version of Carl Zuckmayer’s The Captain of Kopenick, which opens in the National’s Olivier Theatre on February 5 (previews from January 29) before continuing in repertoire until April 4, 2013.

Released after fifteen years in prison, trapped in a bureaucratic maze, petty criminal Wilhelm Voight wanders 1910 Berlin in desperate, hazardous pursuit of identity papers.

Luck changes when he picks up an abandoned military uniform in a fancy-dress shop and finds the city ready to obey his every command. At the head of six soldiers, he marches to the Mayor’s office, cites corruption and confiscates the treasury with ease. But still what he craves is official recognition that he exists.

A nation heads blindly towards war as the misfit takes on the state in Hutchinson’s savagely funny new version of The Captain of Kopenick, which was first staged in Germany in 1931.

The cast also includes Sandy Batchelor, Paul Bentall, Jason Cheater, Paul Chequer, Alan David, Robert Demeger, James Hayes, Barnaby Kay, David Killick, Siobhán McSweeney, Nick Malinowski, Anthony O’Donnell, Olivia Poulet, Iris Roberts, Nick Sampson, Adrian Schiller, Robin Weaver, Joseph Wilkins and Lynne Wilmot.

Antony Sher’s recent appearances at the National Theatre include Travelling Light and Primo, his own adaptation of Primo Levi’s If this is a Man, which transferred to New York and for which he won the Outer Critics’ Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Solo Performance; the production was also filmed and he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor.

He has also appeared at the National Theatre in Stanley (Olivier Award for Best Actor), Titus Andronicus, Uncle Vanya, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The Trial and True West.

His extensive stage credits also include Freud in Terry Johnson’s Hysteria (Theatre Royal, Bath); Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass (West End); Tomas Stockmann in An Enemy of the People (Sheffield Crucible); and the title role in Kean (West End).

His many leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company include Prospero, Iago, Macbeth, Leontes, Cyrano de Bergerac, Shylock, Tamburlaine, Henry Carr in Travesties, Shylock, Tartuffe, Molière and Richard III for which he won the Evening Standard and Olivier Awards for Best Actor.

His equally numerous screen credits include The Shadowline, Disraeli in Mrs Brown (Evening Standard Film Awards: Peter Sellers Award for Comedy), Hitler in Churchill: The Hollywood Years and Gerald Ballantyne in Home.

A distinguished writer, novelist and artist, Antony Sher received a knighthood in 2000.

Ron Hutchinson’s many plays include Rat in the Skull, The Dillen, The Mysteries, Moonlight and Magnolias, Durand’s Line (part of the Tricycle Theatre’s The Great Game cycle), Calculated Risk (for the Tricycle’s cycle on British nuclear weapons policy), Dead on her Feet and Paisley and Me. His television work includes the Emmy-winning Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story.

The Captain of Kopenick will be directed by Adrian Noble in what will be his first production for the National Theatre. Artistic Director of the RSC from 1990 – 2003, his recent work includes The Tempest and Hedda Gabler (Theatre Royal, Bath); The King’s Speech (UK tour); Inherit the Wind and As You Like It (The Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, where he is Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director); and Hamlet (Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare Festival).

The Captain of Kopenick will be designed by Anthony Ward, with lighting by Neil Austin, music by Steven Edis, movement by Sue Lefton, fight direction by Malcolm Ranson and sound by Mic Pool.