The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith - Jermyn Street Theatre
Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle
TOM Littler, Artistic Director of Primavera, has announced three major rediscoveries for the company’s programme of work in 2014.
They include the first ever revival of Arthur Wing Pinero’s Victorian drama The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith, the first ever revival of Terence Rattigan’s first play First Episode (both at Jermyn Street Theatre) and the first revival in over 25 years of Jean-Jacques Bernard’s seminal play Martine (Finborough Theatre).
First up is Pinero’s The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith, which runs at Jermyn Street Theatre from Tuesday, April 8 to Saturday, May 3. Directed by Abbey Wright, it stars Rhiannon Sommers as Agnes Ebbsmith, an activist and radical last played by Mrs Patrick Campbell in 1895.
The English ex-pat community is scandalised by rumours about the latest arrivals in Venice. Lucas Cleeve, an up-and-coming politician, is travelling with a woman named Agnes Ebbsmith. Defying convention, they are refusing to marry, and are living in a ‘compact’ together.
But before long their peace is shattered by the arrival of Lucas’ family from London, who want to compel him to return to his wife and career. Agnes Ebbsmith is a radical feminist preacher and writer, but can she resist the forces of the English establishment?
Described as a richly entertaining play that grips from start to finish, The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith asks questions as searching today as they were in 1895.
Rhiannon Sommers’ recent roles include Rosalind in As You Like It, the title role in Dido, Queen of Carthage, and, for Primavera, an acclaimed portrayal of Mary Shelley in Bloody Poetry at Jermyn Street Theatre in 2012.
Director Abbey Wright was Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse and Staff Director on Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, at the National Theatre. Her recent work includes Mrs Lowry and Son (Trafalgar Studios), Dublin Carol (Donmar at Trafalgar), Sixty-Six Books (Bush Theatre), The Song of Deborah (The Lowry), Hidden Glory (The Lowry and national tour), Bitch Boxer (Soho Theatre), The Lake Boat/Prairie du Chien (Arcola Theatre) and The Ones that Flutter (Theatre503).
Playwright Arthur Wing Pinero (1855 – 1934) began writing plays in the 1870s, writing both comedies and problem plays, usually about women and morality. As well as The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith, his major works include The Magistrate (1885), The Schoolmistress (1886), Dandy Dick (1887), The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1893), Trelawny of the Wells (1898), His House in Order (1906), and The Thunderbolt (1908).
Pinero also forged a career as a successful theatre director, including of his own plays. He was knighted in 1909.
The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith has set design by Cherry Truluck, who was nominated twice last year for an OffWestEnd Award (Primavera’s The Living Room and Thark at the Park Theatre) and costume design by Victoria Johnstone (Primavera’s 2009 revival of Saturday Night at Jermyn Street Theatre and in the West End).
Tickets: £20 full price, £16 concessions – available from the box office on 020 7287 2875 or online at www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/.
Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday matinee at 3.30pm.
R. C. Sherriff’s supernatural drama, The White Carnation continues at Jermyn Street Theatre until February 22, 2014. It will be followed by Away From Home, Rob Ward and Martin Jameson new play that tackles homophobia in English football.