BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Why Frances de la Tour is Alan Bennett"s People person in new play

Why Frances de la Tour is Alan Bennett's People person in new play



23:37 GMT, 26 July 2012

Leading lady: Frances De La Tour will star in a new play called People

Leading lady: Frances De La Tour will star in a new play called People

Frances de la Tour, a three-time Olivier award winner, has signed up to star in Alan Bennett’s new play, People.

The actress, who collected an Olivier in London and a Tony in New York for her sublime portrait of withering English mistress Miss Lintott in Bennett’s The History Boys, began discussions months ago about creating a leading role in what will be the playwright’s seventh drama for the National Theatre.

As Bennett and Nicholas Hytner, the dramatist’s long-time collaborator and director of the National, worked on the script through the winter and spring, they were also in close contact with Ms de la Tour.

However, her contract with the National was finalised just a few days ago.
She last appeared on stage in Bennett’s The Habit Of Art three years ago.

The play is contemporary, ‘set in the here and now’, Hytner revealed back in January, after this column broke the news that Bennett had penned a new play.

That was it. Zip. Hytner and I have had a handful of conversations about People over the past several months, but he has steadfastly refused to reveal the nature of the piece; not even a strapline.

‘It’s a play by Alan Bennett and it will open in October. The plot will be revealed at its first performance,’ were Hytner’s final words on the matter when we discussed it in New York not long ago.

However, I can tell you that joining De la Tour in People, which premieres on the Lyttelton with a first night in late October, will be four other distinguished actors.

Nicholas Le Prevost will play a character named Ralph Lumsden. Le Provost, who has starred in everything from The Wild Duck to Uncle Vanya, is presently touring in Christopher Luscombe’s comic production of Dandy Dick opposite Patricia Hodge.

Selina Cadell, who appeared with De la Tour in The Habit Of Art, has also been cast, but no character name was available for her (or her fellow cast members, apart from Le Provost). Ms Cadell has appeared in countless television dramas, including Foyle’s War and Upstairs Downstairs.

Her theatre work includes Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya — Sam Mendes’s farewell productions at the Donmar.

Linda Bassett is also part of the People ensemble, and she’s no stage slouch either, having graced companies at the Donmar, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court and Shakespeare’s Globe, to name but four. She was memorable on screen in East Is East.

And finally Peter Egan, who rounds out the company so far, has a credit list that includes playing Magnus Pym in the BBC’s adaptation of John le Carre’s A Perfect Spy, plus 40-odd other television credits and theatre parts too numerous to note down here.

Bennett’s other plays for the National, in case you’re interested, are: Wind In The Willows; An Englishman Abroad and A Question Of Attribution presented under the umbrella title Singles Spies; The Madness Of King George, The History Boys and The Habit Of Art.

Full Monty's auditions really go with a swing

Auditions are fraught enough as it is, so pity the poor blokes who had to jiggle for a part in The Full Monty.

Back in full swing: The film Full Monty, pictured, has been turned into a stage play by Simon Beaufoy who won a Bafta for his screenplay of the 1997 movie

Back in full swing: The film Full Monty, pictured, has been turned into a stage play by Simon Beaufoy who won a Bafta for his screenplay of the 1997 movie

Those of a modest disposition didn’t get to the final stages of the show about a group of unemployed Sheffield steelworkers who become strippers to pay the rent.

The film has been turned into a stage play by Simon Beaufoy, who won a Bafta for his screenplay of the 1997 movie.

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His theatre version will be a play with songs that were used in the picture such as You Sexy Thing and Hot Stuff.

Beaufoy also took the best screenplay Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, which was directed by Danny Boyle — who is centre stage tonight as director of the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.

There was an earlier, musical version of The Full Monty, but for some daft reason the story was shifted to Buffalo, in upstate New York. Anyway, now it all takes place in South Yorkshire.

Daniel Evans, the show’s director, and Steven Hoggett, the choreographer (he did the movement for Once, which won the best Tony musical award last month), plus other members of the creative team, needed to have what producer David Pugh termed ‘the nudity conversation’ with potential cast members.

Actors aged between 25 and 65 strutted their stuff and then dropped their trousers.

Those of you who know the film well may recall a character, played by Paul Barber, who went by the nickname Horse.

Pugh, who developed the show with business partner Dafydd Rogers and Evans, Sheffield Theatre’s artistic director, noted his concern about how the actors moved about the stage for their stripping scenes.

‘We’re seeing a lot of contenders for Horse and you wouldn’t want that character to turn around quickly, what with Hoggett’s choreography, and knock over his cast mates,’ Pugh told me.

He added that ‘every single thing is taken into consideration when you cast a show . . . there has to be balance.’

The Full Monty will run at the Lyceum in Sheffield from February 2 to 23.

When the show mustn't go on

There's surely something symbolic about the National staying open tonight as London’s other major theatres succumb to Olympic fever, take a pill and shut for the night.

Actors will be merrily treading the boards of two of the National’s stages. The Lyttelton will run The Last Of The Haussmans, with Julie Walters, Helen McCrory and Rory Kinnear, while the Cottesloe will have the first preview of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, which is Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel.

National treasures: Helen McCrory as Libby, Julie Walters as Judy and Rory Kinnear as Nick in The Last of the Haussmans at The Lyttelton Theatre in London

National treasures: Helen McCrory as Libby, Julie Walters as Judy and Rory Kinnear as Nick in The Last of the Haussmans at The Lyttelton Theatre in London

The Olivier, strictly speaking, won’t be open, but the musical London Road will be having its technical rehearsal.

On the other side of Waterloo Bridge the National’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors will surely elicit its first major side-splitting laugh at around 7.45pm at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It’s the funniest comedy on the planet, so naturally a lot of tickets have been sold.

Everywhere else has pulled their curtains and shut up shop. Even the National’s phenomenal hit War Horse (with its 5 million advance) is closed, as is the Royal Shakespeare Company production of mega-smash Matilda. Supposedly mighty musicals Wicked, The Lion King, Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera, Shrek, Billy Elliot, Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys are also dark tonight.

The argument is that the nation, nay the world, and the casts of the shows that are closed will be watching the opening ceremony in East London and, of course, a lot of that’s true.

But I’ve spoken to scores of foreign tourists over the past few days and a lot of them told me they didn’t come to London for the Games.

All the shows are open again tomorrow and don’t think it’s a day off for the actors. They will all make up for it with an extra performance.

Meanwhile, hats off to the National.

Top of the range!
Getting racy: High society model Clara Paget will star in the latest The Fast And The Furious

Getting racy: High society model Clara Paget will star in the latest The Fast And The Furious

Clara Paget, a high society model and actress with a pleasantly down-to-earth attitude, is getting into top gear for the latest instalment of The Fast And The Furious.

The high-octane film FAST 6, about car thieves and those who pursue them, is revving up to shoot on location and at Shepperton Studios and Ms Paget will join the film’s regular cast — Paul Walker and Vin Diesel (both pictured), Michelle Rodriguez and Dwayne Johnson — in a sort of ‘sidekick’ role, playing a ‘gun-slinging action woman’ called Vegh.

It’s all very different from her Vanity Fair & Tatler lifestyle. It’s a cool role for Paget, who has appeared in Johnny English Reborn and St Trinian’s II: The Legend Of Fritton’s Gold. Luke Evans has signed on as this instalment’s big bad boy.

Back in May, I told you about how the film’s director Justin Lin and his production designer have had to recreate a full-scale replica of Piccadilly Circus at the old Longcross tank proving grounds in Surrey.

Lin told me at Vanity Fair’s Cannes bash that a key scene in the picture involved blowing up an oil tanker in Piccadilly Circus. Westminster Council, for understandable reasons, refused to issue a permit for the tanker shot.

Lin was unfazed. ‘With a replica, you can do anything,’ he declared, with schoolboy glee. Lin added that he was considering shooting some car chases scenes at Canary Wharf and in Liverpool, although yesterday a spokeswoman for the production declined to comment on any aspect of the film.

Thinking about it, I would love to see Lin and his fleet of souped-up motors take over those Olympic traffic lanes and return them to the people.

Truly inspirational

John Hawkes and Helen Hunt star in a movie called The Sessions, which will emerge as one of the year’s best, though, annoyingly, it doesn’t open here until January 2013.

It’s based on a true story about a poet and journalist by the name of Mark O’Brien. If I tell you that O’Brien, in the film and real life, was dependent on an iron lung because he contracted polio as a boy and was left paralysed from the neck down, you might think for a moment: ‘Oh, please, I don’t need to see this.’

But you do need to see this film. And what’s more, you need to see it more than once. Hawkes’s portrayal of O’Brien brims with humour and intelligence. It’s a towering performance that captures a man’s life with empathy and honesty.

I haven’t even reached the bit where O’Brien, a staunch Roman Catholic, decides that aged 36 he’s tired of being a virgin, so he seeks the blessing of his priest (a lively turn from William H. Macy) to hire a willing volunteer who will initiate him in the joys of the flesh.

Helen Hunt plays Cheryl Cohen Greene who did, indeed, teach O’Brien how to achieve satisfaction. Hunt’s had disappointing roles in the past, but she makes the most of this one.

Hawkes dominates the film. He was nominated a couple of years back for best supporting actor in Winter’s Bone. He surely deserves Oscar and Bafta nominations for a performance that teaches us all to live life to the full.

Watch out for…

Victoria Wood, who will star with Jason Isaacs in the BBC TV film drama Case Histories. Isaacs plays central character Jackson Brodie, a former police inspector and Army officer turned private investigator, and he gives a compelling performance.

Case Histories’ shows are based on Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie mystery novels and Ms Wood will feature in episodes based on Atkinson’s recent offering: Started Early, Took My Dog. She will play the security chief of a shopping mall who comes into contact with Brodie.

Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, who are in negotiations to star in Le Weekend, a film written by Hanif Kureishi, which Roger Michell will direct, and Film 4 and Kevin Loader will produce, in November.

Jim Broadbent

Lindsay Duncan

Negotiations: Jim Broadbent, left, and Lindsay Duncan, right, are in negotiations to star in Le Weekend

The film is about a couple — he’s a university professor, she’s a school teacher — who go on a trip to Paris to revitalise their flagging marriage.
The script is funny, truthful and painful, in about equal measures, in that Kureishi way. Jeff Goldblum is also in talks to appear as a David Starkey-esque character.

Several years ago, Bill Nighy was considering appearing in another version of Kureishi’s script.

Michell’s latest movie — Film 4’s Hyde Park On Hudson, set in the late Thirties with Bill Murray and Olivia Williams as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; Sam West and Olivia Colman as George VI and Queen Elizabeth; and Laura Linney as a distant cousin of FDR — will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Phil Cornwell and Rhona Croker, who will play father and daughter Charlie ‘The Duck’ and Pauline Clench, when they join the ensemble of One Man, Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on September 3.

The hilarious comedy is packing them in and carrying a cash advance of 2 million.
Owain Arthur, who took over as cheeky Francis Henshall when James Corden and the original company moved the National Theatre production to Broadway, continues in the play, as do Jodie Prenger, Ben Mansfield, Daniel Ings, Derek Elroy, Nigel Betts, Martin Barrass, David Benson and Gemma Whelan.

Mr Cornwell, by the way, pops up soon as Jack Slipper (of The Yard) on ITV’s Mrs Biggs, opposite Daniel Mays as Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs and Sheridan Smith as Charmian Biggs.

Janie Dee, Sally Anne Triplett, Haydn Gwynne, Jenna Russell, Kerry Ellis, David Bedella and Paul Kaye, who are among the cast gathered to perform at a gala show at the Novello Theatre on October 14 to mark the 20th anniversary of Mercury Musical Developments, a charity dedicated to the art of musical theatre.

The writing team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, along with Willy Russell and Charles Hart and others, will be creating new songs for the concert.