“a shock to the senses, overwhelmed with fast-paced comedy”
How to Win Against History is a trojan horse in a battle against normativity. Fulfilling the criteria of the ‘mainstream’ theatre scene — song and dance numbers, dramatic events and happy endings— the piece undermines the restrictive structures of the normal to promote and favour a queer way of being. Telling the untold story of Henry the 5th Marquis of Anglesey, the name of the company bring queer history to the forefront, reinstating Henry’s life into the face of history from which he was literally burnt by his descendants. In this way, the piece is not only hugely entertaining and polished, but also incredibly politically relevant, resurrecting a piece of history long shunned by the mainstream and bringing the flamboyant story of the cross-dressing Marquis to the light of day.
The narrative follows the misadventures of Henry, the 5th Marquis of Anglesey; through his years at a village-people style Eton college, a marriage of ‘definitely true love’ (and prompt divorce) from his unwitting wife, spending his family’s entire fortune on putting on insane productions starring Henry himself, a quick jaunt to Germany to perform his electric butterfly routine and finally a penniless death in Monte Carlo. The piece unpicks the gap between appearances and reality, normality and queerness, with a tension between these worlds subtextually demanding out attention. This is most cleverly revealed through the cast’s own meta-theatrical awareness; the piece begins with a song about the importance of being mainstream and continues with constant references of the people-pleasing nature of theatre. Calling attention to these parallels is a stroke of genius, allowing the audience to engage with the piece not only as witnesses to the rebirth of a queer history, but as the very representatives of ‘normal’ society that necessitated its oppression in the first place.
Full of hilariously funny horrible histories style patter songs, the piece is quick-witted and somewhat a shock to the senses, overwhelmed with fast-paced comedy, the jokes occasionally got lost by quieter or unclear vocals, but largely landed well with incredibly timing. The mastery of the musical material truly demonstrated the incredible talent of the three performers and managed to both provoke laughter and awe, pulling the audience into a tone of silliness and extravagance vital to both the piece and the Marquis himself. Performances were truly excellent, with Seiriol Davies (The Marquis) stealing the show, matching the Marquis’ flamboyant extravagance with an absolute commitment to the importance and seriousness of his own narcissism.
For me, the value of this piece comes more from the telling of the narrative than the story itself. It is the very performance and dedication to the story that makes it radically important and the cast’s commitment to telling Henry’s theatrical and glittery story with honesty and a lack of bias produces a fabulous piece of entertainment, which speaks to a larger and less glittery oppression.
£10 GOOD SEATS FOR 25S & UNDER FOR EACH PERFORMANCE
75 TICKETS AT £20 OR LESS FOR EVERY PERFORMANCE
Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell will lead the cast as Maggie and Brick in Benedict Andrews’ Young Vic production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof which will begin previews in the West End at the Apollo Theatre on 13 July 2017. This strictly limited twelve-week run is booking to 7 October 2017. Set designs are by Magda Willi with costume designs by Alice Babidge and lighting by Jon Clark. Further casting will be announced at a later date.
Tickets go on public sale 24 February 2017, at 10am. For this Young Vic production, there will be seats available at £10 for under 25s for each performance, booked through the Young Vic Box Office, with 75 tickets at £20 or less for every performance.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof marks the Young Vic’s first production to debut directly in the West End and is presented by the Young Vic and The Young Ones. Previously the Young Vic have transferred A View from a Bridge, Golem, The Scottsboro Boys, Simply Heavenly, Tintin and A Doll’s House.
The truth hurts. On a steamy night in Mississippi, a Southern family gather at their cotton plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. The scorching heat is almost as oppressive as the lies they tell. Brick and Maggie dance round the secrets and sexual tensions that threaten to destroy their marriage. With the future of the family at stake, which version of the truth is real – and which will win out?
Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer prize winning play received its world premiere in 1955 at the Morosco Theater on Broadway with Barbara Bel Geddes and Ben Gazzara as Maggie and Brick. The UK premiere, directed by Peter Hall, opened at the Comedy Theatre in 1958 with Kim Stanley and Paul Massie in the same roles. The 1958 Academy Award nominated film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman was directed by Richard Brooks.
Sienna Miller (Maggie) trained at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York. She was last on stage in the West End as Patricia in Flare Path at the Haymarket Theatre and was previously seen at Wyndham’s Theatre as Celia in As You Like It. Her New York theatre credits include After Miss Julie, Cabaret, Independence and Cigarettes and Chocolate. Her many film credits include Live by Night, Mississippi Grind, Layer Cake, Alfie, Casanova, Factory Girl, American Sniper, Foxcatcher, The Edge of Love, G.I. Joe, Yellow and the forthcoming The Lost City of Z. On television her credits include The Girl, Bedtime and Keen Eddie.
Jack O’Connell (Brick) was last seen on stage in The Nap at Sheffield Crucible Theatre. His other theatre credits include Scarborough for the Royal Court and The Spiderman, The Musicians and Just for NT Shell Connections. His film work has garnered him multiple awards, including the 2015 EE BAFTA Rising Star Award, the New Hollywood Award and the Chopard Trophy Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Most recently, his project Home won the BAFTA for British Short Film in 2017. His other film credits include Money Monster, 300: Rise of an Empire, Unbroken, ’71, Starred Up, Liability, Private Peaceful, Tower Block, Weekender, Wayfaring Stranger, Eden Lake and Black Dog. O’Connell will next be seen on screen in Tulip Fever, The Man with the Iron Heart as well as starring in the Netflix TV series Godless. His television credits include Skins, United, The Runaway, This is England, Dive and Wuthering Heights.
For the Young Vic, Benedict Andrews has previously directed his own version of Three Sisters, which won the London Critics’ Circle Best Director Award, and A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster, which transferred to New York in 2016. His first production for the Young Vic was Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses, a co-production with ENO – where he has also directed La Boheme and Detlev Glanert’s Caligula. His many directing credits for Sydney Theatre Company include The Maids with Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert, which toured to the Lincoln Centre Festival in New York; and Big and Small which came to the Barbican, also starring Cate Blanchett. Andrews has also worked extensively at the Schaubühne Berlin, Komische Oper, National Theatre Iceland and Belvoir Street Sydney. His first feature film, Una, starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, premiered at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival and will be released later this year.
The Young Vic, one of the UK’s leading theatres, produces new plays, classics, forgotten works, musicals and opera. It co-produces and tours widely in the UK and internationally while keeping deep roots in its neighbourhood. It frequently transfers shows to London’s West End and invites local people to take part at its home in Waterloo. In 2016 the Young Vic became London’s first Theatre of Sanctuary. Recent productions include Simon Stone’s new version of Lorca’s Yerma which returns to the Young Vic with Billie Piper reprising her multi award-wining performance in July, the premiere of Charlene James’ multi-award-winning play Cuttin’ It and Ivo van Hove’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge (West End & Broadway transfers), as well as Horizons, a season of work exploring the lives of refugees. David Lan is Artistic Director with Lucy Woollatt as Executive Director.