Victoria Hamilton and Nicholas Rowe in Albion at the Almeida – Photo Marc Brenner
010 – Albion, by Mike Bartlett
A grieving mother sets out to restore a garden of national importance in a bid to find personal peace and to promote historic British values that she fears may be lost in an increasingly pluralistic and global world. Mike Bartlett’s major new play Albion is not only a funny and moving portrait of an individual family and its immediate society under stress, but a metaphoric meditation on national identity. The form and spirit of the play echo Chekhov, with an ensemble of flawed and contrary characters rubbing up against each other in the confines of a country estate, each offering alternative values and ways to live, all of which are given a fair hearing in Bartlett’s empathetic vision.
Albion premiered at the Almeida theatre in London in 2017, when the country was absorbed in the Brexit debate and the play reverberated with the themes that divided the nation. It was revived at the same theatre with largely the same cast in February 2020, when the Brexit furore had tempered, and the play’s other motifs were allowed to flourish.
We are privileged to welcome to the podcast two guests who bring first-hand insights into the play from their starring in the leading roles in the Almeida productions: Victoria Hamilton, whose performance as the matriarch, Audrey, won her the Best Actress award at the 2018 Critics’ Circle Awards, and Nicholas Rowe, who played Audrey’s long-suffering but supportive husband, Paul.
Mike Bartlett is the author of an award-winning canon of plays such as Earthquakes in London, Contractions, Cock, Bull, Game, Love Love Love, Snowflake and King Charles III, which premiered at the Almeida, and transferred to the West End and Broadway, winning an Olivier award for Best New Play. He has been equally successful with his original TV screenplays for The Town and Dr Foster, as well as his BBC adaptation of King Charles III.
Victoria Hamilton trained at LAMDA, before she launched her award-winning career in Ibsen’s The Master Builder at the Haymarket Theatre in the West End, which won her the London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer.
She went on to play Sheila in the West End run of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, which transferred to Broadway and for which she received a nomination on her debut for Best Actress at the Tony Awards. Her work since includes leading roles on the London stage in Suddenly Last Summer, Once in a Lifetime, Twelfth Night, and in another Mike Bartlett play, Love, Love, Love at the Royal Court, before her performance as Audrey in Albion.
Victoria’s film credits include Mansfield Park, Before You Go, Scoop, and French Film. An edited list of her TV credits include What Remains, The Game, Doctor Foster, The Circuit, , Urban Myths, Deep State, Cobra, and The Crown, for which she received critical acclaim in her role as The Queen Mother. She will also appear in Mike Bartlett’s upcoming BBC series Life.
Victoria recommended Lungs by Duncan Macmillan – see episode 7!
Nicholas Rowe has appeared on many of London’s stages including The National, The Hampstead, The Bush, and Arcola as well as in two productions of Mike Bartlett plays at the Almeida, Albion and King Charles III, which also transferred to the West End. He has also appeared as William Pitt in Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III in the West End alongside David Haig.
His recent TV work includes David Hare’s “Roadkill”, Belgravia, Riviera, as well as The Crown, and most recently the title role in a 3-part drama documentary about George Washington, due for UK release in the summer of 2020.
Nick recommended On Blueberry Hill by Sebastian Barry.
We have footnotes for this episode …
Our Footnotes to the episode on Albion include observations on the echoes of Chekhov, Hidcote garden, being lady of the manor, having a purpose in life, the ‘beholders’ share’, and Claire Foy’s mother.
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