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.
BECOME A PATRON!
Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as exclusive access to The Play Review.
For details click here
Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.
You might also be interested in …
Shakespeare’s devastating exploration of race, reputation and jealousy, The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was a popular success when it was first performed during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but in the centuries since it has provoked a wide range of responses as successive generations have grappled with the racial identity of the eponymous character. As we record this episode a new production of Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London views the play’s treatment of race through a contemporary lens, setting the play within the London Metropolitan police force, a topical environment for racial inspection.
I am privileged to welcome as my guest someone especially qualified to help us navigate the tricky waters of Shakespeare’s play, Farah Karim-Cooper, Director of Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kings College London, and the author of The Great White Bard – Shakespeare, Race and the Future.
Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ralph Davies as Iago
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Photo by Johan Persson
Harold Pinter’s disturbing exploration of toxic masculinity and sexual maneuvering, The Homecoming premiered in 1965. The play’s portrait of misogyny, and even more disturbing, the apparent female complicity, was shocking at the time it was written. Nearly 60 years on the sexual politics is if anything even more difficult to watch. So what was Pinter’s purpose in presenting such a provocative piece, and how do we process it in the post Me-Too age?
I am joined by Matthew Dunster, the director of a scintillating new production of the play at the Young Vic in London, who can help us answer those questions about Pinter’s challenging classic.
Lisa Diveney as Ruth at the Young Vic – photo by Dean Chalkley.
Henrik Ibsen’s dark family drama Ghosts provoked outrage when it was published in 1881, its treatment of sexual disease, incest and euthanasia too much for the critics. More than 140 years later its portrait of repressed truths and social hypocrisy remains as powerful as ever.
Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, helps us review Ibsen’s unflinching drama.
Hattie Morahan as Helene Alving at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, December 2023. Photo by Marc Brenner.