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.
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.
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.
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.
Suggest a play
We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at email@example.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).
You might also be interested in …
One Podcast Two Plays! Carlo Goldoni’s Commedia dell’Arte classic A Servant to Two Masters and Richard Bean’s hilarious update One Man Two Guvnors. We explore all of the ingredients of the original play in the tradition of Commedia dell’Arte, as well as how Bean translated these so successfully into his smash hit at the National Theatre. Writer and director Justin Greene joins me to sample this multi-course theatrical banquet. (Commedia afficionados will appreciate the gourmet references!).
The dramatic tragedy of a wife who murders her own two sons in a desperate act of grief and revenge remains as disturbing and deeply moving as when it was written nearly 2,500 years ago. Medea by Euripides is timeless not only because of our fascination with Medea’s horrific crime, but for the poetry of its language, and its unflinching portrayal of a woman all but powerless in a patriarchal world. The play was recently revived at the National Theatre with a stunning performance by Helen McCrory in the title role, which is now available to view on the National Theatre at Home. I’m joined by renowned classical scholar Edith Hall to explore our enduring fascination with Medea.
The main characters in Nina Raine’s play Consent are barristers contesting a brutal rape case. As the case unfolds the lawyers’ marriages come unravelled and they themselves cross the line of honour or even of the law. Consent explores some of the most charged issues of our time: the sources of sexual betrayal and violence, the ambiguities of consent, and the failings of the justice system to account proportionally or sensitively with cases of sexual abuse. I am delighted and honoured to be joined in this episode by the author of Consent, Nina Raine, and by actor Adam James, who appeared in the National Theatre production in the role of Jake.
Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country …