Sonia Friedman unveils season of West End plays for 'bold new world'

Producer Sonia Friedman and director Ian Rickson are to present a spring season of plays in the West End that will tackle “urgent issues integral to rebuilding our society”.

Die Re:Emerge season, announced on Friday, comprises dramas about structural inequality, the climate emergency and issues raised by the case of Anna Sorokin, the socialite who was found guilty of grand larceny after posing as an heiress. News of the three dramas, all written by up-and-coming playwrights and supported by Arts Council England, runs counter to any suggestions that the West End will bank on “safe” revivals when theatres reopen in May in line with the government’s roadmap. Friedman called it a season of “bold, new work for a bold, new world as we begin to build back to the full reopening of British theatre”.

Gemma Arterton will star in Walden, by American playwright Amy Berryman, about the relationship between a Nasa botanist, her sister and a climate activist. It will be directed by Rickson, who is also artistic director for the season. Yasmin Joseph’s play J’Ouvert, which had an acclaimed run at Theatre503 in London in 2019, is set during the Notting Hill carnival and stars Gabrielle Brooks and Sapphire Joy as friends “navigating the joys and dangers of young black womanhood in 21st-century Britain”, said Friedman. It will be directed by Rebekah Murrell.

Anna X, written by Joseph Charlton, directed by Daniel Raggett and inspired by the Sorokin case, will star Emma Corrin – who rose to prominence after playing Diana in The Crown – in her professional stage debut. Previously performed at the Vault festival with a different cast, it delves into the “all-consuming lies we tell the world about ourselves over social media”, said Friedman.

J’Ouvert is currently being filmed for the BBC’s Lights Up season of theatre productions and there are also plans to broadcast the other two plays. The Re:Emerge season will open to socially distanced audiences from May alongside Sonia Friedman Productions’ backstage farce The Comeback, created by double act The Pin (Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden), which features different guest stars at each performance. The Comeback opened at the Noël Coward theatre in London in December but was promptly closed by the national lockdown.

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