Nigel Harman is in the chair to direct a major West End season of Steven Berkoff one-act plays, Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses at Trafalgar Studios this October.
Lunch (1983) and it’s sequel The Bow of Ulysses (2002) are two of Berkoff’s finest small pieces, examining the relationship between a couple when they first meet and have, what appears to be, an abortive one-night-stand; and how they are years later after two decades of marriage.
The production stars Shaun Dooley and Emily Bruni. Nigel Harman said: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity of working on two of Steven Berkoff’s rarely performed short plays.
“When I first read them I was struck by the caustic beauty of the writing. Berkoff manages to amuse, horrify and move all in one sentence. And his instinct for the human condition, with all it’s flaws and wonders, is unique.
“I’m intrigued to put these plays on stage and see how an audience will react. They are a challenge to watch.
“Some people will laugh and enjoy the theatricality of them. Others may find them uncomfortable in the way they hold a dark mirror up to relationships. One thing’s for sure, they don’t pull any punches.”
Shaun Dooley was Ricky Gillespie in Broadchurch, DC Carl Hawkins in Cuffs, Greg in Misfts, Dick Alderman in the Red Riding trilogy, and Peter Harper in Jimmy McGovern’s The Street.
Shaun won the Royal Television Society NorthWest Award for Best Actor for Mark of Cain in 2007 and Best Actor for Kandahar Break at the Newport Film Festival 2009. In 2014 he won Best Supporting Actor for Frankenstein at the BBC Audio Drama Awards.
Emily can currently be seen as Simone in The Collection, the major new series launched this week on Amazon Prime.
She was Gail in three series of Peep Show on C4, Vita Sackville West in the acclaimed BBC TV series Life in Squares, about the revolutionary Bloomsbury group, and Catherine the Great in the BBC TV film about her life. On film she was Caitlyn in Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe.
Producer Jimmy Jewel said: “Berkoff‘s plays are always physically demanding for the actors involved. In Lunch and The Bow of Ulyses, intentional vulgarity sits cheek by jowl with passages of poetic clarity, allowing the characters to reveal the most painful and ugly aspects of their lives.
“Lunch is a black comedy of errors that is as universal as it is bizarrely peculiar. It is a psychological and sexual struggle for power.
“Berkoff’s writing is astounding in its unrelenting physicality. Yet it skips from Shakespearean verbosity, allusion and surprising imagery to tiptoeing indecision.
“The Bow Of Ulysses avoids any hint at conversation, with each character speaking in long soliloquies, before passing the baton to the other. The man feels he has wasted years married to the woman, she believes he’d have been nothing without her support.
“The truth, as truth always is, is more complicated and the sides switch around and explore one another, without ever touching in conversation. This is a rare opportunity to see two of Berkoff’s finest small pieces.”
Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses play in Trafalgar Studios 2 from October 6-November 5.