No, we’re not having a laugh – at least not yet – The National Joke is a new play from leading British playwright Torben Betts and it opens the Summer Festival at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in June.
In The National Joke, home truths emerge and a reputation could tumble as Rupert St John-Green MP and three generations of women gather in the family garden to watch a total solar eclipse.
Torben says: “I read a book a few years ago all about the history and science of the solar eclipse, and thought it would be a great way to frame a play – it gives a reason for a family to come together and also provides an interesting theatrical device.”
The National Joke goes into rehearsal on May 9 with a cast of five: Philip Bretherton, Guy Burgess, Cate Hamer, Catherine Lamb and Annabel Leventon.
Philip Bretherton is familiar to TV audiences as Alistair Deacon in nine series of the hit Judi Dench/Geoffrey Palmer comedy, As Time Goes By. He last worked at the SJT in 2006 when he played Tom in Skylight.
Guy Burgess played Jerry Walsh in the BBC daytime soap Doctors. This year he has appeared in two plays at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre: Satellite and The Ascending.
Cate Hamer played Lindsey in Torben’s The Swing of Things at the SJT in 2007. She has appeared on TV in Coronation Street, Doctors and Holby City.
Catherine Lamb was Helena in All’s Well That Ends Well at the Wanamaker Festival at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2013. On TV, she recently played Suzie in the Channel 4 series Cucumber.
Annabel Leventon’s career dates back to the ’60s. She was in the original London productions of both Hair and The Rocky Horror Show. On TV, she has been seen in many shows including Minder, Van Der Valk, Dempsey & Makepeace, Bergerac, A Touch of Frost, New Tricks and, most recently, Vera.
Torben’s other plays include Invincible (currently touring) and the recent adaptation of Get Carter, which was a huge hit for Newcastle’s Northern stage. Early in his career he was resident playwright at the SJT and went on to see his work produced nationally and internationally and gain multiple award nominations.
Audiences can meet Torben at a Teatime Talk in the McCarthy Theatre on June 23.
The National Joke can be seen at the SJT, in rep, from June 8 – August 20.