J M Synge’s comic masterpiece and one of Ireland’s greatest plays, The Playboy of the Western World will preview at The Old Vic from 17 September 2011 with a press night on 27 September. Directed by John Crowley, this major new production will star Robert Sheehan as Christy Mahon, Ruth Negga as Pegeen Mike and Niamh Cusack as Widow Quinn.
John Crowley says: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be directing The Playboy of The Western World at The Old Vic. It’s been my most favourite play for the longest time, and we’re gathering such an exciting cast to bring it to life”.
Set in a small village on the west coast of County Mayo, The Playboy of the Western World tells the story of lonely dreamer Christy Mahon (Robert Sheehan) who takes refuge in Michael Flaherty’s pub, claiming that he has killed his oppressive father. Christy beguiles the locals with his tall and dramatic tale of bravery in the face of danger and becomes an instant hero. He both charms the village women including Widow Quinn (Niamh Cusack) and captures the heart of the landlord’s fiery daughter Pegeen (Ruth Negga). However, when his tale turns out to be less straightforward than they first thought, the simmering violence of the villagers comes to light.
The Playboy of the Western World premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1907, provoking riots in the audience during its opening run. In the intervening years, the play became an Irish classic and enjoyed successful revivals including the 1975 National Theatre production at The Old Vic with Stephen Rea as Christy. Playboy was last staged in London in 2001 at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre. There have also been film and operatic interpretations and playwright Mustapha Matura transposed the story to 1950s Trinidad in Playboy of the West Indies.
John Millington Synge was a co-founder of the Abbey Theatre and wrote only six plays before his untimely death at the age of 37, including In the Shadow of the Glen, Riders to the Sea and The Well of the Saints.
John Crowley has directed on both stage and screen, with recent theatre work on Broadway including Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane starring Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, and A Steady Rain starring Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman. His production of McDonagh’s The Pillowman transferred from the National Theatre to Broadway, earning him a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction with Jeff Goldblum and Billy Cruddup in the lead roles. John has directed extensively at Dublin’s Gate, Abbey and Peacock Theatres and other theatre credits include the Donmar productions of Tales From Hollywood, Juno and the Paycock (also off Broadway) and Into The Woods. Screen credits include Is Anybody There? starring Michael Caine, the award winning Boy A which earned him the BAFTA TV Award for Best Direction, Intermission staring Colin Farrell garnering a BIFA and Channel 4’s Celebration, written by Harold Pinter and starring Michael Gambon and Colin Firth.
Robert Sheehan plays Christy Mahon. Best known for his breakthrough role as Nathan in the hugely
successful E4 television series Misfits, for which he won BAFTA nomination, Robert will be making his
professional stage debut in The Playboy of the Western World. His other television credits include RTE’s Love/Hate and the much acclaimed Red Riding Trilogy. Film work includes this year’s comedy Killing Bono with Ben Barnes and Season of the Witch with Nicholas Cage.
Ruth Negga plays Pegeen Mike. Her theatre credits include Ophelia in Hamlet and Aricia in Phèdre, both directed by Nicholas Hytner at the National Theatre and Pegeen Mike in the Druid Theatre Company’s Australian tour of The Playboy of the Western World. Ruth has worked extensively on the Dublin stage at both The Abbey and Peacock Theatres with theatre credits including The Crucible, The Importance of Being Ernest, directed by Maria Aitken as well as David Levaux’s production of The Real Thing. Her performance as Cat in Max Stafford-Clark’s production of Duck at the Royal Court earned her an Olivier nomination for Best Newcomer in 2003.
Niamh Cusack plays Widow Quinn. Recently seen as Edith Davenport in the critically acclaimed production of Rattigan’s Cause Célèbre at The Old Vic, Niamh is a highly accomplished actress who has worked extensively in theatre and television. Her many theatre credits include The Painter (Arcola), Women, Power and Politics (Tricycle), Andersen’s English (Hampstead Theatre and UK tour), Dancing at Lughnasa at The Old Vic, Sir Peter Hall’s Portrait Of A Lady (Theatre Royal Bath), The Enchantment and Nicholas Hytner’s His Dark Materials both at the National Theatre. Her television credits include ITV’s Fallen Angel with Emilia Fox, The Last Detective with Peter Davison and the hugely popular drama series Heartbeat. Niamh has also appeared in a number of films – 5 Minutes of Heaven, The Closer You Get, Playboys and Shadow Under The Sun.