Posted on 15 March 2011

Best known for playing Fiona Gallagher in TV's Shameless, and Elizabeth 1 in The Virgin Queen, Anne Marie Duff is an accomplished theatre actor, who has worked extensively with the Royal National Theatre and also in London's West End - Vassa, Collected Stories, King Lear and most recently the title character in Marianne Elliott's production of Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan to great acclaim and for which she was nominated as Best Actress at the Laurence Oliver awards in 2008.  This was her second nomination as she was also in the Best Supporting Actress category in 2000 for The Collected Stories.

From March to June 2011, she will play Alma Rattenbury in Rattigan's final play Cause Célèbre at The Old Vic directed by Thea Sharrock who also directed Rattingan's rarely seen After The Dance in 2010 at the National Theatre. 
Anne Marie Duff will joined by Niamh Cusack, one of Ireland's most famous theatrical families whose numerous theatre credits include The Painter (at the Arcola Theatre until February 12), Andersen’s English (Hampstead Theatre), Dancing at Lughnasa (Old Vic), Ghosts (Gate Theatre), Mammals (Bush Theatre), The Enchantment and His Dark Materials (National Theatre), Breathing Corpses (Royal Court Theatre), As You Like It, The Art of Success, Romeo and Juliet and Othello (RSC) and The Maids (Donmar).

Cause Célèbre is based on the true story of Alma Rattenbury who went on trial with her 18-year-old lover for the murder of her husband. Condemned by the public more for her seduction of a young boy than for any involvement she may have had in her husband’s death, Alma’s fate is left in the hands of the socially and sexually repressed jury forewoman, Edith. It is an intriguing tale of love, betrayal, guilt and obsession.

The play was first commissioned as a BBC radio play in 1975.  Well received when broadcast in October 1975 with a strong cast headed by Diana Dors and songs composed by the real Alma Rattenbury, Cause Célèbre was heard by a rising younger London theatre impresario who approached Rattigan about adapting it for the theatre. Rattigan agreed and set about the difficult task of turning the sequence of short scenes shifting seamlessly from location to location into a stage play.  On 4th July 1977 Rattigan attended the first night of Cause Célèbre at Her Majesty’s Theatre. He had been driven from his hospital bed in a limousine to the theatre and taken in a wheelchair to his seat in the royal box in good time for the performance in the full knowledge that this would be the last of his first nights that he would ever attend. 

Terence Rattingan was one of England's most popular 20th-century dramatists. Fifteen years after his death, largely through a revival of The Deep Blue Sea, at the Almeida Theatre, London, Rattigan has increasingly been seen as one of the century's finest playwrights, an expert choreographer of emotion, and an anatomist of human emotional pain.  In the words of Bernard Levin, writing in the Sunday Times after the opening of Cause Celebre, Rattingan was the playwright who knew "…that in every human being there is a capacity to reflect the divine, and that is it is love in all it's forms, from the noblest to the most tawdry, that is most likely to show the gleam of that reflection".

The Old Vic’s production of Cause Célèbre is just one of Rattigan’s plays being staged this year to mark the centenary of his birth including Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from March to June starring Sienna Miller, James Purefoy and this year's Laurence Olivier awards best actress Sheridan Smith.

[posted by Louise 15/03/2011]