Friday, September 15, 2023

Who's in Backstairs Billy? Fnarr fnarr!

Helen and I took PG out last night for a birthday dinner, or as the day itself was actually Thursday last week, the closing event of the 2013 Peter Gill Festival. We learned that lunch with Penelope Wilton and her sister was also part of the festival and that the occasion when he met Kylie - who he has long held up as an example of a pleasant, well adjusted celebrity - was when she came to see Luke Evans, who had worked with her musically, in Small Change. Both of which bring us neatly back to Backstairs Billy (Icons passim).

"If you two old queens have finished bickering, this old queen would like a G&T."
Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (attrib.) to members of her famously camp household.
Wilton plays the Queen Mother and Evans her loyal butler in the new play

The Michael Grandage Company has revealed the complete cast for the world premiere of Marcelo Dos Santos’ play Backstairs Billy, exploring a significant moment in the 50-year relationship between the Queen Mother and her loyal servant, William “Billy” Tallon.

Joining previously announced Penelope Wilton as the Queen Mother and Luke Evans as Billy are Emily Barber (Annabel Maud/Lady Astlebury) who reunites with Evans after The Alienist, Iwan Davies (Gwydion), Ian Drysdale (Kerr), Ilan Galkoff (Young Billy), Eloka Ivo (Ian), Michael Simkins (Mr Harrington-Bahr/Hugo McCoyd), Nicole Sloane (Mrs Harrington-Bahr/Lady Adeline), with David Buttle, Amy Newton, Keanu Adolphus Johnson, Georgie Rhys, and Jacob Ethan Tanner.

Michael Grandage’s production is set to open at the Duke of York’s Theatre on November 7, with previews starting on October 27 and running until January 27. In line with the company’s ongoing commitment to accessibility in the West End, £10 tickets will be available for every performance throughout the run.

The production marks a reunion between Grandage and Wilton, who previously collaborated on productions including The Chalk Garden, John Gabriel Borkman, and Hamlet. Additionally Evans performed twice at the Donmar during Grandage’s artistic directorship, in Small Change and Piaf. Dos Santos was a recipient of the MGCfutures Bursary in 2019, a charity established by Grandage to support various aspects of the theater industry. Following their introduction through the bursary program, MGC commissioned Dos Santos to write Backstairs Billy.

The creative team also includes set designer Christopher Oram, costume designers Oram and Tom Rand, lighting designer Ryan Day, music and sound designer Adam Cork, wigs, hair & makeup designer Carole Hancock, casting director Jacob Sparrow, associate director Sophie Drake, and costume supervisor Mary Charlton.

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