Entertainment & Arts

Sam Mendes to direct new Jez Butterworth play about The Troubles

Sam Mendes Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Ferryman will be the first play Sam Mendes has directed at the Royal Court

James Bond director Sam Mendes is to return to London theatre with a new drama by playwright Jez Butterworth.

Mendes, who began his directing career in the theatre before moving into film, will put on The Ferryman at the Royal Court next April and May.

It will be set in rural County Londonderry in 1981, at the height of the Troubles.

It will be the first new play in five years from Butterworth, who is best known for the award-winning Jerusalem.

Butterworth told the Evening Standard that The Ferryman would be "a big play" with a cast of 24, set at the time of the hunger strike in which 10 republican prisoners starved themselves to death.

Past 'never buried'

"It is on the scale of Jerusalem and is a play about a family where the past comes back into the present in a way that shows it was never really buried," he said.

"It is set during the end of the hunger strike but it is away from that urban setting of the hunger strike and set on a farm where the main preoccupation is bringing the harvest in.

"It is looking at the notion of whether you care for the land with a capital L or a small l, and whether you take up the sword or the plough."

Mendes and Butterworth met in the 1990s when Mendes wanted to direct the film version of Butterworth's 1995 Royal Court hit Mojo.

In the end, Butterworth directed the cinema version himself.

"Sam didn't talk to me for years afterwards," Butterworth later said.

But the pair have worked together in recent years after the director called on Butterworth to help polish the screenplays for his James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre.

Meanwhile, the Royal Court has also announced a new play titled Nuclear War by Simon Stephens, whose previous work includes Punk Rock and the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Simon McBurney will direct The Kid Stays In The Picture, about former Hollywood mogul Robert Evans, who oversaw films like The Godfather and Chinatown before falling from grace in the 1980s after pleading guilty to cocaine trafficking.

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