“I almost dare not ask this… but who is Sylvia?” -Ross
We have been rolling drums for a while now but in case you missed it Damian Lewis is making a wonderful comeback to the West End, just two years after storming American Buffalo along with John Goodman and Tom Sturridge, in the new revival of Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The Goat is arguably the most provocative and controversial play by Albee who unfortunately passed away in September at the age of 88. It won all the major theater awards, namely Tony, New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle, for Best New Play of the Year when it was first staged on Broadway in 2002.
Damian will be headlining The Goat in the role of Martin Gray, a hugely successful New York architect who has just turned fifty. Martin seems to have a happy family life with his loving wife Stevie, played by wonderful Sophie Okonedo, and their teenage son Billy. However, this seemingly ideal life starts to fall apart as soon as Martin confides to his best friend Ross that he is also in love with Sylvia, who is, well… a goat!
Now, how do you solve a problem like Sylvia? 😀
The late Edward Albee describes his play as follows:
“Every civilization sets quite arbitrary limits to its tolerances. The play is about a family that is deeply rocked by an unimaginable event and how they solve that problem. It is my hope that people will think afresh about whether or not all the values they hold are valid.”
After the announcement, Damian has spoken on the phone with The Evening Standard from New York, where he is currently shooting Billions Season 2, regarding his return to the West End:
“I grew up going to the West End and I love the West End. I love the diversity of the audiences. I love the tradition that it comes from. I find it very beguiling. It can encompass all things and that’s why I love it. I’m excited.”
It turns out Damian was at the London premiere of The Goat at the Almeida Theatre in 2004 in which Jonathan Pryce (the wonderful Cardinal Wolsey of Wolf Hall) played Martin opposite a very young Eddie Redmayne’s Billy and LOVED it.
“It was one of the most fascinating nights I’ve ever had in a theatre. The play stayed with me. The absurd central premise is on the face of it ludicrous, and funny, and awful. But what emerges through the play is that it’s about different expressions of love and ideas of forbidden love.
“It speaks to the limitations of human imagination while at the same time asking the audience to believe in something they’ve never, I’m hoping, had to believe in before. That’s why the play is fascinating. It’s laceratingly funny, uncomfortable and daring. But in the end I think it’s a very serious and poignant play about relationships and our understanding of love.”
It is obviously sad that Edward Albee passed away in September and will not be able to see this new production of the play that is widely accepted to be his late masterpiece. However, I believe, the West End revival of The Goat will be a beautiful tribute to the late playwright’s wonderful legacy.
Damian tells The Evening Standard: “I was really looking forward to meeting him and him seeing the show. But he sadly passed away. He was very fussy about who he gives the rights to his play to so we felt very lucky and want to do well by him.”
Oh I certainly know that the lucky ones among us that will be able to see Damian on stage are in for a real treat. He has such a captivating presence on stage that it is quite difficult to take your eyes off Damian even when he is just sitting quietly.
The Goat certainly requires raw, vulnerable and convincing performances especially from the two leads. And we could not be happier to hear that brilliant Sophie Okonedo will play Stevie to Damian’s Martin in The Goat!
Okonedo appeared in the 2014 Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun and won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Ruth Younger. And I was extremely lucky to see her happy return to Broadway earlier this year in Ivo van Hove’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible that NY Times called “the freshest and scariest production in town.” In the star-studded cast including Ben Whishaw, Saoirse Ronan and Ciaran Hinds, Okonedo stood out with her subtle yet powerful stage presence.
One fun trivia is that I know, for a fact, that Damian saw Okonedo in The Crucible. He told us at Times Talks back in June, when asked about his favorite stage show, that he would just say what he saw last night “which is The Crucible. Brilliant horrifying play. You forget every time you watch it what an extraordinary play it is.”
I found out about yet another fun trivia thanks to Connie, a great fan and a great reader! It turns out The Goat will not be the first project Damian and Sophie will be doing together. They were both in the spy action movie Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker in 2006. Thank you, Connie!
UPDATE 01/07/2017: And like we needed another reason to get excited, Guardian Critic Michael Billington now has The Goat in his Unmissable Theatre of 2017 list. Woot Woot!
“Damian Lewis, last seen on stage in Mamet’s American Buffalo, now stars in another American classic: Edward Albee’s disturbing 2002 play about an acclaimed architect who conceives a hopeless passion for a goat. But this is less a play about bestiality than a modern version of Greek tragedy: an Oedipus Rex for the affluent society. Fans of Lewis in Homeland and Billions may be in for a shock, but the production is in the sure hands of Ian Rickson as director.”
Meet The Grays…
…as well as Martin’s oldest friend Ross!
And here’s a first glimpse of Damian Lewis, Sophie Okonedo and director Ian Rickson talking about the play here!
The Goat starts its previews on March 24, 2017, and the press night will take place on April 5. Please note that the play will have a limited 12-week run until June 24. Tickets will be selling out fast so if you plan to go see The Goat, make sure you book your tickets as soon as possible. And, for BEST prices, it is always a better idea to book tickets online at the theatre’s website rather than through other agencies. If you are a Twitter user, you can follow the play’s twitter at @thegoatplay and the producer Tom Kirdahy at @tkirdahy.
And watch this space for detailed coverage of the play and any news updates about the revival.