Full casting is announced today for Jean Racine’s Roman tragedy Britannicus, translated and adapted by Timberlake Wertenbaker and directed by award-winning director Atri Banerjee, in a thrilling, new production exploring monarchy, succession, dictatorship and depravity, set in modern day Rome. Britannicus runs at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre from 26 May to 25 June 2022, with opening night for press on 01 June.

The production features Shyvonne Ahhmad, seen as Ash Majee in UKTV series Annika, as Junia; Nigel Barrett, from the award-winning Edinburgh Festival hit Pops, plays Narcissus; Nathaniel Curtis, best known for playing Ash Mukherjee in the hit Channel 4 series It’s A Sin, in the title role of Britannicus; Hanna Khogali, seen in Paines Plough’s You Bury Me, is Albine; Helena Lymbery, recently seen in Measure for Measure at Shakespeare’s Globe, plays Burrhus; Sirine Saba, who was recently seen as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe, plays their mother Agrippina; and William Robinson, direct from Bacon at Finborough Theatre, as Emperor Nero.

Jean Racine’s tragedy is translated and adapted by Timberlake Wertenbaker, the Olivier and New York Drama Critics Award winning writer of Our Country’s Good. This enthralling adaptation of Britannicus marks the first major London production in 10 years and is directed by Atri Banerjee, winner of The Stage Debut Award for Best Director and recently named in their list of top theatremakers to look out for in 2022.

Atri Banerjee, Director, said: “I’m so thrilled to be directing this new production of Britannicus and to be working with brilliant collaborators across cast and creative team to bring Racine’s epic political thriller to life. From antiquity to the present day, we’ve always felt the corrosive effects of unchecked authoritarianism. Right now, we feel them in war in Ukraine; election in France; parties in our very own seats of power as the country is ravaged by pandemic. Britannicus dramatises the point when a “good” leader turns bad and so has never felt more relevant. Racine drew upon the political landscape of 17th century France to tell a story of 1st century Rome: in it, we see 21st century Britain.

Britannicus makes the political personal and the personal political. It’s an honour to work with the legendary Timberlake Wertenbaker on her bold, muscular adaptation. I’m so excited by the vision and scope of our production, and I have no doubt that audiences will be gripped by what we have in store for them.”

Timberlake Wertenbaker, Translator and Adaptor, said: “I was actually translating Racine’s Phedre when I caught a production of Britannicus in Paris. I hadn’t known the play well before and I was stunned by its analysis of ambition and the corruption of power. I was intrigued by the complex and changeable relationships between the characters, something Racine does brilliantly. It’s a very political play and seems to speak to times of political turmoil.”

Rachel O’Riordan, Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Atri Banerjee to direct on our main stage at the Lyric as part of our continuing 2022 season. His extraordinary vision and talent will no doubt elevate another essential work from the always impressive Timberlake Wertenbaker. Britannicus is a historical story of political power and self-interest yet proves ever more poignant today.”

‘Tyranny always promises good things.’ Power and succession are in the very bones of Rome. Agrippina – desperate to cling onto power – has ensured her son, Nero, is the Roman Emperor, in place of his half-brother and the rightful heir, Britannicus. But the corridors of power and Nero’s own obsession turn a once virtuous ruler into an oppressive tyrant. This noble tragedy explores monarchy, dictatorship and depravity.

Britannicus is written by Jean Racine, translated and adapted by Timberlake Wertenbaker, directed by Atri Banerjee, set and costume design by Rosanna Vize, lighting design by Lee Curran, composition and sound design by Jasmin Kent Rodgman, movement direction by Jennifer Jackson and casting by Nadine Rennie CDG.

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