Published on Tue 6 Jan 2015

“Because we live in Europe. Because nothing really bad happens. The worst is a bit of an inconvenience. Perhaps not such a good mini break. But really in the grand scheme of life, not so bad.”

Full casting is announced today for How to Hold Your Breath, a new play by Zinnie Harris. Directed by the Royal Court’s Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, the cast join the previously announced Maxine Peake on the first day of rehearsals today.

The cast includes Christine Bottomley, Neil D’Souza, Peter Forbes, Siobhán McSweeney, Maxine Peake, Danusia Samal and Michael Shaeffer.

Starting with a seemingly innocent one night stand, How To Hold Your Breath is a darkly witty and magical play. Zinnie Harris dives into our recent European history, providing an epic look at the true cost of our principles and how we live now.

The production is directed by Vicky Featherstone, designed by Chloe Lamford, with lighting by Paul Constable, music by Stuart Earl, sound design by Gareth Fry and movement by Ann Yee.

Artistic Director of the Royal Court Vicky Featherstone directs. Since she started at the Royal Court, her credits have included Dennis Kelly’s The Ritual Slaughter of George Mastromas, Abi Morgan’s The Mistress Contract and Molly Davies’s God Bless the Child. She opened her first season at the Royal Court with Open Court – a festival of plays, ideas and events, chosen by over 140 writers. At National Theatre of Scotland, her credits included Enquirer (co-directed with John Tiffany), Appointment With The Wicker Man and 27. Prior to Scotland, Vicky was Artistic Director of Paines Plough.

Zinnie Harris’ credits at the Royal Court include Nightingale and Chase. Her play The Wheel for the National Theatre of Scotland, directed by Vicky Featherstone, won a Fringe First Award, jointly won an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Theatre Award and was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her other recent credits include The Message on the Watch and The Panel at the Tricycle and A Doll’s House at the Donmar (adapt.). Her 2000 play Further than the Furthest Thing won the Peggy Ramsay Foundation Award, a Fringe First, and the John Whiting Award. On television, she has written extensively for Spooks and is currently writing Tommy and Tuppence based on the Agatha Christie series for David Walliams on BBC1.

Cast Biographies:

Christine Bottomley has previously appeared at the Royal Court in Alaska and Ladybird. Her other theatre credits include Uncle Vanya and Spring Awakening (both young Vic), A Single Act and Osama the Hero (both Hampstead Theatre), Rutherford and Son (Royal Exchange Theatre) and Flush (Soho Theatre). Christine’s extensive television credits include In the Club, DCI Banks, New Tricks, Vera, Silent Witness, Inspector George Gently, Midsomer Murders, Survivors, Land Girls, Hope Springs, Tess of the D’urbervilles, Torchwood, The Street, Shameless, Early Doors and Heartbeat.

Neil D’Souza has previously performed at the Royal Court in Khandan. For the Royal Shakespeare Company he has appeared in Much Ado About Nothing and Midnight’s Children, and for Shakespeare’s Globe his credits include The Honest Whore and The Merchant Of Venice. Elsewhere Neil’s credits include Drawing The Line (Hampstead Theatre), The Man Of Mode (National Theatre) and Herges Adventure Of Tintin (Playhouse Theatre). His film and television credits include Filth, Still Life, Hustle and Holby City.

Peter Forbes’ recent theatre credits include Afterlife and Never so Good (National Theatre), Black Watch (National Theatre of Scotland), The Winter’s Tale (RSC) and The Same Deep Water As Me (Donmar Warehouse). His television credits include Eastenders, Doctors, Casualty and Bad Girls. His film credits include Wilde and Blue Ice.

Siobhán McSweeney most recently appeared in Fathers and Sons (Donmar Warehouse) and The Captain of Köpenick (National Theatre). Other theatre credits include The Kitchen (National Theatre), Translations (Curve), Mother Courage and her Children (National Theatre) and England People Very Nice (National Theatre). Her film credits include Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass and The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Danusia Samal was most recently on stage in The House That Will Not Stand and Circles (both Tricycle Theatre). Samal’s other theatre credits include Billy the Girl (Soho Theatre), Project Night (Arcola Theatre), The Birthday Party (Manchester Royal Exchange) and Liar Liar and 1001 Nights (both The Unicorn Theatre).

Michael Shaeffer was most recently on stage at the Almeida Theatre in Little Revolution and Mr Burns. He has previously appeared at the Royal Court in Friday Night Sex and Burn (part of the Live Lunch at the Royal Court). Shaeffer has also appeared in Godchild (Hampstead Theatre), All About My Mother (Old Vic), Table and London Road (both National Theatre). His film credits include Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, Broken and Kingdom of Heaven as well as reprising his role in London Road in the 2015 adaptation. Shaeffer has appeared on television in Luther, Black Mirror and Parade’s End.

Maxine Peake is known for her varied career in film, on stage and more recently as a playwright. Well known for her roles in BAFTA nominated TV dramas such as Silk, The Village, The Street and Shameless, her extensive theatre credits also include Mother Theresa is Dead at The Royal Court, The Cherry Orchard, The Relapse and Luther all at The National Theatre and most recently, a radical re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Manchester Royal Exchange. In 2014 Peake wrote her first radio play Beryl: A Love Story on Two Wheels, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and subsequently adapted and produced at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Peake is also appearing in two films in Spring 2015, Hamlet (filmed during its run at the Royal Exchange) and Carol Morley’s black comedy The Falling. Her previous film work includes Private Peaceful, Run and Jump, Keeping Rosy and The Theory of Everything.

The Big Idea: How To Hold Your Breath
The Big Idea is a strand of work at the Royal Court launched during last year’s Open Court festival, offering audiences radical thinking and provocative discussion inspired by the work on stage.

How to Find the Good: A.C. Grayling delivers a guide to modern morality
Wednesday 25 February, 6pm
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
£5 or free with a ticket to How To Hold Your Breath

In Conversation with Zinnie Harris
Friday 6 March, post-show
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
Free with a ticket to this performance

A.C Grayling MA, DPhil (Oxon) FRSL, FRSA is Master of the New College of the Humanities, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford. He was Chair of the Judges for the Man Booker Prize 2014 and his latest books are The God Argument (2013) and Friendship (2013). Until 2011 he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written and edited over thirty books on philosophy and other subjects including The Good Book, Ideas That Matter, Liberty in the Age of Terror and To Set Prometheus Free. For several years he wrote columns for The Guardian and The Times. He is a frequent contributor to national newspapers, the BBC and a contributing editor of Prospect magazine. He is a representative to the UN Human Rights Council for the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a Vice President of the British Humanist Association, the Patron of the United Kingdom Armed Forces Humanist Association, a patron of Dignity in Dying, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College Oxford.