Mercury Theatre announces full cast for Mark Ravenhill’s Blackmail

Mercury Theatre has announced the cast for Mark Ravenhill’s Blackmail.

A new version of the classic thriller originally written by Charles Bennett will open at the venue on 9 March, with previews from 4 March, and runs until 19 March.

Anthony Banks directs Gabriel Akuwudike (Harold Webber), Jessie Hills (Alice Jarvis), Patrick Walshe McBride (Ian Tracy) and Lucy Speed (Ada Jarvis).

The production, produced in association with Simon Friend Entertainment has a creative team made up of set and costume designer David Woodhead, lighting designer Howard Hudson, sound designers Ben Ringham and Max Ringham, fight director Alison de Burgh, casting director Helena Palmer, assistant director Michael Cottrell and choreographer: Arielle Smith.

Originally produced in the West End in 1928, Blackmail then became a pioneering early sound film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1929. Bennett subsequently worked with Hitchcock on the screen adaptation of The 39 Steps before a long career in Hollywood as a screenwriter. With the blessing of Bennett’s son, Mark Ravenhill has adapted this play for it to premiere on the Mercury stage.

Who has murdered a famous artist in his Chelsea studio? Who removed a vital clue from the scene of the crime?

Blackmailer Ian Tracy thinks he knows the answers, and that shop worker Alice and her policeman fiancé Harold are the perfect victims. Alice’s fearsome mother Ada is determined to find out the truth. A long night of secrets and lies awaits them all – and before morning comes, one of them will be dead.

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Ryan McBryde, Creative Director of Mercury Theatre, said: “We’ve been working with producer Simon Friend on this adaptation for the Mercury for over a year and I’m so looking forward to seeing this classy thriller finally come alive on stage. Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of Blackmail elevates a classic 1920’s thriller to something that powerfully resonates with contemporary audiences. Direction by Anthony Banks completes the recipe for an edge-of-the seat evening that audiences will be talking about long after they’ve left the building.”

Mark Ravenhill commented: “Charles Bennett constantly revised and rewrote his play Blackmail throughout his life. It was one of the first plays he wrote as a young actor in the early 1920s. He revised it before and after the 1928 West End production and participated in Hitchcock’s 1929 film reworking. He was working on a new version for a potential Hollywood film shortly before his death in 1995.

“I’ve had the great good fortune of being given access by his estate to the various manuscripts. Working from these, I’ve created a new version of Blackmail for a contemporary audience. The plot is all Bennett’s, about half the dialogue is mine. My aim has been to make the joins ‘invisible’, to imagine as best I can what Bennett would do if he had another go at shaping the play for a production in 2022.”

Lucy Speed added: “I knew from reading the first scene of Blackmail that I had to play it. It’s the kind of joyful genius that you cannot let pass you by. The script immediately thrilled and enthralled me. Delicious dialogue and visceral characters drive the forever twisting plot. The searingly relevant themes resonate today, several ringing so loudly in my ear: the mother-daughter relationship; the challenges of youth; the desperation of losing vitality and control that ageing throws at us; the timing politically that threw the world into emotional frenzy. It bounces gleefully along, moments of playfulness and superb reflection of self.”

About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.


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