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(Minneapolis/St. Paul) Michael Billington, longtime theater critic for the U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper, published an article on Monday, October 22 discussing his October 12-15 visit to the Guthrie Theater, during which he attended all three plays of the Christopher Hampton Celebration as well as giving a post-play talk on Hampton’s work on Sunday, October 14.
“The fact that this festival devoted to a British dramatist is taking place in the American midwest is the result of two visionary Irishmen,” begins Billington, going on to cite pioneering director Tyrone Guthrie and current director Joe Dowling as making possible both the original Guthrie in 1963 and the three-stage complex that opened on the Mississippi River in 2006. “Mark Rylance … ruffled a few feathers back in the UK when he said the Guthrie made our own National theatre look like a tin shack,” adds Billington. “That may be overpitching it, but the Guthrie strikes me as an architectural triumph.”
Writing of the three plays that comprise the Hampton Celebration, Billington applauded Hampton’s political epic Appomattox, which depicts the close of the American Civil War in 1865 and the Civil Rights era in 1965. “It takes chutzpah for a British dramatist to tackle such a subject,” Billington writes. “but Hampton has pulled it off, and in the process revealed … that Lyndon Baines Johnson was not only a huge character, but a hugely misunderstood one.”
Of the other two plays in the Celebration, Billington is equally complimentary. “And, during my visit, I saw two earlier Hampton pieces excellently revived: Tales from Hollywood in a delightful, filmic production from Ethan McSweeny and Embers elegantly staged by Joe Dowling.”
The Christopher Hampton Celebration continues at the Guthrie with Tales from Hollywood through October 27, Embers through October 27 and Appomattox through November 11. Single tickets for the Guthrie’s production are on sale through the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE, 612.225.6244 (Group Sales) and online at www.guthrietheater.org.
The GUTHRIE THEATER (Joe Dowling, Director) was founded by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in 1963 and is an American center for theater performance, production, education and professional training. The Tony Award-winning Guthrie Theater is dedicated to producing the great works of dramatic literature, developing the work of contemporary playwrights and cultivating the next generation of theater artists. With annual attendance of nearly 500,000 people, the Guthrie Theater presents a mix of classic plays and contemporary work on its three stages. Under the artistic leadership of Joe Dowling since 1995, the Guthrie continues to set a national standard for excellence in theatrical production and performance. In 2006, the Guthrie opened its new home on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the Guthrie Theater houses three state-of-the-art stages, production facilities, classrooms and dramatic public lobbies. www.guthrietheater.org