Previewed 5 September 2017, Opened 12 September 2017, Closed 23 September 2017 at the NT's Lyttelton Theatre in London
Transferred 2 October 2017, Closed 30 December 2017 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London
Bartlett Sher's acclaimed production of J.T. Rogers' new Tony Award-winning play Oslo in London for a limited season
In 1993, in front of the world’s press, the leaders of Israel and Palestine shook hands on the lawn of the White House. Few watching would have guessed that the negotiations leading up to this iconic moment started secretly in a castle in the middle of a forest outside Oslo. This new play tells the true story of two maverick Norwegian diplomats who coordinated the top-secret talks and inspired seemingly impossible friendships between Israeli, Palestinian, Norwegian and American people. Their quiet heroics led to the ground-breaking Oslo Peace Accords. A darkly funny political thriller.
The original cast features Toby Stephens as 'Terje Rød-Larsen' and Lydia Leonard as 'Mona Juul' with Geraldine Alexander as 'Marianne Heiberg / Toril Grandal', Philip Arditti as 'Uri Savir', Thomas Arnold as 'Jan Egeland / Ron Pundak', Nabil Elouahabi as 'Hassan Asfour', Paul Herzberg as 'Shimon Peres / Yair Hirschfield', Jacob Krichefski as 'Yossie Beilin', Yair Jonah Lotan as 'Joel Singer', Peter Polycarpou as 'Ahmed Quries', Anthony Shuster as 'Trond Gundersen', Daniel Stewart as 'Thor Bjornevog', Howard Ward as 'Johan Jørgen Holst / Finn Grandal' and Karoline Gable. Casting subject to chnage without notice. Directed by Bartlett Sher with sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, projections by 59 Productions, lighting by Donald Holder and sound by Peter John Still.
When this production was seen at the National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre in September 2017 prior to transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard described how "American playwright J T Rogers has crafted an absorbing mix of historical reconstruction and political thriller, in which world events are viewed from an unfamiliar angle... Director Bartlett Sher succeeds in making diplomacy seem richly theatrical... The result is an intricate and in the end moving vision of the ways the personal qualities of individuals can shape world events — and of the importance of acknowledging shared humanity." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times hailed "this tremendous piece of theatre. J T Rogers' play is witty, gripping, Shakespearean in scope, makes fizzingly light work of complex negotiations and is delivered by a flawless ensemble in Bartlett Sher's deft Lincoln Center Theater staging (recast for London)... Sher's production is a beautifully pitched team effort. The sad coda reminds us how very quickly that fragile peace deal was shattered again by bloodshed. But the keynote of this fine, humane play is hope." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that, "even if the play is a period piece, it is an engrossing reminder of a time when a negotiated settlement seemed a practical possibility... Although Bartlett Sher’s production has an epic sweep, it rightly puts the emphasis on the individuals involved." Neil Norman in the Daily Express commented: "Part history lesson, part dramatised record of events, it stops just short of being a fully realised play but it is never less than engaging... The stakes rise in a political poker game that involves a lot of bluffing and shouting as well as moments of humour and humanity. Tension is maintained even though we know the outcome." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail highlighted that "to turn Middle Eastern peace talks into an entertaining three hours of stage drama is quite a feat, but that is what playwright J. T. Rogers has done in his play about the top-secret Oslo peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph said that this was a "riveting UK premiere production of J T Rogers's justly acclaimed, Tony Award-winning Oslo... What's brilliantly conveyed is the way a tiny vessel of hope managed to navigate its way across a great gulf of hostility and mistrust, steered initially by a handful of fairly marginal figures." Ann Treneman in the Times thought that "this is a serious, and a seriously good, play. Gripping is the word... Not all of the acting is tip top and I am not a fan of the rather preachy ending. But, mostly, it's a rollercoaster. This may be the loudest play I have ever been to. The shouting is incredible. But then no one ever said making peace was a quiet affair." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper praised this "marvel of theatrical dexterity and nimble exposition - both in the writing and in Bartlett Sher's fast-paced and quick-witted staging, brought here from New York's Lincoln Centre... A remarkable play, beautifully produced."
Oslo the Play was presented at New York's Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont Theatre (previewed from 23 March 2017, opened on 13 April 2017 and closed 16 July 2017) when it won the Tony Award for 'Best Play'. This production comes to the West End following a three week run at London's National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre (previewed from 5 September 2017, opened on 12 September 2017 and closed on 23 September 2017).
Toby Stephens' West End theatre credits include the role of 'Elyot Chase' in Jonathan Kent's revival of Noel Coward's comedy Private Lives at the Gielgud Theatre in 2013; the role of 'Henry' in Anna Mackmin's revival of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Old Vic Theatre in 2010; the role of 'Mr Horner' in Jonathan Kent's revival of William Wycherley's comedy The Country Wife at the Haymarket Theatre in 2007; the title role in Michael Boyd's revival of Shakespeare's Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2004; and the role of 'Anthony Cavendish' in Peter Hall's revival of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's comedy The Royal Family at the Haymarket Theatre in 2001.
Lydia Leonard's London theatre credits include the role of 'Anne Boleyn' in Jeremy Herrin's production of Mike Poulton's acclaimed stage adaptations of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre in 2014; the role of 'Jackie Kennedy' in Nancy Meckler's production of Martin Sherman's Onassis at the Novello Theatre in 2010; and the role of 'Caroline Cushing' in Michael Grandage's production of Peter Morgan's Frost / Nixon at the Donmar Warehouse and transfer to the Gielgud Theatre in 2006.
Bartlett Sher's West End theatre credits include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse Theatre in 2015.
Directed by Bartlett Sher with sets by Michael Yeargan, projections by 59 Productions, costume by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Donald Holder and sound by Peter John Still.
"Sometimes one man can change the world. In what must rank as the most extraordinary diplomatic coup of modern times Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norwegian academic whose wife Mona Juul, worked in the Norwegian Foreign Office, facilitated meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials that led to the first ever peace agreement between the two nations. JT Rogers's engrossing and spirited Oslo charts how Rod-Larsen developed a new model for negotiations without the presence of a moderator and, assisted by his wife, persuaded the two bitter enemies to put it into practice... Although the final settlement is a matter of historical record, Oslo maintains a razor-sharp tension thanks both to Rogers's incisive writing and to the excellence of the entire cast in Bartlett Sher's masterly production." The Sunday Express
"At last. A big, substantial, mature, thought-provoking play at the National... It grips you from start to finish thanks to Rogers's impeccable stagecraft and humane characterisation; Bartlett Sher's classy, energetic direction; and some wonderful performances. Toby Stephens plays Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norwegian sociologist and diplomat with expertise in 'organisational psychology', and the originator of the talks... There is great clarity in Rogers's treatment of the gradually shifting positions. Rod-Larsen's big idea was simply to get the antagonists talking, round the same table, getting to know each other, chatting about their families, seeing each other as human beings. The aim was not grand governmental pronouncements but individual encounters. It could all have been impractically touchy-feely, but amazingly it seemed to work... Along with all the toing and froing and geopolitics, the cracks about the Americans and the constant tension of simmering hostility — especially since, back in the real world, the killings are still going on — there is humour here. Lots of humour... There's an admirable sense of informed docudrama about Oslo, of deep research and of even-handedness, too." The Sunday Times
"Norway's Terje Rød-Larsen asks 'Did you see it? If there is a hero in J T Rogers' political thriller, it is he, the man behind the secretly negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Played with panache by Toby Stephens, social scientist Rod-Larsen is asking the audience if we can see the 'possibility' of peace. And although this award-winning play is brimful of tension, intrigue and even humour, the answer to Rod-Larsen's question haunts this drama like a corpse at a party. It is 1993 and Rød-Larsen and his Norwegian foreign ministry spouse Mona Juul (a steely Lydia Leonard) are the husband and wife dream team of diplomacy. Convinced their trust-building methods can succeed where American peace negotiations have failed, the duo persuade, cajole and charm representatives of these implacable foes into being friends... Director Bartlett Sher finds much high drama in this diplomatic game of chess. And where Israelis and Palestinians see their counterparts as humans instead of demons, the play is very moving. But the flaw in Rogers' play is that it thinks it is a success story when in fact the Oslo deal is dead. So we exit the theatre muttering that the only possible answer to Rod-Larsen's question is No." The Metro
Oslo in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre opened on 2 October 2017 and closed on 30 December 2017