Author J. K. Rowling became an internationally renowned name in the literary world thanks to her Harry Potter book series, which I believe are the best-selling in history. The adventures of boy wizard Harry were subsequently adapted into a film series too and have made stars of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who portrayed the three main characters on the big screen. Since their days at Hogwarts, the young actors have all gone on to enjoy further success through various other projects. Radcliffe, who played the title character in the films, has followed that career-defining role by dividing his time between the screen and the stage. In addition to his other film roles, he has performed in front of live audiences on a West End stage; first in Equus, to critical acclaim, and then in The Cripple of Inishmaan. He is currently appearing in the West End run of the latter, which opened at the Noel Coward Theatre on 8th June 2013 and finishes there on 31st August 2013.
Radcliffe is not the only Harry Potter star to swap his wand for the West End. Rupert Grint, who played Harry’s best friend Ron Weasley in the films, is set to make his stage debut in a star-studded revival of Jez Butterworth’s play Mojo. Produced by Sonia Friedman, it is scheduled to begin previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre on 26th October 2013 under the direction of Ian Rickson, who previously directed the original production of the play at the Royal Court Theatre back in 1995. Grint will be making his debut on the London stage alongside two other big name actors who are both already well-known in theatre circles. Brendan Coyle is best known in the theatre industry for his award-winning role in The Weir (he was awarded an Olivier Award for his performance in 1999), but has since gained wider recognition for his role as valet John Bates in popular BBC drama Downton Abbey. Ben Whishaw first became noticed in the acclaimed Old Vic production of Hamlet and has been racking up the theatre credits ever since, most recently appearing in Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward Theatre opposite Judi Dench. Daniel Mays is soon to follow his recent appearance in Trelawny of the Wells at the Donmar Warehouse, his second engagement at the venue this time being a star turn in new Nick Payne play The Same Deep Water as Me.
Rupert Grint will play the role of a minor criminal with an amphetamine addiction in Mojo, a black comedy set in 1950’s Soho about a talented wannabe rock singer who becomes embroiled in the seedy goings-on of a Soho club and the local gangsters. He was cast after a read-through of the play by director Rickson, who described performance as Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films as “truthful” and said: “There’s something ordinary and centred about him, and in this world of Mojo you need that grittiness.”
Grint’s up-coming stage role is certainly a big departure from his associated character of Harry’s loveable and loyal comedy sidekick. Radcliffe’s first stage role in Equus was also a big step away from his notable film persona however. He played a disturbed youth who has a sexual attraction and religious fascination with horses, re-enacting the blinding of six horses and stripping to full-frontal nudity to simulate sex during the course of the play; hardly the young boy wizard beloved by millions of children around the world. Radcliffe has been well received in his stage performances and it’s probable that Grint, who has been praised as an actor with a promising future ahead of him, will follow in his footsteps. Stars of the big-screen taking on roles in theatrical productions is more generally accepted than it is within musical theatre circles, most likely because straight theatre is closer to the acting profession than musical theatre is. Live acting is of course very different to acting in front of a camera, that’s a given, but musical theatre carries the added necessity of singing and dancing alongside the acting, which is a bigger challenge which not every celebrity name can handle. The announcement of Grint’s appearance in Mojo has been a source of interest and excitement for many people (not just Harry Potter fans), but if he had been cast in a musical for his stage debut, I don’t know if the news would have been met with similar enthusiasm. It’s a thought-provoking question, and one which may be revisited at a later time.
Tickets for Mojo are set to be released in September 2013 and I’m sure theatre-goers will be clambering to procure them, though not just for the chance to see Grint or one of the other star names I hope, as the play in itself should be enough of a draw. The original production at the Royal Court proved so successful that it subsequently transferred to the West End, and in 1997, it was adapted into a film version. This revived production, with its star-studded line-up and the return of original designer Ultz alongside Ian Rickson, has everything it needs to be just as successful as it was the first time around.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Tuesday 30th July 2013