The Motive and the Cue Tickets London

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Oscar winner Sam Mendes directs a hot new play

Sam Mendes and Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) present The Motive and the Cue – a landmark new play about the 1964 Broadway staging of Hamlet by legendary actors Richard Burton and Sir John Gielgud.

The Motive and the Cue will star Johnny Flynn (Emma, Hangmen) as Richard Burton, Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey) as Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) as John Gielgud. 

This fierce and funny new play offers a glimpse into the politics of a rehearsal room and the relationship between art and celebrity.

The play is based on the books “John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet” by Richard Sterne, and “Letters From an Actor” by William Redfield.

The Motive and the Cue will begin performances on 20 April 2023 on the Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre in London.

What's the story of The Motive and the Cue?

Why would the most famous movie star in the world choose to do a play which everyone already knows? And what lures us back to the same plays, year after year?

Richard Burton, newly married to Elizabeth Taylor, is to play the title role in an experimental new production of Hamlet under John Gielgud’s exacting direction.

But as rehearsals progress, two ages of theatre collide and the collaboration between actor and director soon threatens to unravel.

Who is in the cast of The Motive and the Cue?

The The Motive and the Cue is led by Johnny Flynn (Emma, Hangmen) as Richard Burton, Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey) as Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) as John Gielgud. 

The cast will also feature Allan Corduner, Ryan Ellsworth, Aysha Kala, Luke Norris, Michael Walters and Laurence Ubong Williams.

Who are the creative team of The Motive and the Cue?

Directed by Sam Mendes with set design by Es Devlin, costume by Katrina Lindsay, lighting by Jon Clark, sound by Paul Arditti and music composed by Kwasi Burrell. Inspired by Richard Sterne’s John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet and William Redfield’s Letters From an Actor; written by Jack Thorne.


Show Information

Performance dates
20 April 2023 - 1 July 2023
Running time
To be confirmed

Venue Information

National Theatre - Lyttelton Theatre, Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PX
Nearest Tube or Train: Waterloo (Jubilee line, Northern line, Bakerloo line)
Nearest Buses: 1, 4, 26, 59, 68, 76, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 243, 341, 521, X68, RV1
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News about The Motive and the Cue
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The Motive and the Cue - Cast ">
Sam Mendes casts Johnny Flynn, Tuppence Middleton, Mark Gatiss in The Motive and the Cue by Jack Thorne at the National Theatre
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne's new play The Motive and the Cue is to premiere at the National Theatre 's Lyttelton Theatre on 2 May 2023, with previews from 20 April 2023. The production was announced in July of this year, and now the date and cast has been set. The play explores British acting legends Richard Burton and John Gielgud and how they staged a production of Hamlet on Broadway in 1964. At the time Burton and Taylor had just married after meeting on the set of Cleopatra, and were the most famous couple in the world. Directed by Sam Mendes, The Motive and the Cue will star Johnny Flynn (Emma, Hangmen) as Richard Burton, Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey) as Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) as John Gielgud. The cast will also feature Allan Corduner, Ryan Ellsworth, Aysha Kala, Luke Norris, Michael Walters and Laurence Ubong Williams. Alongside Sam Mendes in the creative team will be production design by Es Devlin, costume design by Katrina Lindsay, lighting design by Jon Clark, composer Benjamin Kwasi Burrell, sound designer Paul Arditti, and video designer Luke Halls. The Associate director will be Zoe Ford Burnett. The play is based on the books "John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet" by Richard Sterne, and "Letters From an Actor" by William Redfield. The play is a joint production between the National Theatre and Sam Mendes and Caro Newling's Neal Street Productions. Another of their co-productions, The Lehman Trilogy, is transferring into the West End next year, with Michael Balogun, Hadley Fraser and Nigel Lindsay starring in the play at the Gillian Lynne Theatre from 24 January 2023. Mark Gatiss is currently directing the West End transfer of his Chichester hit comedy The Unfriend starring fellow League of Gentlemen Reece Shearsmith, which opens at the Criterion Theatre from 15 January 2023. He is also directing new comedy The Way Old Friends Do, coming to the Park Theatre in 2023. The Motive and the Cue will run from 20 April 2023 until 1 July 2023 at the Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre. This story was first reported by Baz Bamigboye in Deadline. More about The Motive and the Cue at the National Theatre

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