Maggie Smith will return to Downton Abbey for the Dowager’s last hurrah, in a film sequel that’s set to shoot in the spring
Maggie Smith will return to
The Downton movie, released last September, included a moving scene where Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, confided to her granddaughter Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) that she was sick and ‘may not have long to live’.
Fans of the picture, based on the blockbuster television drama, assumed they would never see Violet again, and that any follow-up film would not feature the deliciously sharp-tongued matriarch.
However, the great dame has agreed to put on Violet’s posh frocks once again for a final outing.
She’ll be joined by her screen family, including Hugh Bonneville’s Lord Grantham and Elizabeth McGovern, as his wife Cora. Lady Mary will return (along with Matthew Goode as her husband Henry), as will her sister Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael).
Penelope Wilton’s cousin Isobel and Allen Leech’s Branson will also be back; along with trusted retainers Jim Carter (Mr Carson), Phyllis Logan (Mrs Carson, nee Hughes), Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle) and his wife Anna (Joanne Froggatt).
In the meantime, despite her very British stiff upper lip as Lady Mary, Michelle Dockery has been spreading her wings across the Atlantic to play the American mother of a boy accused of murder, alongside Chris Evans (Marvel’s Captain America), in the Apple TV+ mini-series Defending Jacob.
Downton will shoot from March until May next year under strict Covid-secure safety protocols. Maggie — who will be 86 by the time filming starts — will have a bubble of her own, to keep her extra safe.
In the meantime, despite her very British stiff upper lip as Lady Mary, above, Michelle Dockery has been spreading her wings across the Atlantic to play the American mother of a boy accused of murder
Creator Julian Fellowes told me just before the quarantine that he had written a draft script. And during the summer, Carmichael teased that he had been ‘polishing’ the screenplay during the lockdown.
Scripts were sent out to cast members last month; and casting has begun for the film’s guest stars.
Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton were introduced in key roles in last year’s picture, and they’ll be back, too.
Producers at Carnival Film and Television and Universal’s Focus Features want to film in spring because it’s the best ‘availability window’ for the cast and creative team.
It’s a hymn from her says Lolita to Adrian
The couple (pictured) last collaborated on the acclaimed Red Velvet, which originated at the Kiln and went on to the West End and Brooklyn
Award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti has written a new play, called Hymn, that will star her husband, Adrian Lester — fresh from hit BBC1 series Life — at the Almeida Theatre in January.
The couple (pictured right) last collaborated on the acclaimed Red Velvet, which originated at the Kiln and went on to the West End and Brooklyn.
Hymn is about ‘two men who meet at a funeral and find out that they have much in common’, Chakrabarti told me yesterday. It explores the relationship between Gil, who runs a stationery store (Lester) and Benny, a logistics adviser (who’ll be played by Danny Sapani).
‘It’s love between men that’s nether physical nor romantic,’ Chakrabarti said of the piece, which Blanche McIntyre will direct, with performances beginning from January 29. As the title suggests, there’s music, too. Chakrabarti described it as a ‘virtuoso piece for two actors who could sing, act and know how to move’.
Hymn is one of three productions that will relaunch the Islington-based Almeida. Director Rebecca Frecknall and dramatist Chris Bush (who penned the Crucible hit Standing At The Sky’s Edge), started work on Tuesday on Nine Lessons And Carols, a play examining themes of isolation and connection (though it’s not about Covid.
They’re devising it with six actors — Naana Agyei Ampadu, Katie Brayben, Toheeb Jimoh, Elliot Levey, Maimuna Memon and Luke Thallon — and it will run from December 2. Almeida members can book seats from November 6; general sale opens on November 12.
And British-Lebanese writer Carmen Nasr has written The Maladies, which will be performed by the Almeida Young Company between January 18 and 22, with Diyan Zora directing.
Hymn is about ‘two men who meet at a funeral and find out that they have much in common’, Chakrabarti told me yesterday. It explores the relationship between Gil, who runs a stationery store (Lester) and Benny, a logistics adviser (who’ll be played by Danny Sapani, pictured)
Watch out for
Luke Bayer, Matt Croke (pictured), Jordan Luke Gage, Layton Williams, Aimie Atkinson, Lucie Jones, Grace Mouat and Nicole Raquel Dennis, who will be taking the Turbine Theatre’s concert version of tribal love rock musical Hair to the London Palladium for two performances on November 16.
Matt Croke is pictured above
Celebrated director and choreographer Arlene Phillips, with producer Paul Taylor-Mills, put on an outdoor production of the show, by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, last month at the Turbine in Battersea, South London.
Taylor-Mills, the Turbine’s artistic director, told me that due to the pandemic, it was felt it would not be appropriate for the cast to appear nude.
But he added: ‘Layton Williams said he’d been practising taking his clothes off in the mirror at home, so I’m not entirely sure now that there won’t be disrobing!’ Tickets available from the LW Theatres website now.
Jodie Prenger, who has written the Turbine’s naughty panto Cinderella: The Socially Distanced Ball, with Neil Hurst. Lizzy Conolly will direct Prenger’s Christmas treat at the venue from November 26 to December 23, using socially-distanced bubbles.
Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Scott Paige will play the Ugly Sisters, Rufus Hound is Buttons, Debbie Kurup Prince Charming; Sean Parkins is the fairy, and Daisy Wood-Davis Cinderella.
Prenger wrote the show for Turbine boss Taylor-Mills, who told me, ‘it’s not for the faint hearted,’ and definitely not suitable for under 18s. That may be, but I’ll fight for a seat when they go on sale at 10am today on the Turbine’s website.