Determined to make his mark like those before him Pharus is hell bent on being the best choir leader in the school’s 50 year history. But in a world built on rites and rituals, how will he conform to expectations and gain the respect he desperately needs?
Tarell Alvin McCraney’s piercing new play set in an all boys, all black, American prep school scores a gospel refrain of the politics of minority and masculinity.
Choir Boy was commissioned by, and is a co-production with Manhattan Theatre Club. It is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play Wig Out! premiered at the Royal Court in 2008. Credits elsewhere include American Trade at Hampstead Theatre for the RSC, the trilogy entitled The Brother/Sister Plays, including The Brothers Size (Public Theater, New York in association with the Foundry Theatre, and at the Young Vic, where it was nominated for an Olivier Award and won McCraney the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright), In the Red and Brown Water (Alliance Theatre and Young Vic) and Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet. McCraney is also an actor and in April 2010, became the 43rd member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble. His play Head of Passes will be produced at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2013.
Artistic Director of the Royal Court Dominic Cooke directs. His recent credits at the Court include In Basildon, Chicken Soup with Barley, for which he was nominated for an Evening Standard Award and the multi award-winning production of Clybourne Park for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award. Clybourne Park, which won writer Bruce Norris a Pulitzer Prize, opened at the Royal Court in September 2010 to critical acclaim before transferring to the West End. Credits elsewhere include The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre, as well as adapting and directing Arabian Nights and Noughts and Crosses at the RSC. He will also be directing In the Republic of Happiness by Martin Crimp this season.
There will be two free Building and Backstage Tours on 22 September at 10:30am and 12pm. Spaces are limited and must be booked in advance.
Choir Boy will have its American Premiere at the Studio at Stage II in the Spring of 2013 in a Manhattan Theatre Club Production.
Select a Date
Dates in September
|Tue 4 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 5 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 6 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 7 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 8 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 10 Sep 2012||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Tue 11 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 12 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 13 Sep 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 13 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 14 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 15 Sep 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 15 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 17 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 18 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 19 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 20 Sep 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 20 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 21 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 22 Sep 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 22 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 24 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 25 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 26 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 27 Sep 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 27 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 28 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 29 Sep 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 29 Sep 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Dates in October
|Mon 1 Oct 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 2 Oct 2012||7:45pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 3 Oct 2012||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 4 Oct 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 4 Oct 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 5 Oct 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 6 Oct 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 6 Oct 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Sold out Performances
Tickets £20 Monday all seats £10 (available on the day of the performance from 9am online)
Concessions £15* (available in advance until Saturday 15 September incl, and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
School and HE Groups of 8+ £10 (avail. Tue-Fri and mats)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate) *ID required. All discounts are subject to availability.
5 stars Guardian by Lyn Gardner, 12 September 2012
History and secret histories, the things that free us and the things that tie us to the past are all examined in this exhilarating, multi-layered new play from Tarell Alvin McCraney.
The action is set in an African-American prep school for boys, preparing for its 50th anniversary. Headmaster Marrow (Gary McDonald) worries about pleasing the board and raising money to secure the school’s future, when conflict breaks out between his swaggering nephew, Bobby (Eric Kofi Abrefa), and another pupil, Pharus (Dominic Smith). Pharus has the voice of an angel, a devilishly good brain and a taste for manipulation – and, despite the all-male, conservative environment, makes little secret of being gay.
More than that, he has carved out a space for himself: sharing a room with the understanding AJ (Khali Best); keeping on good terms with another boy who wants to be a pastor, David (Aron Julius), and with Bobby’s dim sidekick, Junior (Kwayedza Kureya); and harbouring ambitions to be leader of the famed school gospel choir. But when a dispute about the meanings of the spirituals erupts and the white professor Mr Pendleton (David Burke), who was active in the civil rights movement, tries to calm the situation, things turn ugly.
Threaded with searing gospel songs, McCraney’s play examines the shifting nature of truths, biblical and otherwise, and cleverly manipulates the hot-house setting to consider wider issues of black American history, from the brutal days of slavery to Obama’s cry of “Yes, we can!”
Ultz’s design, encompassing schoolhall, showers and dorms, creates the intimacy the play demands, Dominic Cooke directs with delicacy and an iron grip, and the cast make this play about hate and love genuinely sizzle. 4 stars Financial Times by Sarah Hemming, 12 September 2012
Tarell Alvin McCraney’s new play Choir Boy joins an impressive roll call of school drama and makes the grade in some style. School corridors offer great territory for dramatists, providing as much ambition, jealousy and revenge as a Jacobean court – with teenage hormones swirled into the mix. McCraney’s play relishes much of this, but it is also a subtle, funny and touching exploration of the pressures of identity on the young black American male. As a power struggle breaks out in the school choir, McCraney delicately picks his way through the questions about history, sexuality and religion that beset his young characters.
The setting is an all-male, all-black American prep school aiming to celebrate its 50th year in the teeth of financial and social pressures. Crucial to its standing is the school gospel choir, which, as the play opens, is led by teenage tenor Pharus Young. But midway through a solo, Pharus hears a fellow pupil’s whispered taunts about his sexuality and stops singing, leading to a protracted feud between the two boys. It’s not just Pharus’s homosexuality that Bobby finds threatening: during a class debate, Pharus challenges Bobby’s belief that spirituals contained coded messages for escaping slaves. Meanwhile David, who wants to be a pastor, is tormented by his friendship with Pharus (whose middle name is Jonathan, bringing an oblique Biblical reference). As the choir begins to fracture, feelings boil over into an unexpected act of violence.
McCraney takes his time to shade in the issues, and the pace sags a little in places. A few encounters feel engineered and the headmaster (Gary McDonald) seems peculiarly unprepared for trouble. But the dialogue has a lyrical grace and the piece is flecked with solo phone calls home that illuminate the external pressures on the boys, and with the gospel songs that unify them, beautifully delivered a cappella by the young cast.
Dominic Cooke’s sensitive production (co-presented with the Manhattan Theatre Club) features fine, richly drawn performances and makes droll use of Ultz’s wood-panelled school set. Eric Kofi Abrefa is powerful as Bobby and Dominic Smith is excellent as Pharus: by turns tender and tough, charismatic and bitchy. And David Burke is quietly touching as an apparently bumbling old white teacher. As a former Civil Rights campaigner, his horror when the boys turn on one another brings an extra dimension to this thoughtful play.
Tue 4 Sep, 7:45pm Wed 5 Sep, 7:45pm Thu 6 Sep, 7:45pm Fri 7 Sep, 7:45pm Sat 8 Sep, 7:45pm Tue 11 Sep, 7:45pm Wed 12 Sep, 7:45pm Thu 13 Sep, 3:30pm Thu 13 Sep, 7:45pm Fri 14 Sep, 7:45pm Sat 15 Sep, 3:30pm Sat 15 Sep, 7:45pm Thu 20 Sep, 3:30pm Sat 22 Sep, 3:30pm Thu 27 Sep, 3:30pm Sat 29 Sep, 3:30pm Thu 4 Oct, 3:30pm Sat 6 Oct, 3:30pm
Mon 10 Sep, 7:00pm
Thu 13 Sep, 3:30pm Thu 20 Sep, 3:30pm Thu 27 Sep, 3:30pm Thu 4 Oct, 3:30pm
Sat 15 Sep, 3:30pm Sat 22 Sep, 3:30pm Sat 29 Sep, 3:30pm Sat 6 Oct, 3:30pm
Tue 25 Sep, 7:45pm Wed 3 Oct, 7:45pm
Tue 2 Oct, 7:45pm