The Barn Theatre in Cirencester has today announced the full cast and creative team for the world premiere of Simon Reade’s stage adaptation of acclaimed children’s author Michael Morpurgo’s Waiting For Anya.
The production will be the fourth play by Simon Reade to be produced by the Cotswold award-winning theatre and the second to make its world premiere there. The production will also see Reade reunite with director Mark Leipacher (Artistic Director of The Faction), who has worked on multiple productions of Reade’s adaptation of Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful.
Reade’s previous adaptations of Morpurgo’s works include Toro! Toro! (Salisbury Playhouse); Twist of Gold (Polka); The Mozart Question (Bristol Old Vic); as well as the West End/Off-Broadway and world touring productions of Private Peaceful and An Elephant in the Garden (both performed at the Barn Theatre).
Reade said of today’s casting,
“It’s a formidable team at the Barn and we are privileged to be working with eight fine actors including regular Morpurgo performers Chris Bianchi (Aesop’s Fables) and Alison Reid (Jo-Jo The Melon Dinkey, The Mozart Question, An Elephant in the Garden.) Director Mark Leipacher too has been a frequent Morpurgo collaborator, and he has gathered a dynamic creative team.”
This will be the first stage adaptation of Morpurgo’s 1990 Carnegie Medal shortlisted novel, which tells the story of Jo, his grandfather and a widow who help smuggle Jewish children across the border from occupied southern France into Spain during World War II. Morpurgo’s novel received a 2020 film adaptation starring Noah Schnapp, Angelica Houston and Jean Reno.
Joining Leipacher on the creative team are Asaf Zohar (Here at Southwark Playhouse) as Composer, Musical Director & Sound Designer, Ceci Calf (The Mozart Question at The Barn Theatre) as Set & Costume Designer and Murong Li (Hedda Gabler at Reading Rep) as Lighting Designer.
The full cast of Waiting For Anya are Christopher Bianchi (Othello) as Henri, Tom Hendryk (Ted Lasso) as Lieutenant Weissman, Jack Heydon (Red Rose Chain Associate Artist) as Jo Lalande, Andrea Johannes (Housewarming) as Lise, Yiftach Mizrahi (From Here To Eternity, Annie Get Your Gun) as Benjamin, Alison Reid (An Elephant in the Garden) as Alice Horcada, Perri Snowdon (War Horse) as Pierre, and Christopher Staines (Amy’s View, Hamlet) as Corporal Wilhelm.
Michael Morpurgo said of the production,
“The Butterfly Lion, The Mozart Question, Elephant in the Garden, Private Peaceful. The wonderful Barn has put on play after play adapted from my books, and every one has been extraordinary and unforgettable.
And now Waiting for Anya. This is inspired by a true story of a small community living in their mountain village in the Pyrenees under Nazi Occupation in WW2, of their courage in aiding the escape of Jewish children over the mountains into neutral Spain.
I happened upon the village of Lescun some 30 years ago, met the people there, listened to their stories, saw the sheeps, cheese being made during the Transhumance, heard the music they sing, walked the fields and tracks the refugees walked, saw the caves where they hid, stood atop a mountain, one foot in Spain, one in France. I had to write their story. I called it Waiting for Anya
And now we have the play, commission by The Barn, and written with wonderful insight by Simon Reade, who has adapted so many of my stories so perfectly. I cannot wait to see this production, to be transported from Cirencester to Lescun, to hear the music, hear the eagles’ cry, to live the story, again for me, but maybe for you the first time.
Thank you to The Barn, thank you Simon, thank you cast and crew, and thank you for coming.”
Simon Reade said of his adaptation,
“My stage and screen Morpurgo adaptations go back twenty years. I’m lured to Michael’s stories because they are sophisticated tales that see the world through the eyes of a child – the erratic, immoral, incomprehensible adult world. The adults can learn from the children; they can rediscover their childlike curiosity and open-heartedness and fresh perspective, unsullied by the childishness of compromised adulthood. But Morpurgo’s child protagonists are also naïve, where the child doesn’t necessarily see the whole picture.
Waiting for Anya is a story where no one is quite what they appear to be on the surface. It is profoundly moving and yet doesn’t invite our passive appreciation: it demands we take action, that we stand up and be counted. Not just in self-less individual acts, but together, as communities, our still small voice of conscience collectively singing out loud and clear – quite literally, music being the great redeemer in Michael’s stories.
Working at the entrepreneurial Barn Theatre again is a home from home. Artistic Director Iwan Lewis is a force of nature and I am delighted he has commissioned this world premiere stage adaptation.
As our world continues to reel from the political mayhem of mavericks in the one hand and the hateful havoc wreaked by Debbie-minded strongmen on the other, Michael reminds us in Waiting for Anya that we may be weak in body, but we can be strong in heart and mind and change our world for the greater good.”
More information can be found at barntheatre.org.uk