1964: Richard Burton, the firebrand Welsh actor, newly married to movie star Elizabeth Taylor, is to play the title role in an experimental new production of Hamlet under the exacting direction of John Gielgud.
But as rehearsals progress, the collaboration between actor and director soon threatens to unravel. One of them is the most famous movie star in the world; the other, a patrician from an earlier age of theatre. The stage is set for two titans to collide.
Jack Thorne’s The Motive and the Cue is a fierce, funny play which offers a glimpse into the politics of a rehearsal room and the relationship between art and celebrity. This edition was published alongside the West End transfer in 2023, following its world premiere at the National Theatre, London, earlier that year. Originally commissioned and co-produced by Neal Street Productions, it was directed by Sam Mendes, and starred Johnny Flynn as Burton, Mark Gatiss as Gielgud and Tuppence Middleton as Taylor. It was named Best Play at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards in 2023.
‘Marvellous… a quite wonderful new play… full of compassion, funny, witty and utterly compelling… This play is Thorne and Mendes’s own love letter to the stage, full of both intellect and passion, clever and profoundly moving’
‘Enjoyable and hugely adroit’
— Evening Standard
‘Witty, deft, and touching… a palpable hit’
‘Magical… deeply affecting… not just a heartfelt plea for the power of theatre, but a moving, often very funny, story about two generations teasing and provoking one another’
‘Fascinating… a dual of egos in which not just the play, but the two men’s sense of their selves is at stake’
— The Stage
‘Thrilling… an undeniably magnificent tour de force. Theatre should thank its lucky stars for Thorne. He has reminded us all why we went to the theatre and why we continue to go’
— Broadway World
‘Blazingly triumphant… a story about humanity, vulnerability, reconciliation’
Best Play – Evening Standard Awards