Following the world premiere at Stratford –upon-Avon, Kiln Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company today announce the full cast for the London run of A Museum in Baghdad. Director Erica Whyman reunites David Birrell (Professor Leonard Woolley), Houda Echouafni (Layla Hassan), Emma Fielding (Gertrude Bell), Ali Gadema (Kidnapper, Prime Minister), Rendah Heywood (Ghalia Hussein), Zed Josef (Salim), Nadi Kemp-Sayfi (Nasiya), Debbie Korley (Sam York), Riad Richie (Mohammed Abdullah), and Rasoul Saghir (Abu Zaman). The production opens at Kiln Theatre on 28 April, with previews from 22 April, and runs until 23 May.
In 1926, the nation of Iraq is in its infancy, and British archaeologist Gertrude Bell is founding a museum in Baghdad. In 2006, Ghalia Hussein is attempting to reopen the museum after looting during the war.
Decades apart, these two women share the same goals: to create a fresh sense of unity and nationhood, to make the world anew through the museum and its treasures. But in such unstable times, questions remain. Who is the museum for? Whose culture are we preserving? And why does it matter when people are dying?
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Hannah Khalil’s previous work includes Interference (National Theatre of Scotland), The Scar Test (Soho Theatre) and Scenes from 68* Years (Arcola Theatre). Her work for radio includes The Deportation Room and Last of the Pearl Fishers, both for BBC Radio 4. She was awarded The Arab British Centre’s prize for Culture 2017.
David Birrell plays Professor Leonard Woolley. His previous theatre credits include King John, The Whip, The Gates of Paradise, The Jewess of Toledo, The Venetian Twins, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Moby Dick, The Tempest, Murder in the Cathedral, Hamlet, Columbus, Romeo and Juliet (RSC), The Shadow Factory (NST City, Southampton), Describe The Night (Hampstead Theatre), The Threepenny Opera, Talking Heads, Educating Rita (Bolton Octagon/Derby Theatre), Wind in the Willows (UK tour), Miss Atomic Bomb (St. James's Theatre) , An Enemy of the People, The Family Way, Journey's End (Bolton Octagon), The Death of King Arthur (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), Peter Pan, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Ragtime (Regent's Park), The Last Days of Troy (Royal Exchange/Shakespeare's Globe), Sweeney Todd (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Royal Exchange/Welsh National Opera), Company (Sheffield Crucible), Passion, Grand Hotel (Donmar Warehouse), Sweeney Todd (Dundee Rep/National Theatre of Scotland), The Secret Garden, Hapgood, Peter Pan (Birmingham Rep/West Yorkshire Playhouse), Spamalot (Palace Theatre), Oh! What A Lovely War (National Theatre). His television credits include Vera, Holy Flying Circus, and The Royal.
Houda Echouafni plays Layla Hassan. Her previous theatre credits include King John (RSC), 603, Damage, Hassan Leklishes (Royal Court Theatre), Plan D (Tristan Bates Theatre), Blackout (New Room Theatre), The Things I Would Tell You (The Traverse), The Duchess of Malfi (Jermyn Street Theatre), Arab Nights (UK tour), One Thousand and One Nights (Royal Lyceum Theatre), and Return (Soho Theatre). Her television credits include Waking the Dead, The Grid, and Sea of Souls. For film, Leviathan, Dana Dana: Pearl Pearl, 31 North 62 East, Piercing Brightness, The Mark of Cain, and The Death of Klinghoffer.
Emma Fielding plays Gertrude Bell. Her previous theatre credits include Mary’s Babies (Jermyn Street Theatre), A Woman of No Importance (Vaudeville Theatre), Terror (Lyric Hammersmith), The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary (Liverpool Everyman), Rapture Blister Burn (Hampstead Theatre), In the Republic of Happiness, Spinning Into Butter (Royal Court Theatre), Decade (Headlong), The King’s Speech (Wyndham’s Theatre), Heartbreak House (Chichester Festival Theatre), Playing with Fire, Look Back in Anger, Arcadia (National Theatre), Rock ‘n’ Roll (Duke of York’s Theatre), Macbeth, Heartbreak House, 1953, School for Wives (Almeida Theatre), Revolt She Said. Revolt Again; Cymbeline, Measure for Measure, The School for Scandal – for which she was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Broken Heart (RSC), Private Lives (Albery Theatre – for which she was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role, Richard Rogers Theatre Broadway), and Jane Eyre (Sheffield Theatres). Her television credits include Van Der Valk, Years and Years, Les Miserables, Unforgotten, Dark Angel, Close to the Enemy, Arthur & George, New Tricks, Kidnap and Ransom, Return to Cranford, The Cranford Chronicles, The Ghost Squad, Beneath the Skin, Waking the Dead, Big Bad World, A Dance to the Music of Time, Drover’s Gold, and Tell Tale Hearts. For film, Fast Girls, Twenty8k, The Other Man, Discovery of Heaven, Pandaemonium, and The Great Ghost Rescue.
Ali Gadema plays Kidnapper, Prime Minister. His previous theatre credits include King John (RSC), and Returning to Reims (Schaubuhne, St Ann’s Warehouse, Manchester International Festival). His film credits include Mughal Mowgli, and The Moment.
Rendah Heywood plays Ghalia Hussein. For theatre, her work includes The Grievance Club (Samuel French OOB Festival, NYC), Refugia (Guthrie Theatre), This Time (The Sheen Center, Off Broadway), King Lear (BAM/Chichester Festival Theatre), The Kitchen, Rocket to the Moon, Philistines, The Rose Tattoo, Thérèse Raquin (National Theatre), Ring Around the Moon (Playhouse Theatre), and Attempts On Her Life (BAC).
Zed Josef plays Salim. His previous theatre credits include King John (RSC), Dinner with Saddam (Menier Chocolate Factory), Circa, A Colder Water Than Here (The Vaults), and Scar Test (Soho Theatre). His television credits include Tyrant. For film, King of Crime, and Leviathan.
Nadi Kemp-Sayfi plays Nasiya. Her previous theatre credits include King John, The Whip (RSC), War with the Newts (Knaive Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe), Between the Two, Under the Stars, 101 Dalmatians (Birmingham Rep), Hijabi Monologues (Bush Theatre), Jamie! (Belgrade Theatre Coventry), Burning Books (UK tour), WAKE (Birmingham Opera Company), and BUTTER (The Vaults).
Debbie Korley plays Sam York. Her previous theatre credits include King John, The Whip, Tamburlaine, Timon of Athens, As You Like It, Comedy of Errors, The Grain Store, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Morte d’Arthur, Little Eagles, American Trade, King Lear, Little Eagles (RSC), Acceptance (Hampstead Theatre), King Lear (Talawa, Royal Exchange Theatre, Birmingham Rep), Cargo (Arcola Theatre), Welcome to the Home, Prurience (Southbank Centre), Too Clever by Half (Royal Exchange Theatre), Boi Boi is Dead (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Watford Palace Theatre), Black Jesus (Finborough Theatre), Coram Boy, A Matter of Life and Death, Feathers in the Snow (National Theatre), The Residents (Albany Theatre), The Endings (Theatre503), Whistle Down the Wind (Palace Theatre, UK tour), Cinderella (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Aida (Royal Albert Hall), and Sick! (Almeida Theatre). Her television credits include Delicious, Holy Smoke, Green Balloon Club, Night and Day, and Night Fever. For film, King Lear, and The Ones Below.
Riad Richie plays Mohammed Abdullah. His previous theatre credits include The Whip, Tamburlaine, Tartuffe, Timon of Athens (RSC), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare in the Squares), The Show in which Hopefully Nothing Happens (Unicorn Theatre), Macbeth, Frankenstein (Ovalhouse), Romeo and Juliet (Theatre Royal Bath), and Mark and the Marked, Getting There, Passenger and The Merchant of Venice (Box Clever Theatre).
Rasoul Saghir plays Abu Zaman. His previous theatre credits include The Clown (Soho Theatre), BACKSPACE (Alba Theaterhuis), Modern Theatre House (Utrecht School of Arts), Wedding Night, Stink Money, Christmas & Co, The Class of Babel, De Regentes, De Appel (The Hague), and The Elevator, Sonate, The Barber of Baghdad, Cleopatra (Academy of Drama, Baghdad).
Erica Whyman directs. She joined the RSC as Deputy Artistic Director in January 2013. As part of the Midsummer Mischief Festival in 2014 she directed The Ant and the Cicada, Revolt. She said. Revolt again., and The Christmas Truce in the RST. In 2015 she directed Hecuba and in 2016 The Seven Acts of Mercy and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, followed by the revival of Revolt. She said. Revolt again. for the Making Mischief Festival. In 2017, she directed The Earthworks for the Mischief Festival, and Miss Littlewood and Romeo and Juliet in 2018. She is currently in rehearsals for the upcoming The Winter’s Tale. She was Chief Executive of Northern Stage from 2005 to 2012, where her work includes Son of Man, Ruby Moon, Our Friends in the North, A Christmas Carol, A Doll’s House, Look Back in Anger, Hansel and Gretel, Oh! What a Lovely War (nominated for two TMA awards), The Wind in the Willows, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (nominated for Best Director at the 2011 TMA Awards), The Borrowers, and the UK première of Oh, the Humanity (Edinburgh/Soho Theatre). In 2012 she won the TMA award for Theatre Manager of the Year. Other work includes The Birthday Party (Sheffield Crucible), The Shadow of a Boy (National Theatre), The Flu Season, Marieluise, Witness, Les Justes (Gate Theatre), The Winter’s Tale, The Glass Slipper (Southwark Playhouse). In November 2016, she was the recipient of the Peter Brook Special Achievement Award. She was also Artistic Director of Southwark Playhouse (1998 - 2000) and then Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill (2000-2004).
A Museum in Baghdad was co-commissioned by the RSC and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh.