Theatre / Feature

All you need to know about The Starry Messenger

Matthew Broderick makes his London stage debut in Kenneth Lonergan’s new play.

Celebrated American writer and director Kenneth Lonergan’s new play arrives in the West End with a star-studded cast that includes Broadway megastar Matthew Broderick and Downtown Abbey matriarch Elizabeth McGovern.

Like his recent Oscar-winning hit Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan’s new play The Starry Messenger is a sensitive depiction of modern life, dealing with issues as diverse as loss, guilt, depression and marital dysfunction.

Crucially, the play explores the perceived insignificance of human life within the vastness of the universe – and what this perception has on those impacted by this opinion.

Check out out interview with the cast and director Sam Yates below:

What is The Starry Messenger about?

Mark Williams is lost. An astronomer at New York City’s Planetarium, he feels a closer connection to the infinite, starry sky than to his job or even to his wife, Anne. Mark doesn’t believe in fate or divine intervention, but the universe has other ideas.

After a chance meeting with Angela, a young single mother, Mark feels starry-eyed. But when a catastrophic event rips through their lives, Mark is forced to re-evaluate his life, his faith and his place in the universe itself.

Who stars in The Starry Messenger?

Hollywood legend and multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway star Matthew Broderick leads the cast of The Starry Messenger as Mark; Elizabeth McGovern stars as his wife, Anne.

Rosalind Eleazar plays nurse Angela, while Jim Norton stars as her ailing patient, Norman. In supporting roles are Joplin Sibtain as Arnold, Jenny Galloway as Mrs Pysner, Sinead Matthews as Doris and Sid Sagar as Ian/Adam. The cast is completed by Greg Baxter, Kerry Bennett, Helen Barford and Edward Wolstenholme.

What can audiences expect from The Starry Messenger?

Like much of Lonergan’s other work, The Starry Messenger is deftly handled; unspooling calmly and seductively over its two acts. Quiet and unassuming, the action builds to an unexpected and cataclysmic finale, which not only leaves the audience reeling, but the cast too.

Lonergan’s script is thrilling. At times quirky and unpredictable, it switches between moments of laugh-out-loud comedy and touching, powerful scenes with ease. In these moments, the play delves deep into its most profound themes: failed dreams, missed opportunities and hidden meaning.

Crucially, the cast are on top form. Broderick is barely offstage, and his own softness marries perfectly with Mark’s bumbling insecurities. McGovern, meanwhile, demonstrates she’s made of much more than her Downtown legacy, portraying a sharp, educated wife who is struggling to come to terms with her husband’s shifting characteristics.

Sam Yates’ direction is modular – a decision which contrasts with the scope of the play’s huge issues. And through Chiara Stephenson’s revolving interiors, the action shifts between Marks’ classroom, his and Anne’s uptown living room, Angela’s run-down pokey flat and Norman’s hospital room as the night sky – constant and looming – also revolves endlessly above them.

What are the critics saying?

“A comic drama about life, the universe and everything” ★★★★ – The Times

“A beacon of light to the little guys everywhere” ★★★★ – Daily Mail

“Elizabeth McGovern brings a piercing vulnerability” ★★★★ – London Theatre

“Matthew Broderick is wonderful” – Time Out

What else do I need to know about The Starry Messenger?

The Starry Messenger runs for 2 hours and 50 minutes and plays at the Wyndham’s Theatre until 10 August.

Tickets for The Starry Messenger are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk

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