The UK Premiere of Trying

THE UK PREMIERE OF TRYING

by Joanna McClelland Glass. Directed by Derek Bond.

Starring Michael Craig

Michael Craig returns to the London stage in the UK premiere of the award-winning TRYING, opening for a four week limited season on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 (Press Night: Thursday, 19 March) at London¹s Finborough Theatre.

A surprising yet touching play about a profound friendship between two strangers ­ at dramatically different points in their lives ­ who unexpectedly find they have more in common than they thought.

Internationally famous, cantankerous and in failing health, the 81 year old Judge Francis Biddle awaits the new secretary that his wife has forced upon him. Sarah is very young and inexperienced and, even worse, from Canada. Francis doesn¹t trust her. Francis doesn¹t trust anyone ­ his last assistant managed to burn half his books. Despite undergoing her own marital pressures and impending motherhood, Sarah is determined to get the Judge¹s life in order ­ without crying in the bathroom.

This rich story of life’s most inevitable adventure ­of growing old ­ is inspired by the playwright’s real-life experience as personal secretary to the real Judge Biddle, US Attorney General under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chief American Judge at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

Since its New York premiere in 2004, Trying has been presented in numerous theatres across the world including the USA, Canada and Australia, and now receives its UK premiere.

Michael Craig has had a distinguished career spanning more than half a century in film, television and on stage in the UK, Europe and Australia, where he was recently voted “The  Most Trusted Man In Australia” for  his long standing role as the curmudgeonly Doctor William Sharp in the long running Australian Medical series, ‘G.P.’’

His many credits include nearly thirty films under contract to both The Rank Organisation and Columbia Pictures including Star with Julie Andrews, Doctor in Love, Sea of Sand for which he was nominated for a BAFTA as Best British Actor, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Mysterious Island, The Irishman, Brotherly Love and The Angry Silence which he co-wrote with his brother, the agent, writer and   producer Richard Gregson and film maker Bryan Forbes.
 
He was given his first lead stage role in 1953 by Sir Peter Hall, and subsequent stage credits include The Wars of the Roses (Stratford and London for the RSC), Teddy in The Homecoming (New York for the RSC), The Inspector in Stephen Daldry¹s production of An Inspector Calls (National Tour), 84 Charing Cross Road (West End), Prospero at the Sydney Opera House for the Sydney Theatre Company, and playing opposite Barbra Streisand in the original London production of Funny Girl.
 
Television includes a Logie Award (the Australian television industry awards) for Most Outstanding Actor for his role in G.P., Triangle, The Foundation, The Emigrants, St Joan, Gras Roots, Doctor Who, Robin of Sherwood, Shoestring, The Professionals, Jackanory, and was the subject of his own This Is Your Life episode in 1994.

As a screenwriter, he co-wrote The Angry Silence for which he received an Oscar nomination in 1960, was nominated for the Australian Film Institute¹s AFI Award for Best Screenplay for The Fourth Wish and has written for and created several TV series. Following his appearance in the Australian production of Trying, Michael Craig now returns to the London stage to reprise his critically acclaimed performance in a new production.
 
Making her London stage debut opposite Michael is Canadian actress Meghan Popiel. Meghan appeared in Stand Up and Sit at the Montreal Theatre Festival and in Vehicle Poets for the Step Dans Fuego Co., at Place des Arts, Montreal. On screen Meghan co-devised and appeared in a Montreal 24 hour Film Festival Production for which she won the Best Actress award; she appeared as She in the short film He Tango She, for the Moscow Film Co and appeared in the DNA/Fox Searchlight feature 29 Weeks Later directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo..

Playwright and novelist Joanna McClelland Glass’ plays have been produced all over North America, in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Germany. Canadian born, she is the author of Canadian Gothic ( adapted for radio by  CBC in 1974 and by BBC in 1983); To Grandmother’s House We Go, starring Eva Le Gallienne, played on Broadway in 1980; Play Memory, also seen on Broadway, was directed by Harold Prince and nominated for a Tony Award; American Modern, Artichoke, Yesteryear; If We Are Women and, most recently, Palmer Park which premiered at Canada¹s Stratford Festival in 2008. Glass has also written two novels ­ Reflections on a Mountain Summer, and Woman Wanted which was adapted into a film in 1998, starring and directed by
Kiefer Sutherland, also starring Holly Hunter and Michael Moriarty. She has received a Rockefeller grant, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was Playwright in Residence at Yale Repertory Theatre.

Derek Bond has directed the Time Out Critics’ Choice production of Colourings (Old Red Lion), African Gothic (White Bear Theatre), The Wonder! A Woman Keeps A Secret (White Bear Theatre and Time Out Critics’ Choice season at the BAC), The Maids (Etcetera Theatre), Transmissions (Birmingham Rep), and The Censor (Union Theatre). In the West End.

Allan McKeown is a prolific television producer both in the UK and the US and has been responsible for many of the UK¹s most popular television programmes including Shine on Harvey Moon, Auf Weidersehen Pet, Birds of a Feather, Love Hurts, Goodnight Sweetheart and Lovejoy. He has produced many TV shows in the USA including the Emmy Award winning Tracey Takes On, produced with his wife Tracey Ullmann and he has just finished the second series of the award winning State of The Union with Tracy for Showtime. His  new series Mumbai Calling will be seen on ITV later this year and  an adaptation of Julia Gregson’s novel East of The Sun is under development with the BBC. His theatre productions include Anyone for Denis (West End), The Big Love (Broadway), Jerry Springer the Opera (West End and Broadway) and Lennon (Broadway).

The Press on Trying including Michael Craig’s performance in Australia –

“Michael Craig is ideally cast in this witty and perceptive two-hander. His performance is little short of masterful. In lesser hands the formidable figure would merely emerge as broad-brushed and brusque, but Craig¹s timing, pitch and subtle command makes for an unsentimental and convincingly
detailed portrait.” Bryce Hallett, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

“Craig is superb as cranky octogenarian operating, as Biddle has it, somewhere between lucidity and senility. It¹s a masterful piece of character acting” Jason Blake, The Sun Herald (Australia)

“Michael Craig¹s delicious portrayal of Biddle is a triumph.” Deborah Johnston, Mosman Daily (Australia)

“One of the finest pieces of theatre I have seen in many years, glittering, diamond-hard script that is all but flawless. Magnificently eloquent masterpiece of theatrical portraiture.” Chicago Sun Times (USA)

PRESS NIGHT: THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2009 AT 7.30PM
PHOTOCALL: TUESDAY, 17 MARCH 2009 AT 1.00PM-1.30PM

Finborough Theatre, The Finborough, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED
Box Office 0844 847 1652
Book online at www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk
Tuesday, 17 March ­ Saturday, 11 April 2009
Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm. Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm. Saturday
Matinees at 3.00pm (from 28 March).
Performance Length: Approximately 2 hours.

Michael Craig Starring in Trying

Michael Craig has an amazing career spanning over 40 years and worked with some legendary names. Born Michael Gregson in 1928, he had to change his stage name in deference to John Gregson, then an established star. Michael Craig began his acting career 1930’s in a small town weekly repertory company in England.

In 1949,after five years in the Merchant Navy, he left the sea and worked as Assistant Stage Manager at the Castle Theatre in Farnham, Surrey. He soon graduated to playing small parts and moved on to other repertory companies which included York, Windsor, Worthing and finally to the Oxford Playhouse on 1954 where the Director was the Young Peter Hall, later to become Sir Peter Hall.

It was while he was at the Playhouse that he was seen by an Arthur Rank talent spotter who signed him to a seven year film contract. Michael made somewhere in the region of nearly thirty films for Rank, Romulus, ABPC, Fox, Columbia and also for some independent companies in Italy, Yugoslavia and Spain.  Dirk Bogarde was the impossibly handsome hero of most British films at that time, but if he wasn’t available, the part would usually go to Craig. And whereas Bogarde – and Gregson, Granger, Stewart and many, many others – are all dead, Craig is still vigorously alive and grumbling that he doesn’t get enough time to play golf better. From his first, uncredited role in Passport to Pimlico (1949) he has made more than 60 films and TV series.

He once made a film in South Africa called Nor the Moon by Night. The other principals were a beautiful actress called Belinda Lee who died very young and a good young actor called Patrick McGoohan. Belinda had a tempestuous love life and took off to Rome and the next they heard she has tried to commit suicide. Back in South Africa, McGoohan had smashed up his car and himself and Michael was left alone for three weeks with a film crew and a lot of monkeys.

With a young family to support Michael took  on whatever was offered and work often took him to Italy, one of the first films he made there was with David Niven.  Michael remembers him as a lovely man and a great mentor, very generous and funny. Perhaps the most important thing he told Michael  was to hang back on shooting the last scene until he’s been paid!

Michael remembers being directed by Luchino Visconti and working with the stupendous Claudia Cardinale. There are memories of the equally voluptuous Diana Dors , Stanley Baker, Richard Attenborough and Laurence Harvey. He worked in London with Bud Tingwell in Emergency – Ward 10 and stunned the public with his work on the screenplay for the social conscience film The Angry Silence. The script was nominated for an Oscar in 1960.

In 1963 he spent a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford and the Aldwych Theatre in London, playing Bolingbroke to John Neville’s Richard II, and Horner to Judi Dench’s Pinchwife in William Wycherley’s The Country Wife. He worked with Dame Peggy Ashcroft, who was a real icon but also mad on cricket,” Craig says. “We were doing the Wars of the Roses and there was a Test match on at Birmingham, so we decided to have a cricket match: the Yorkists and the Lancastrians.

“Sir Leonard Hutton captained the Yorkist side and Cyril Washbrook, who was a great Lancastrian and English opening bat, captained our side. I came on to bowl and Leonard Hutton spooned one up and Peggy caught it and there it was on the score board: ‘Sir Leonard Hutton, caught Ashcroft and bowled Craig’.”

Other co-stars of his film and stage careers were Sir Michael Redgrave,  Charles Bronson, Oliver Reed, Christopher Plummer, Terence Stamp .  Michael played Nicky Arnstein opposite  Barbra Streisand in the 1966 London stage premiere. He starred opposite Susan Hayward in STOLEN HOURS, Julie Andrews in STAR, Jean Simmons, Carole Baker and Pier Angeli.

He visited Australia for the first time in 1971 with J.C. Williamson’s production of MOVE OVER MRS MARKHAM with Honor Blackman, where he met his wife, Australian actress Sue Walker. His best remembered television work in Australia is as the senior doctor in the ABC series GP,  – he was recently voted “Australia’s most trusted man”! While his most critically acclaimed writing credit is for The Fourth Wish, a beautifully crafted 1976 TV miniseries about a man with a terminally ill son. John Meillon played the grief-stricken father; Craig the doctor with the bad news.

Michael’s returns to UK at the age of 80  to perform in “Trying” by Joanna McClelland Glass  (opens 17 March) where he plays an elegant but cantankerous 81 year old Francis Biddle –  who was one of the judges of the Nuremberg trials and he was attorney-general of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt.

He has performed the role in Australia to great reviews and is delighted to be working back in the UK.