Posted on 24 October 2019.

Posted in: Announcements


Hampstead Theatre announces full casting for the World premiere of Tom Morton-Smith’s

ravens: spassky vs. fischer

By Tom Morton-Smith
Directed by Annabelle Comyn

29 November – 18 January
Press night: Thursday 5 December 2019 7pm

‘The Cold War is still a war. Soft power is still power. You’re out here playing by the rules … they’re out here playing to the crowd’

Hampstead Theatre today announces casting for the world premiere of the gripping psychological thriller Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer, written by Tom Morton-Smith (Oppenheimer). From one of Ireland’s leading theatre directors Annabelle Comyn, this new play depicts one of the pivotal moments of the Cold War era, and one of the greatest sporting matches in history on stage for the first time – the 1972 ‘Match of the Century’ between the two towering chess grandmasters from the USSR and USA, Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer.

The cast will include Ronan Raftery as Boris Spassky and Robert Emms as Bobby Fischer. They will be joined by Gunnar Cauthery, Simon Chandler, Buffy Davis, Philip Desmeules, Solomon Israel, Beruce Khan, Emma Pallant, Gyuri Sarossy, Rebecca Scroggs and Gary Shelford.

Reykjavik, 1972. All eyes are on Iceland ahead of ‘the Match of the Century’: Boris Spassky vs. Bobby Fischer in the World Chess Championship.  Never before in chess history has a tournament attracted such global media attention.  And for the two contenders, Spassky the World Champion and the maverick superstar Fischer, the stakes have never been higher – not only the world title, but unprecedented prize money and stratospheric fame are all on the table. 

But as the Cold War begins to heat up, each side of the Atlantic spots a major opportunity to demonstrate superiority over the other. So why hasn’t America’s knight in shining armour shown up? And why won’t Russia’s grandmaster listen to orders?  As the two superpowers prepare their opening gambits in a proxy battle of ideologies, with sport as the weapon of choice, both sides find themselves undermined by their pawns, who seem oddly unwilling to cooperate…

Gunnar Cauthery plays Gudmundur. Gunnar trained at RADA. Previous work at Hampstead Theatre includes Wild Honey; Wonderland and The Empty Quarter. Other theatre work includes All My Sons (Old Vic); Another World: Losing Our Children to Islamic State; The Suicide; This House and The White Guard (all National Theatre); Mack and Mabel and The House of Special Purpose (both Chichester Festival Theatre); Little Shop of Horrors (Royal Exchange Theatre); Privacy (Donmar); Henry V and The Winter’s Tale (both Propeller); As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe); A View from the Bridge (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh) and Harvest (Oxford Playhouse/UK tour). Film work includes Eurovision; The Nest; War Horse and Benjamin Dove. Television work includes The First Team; Mars; Genius: Einstein; The Tudors; The Demon Headmaster and Just William. Radio work includes Home Front; Tommies; Watership Down; Rumours; The Great Escape: The Justice; Professor Challenger; Wives and Daughters; The Cherry Orchard; The Time Machine; The Admirable Crichton and Slaughterhouse Five.

Simon Chandler plays Max Euwe. Theatre work includes The Double Dealer (Orange Tree); Cock; The Stepmother and For Services Rendered (all Chichester Festival Theatre); Wild Honey (Hampstead Theatre); Red Velvet (Garrick/Tricycle/St Ann's Warehouse, New York); The Letter of Last Resort (Traverse); The Bomb Season (Tricycle); Persuasion (Salisbury Playhouse); Cause Célèbre (Old Vic); Women, Power & Politics season (Tricycle); Democracy (Wyndham’s); All Mouth (Menier Chocolate Factory); One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Garrick) and King Lear (RSC/Thelma Holt). Film work includes The Old Guard; 55 Steps; The Theory of Everything; Mr Turner; The Iron Lady; The Kings Speech; Perfume; The Rising; Stoned and The Commissioner. Television work includes Trigonometry; Doc Martin; The Crown; Call the Midwife; Casualty; Wallander; The Enfield Haunting; Mr Selfridge; The Bletchley Circle; Judge John Deed; Silk; The Politician's Husband; Vera; The Shadow Line; Murder Rooms and Teachers.

Buffy Davis plays Fred/Lina. Theatre work includes Shakespeare in the Abbey and Sonnet Walks (both Shakespeare’s Globe); 49 Donkeys Hanged (Theatre Royal, Plymouth); The Divide; The Hairy Ape and Hedda Gabler (all Old Vic); Ugly Lies the Bone and The Rose Tattoo (both National Theatre); Once in a Lifetime; Government Inspector and Annie Get Your Gun (all Young Vic); Uncle Vanya (St James);  The School for Scandal (Park Theatre); The Silver Lake and The Beggar's Opera (both Wilton’s Music Hall); Punchbag (Hampstead Theatre); Much Ado About Nothing (Dukes, Lancaster); Loot (Leicester Haymarket); The Norman Conquests (Stephen Joseph) and Sunday in the Park With George (National Theatre). Film work includes Angel Has Fallen; Anna Karenina; Hyde Park on Hudson; Till Death; Crystal’s Shadow; The Cure of Folly; The Company and The Machinist. Television work includes Life; Doc Martin; The Trial of Christine Keeler; Berlin Station; Chimerica; The Night Manager; What Remains; The Big Battalions; Mutual Friends; Affinity; Fear of Fanny; Ultimate Force; Harnessing Peacocks; She’s Out;  Doctors; Canterbury Tales - The Miller's Tale; Dalziel and Pascoe; Waking the Dead; The Waiting Time; Kid in the Corner and Undercover Heart. Radio work includes The Handmaids Tale; The Hours and The Archers.

Philip Desmeules plays Lothar Schmid. Theatre work includes An Ideal Husband (West End); A View From the Bridge (West End); My Real War 1914 (Trafalgar Studios/UK Tour, Two’s Company); The Art of Gaman (Theatre503); Henry V (Theatre Delicatessen); Love in Idleness (Bristol Old Vic); Mary Stuart (Southampton Nuffield); A Christmas Carol (Dukes, Lancaster); Venison (Yellowtale); Lecture Notes on a Death Scene (Lowry Theatre, Analogue) Hothouse (Arcola, TeatroVivo); Uncertainty (Arts); The Tempest (Southwark Playhouse); The Cudgel and the Rapier (Battersea Art Centre); Appendix (Pleasance); The Elephant Man and Animal Farm (both Sincera Productions, Brazil); Macbeth (Lost Theatre/Tour) and Hamlet (Greenwich Park). Film work includes The Hustle; The Banana Dream; Blackpills – The Show; Hotel Ambassador; Don’t Hang Up; Louis-Ferdinand Céline; I Am a Soldier; Désaccord Parfait; Caught Out; Greta May and The Lost Boy. Television work includes Vanity Fair; Witnesses: Frozen Death; Little Dorrit; The Tudors; Gracie!; The Bill; Doctors and Trafalgar Battle Surgeon. Radio work includes Tommies, The Truth About Anna and The Republicans.

Robert Emms plays Bobby Fischer. Robert trained at LAMDA. Theatre work includes The Six Days World (Finborough); The Glee Club (Manchester Library) and War Horse (West End). Film work includes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Apostasy; Borg/McEnroe; Kick Ass 2; The Selfish Giant; Broken; Mirror Mirror; War Horse; Anonymous and The Arbor. Television work includes His Dark Materials; The Barking Murders; Chernobyl; Do Not Disturb; Cleaning Up; Gunpowder; Happy Valley; The Living and the Dead; Capital; Atlantis (series 1 & 2); Scott and Bailey; The Street and Waking the Dead.

Solomon Israel plays William Lombardy / Henry Kissinger. Theatre work includes The Barber Shop Chronicles (National Theatre USA tour); Miss Littlewood; The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich; The Duchess of Malfi; Kingdom Come; The Tempest; Twelfth Night; The Comedy of Errors (all RSC); The Pulverised (Arcola); Dutchman (Young Vic); I Know All the Secrets in My World (UK tour, Tiata Fahodzi); Octagon (Arcola); Juicy and Delicious (Southampton Nuffield); Chigger Foot Boys (Ovalhouse); Taking Steps (The Old Laundry Theatre); Redemption Over Hammersmith Broadway (Lyric Hammersmith) and Taking Steps (Tricycle).Television work includes In the Long Run; Lovesick; Doctor Who; Brothers With No Game; I Live With Models; Josh; Law and Order: UK; Holby City; Quick Cuts and The Dumping Ground.

Beruce Khan plays Iivo. Theatre work includes Shadowlands (Chichester Festival Theatre); Twelfth Night and A Christmas Carol (both Royal Shakespeare Company); As You Like It (Regent's Park); Combustion (Tara Arts); Gary Tank Commander (SSE Hydro, Glasgow); Henry V (Regent's Park); Hamlet (Shakespeare’s Globe world tour); Romeo and Juliet and Henry V (both Shakespeare’s Globe); The Madness of George III (Apollo); The History Boys (Theatre Royal Bath/West Yorkshire Playhouse/UK tour) and The Black Album (National Theatre). Television work includes Shakespeare Uncovered.

Emma Pallant plays Regina. Theatre work includes An Enemy of the People and LAVA (both Nottingham Playhouse); Intra Muros (Park Theatre); A Christmas Carol (RSC); William Wordsworth (Theatre by the Lake); The Wind in the Willows (Rose; Kingston); Much Ado About Nothing; As You Like It; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Romeo and Juliet; The Comedy of Errors and Macbeth (all Shakespeare's Globe); It Just Stopped and Alison's House (both Orange Tree); Bell; Book and Candle; Bleak House; Great Expectations and Romeo and Juliet (all New Vic); The Cherry Orchard; His Dark Materials and Katherine Desouza (all Birmingham Rep); The Dog in the Manger; The House of Desires and Pedro the Great Pretender (all RSC/West End); Tamar's Revenge; Henry IV (Parts I and II); As You Like It and Laughter in the Dark (all RSC, Stratford); On Golden Pond and The Herbal Bed (both Salisbury Playhouse); The House of Bernarda Alba (Belgrade Theatre); Cymbeline (Regent's Park); Top Girls (Watford Palace) and Precious Bane (Pentabus). Television work includes Responsible Child; Casualty; Father Brown; Holby City and Doctors.

Ronan Raftery plays Boris Spassky. Theatre work includes The Silver Tassie (National Theatre); The Real Thing (Roundabout on Broadway); Juno and the Paycock (National Theatre); The Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare’s Globe); A View from the Bridge (Manchester Royal Exchange) and The Shawshank Redemption (Wyndham’s). Film work includes Mortal Engines; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; The Siege of Jadotville and Death of a Superhero. Television work includes The Rook; The Terror; Moone Boy; Crossing Lines and Fresh Meat.

Gyuri Sarossy plays Efim. Theatre work includes Wendy and Peter (Lyceum Edinburgh); Chinglish (Park); The Seven Acts of Mercy; The Rover; Two Noble Kinsmen and Romeo and Juliet (all RSC); Creditors (Young Vic); The Absence of War; The Seagull and Earthquakes in London (UK tour, Headlong); The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (Orange Tree); Tonight At 8.30 (Nuffield Southampton, ETT); The Hotel Plays (Langham Hotel); 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (UK tour, Cheek By Jowl); The Seven Year Itch and Design For Living (both Salisbury Playhouse); As You Like It (Manchester Royal Exchange); The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Liverpool Everyman/Chichester); Foxfinder (Finborough); The Hypochondriac (Almeida); Coriolanus and Macbeth (both Tobacco Factory/Barbican); Rope (Watermill); Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night (both Donmar); Man and Superman; Don Juan and Galileo's Daughter (all Peter Hall Company); Luther (National Theatre) and The Promise (Tricycle). Film work includes Mercenaries and Another Life. Television work includes Father Brown; Casualty (multiple episodes); Press; The Coroner; Holby City; Foyle's War; Einstein and Eddington; Tchaikovsky; The Bill; Egypt; Judge John Deed; Eastenders; Doctors; Blue Dove; Up Rising and Belfry Witches. Radio work includes Getting Nowhere and many audio dramas for Big Finish. Gyuri was a Carlton Hobbs Award winner.

Rebecca Scroggs plays Nikolai. Theatre work includes Steel (Sheffield Crucible); What Shadows (Birmingham Rep); The Suicide (National Theatre); One Monkey Don't Stop No Show (Tricycle); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lyric); Dream Story (Gate); Danton’s Death (National Theatre); Doris Day and Fatal Light (both Soho, Clean Break Theatre Company) and Detaining Justice (Tricycle). Film work includes Awakened Dreams. Television work includes Flack (Series 1 & 2); Alex Rider; Scarborough; Queens of Mystery - Smoke and Mirrors; Casualty; Doctors; Holby City; EastEnders (Series Regular); Plenty More Fish; Death in Paradise; Doctors and The Battle of Apemen.

Gary Shelford plays Saemi-Rokk. Theatre work includes Lady Windemere's Fan (Vaudeville); Buried Child (Trafalgar Studios); Ross (Chichester Festival Theatre); The Oresteia (Manchester Home); The Heresy of Love, The Winter’s Tale and As You Like It (all Shakespeare’s Globe); Ghost Stories (Arts); The Good Person of Sichuan (Mercury Colchester); The Taming of the Shrew; Twelfth Night; Henry V and The Winter's Tale (all Propeller, world tour); Mad About the Boy (National Theatre Studio/West Yorkshire Playhouse); The Stock Da'wa (Hampstead Theatre); Grapes of Wrath (Mercury, Colchester); Animal Farm (World tour); The Tin Horizon (Theatre503); Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Mercury, Colchester); Present: Tense (Nabokov); The Internationalist; Women in Love and Armageddon (all Gate); Angry Young Man (Trafalgar Studios); 1 in 5 (Hampstead Theatre/Young Vic); Hamlet and Arabian Nights (both Creation Theatre); Cinderella Is Not Enough (Vanbrugh); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bloomsbury); Matches For Monkeys (Chelsea Theatre); The Triumph of Love (Watermill, Newbury); Market Boy (National Theatre Studio); No Man’s Land and Pinter’s Sketches (both National Theatre) and Shades (Albery). Film work includes Slapper; A Portrait of London and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Television work includes Belgravia; Casualty; The Feed; Holby City; Kiri; Collateral; Luther; Silent Witness; The Quatermass Experiment; My Family and EastEnders.

Tom Morton-Smith’s plays include Oppenheimer (RSC/Vaudeville); The Earthworks (RSC); In Doggerland (Box of Tricks – UK tour); Everyday Maps for Everyday Use (Finborough/Papatango); Uncertainty (Latitude Festival) and Salt Meets Wound (Theatre503). Tom was writer-in-residence at Paines Plough Theatre Company, 2007-2008. He is currently working on his first feature film, The American War (Ink Factory/Rise/Film4), and is developing a television series with Drama Republic.

Annabelle Comyn is an award-winning Irish freelance theatre director, artistic director of Hatch Theatre Company and Director in Residence at The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Arts, Ireland. She has been working as a theatre director for 24 years and in recent years has established herself as one of Ireland’s leading theatre directors. Annabelle’s theatre work includes the Mick Flannery musical Evening Train (Everyman, Cork Midsummer Festival); Asking For It (Everyman, Cork/Abbey, Dublin); Look Back in Anger (Gate, Dublin); Crestfall (The Mick Lally Theatre - Druid, Galway International Festival); Helen and I (The Mick Lally Theatre - Druid); The Wake (Abbey, Dublin); Dancing at Lughnasa (Lyric Theatre, Belfast); Hedda Gabler (Abbey, Dublin); The Vortex (Gate, Dublin); Major Barbara (Abbey, Dublin); The Talk of the Town (Hatch Theatre Company/Landmark Productions and Dublin Theatre Festival); The House (Abbey, Dublin - Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Director); Contractions, The Sit (Bewley's Cafe Theatre/Dublin Fringe Festival - Bewley’s Cafe Little Gem Award nomination); Pygmalion (Abbey, Dublin); Love and Money; Further Than the Furthest Thing; Cruel and Tender; Pyrenees; Blood and The Country (all Hatch Theatre Company in association with Project Arts Centre); A Number and Blue/Orange (both Abbey, Dublin); Whereabouts (Temple Bar Site specific); Ashes and Sand (Nukutheater, Estonia); Twelfth Night (The Granary, Cork);  Good-Bye Roy (Royal Court - Exposure); B22 (Royal Court - Young Writers’ Festival); The Lament For Arthur Cleary (Brockley Jack, London); The Rock Station (Finborough). Opera work includes Dubliners: Counterparts and the Boarding House (Wexford/Dublin - Opera Theatre Company & Wexford Opera Festival, nominated ITTA for Best opera 2018).

Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer runs on the Main Stage from 29 Nov - 18 Jan


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