Peter Morgan of The Crown will premiere a play about Russian oligarchs | Theater
Peter Morgan, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter and creator of Netflix’s The Crown, will explore the world of Russian oligarchs in a new play at London’s Almeida Theatre.
Patriots will star Tom Hollander as businessman Boris Berezovsky, who was found dead, apparently hanged, at his Berkshire home in 2013. The play, which is set in Russia and the UK, features Vladimir Putin, whom the “kingmaker” Berezovsky helped to enter the Kremlin. before the couple became enemies. Berezovsky, who once owned Russia’s most powerful television channel, fled to Britain, where he remained a prominent critic of Putin.
The play’s story also involves Marina Litvinenko, widow of Berezovsky’s friend Alexander Litvinenko, the former spy who was murdered by radiation poisoning in London in 2006. There is also a role for Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea FC and one of the oligarchs to have had their assets frozen following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich and Berezovsky were friends who ended up in London’s High Court in 2012 for one of the biggest private court battles of all time; Berezovsky claimed his ex-oil company partner cheated him out of $5 billion, but lost the case and was called an unreliable witness.
Patriots is Morgan’s first play since The Audience (2013), which starred Helen Mirren as the Queen and inspired the writer’s hit Netflix series The Crown, whose new series is due out later this year. Rupert Goold, the artistic director of Almeida, will helm Patriots, which opens in July and is billed as “an unwavering story of ambition and the dangers of loyalty and love” on the eve of a new Russia where “today’s patriot can quickly become tomorrow’s traitor”. Will Keen has been cast as Putin, Yolanda Kettle will play Marina Litvinenko and Luke Thallon will play Abramovich. Further castings are yet to be announced.
In an interview with Deadline, Goold said the piece would explore “the complicity and blindness of the West.” Production had been planned before the invasion of Ukraine in February, but then “took on a whole different filter,” Goold added.
Patriots were announced on Friday alongside another world first at the Almeida, Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s The Clinic, whom Goold called “one of the country’s most exciting emerging talents.” Directed by Monique Touko, it is described as the political portrait of a woman “thirsty for change”, and explores “how to be reborn from the ashes of a broken world”. The clinic will open in September.