News: The Oyster Problem comes to Jermyn Street Theatre

Jermyn Street Theatre has announced the full cast of the world premiere of The Oyster Problem, the debut play by renowned historian and award-winning author Orlando Figes.

“But what’s the point of living without wine?”

Madame Bovary made Gustave Flaubert the most famous writer in Paris, but thanks to a bad publishing deal he’s barely earned enough cash for a croissant – let alone enough to indulge his appetite for oysters. In fact, he’s flat broke. His friends Emile Zola, Ivan Turgenev and George Sand beg him to dumb down his work for the masses, but Gustave isn’t compromising. There’s only one thing for it – Flaubert must find a job.

Orlando Figes makes his playwriting debut with this dazzling snapshot of Paris’s 19th Century literary superstars. Orlando unearthed a series of captivating letters between Flaubert and Turgenev while researching his hit book The Europeans. The discovery of those letters was the starting point for this hilarious, poignant look at one of the greatest writers, as his friends knew him. Philip Wilson directs this delicious comedy of literary fiascos.

Bob Barrett (Holby City – BBC, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Propeller Theatre Company) returns to Jermyn Street Theatre in the role of Gustave Flaubert, whilst Giles Taylor (A Christmas Carol – RSC, The Mirror And The Light – RSC and Playful Productions) plays Ivan Turgenev.  Peter Hannah (Into The Woods – Lyric Theatre / Northern Ireland Opera, Waitress – Adelphi Theatre) plays Emile Zola, Norma Atallah (Follies – National Theatre, Babette’s Feast – The Print Room) is George Sand and Juliette Adam, and Rosalind Lailey (Orlando – Jermyn Street Theatre, The Hound Of The Baskervilles – Watermill Theatre) is Caroline Commanville.

Orlando Figes’s most recent book, The Story of Russia appeared on numerous best of 2022 lists including Financial Times, The Times and The Telegraph. He is one of today’s most popular and distinguished historians.  He was Professor of Modern History at Birkbeck until 2021 and before that, taught at Cambridge. The Oyster Problem is his first play.

Orlando Figes says –

I wrote this play, my first, as a hobby and experiment to see if I was any good at writing plays. It came out of my work on The Europeans, which dealt with the meeting between art and money in the age of the railways. I fell in love with Flaubert, as an artist and a man, through his letters to Turgenev and George Sand, who clearly loved him too. Their correspondence gave me the idea and some of the conversations of the play, which I hope will entertain and make us think again about the artist in the modern world. 

Jermyn Street Theatre Artistic Director Stella Powell Jones says –

I always look forward to a new Orlando Figes book because I know his writing will transport me to wherever he’s turned his focus. It’s so thrilling to produce Orlando’s debut play which draws back the curtain on one of literature’s greatest friend groups.  Orlando has captured such a vivid snapshot of these extraordinary writers that you feel like you’re right there in the bar with them. So, the intimacy of Jermyn Street Theatre makes it the perfect place to tell this story. We are thrilled to welcome the brilliant Philip Wilson and the extraordinary cast led by wonderful Bob Barrett.

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