6 astonishing facts about the world premiere of A Very Expensive Poison
Detailing the murky world of international espionage, the world premiere of A Very Expensive Poison dramatises the jaw-dropping exposé of events behind the notorious death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. From Moscow to Mayfair, no stone is left unturned in this gripping show, asking what happens when global politics and radioactive relationships come together. We take a look at what audiences can expect from the Old Vic production.
A Very Expensive Poison at the Old Vic
The stage production is an adaptation of a 2016 exposé
A Very Expensive Poison is inspired by Luke Harding’s ‘A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West’, published in 2016. Harding analyses the political assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and the killings of others who spoke out against the Kremlin. Having investigated modern mysteries such as the Panama Papers and the disappearance of flight MH17, Harding’s exposé and the subsequent stage adaptation at the Old Vic explore the consequences of espionage from many angles.
The storyline follows the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko
Born in 1962, Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian secret service who tackled organised crime. Arrested for ‘exceeding the authority of his position’, he was later granted asylum in the United Kingdom. On 1st November 2006, Litvinenko was poisoned in London, dying 22 days later by a radioactive substance.
A Very Expensive Poison marks Lucy Prebble’s Old Vic debut
The production sees Prebble make her playwriting debut at the esteemed location, as well as her first premiere in seven years. Previous Lucy Prebble plays include The Effect, staged at the National Theatre in 2012, Enron at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2009, The Sugar Syndrome at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in 2003 and a 2002 production of Liquid.
It took over 2 years to get to the stage
In an interview with The Guardian, Lucy Prebble was sent Luke Harding’s investigative exposé at the beginning of 2017, immediately noting the potential to explore topics of international espionage on stage. In the interview, she states the play is “hopefully quite crude, a bit crass. There is this British idea of espionage having elegant cufflinks, but that is perhaps not the brutal reality.”
A star-studded cast will bring Litvinenko’s story to life
Tom Brooke will take on the lead role of the Russian defector, joined by MyAnna Buring as Marina Litvineko.
Reece Shearsmith plays ‘The President’, with Peter Polycarpou as Boris Bereszvosky, a Russian business oligarch.
The cast is completed by Thomas Arnold, Callum Coates, Marc Graham, Amanda Hadingue, Yasmine Holness-Dove, Lloyd Hutchinson, Robyn Moore, Sarah Seggari, Michael Shaeffer, Gavin Spokes and Bea Svistunenko.
The production features in Matthew Warchus’ fifth season as the Old Vic’s artistic director
Assuming the role from September 2015, Matthew Warchus has directed shows including The Master Builder, Groundhog Day and a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
The upcoming season at the Old Vic includes the Old Vic debuts of Claire Foy and Matt Smith in Lungs, the third year of A Christmas Carol, Endgame starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming and the world premiere of Local Hero.