ANGUS WRIGHT - Actor

For the National Theatre, Angus appears in Mrs Affleck at the Cottesloe Theatre from 20 January 2009.

Mrs Affleck - review
The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes
- review
The Merchant of Venice - review

Angus Wright as Warwick in St Joan, NT 2007Angus Wright is one of the most intriguing and versatile actors of today's theatre. He has played Angelo in Complicite's Measure for Measure, Sir David Manning in Nicholas Hytner's controversial Stuff Happens, Andrew Aguecheek in Tim Carrol -l's Twelfth Night, Alfred the Dreamer in Katie Mitchell's Dream Play, and Dr. Dorn in The Seagull . I first saw Angus on stage as the Earl of Warwick in Marianne Elliott's brilliant production of St Joan. Wright's Warwick was a suave and calculating politician striving for an alliance with the Church against the danger posed by Joan's anarchic individualism. He mastered Shaw's text with ease and held the audience's attention whenever he was on stage. It was a stellar cast led by the wonderful Anne Marie Duff as Joan, with Paterson Joseph as Cauchon, Brendan O'Hea as Robert de Baudricourt, and Oliver Ford Davies as the Inquisitor.
Angus then went on to play a very different role in a production that would become one of the big hits for the National Theatre - War Horse. Marianne Elliott chose him for the sympathetic German captain Friedrich Müller. Wright did not speak any German at all and he had quite a lot of German text which was continuously altered during previews. When I saw him play the German officer he had managed to capture the melody and characteristics of the German language. Angus Wright gave a very touching performance as the German career officer who comes to realise that he is useless as a soldier and just wants to go home.
Angus Wright was born in Washington DC and grew up in Cairo, Bahrain and Syria. His English father worked for the Foreign Office. Angus studied art history at Edinburgh University before training as an actor at Central. During his training he went to the Moscow Arts Theatre School to play Astrov in Uncle Vanya directed by Vladimir Bogomolov and Gloumov in Timothy West's Too Clever by Half . The talented young actor caught Adrian Noble's attention and Angus began his career as part of Noble's first company at the RSC in 1991. He played Batlon in The Dybbuk, directed by Katie Mitchell, and several parts for Adrian Noble including Guildenstern in Hamlet.

After two years he left the RSC to join Stephen Berkoff's production of Salome for the European tour where he was given the part of John the Baptist. He then played Victor in Private Lives for Kenny Ireland and A Mongrel's Heart at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. Next he joined the Royal National Theatre for Jonathan Kent's Mother Courage where he played the Lieutenant. He took part in two productions in the National Theatre Studio - Early Morning and The Rivals - before being given the role of Lysander in Jonathan Miller's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Almeida Theatre. The Daily Telegraph remarked on this production: "Most of the performances are inventive and beguiling. Angela Thorne's Titania is an imperious (at times Thatcheresque) chatelaine whose fairies are a retinue of white-gloved flunkies in tails. Both Robert Swann's Theseus and Norman Rodway's beautifully spoken Oberon come over as affably fruity club-men who'd be at home in a Wodehouse novel. The young lovers, fresh from the débutante season, offer particularly good value. Jonathan Coy's Demetrius is an engagingly plump chump, Angus Wright's Lysander a gawky nerd who is transformed into a hilarious smooth-talking cad by Puck's potion. Doon Mackichan touchingly captures Helena's despairing self-flagellation and the lovely Sylvestra Le Touzel combines sharp disdain (watch her look of contempt when Lysander delivers the hoary old cliché, 'The course of true love never did run smooth') with glimpses of vulnerability."
The Royal National Theatre cast Angus as the Pilot Officer in Howard Davies' Chips with Everything before he returned to the RSC to play Clive in Stephen Poliakoff's production of Talk of the City in 1998. The drama explores media control and questions how the newly emerging BBC responded to the growing crisis in Europe in the late 1930s. He then rejoined Selina Cadell, with whom he had worked earlier in The Rivals, to play Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Nottingham Playhouse. Next, he played Baron Tusenbach in Three Sisters at the Chichester Festival Theatre and Andrew Aguecheek for Tim Carroll in the Globe Theatre production of Twelfth Night.
Katie Mitchell, who had worked with Angus in The Dybbuk, cast him as Kulygin in her acclaimed production of Three Sisters at the National Theatre in 2003. Charles Spencer of The Daily Telegraph praised his "outstanding work" as one of the play's "two desperately sad, cuckolded husbands". The Financial Times singled out "Lucy Whybrow, a truly original Natasha, as vulnerable as she is monstrous, and Angus Wright, a dry Kulygin vividly touching in passages of both denial and tenderness."

Angus Wright as Angelo in Measure for Measure
In 2004 Wright joined the cast of Measure for Measure for a co-production of the National Theatre and Simon McBurney's Theatre Complicite. He was given the part of the Provost at first but was later cast in the substantial role of Angelo when the production came back in 2006. Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph was rather taken with Angus' performance: "Angus Wright, taking over from Paul Rhys, gave a stunning performance as a cold, painfully emaciated Angelo, who suddenly discovers himself burning with illicit desire. "What's this?" he cries in horror as he discovers he has an erection after his interview with Isabella, and later he uses the razor blade with which he tries to mortify his own flesh to surgically remove her bra. It's vile, but the scene is also, rightly, arousing."
Stuff happens… and it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. (Donald Rumsfeld)
In 2005 the National Theatre produced David Hare's Stuff Happens in response to the invasion of Iraq. Angus was cast as Sir David Manning and as a Journalist. Because of its political relevance politicians came to see the previews and their comments were printed in the leading newspapers which meant the production was already reviewed before press night. This led to a number of discussions and altercations, particularly because many of the reviews were not too positive. Michael Billington praised the production: "The play ruthlessly exposes the dubious premises on which the war was fought. At the same time, it questions our complacency by reminding us of the pro-war arguments. A New Labour politician - possibly not a million miles from Ann Clwyd - admits that the supposed weapons turned out not to exist and that a military victory was compromised by sloppy Pentagon planning for peace. "At the same time," she argues, "a dictator was removed. (...) Hare's play offers a probing guide to the Iraq war and shows how the whole mess was based on a disastrous, unproven link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. One comes out enriched and better informed." (Michael Billington, The Guardian) Victoria Segal compared Hare's play favourably with Tim Robbins' satire Embedded that was shown at the same time as David Hare's play: Hare "gives a true voice to the other side. One of the earliest 'viewpoints' in the play, delivered by Angus Wright, silences the audience: 'How obscene it is, how decadent, to give your attention not to the now, not to the liberation, not to the people freed, but to the relentless, archaic discussion of the manner of the liberation.'" (Sunday Times, Victoria Segal, 19/9/2004)
Katie Mitchell used Wright's talents again for Caryl Churchill's Strindberg adaptation of A Dream Play where Wright played Alfred, the Dreamer. It was the first collaboration between the National Theatre and Tate Modern. The play that was considered impossible to stage by many, partly due to stage directions such as "As the castle burns, the bud on the roof bursts open into a giant chrysanthemum" was drastically re-structured: "Not only has Caryl Churchill thoroughly resculpted the play, shifting the emphasis to the stockbroker, Alfred (Angus Wright), and changing the form of Indira's daughter, the original visiting angel, Mitchell and her cast have also extensively reworked this reworking, incorporating their own dream material into Churchill's script. Beautiful, comic and disturbing images flit across the stage: women pushing chairs slowly across the floor in a strange tango; children hanging in closets; a crying baby under a trap door; burly ballerinas dancing with briefcases. Teeth crumble out of Alfred’s mouth, skittering over the stage like ball bearings. Tables move on their own, sometimes demanding to be patted like dogs." (Sunday Times) Charles Spencer reviewed the production for the Daily Telegraph: "In Katie Mitchell's stunning adaptation of Strindberg, you are whirled through 100 minutes of disconcerting theatrical brilliance and at the end feel you have woken from a troubling dream. Afterwards, the waking world seems briefly different, shadowed and tainted by the vivid images of sleep, or in this case theatre. But even as you try to remember it, the dream begins to fade. (...) Angus Wright plays the stockbroker with a touching, bewildered anxiety."
Angus rejoined Katie Mitchell in 2006 to play Dr. Dorn in her production of The Seagull in an adaptation by Martin Crimp. Several members of the audience and some of the critics were not too happy about the drastic cuts and changes of Chekhov's text but Christopher Hart enjoyed the production: "Martin Crimp’s new version takes bold liberties with text and staging, slashing away whole soliloquies, restaging entire acts, but the changes almost always seem to work. (...) Other notable performances come from Angus Wright as the chilly doctor," (Christopher Hart, Sunday Times) Dominic Cavendish agreed: "There's equally fine, nuanced work across the board, especially from Sandy McDade's brittle, bird-like Masha and Angus Wright as the considerate but unsentimental doctor Dorn". (Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph)
Angus Wright has also worked extensively in film, television and radio. He has won the distinguished BBC Radio Drama Carleton Hobbs Award. His film and television work includes The Bank Job, Nicholas Nickleby, Kingdom of Heaven, Waking the Dead, Hotel Babylon, Wire in the Blood, Cambridge Spies and The Way We Live Now.
Angus Wright is currently playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice under the direction of Tim Carroll with the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avonl.

Later this year he will perform in The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes, the world premiere of Adriano Shaplin's new history play. It is to be directed by Adriano Shaplin and Elizabeth Freestone.

©2008Carolin Kopplin

C.V for Angus Wright.

Credits:
Grateful thanks to Natasha at Complicite and photographer Sarah Ainslie
to Zoë at the National Theatre Archive
to Kevin Cummins for St. Joan photograph
to Simon Annand for War Horse photograph
to Carolin Kopplin for research and text
Merchant of Venice photographs by kind permission of the Royal Shakespeare Company

Reference websites:
Complicite Theatre
Royal National Theatre
Moscow Arts Theatre School
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Almeida Theatre
Daily Telegraph
Nottingham Playhouse
Globe Theatre
Chichester Festival Theatre
Financial Times
The Guardian
Sunday Times
BBC
Albermarle archives