Best of Enemies
Best of Enemies by James Graham, starring David Harewood and Zachary Quinto, directed by Jeremy Herrin

Best of Enemies. Noël Coward Theatre

Written by James Graham. Directed by Jeremy Herrin. Inspired by the documentary by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon

8 mins read
  • Full cast and creative team announced for West End production of Best of Enemies – the award-winning play by James Graham, directed by Jeremy Herrin.
  • Zachary Quinto will make his West End debut as Gore Vidal opposite David Harewood who reprises the role of William F. Buckley Jr. 
  • Deborah Alli, Emilio Doorgasingh, Clare Foster, Tom Godwin, John Hodgkinson, Syrus Lowe, Kevin McMonagle and Sam Otto also star.
  • The play explores Vidal and Buckley’s bitter political rivalry and historic clashes which transformed political debates and revolutionised current affairs broadcasting.
  • The play won the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Best New Theatre Production, the Critics Circle Theatre Award for Best New Play and received two Olivier Award Nominations following its run at the Young Vic Theatre. 
  • Best of Enemies will preview at the Noël Coward Theatre from 14 November for 14 Weeks, with opening night on Monday 28 November.
  • Tickets start from £15 with over 30,000 at £35 and under available throughout the run.
  • Tickets go on general sale from 10am on Tuesday 6 September. 

Zachary Quinto (The Boys in the Band, American Horror Story, Star Trek) will make his West End debut as Gore Vidal in James Graham’s (Sherwood, Quiz, This House) award-winning new play Best of Enemies opposite David Harewood (Homeland, Super Girl, Ten Percent) who is reprising his role as William F. Buckley Jr. 

Directed by Jeremy Herrin (People, Places & Things, Wolf Hall Trilogy, This House), Best of Enemies will begin previews at the Noël Coward Theatre on 14 November with an opening night on 28 November. This sold-out hit from the Young Vic Theatre and Headlong originally premiered at the Young Vic in December 2021. Tickets go on sale for priority bookers from Monday 5 September with tickets on general sale from 10am on Tuesday 6 September. Tickets start from £15 with over 30,000 at £35 and under available throughout the run. 

1968 – a year of protest that divided America. As two men fight to become the next President, all eyes are on the battle between two others: the cunningly conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and the iconoclastic liberal Gore Vidal. Beliefs are challenged and slurs slung as these political idols feud nightly in a new television format, debating the moral landscape of a shattered nation. Little do they know they’re about to open up a new frontier in American politics, and transform television news forever…

Completing the cast are Deborah Alli, Emilio Doorgasingh, Clare Foster, Tom Godwin, John Hodgkinson, Syrus Lowe, Kevin McMonagle and Sam Otto who will each perform multiple roles within the play including Andy Warhol, James Baldwin, Patricia Buckley, Howard Austen, Aretha Franklin and Martin Luther-King. The ensemble includes David Boyle, Lincoln Conway, Vivienne Ekwulugo, Jamie Hogarth and Saaj Raja.

Written by James Graham and Directed by Jeremy Herrin, Best of Enemies is Designed by Bunny Christie, with Lighting Design by Jack Knowles, Sound Design by Tom Gibbons, Video Design by Max Spielbichler, Composition by Benjamin Kwasi Burrell, Movement Direction by Shelley Maxwell, Casting by Charlotte Sutton CDG (UK) and Jim Carnahan CSA (US), Voice and Dialect by Hazel Holder and Associate Direction by Annie Kershaw.

Best of Enemies won the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Best New Theatre Production and the Critics Circle Theatre Award for Best New Play and was also nominated for two Olivier Awards following its run at the Young Vic. This production is brought to the West End by Second Half Productions, Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Wessex Grove, the Young Vic Theatre and Headlong. Wagner Johnson Productions will be Executive Producers.

David Harewood says: “I consider Best of Enemies to be one of the most enjoyable and challenging experiences of my whole career and I cannot wait to once again get under the skin of this uniquely complex character. Jeremy’s brilliant direction and James’s wonderful script combine to give both actor and audience a stimulating, thought-provoking and wildly entertaining evening out and I’m counting down the days to performing this show again in the West End.”

Zachary Quinto says: “Living and working in London has long been an aspiration of mine. But to be making my West End debut in such a thrilling and relevant play – amongst such a distinguished creative team – and playing such a scorching and complex character as Gore Vidal – far exceeds my expectations of what living and working in London would look like… I’m full of gratitude and excitement. Best of Enemies harkens back to a vital time – when genuine discourse was possible from even the most opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. My hope is that such discourse may be once again rekindled in response to the work itself.”  

James Graham says: “To be given the opportunity to bring new writing to the West End is always a thrill. Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s original hit documentary about the televised debates between Buckley and Vidal in the 1960s, and their surprise influence on our politics and media today, enraptured me when I first saw it. It’s been an honour to take inspiration from their work to create this drama for the stage.

We’re living through another “1968 moment” right now – that same spirit of protest, resistance, and a thirst for change; of political polarisation and toxicity, all of which was the backdrop to the clash between these two men live in front of the world.

Working with Jeremy again, and having the epic talents of this cast – led by David and Zach, fighting it out every night on the Noel Coward stage – is such an exciting prospect, I can’t wait.”

Jeremy Herrin says: “One of the privileges of running Headlong was being able to get the rights to Neville and Gordon’s pertinent documentary, and to persuade James Graham to bring his singular vision and regular wit to yet another of our collaborations. Kwame Kwei-Armah inspired and supported our production at the Young Vic. It’s great to bring our talented ensemble to one of the West End’s best playhouses at the Noel Coward Theatre to thrill a broad audience with plenty of affordable tickets. 

We are honoured that one of the US’s finest actors Zachary Quinto will  join forces, and trade blows, with David Harewood, a multi hyphenate homegrown star worthy of celebration.

The story of these two nuanced and charismatic men speaks as engagingly of contemporary politics and punditry as it does of the turmoil of 1968, and I can’t wait to take the production to the next level.”

David Harewood’s theatre credits include: Best of Enemies, Peribanez (Young Vic); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Theatre for a New Audience); Welcome To Thebes, Henry IV, His Dark Materials (National Theatre); The Mountaintop (Trafalgar Studios/Theatre 503); An Oak Tree, Bad ‘Nuff (Soho Theatre); Woyzeck (St. Ann’s Warehouse, New York Grassmarket Project); Exonerated (Riverside Studios); The Misanthrope (Minerva Chichester); Othello (RNT World Tour); Antony and Cleopatra (Public Theatre NY/Alley Theatre, Texas & Tour/Riverside Studios); Pinchy Cobi & The 7 Duppies, Worlds Apart (Stratford East); King Lear (Talawa Theatre Company); Othello, Black Poppies (Stratford East/NT Studio); Anowa (Gate Theatre).

His television credits include: Homeland Series 1 & 2 (SHOWTIME), The Night Manager (BBC), Supergirl Seasons 1-6 (CW), Madiba (BET), Beowulf (ITV), Selfie (ABC), By Any Means (BBC), The Vice 1-5 (ITV), Treasure Island (Sky), Hustle (BBC), Dr. Who (BBC).
 

David’s film includes: Free In Deed, Blood Diamond, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now, Separate Lies, The Merchant of Venice, The Hot Potato.

Zachary Quinto’s theatre credits include: Angels in America (Signature Theatre, Theater World Award winner and a Drama Desk Award nominee); Glass Menagerie (Broadway, Booth Theatre); Smokefall (MCC); The Boys in the Band (Broadway, Booth Theatre, Tony Award for Best Revival Of A Play); and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (The Geffen). 

His television credits include: Heroes (NBC), American Horror Story (FX), American Horror Story: Asylum (FX, Critic’s Choice Award winner and Emmy Award nominee), NOS4A2 (AMC).

Zachary’s film credits include: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond, The Boys in the Band, Margin Call, Aardvark, and All Is Lost (producer), A Most Violent Year (producer).

James Graham is a playwright and film and television writer. His play This House premiered at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in September 2012, directed by Jeremy Herrin, and transferred to the Olivier in 2013 where it enjoyed a sell-out run, and garnered critical acclaim and a huge amount of interest and admiration from current and former MPs for his rendition of life in the House of Commons. It went on to have an Olivier-nominated sell-out revival in the West End in 2017 and it was chosen by popular vote as the best play of the 2010’s for the major theatre publisher Methuen.

Ink, his play about the early days of Rupert Murdoch, opened to huge praise at the Almeida and transferred to the West End in September 2017 where it played in the theatre next door to James’ other new play – political romantic comedy Labour of Love – creating theatre history. Labour of Love went on to win an Olivier Award. Ink went on to transfer to Manhattan Theatre Club on Broadway and be nominated for six Tony Awards.

James wrote the book for Finding Neverland, the musical with music by Gary Barlow. It opened in Boston in Summer 2014 and transferred to Broadway in Spring 2015. His first film for television, Caught in a Trap, was broadcast on ITV1 on Boxing Day 2008.

Brexit: An Uncivil War, tapped into a national conversation, garnering huge public attention and critical acclaim. It was broadcast on Channel 4 and HBO and starred Benedict Cumberbatch. It was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie, a BAFTA for Single Drama and a Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture Made for Television.

This coincided with James being featured on the leading arts programme Imagine. The show explored James’s influences and, in turn, his influence.

His recent screen work includes Quiz (ITV and AMC) in 2020, directed by Stephen Frears and was one of the most watched UK television dramas of the year and Sherwood (BBC One House Productions) which launched to over six million people earlier this year receiving wide-spread critical acclaim.

Jeremy Herrin trained as a theatre director at both the National Theatre and the Royal Court, where he became Deputy Artistic Director in 2008. Between 2000 and 2008 he was an Associate Director at Live Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne. Jeremy replaced Rupert Goold as Artistic Director of Headlong Theatre in September 2013. In 2007, he directed the UK premiere of David Hare’s play, The Vertical Hour, as well as Polly Stenham’s award-winning That Face at the Royal Court. That Face later transferred to London’s West End, where it starred Lindsay Duncan and Matt Smith and was produced by Sonia Friedman. Two years later, in 2009, Jeremy directed Polly’s second play, Tusk Tusk for which he was nominated for an Evening Standard Best Director Award. Other work at the Royal Court includes EV Crowe’s Hero, Richard Bean’s The Heretic, Kin, Spur of the Moment, Off The Endz and The Priory, which won an Olivier Award for best Comedy.

In 2012 Jeremy directed the Olivier-nominated This House, written by James Graham, at the National Theatre. The production was revived at the Garrick Theatre at the end of 2016 and toured the UK in 2018.

In 2014 Jeremy directed the critically acclaimed adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies for the RSC and was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Director. The productions transferred to the West End at the end of 2014 and opened on Broadway in April 2015. He also directed the Broadway production of Noises Off which opened in January 2016. His production of People, Places and Things at the National Theatre transferred to the Wyndhams Theatre in March 2016 and then to St Ann’s Warehouse in October 2017. Jeremy directed James Graham’s Oliver Award Winning Labour of Love which opened in November 2017 and his production of David Hare’s The Moderate Soprano transferred from Hampstead Theatre to the West End in April 2018.

Most recently Jeremy directed Noises Off at The Garrick Theatre, The Visit at The National Theatre and After Life at The National Theatre, The Mirror and The Light at the Gielgud, West End, and Best of Enemies at The Young Vic. For TV Jeremy directed Talking Heads and Unprecedented for the BBC.

Jeremy has most recently directed The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre, West End, starring six-time Academy Award nominee, Amy Adams.

BEST OF ENEMIES
Written by James Graham 

Directed by Jeremy Herrin

Inspired by the documentary by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon

Design by Bunny Christie

Lighting Design by Jack Knowles

Sound Design by Tom Gibbons

Video Design by Max Spielbichler

Composition by Benjamin Kwasi Burrell

Movement Direction by Shelley Maxwell

Casting by Charlotte Sutton CDG (UK) and Jim Carnahan CSA (US)

Voice and Dialect by Hazel Holder

Associate Direction by Annie Kershaw


Noël Coward Theatre

St Martin’s Ln, London, WC2N 4AU

First Preview: Mon 14 November 2022, 7.30pm

Opening Night: Mon 28 November 2022, 7pm
Final Performance: Sat 18 February 2023, 7.30pm

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