Theatre company brings play about Donald Trump to St Albans stage

PUBLISHED: 10:21 04 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:21 04 October 2020

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Anne Frizell

With the American presidential campaign entering its closing stages, an extraordinarily relevant play for now, Building the Wall, is coming to the Abbey Theatre stage in St Albans courtesy of the Company of Ten.

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Building the Wall opens at the theatre in St Albans on Tuesday, October 13, with performances streamed online.

There will also be a small socially-distanced audience in the auditorium of the Westminster Lodge, Holywell Hill, venue.

Playwright Robert Schenkkan was on top form when he sat down to write Building the Wall back in 2016.

Powered by his furious reaction to the deliberately incendiary rhetoric being thrown about at the time by presidential candidate Donald Trump, the work took just one week to complete.

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

“As the most expensive and dispiriting presidential campaign in recent memory came to a close, I sat down and, in a white-hot fury, wrote this play,” Schenkkan later said.

He may not be a familiar name, but he is a Pulitzer prize winner for The Kentucky Cycle.

His screenplays, including Hacksaw Ridge and The Quiet American, have been nominated for Oscars, BAFTAs and Emmys.

With President Trump currently in hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, Building the Wall is very topical.

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Building the Wall is set in 2019 and imagines what might be the consequences of Trump’s rabble-rousing utterances on immigration and border security, with their naked appeals to racism, nativism and violence.

The play sees a wall built on the US border with Mexico, President Trump impeached, and Texan Rick in prison awaiting sentence for a heinous crime he committed while in charge of an overcrowded private detention centre.

Rick grants just one interview to Gloria, an African-American history professor, in order to tell his side of the story.

As the evidence unfolds, the truth is chillingly and inevitably exposed – or is it?

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

The Stage called the play “bold, bite-size, and unapologetically political, a binge-worthy, 80-minute box-set of a show”.

Variety said it was “a hot-off-the-laptop scorcher of a play… sure to provoke shock, awe and much talk”.

Actress Sarah Priddy takes the role of Gloria.

She said: “When I first read this play over a year ago I knew I wanted to be involved.

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

“Knowing that Robert Schenkkan penned this play in 2016 as a speculative fiction before Trump was even elected, it is somewhat unnerving to compare the fiction to our current reality.

“The conversational confrontation between Gloria and Rick is compelling storytelling, as Gloria interviews Rick, a prison supervisor arrested and convicted for actions taken as a result of the government’s authoritarian policies.

“It’s been a challenging journey to bring this play to the stage during a global pandemic.

“Having said that, it’s been great working with the Company of Ten again, everyone in our small cast and crew bubble have been so professional and have brought some light to what at times have been emotional rehearsals.”

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Sarah added: “This dystopian drama is a frightening reflection on events that have been played out through history.

“With the imminent American elections and the growing sense of social and judicial crisis there, and with other nations under authoritarian rule and struggling for democracy, this play feels incredibly relevant for today.”

Building the Wall is an uncomfortable and at times harrowing play to watch. It contains strong language appropriate to the context that may offend.

Performances will be streamed and take place in the Abbey Theatre’s main auditorium, suitably socially distanced, from Tuesday, October 13 to Saturday, October 17, at 8pm.

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

To book tickets please go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk.

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Rehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellRehearsals for Company of Ten's forthcoming production of Building the Wall at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell


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