John Lithgow to star in new play about Roald Dahl’s antisemitism

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John Lithgow is set to star in Giant, Mark Rosenblatt’s drama under the direction of Nicholas Hytner, marking the debut season of the new artistic director, David Byrne.

The play will take place at the Royal Court theatre in London this autumn, with Lithgow depicting author Roald Dahl just before the publication of his novel The Witches, at a time when he faced criticism for his public expression of antisemitic beliefs.

That year, Dahl expressed overtly antisemitic beliefs, including a statement explaining, “Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on [Jewish people] for no reason”. His novels have come under fire in recent times for their inclusion of dated or offensive themes and language.

Discussing the opportunity, Lithgow said: “I’m thrilled to be performing at the Royal Court where I’ve seen so much great work, stretching all the way back to the late 1960s. There’s no better place to unveil Mark Rosenblatt’s stunning new play.”

Rosenblatt added: “Giant is my first play. When I was tearing my hair out writing it at my kitchen table, I never for a second imagined it would premiere on this landmark stage and with this calibre of cast and creative team.”

Continuing: “It’s completely surreal and thrilling to have it programmed as part of David Byrne’s first season. I really hope Giant gives Royal Court audiences an uncomfortably funny, urgent and provocative night in the theatre.”

Giant was recently unveiled as a component of the first season under the leadership of Byrne, who took the reins in 2023 after heading the New Diorama theatre.

“More than just a season, this is a statement of intent for what’s to come,” Byrne explained, “A new generation of bold voices with big, messy stories to tell; world-renowned artists rubbing alongside insurgent new talent, igniting some unmissable theatre on our stages.”

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