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Battle Royal (1999)

Battle Royal


A play by Nick Stafford, performed at the Lyttelton, National Theatre, London: 2 December (opened 9 December) 1999 - 8 April 2000

Performance length: 3 hours and 10 minutes (including two intervals)


Battle Royal image #1 Battle Royal image #2 Battle Royal image #3

The first and second photos show Zoe Wanamaker in rehearsal for Battle Royal. The third shows her on stage as Princess Caroline.


Against a backdrop of war and revolution, and set between 1795 and 1821, Battle Royal charts the troubled marriage of George, the Prince Regent, and Caroline of Brunswick, a fiery German princess. 

Having married Caroline as part of a desperate deal to clear his debts, the Prince quickly shuns his bride in favour of his mistress, Maria Fitzherbert.  As the Princess's poor treatment at the hands of her unpopular husband wins public sympathy, Caroline revels in her newfound role as political agitator.


Caroline Harker ... Mariette, Princess Caroline's companion

Zoë Wanamaker ... Princess Caroline of Brunswick

Hugh Ross ... Lord Malmesbury

Simon Russell Beale ... George, Prince of Wales

Gemma Jones ... Lady Jersey

Suzanne Burden ... Maria Fitzherbert

Brendan Coyle ... Colonel McMahon

Colin Haigh ... Archbishop of Canterbury

Martin Chamberlain ... Lord Jersey

Michael Mueller ... Prince William

Patrick Godfrey ... Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister

Matthew Macfayden ... Mr Brougham

Duncan Duff ... Bartolomeo Pergami

Jay Simpson ... Billy Austin

William Osborne ... Mr Denman

Benny Young ... Majocchi

Valerie Spelman ... Louise Demont

Patrick Baladi ... Galdini

Iain Mitchell ... Gifford

Patrick Marlowe and Adrian Penketh ... Manservants

Yvonne O'Grady and Janet Spencer-Turner ... Ladies in Waiting


Director: Howard Davies
Designer: Rob Howell
Lighting Designer: Mark Henderson
Music: Paddy Cunneen
Director of Movement: Jane Gibson
Sound Designer: Adam Rudd
Company Voice Work: Patsy Rodenburg
Fight Director: Terry King
Dialect Coach: Jeannette Nelson
Production Photographer: Ivan Kyncl
Musicians: Bernie Lafontaine (MD/keyboards/saxophone), Clive Bell (accordion/flute), and Julia Fingleton (violin)


This was the premiere production of Battle Royal

Initially, as Zoë commented at the time, she 'thought everybody would compare it to The Madness of King George', a play about the Prince Regent's father also performed at the National Theatre, rather than see it as a work in its own right.  She soon overcame her doubts, though: 'Howard Davies, the director, said he thought maybe he'd like to begin with something like... something like Caroline doing cartwheels across the stage. I just thought, ''That's great, I'll do it''' (see 'I Hate Luvvies' interview).

Zoe's long-standing interest in dance is evident, as The Telegraph's Amanda Mitchison commented, in 'the physical confidence and expressiveness of some of her performances - when Princess Caroline has hysterical fits in Battle Royal even her toes participate' (see 'So Many Different Characters' interview).

When Battle Royal's performance schedule prevented Zoë from opening a Shakespeare exhibition at the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, which was built by her father, her friend Dame Judi Dench stepped in to help.  As the Evening Standard reported, Dame Judi arrived to open the exhibition and quipped, 'I am here as Zoë Wanamaker's understudy'.

Zoe and her Battle Royal co-star Simon Russell Beale returned to the National Theatre to play another sparring couple in a revival of Much Ado About Nothing, which opened in 2007.  Zoe's other productions with the National Theatre Company include The Importance of Being Earnest (1982), The Bay at Nice and Wrecked Eggs (1986), Mrs Klein (1988), The Crucible (1990; also directed by Howard Davies), His Girl Friday (2003), and The Rose Tattoo (2007). 

Zoë has worked with four out of the five artistic directors at the National to date (i.e. Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn, and Nicholas Hytner). Strong ties with the company have led to her becoming a National Theatre Associate, giving her the power to influence the theatre's artistic policy.

Press coverage

'Wanamaker Stars in NT's Battle Royal' - Whatsonstage.com

Critics were impressed by Zoë's performance in the play, notably The Stage's Peter Hepple, who observed that Caroline 'grows splendidly in dignity as she realises she has a right to become a queen'.  Zoë conveyed 'the vulnerability and shrewdness behind the gawkiness' of the princess, said Benedict Nightingale in the New York TimesTerri Paddock at Whatsonstage.com and Glenn Loney at the New York Theater Wire also praised the performances given by Zoe and the other cast members.


Battle Royal by Nick Stafford

Related links

Battle Royal production photos - Top Foto (search the website using the keywords 'Wanamaker' and 'Battle' to view images)

Battle Royal production photos - National Theatre

Battle Royal production information - National Theatre

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