By Maria Bregman
Billy Crudup is no stranger to playing multiple roles. The versatile actor, who has starred in films such as The Morning Show, Almost Famous, and Big Fish, has also impressed audiences and critics with his stage performances, especially in solo shows that showcase his range and charisma. Now, he is bringing his award-winning portrayal of Harry Clarke, a charming conman with a British accent, to the West End for the first time.
Harry Clarke, written by David Cale, is a one-man play that follows a midwestern barista who reinvents himself as a British representative of the singer Sade and infiltrates a wealthy New York family. The play, which is described as a “comedic thriller”, explores themes of identity, deception, and desire, as Harry juggles 19 different characters and a web of lies.
Crudup first performed the play off Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in 2017, directed by Leigh Silverman, who also helms the London production. He received rave reviews and several awards, including an Obie, a Lucille Lortel, and an Outer Critics Circle Award. He reprised the role at the Minetta Lane Theatre in 2018, where it was sponsored by Audible, which captured his performance as an audio drama. He also played the part at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California in 2019.
Crudup said he was drawn to the play because of its unique structure and challenge. “It’s a very rare opportunity to have a play that is so well written, so funny, so engaging, and so demanding,” he said. “It’s a 90-minute roller coaster ride, where I have to switch between different voices, accents, and emotions, and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.”
He also said he enjoyed working with Cale, who is a British-born playwright and performer, known for his own solo plays. “David is a master of storytelling, and he has a great sense of humor and rhythm,” Crudup said. “He has created a fascinating character in Harry, who is both a liar and a truth-teller, a manipulator and a victim, a hero and a villain. He has given me a lot of freedom and trust to interpret his words and bring them to life.”
Harry Clarke marks Crudup’s West End debut, although he has a long and distinguished Broadway career. He has appeared in plays by Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and William Shakespeare, among others. He has also shared the stage with Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and Rachel Weisz. He said he was excited to perform in London, where he has always admired the theatre scene.
“I love London and I have loved seeing theatre in London for decades,” he said. “West End theatregoers are some of the most discerning, intelligent, and hungry audiences in the world. I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to share the work Leigh, David, myself, and all our producers have created on the London stage.”
Harry Clarke will run at the Ambassadors Theatre from 9 March to 11 May 2024. It is a rare chance to see one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation in a tour-de-force performance that will leave you breathless and mesmerized.