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Mercury Theatre today announces full cast for Mark Ravenhill’s Blackmail, a new version of the classic thriller originally written by Charles BennettAnthony Banks directs Gabriel Akuwudike (Harold Webber), Jessie Hills (Alice Jarvis), Patrick Walshe McBride (Ian Tracy), and Lucy Speed (Ada Jarvis). The production, produced in association with Simon Friend Entertainment opens on 9 March, with previews from 4 March, and runs until 19 March.

Originally produced in the West End in 1928, Blackmail then became a pioneering early sound film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1929. Bennett subsequently worked with Hitchcock on the screen adaptation of The 39 Steps before a long career in Hollywood as a screenwriter. With the blessing of Bennett’s son, Mark Ravenhill has adapted this play for it to premiere on the Mercury stage

Ryan McBryde, Creative Director of Mercury Theatre, said today “We’ve been working with producer Simon Friend on this adaptation for the Mercury for over a year and I’m so looking forward to seeing this classy thriller finally come alive on stage. Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of Blackmail elevates a classic 1920’s thriller to something that powerfully resonates with contemporary audiences. Direction by Anthony Banks completes the recipe for an edge-of-the seat evening that audiences will be talking about long after they’ve left the building.”

Mark Ravenhill commented “Charles Bennett constantly revised and rewrote his play Blackmail throughout his life. It was one of the first plays he wrote as a young actor in the early 1920s. He revised it before and after the 1928 West End production and participated in Hitchcock’s 1929 film reworking. He was working on a new version for a potential Hollywood film shortly before his death in 1995. I’ve had the great good fortune of being given access by his estate to the various manuscripts. Working from these, I’ve created a new version of Blackmail for a contemporary audience. The plot is all Bennett’s, about half the dialogue is mine. My aim has been to make the joins ‘invisible’, to imagine as best I can what Bennett would do if he had another go at shaping the play for a production in 2022”.

Lucy Speed added “I knew from reading the first scene of Blackmail that I had to play it. It’s the kind of joyful genius that you cannot let pass you by. The script immediately thrilled and enthralled me. Delicious dialogue and visceral characters drive the forever twisting plot. The searingly relevant themes resonate today, several ringing so loudly in my ear: the mother-daughter relationship; the challenges of youth; the desperation of losing vitality and control that ageing throws at us; the timing politically that threw the world into emotional frenzy. It bounces gleefully along, moments of playfulness and superb reflection of self.”   

Mercury Theatre

in association with Simon Friend Entertainment presents

Charles Bennett’s


A new version by Mark Ravenhill

Director: Anthony Banks; Set and Costume Designer: David Woodhead;

Lighting Designer: Howard Hudson; Sound Designers: Ben Ringham and Max Ringham;                   Fight Director: Alison de Burgh; Casting Director: Helena Palmer;

Assistant Director: Michael Cottrell; Choreographer: Arielle Smith

4 – 19 March 2022

Who has murdered a famous artist in his Chelsea studio? Who removed a vital clue from the scene of the crime?

Blackmailer Ian Tracy thinks he knows the answers, and that shop worker Alice and her policeman fiancé Harold are the perfect victims. Alice’s fearsome mother Ada is determined to find out the truth. A long night of secrets and lies awaits them all – and before morning comes, one of them will be dead.

Charles Bennett (1899-1995) was a British playwright and screenwriter. His playwriting credits include The ReturnThe Last HourThe Danger Line and After Midnight. For screenwriting, his credits include Mannequin and Matinee Idol; and as co-writer, Gay Love, The Man Who Knew Too MuchThe 39 Steps, Secret AgentSabotageYoung and InnocentForeign Correspondent, Kind LadyNight of the DemonThe City Under the SeaThe House of Trent Hawley’s of High StreetThe Secret of the LochNumber, PleaseDeadlock and Two Way Street.

Mark Ravenhill’s playwriting credits include The Cane (Royal Court Theatre), GalileoThe Boy in The Dress (RSC), The Cut (Donmar Warehouse), Pool No Water (Frantic Assembly/Lyric Hammersmith), Mother Clap’s MollyhouseCitizenship (National Theatre), Faust Is DeadHandbag (UK tours), Some Explicit Polaroids (Out of Joint/Ambassadors Theatre) and Shopping and F*cking (Royal Court Theatre/West End/UK and international tour). His work in musical theatre includes the lyrics for a song cycle for Marc Almond, Ten Plagues (Traverse Theatre), a new English version of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea (King’s Head Theatre) and libretto for Elysium (Norwegian National Opera). He was recently appointed Artistic Director of the King’s Head Theatre, sharing the role with Hannah Price.

Gabriel Akuwudike plays Harold Webber. His theatre credits include Either (Hampstead Theatre), Time is Love (Finborough Theatre), Dealing with Clair (Orange Tree Theatre), A Gym Thing (Small Things Theatre) and Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare’s Globe). His television credits include Hanna, War of the Worlds, Ridley Road, Cursed, Brexit: The Uncivil War and Informer. His film credits include The Beautiful Game and 1917.

Jessie Hills plays Alice Jarvis. Her theatre credits include The Judas Kiss (Brooklyn Academy of Music/Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto). For television, her credits include Eastenders, The Feed and Call the Midwife; and for film My First and Vodka Diaries.

Patrick Walshe McBride plays Ian Tracy. His theatre credits include Great Expectations (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The Winter’s Tale (Sheffield Crucible), Harold and Maude (Charing Cross Theatre), Present Laughter (Theatre Royal Bath and UK tour) and Almost Maine (Park Theatre). His television credits include Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators as series regular Sebastian Brudenell, Dracula, Pixies, Giri/Haji, Lake of Death and Lewis.

Lucy Speed plays Ada Jarvis. Her theatre credits include Be My Baby (Soho Theatre), Vagina Monologues (Wyndham’s Theatre), Soap (Royal Theatre, Northampton) and Girls’ Night (UK tour). Her television credits include Eastenders as series regular Natalie Evans, Jericho, The Bill as series regular DC Stevie Moss, Love Soup, Lewis, Cradle to Grave, Marcella, After Life, Liar, Unforgotten, Dodgem, Rides, National Treasure and Jamie Johnson.

Anthony Banks directs. His theatre credits include My Cousin Rachel (Theatre Royal Bath), The Girl on the Train (Duke of York’s Theatre/UK tour), Games for Lovers (The Vaults), Hogarth’s Progress (Rose Theatre Kingston), Dial M for MurderStrangers on a Train, Gaslight, DNA (UK tours), Twilight Song (Park Theatre), After Miss Julie (Theatre Royal Bath/UK tour), Raz (Trafalgar Studios/Assembly Edinburgh/UK tour), CesarioMore LightThe Eternal NotPrince Of Denmark (National Theatre), Pignight (Menier Chocolate Factory), The Experiment (Soho Theatre/Berliner Ensemble), Herding Cats (Theatre Royal Bath/Hampstead Theatre/Digital transatlantic production/Soho Theatre), Bassett (Bristol Old Vic), ReWrite (Westminster Hall/National Theatre) and The Hotel Plays (Grange and Langham Hotels, London). He was also Associate Director at the National Theatre 2004 – 2014 where he commissioned and developed a hundred new plays for NT Connections.

Mercury Theatre


Balkerne Gate, Colchester CO1 1PT

Box Office: / 01206 573948



4 – 19 March 2022

Touch Tour: 17 March at 1pm

Audio Described: 17 March at 2.30pm

Captioned Performance: 18 March at 7.30pm


29 March – 2 April 2022


York Theatre Royal 25 February – 5 March 2022

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 8 – 12 March 2022

Derby Theatre 15 – 19 March 2022

Belgrade Theatre Coventry 22- 26 March 2022

Theatre Peckham 7 – 23 April 2022


13 – 28 May 2022

Post-show Q&A: 24 May, 7.30pm

Relaxed: 26 May at 2.30pm

Captioned Performance: 27 May at 7.30pm

Touch Tour: 28 May at 1pm

Audio Described: 28 May at 2.30pm