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'Dr. Strangelove' to become first official Stanley Kubrick stage play adaptation

Dr. Strangelove comes to the West End next year
Dr. Strangelove comes to the West End next year Copyright Twitter - Columbia Pictures
Copyright Twitter - Columbia Pictures
By David Mouriquand
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“Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.”

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Stanley Kubrick's 1964 satire Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is often eclipsed by the director's other works, including his 1968 space noodlebaker 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1971’s controversial A Clockwork Orange , and 1980’s horror masterpiece The Shining.

However, it still stands as one of the celebrated filmmaker’s most important and prescient films. And damn funny to boot.

Scratch that - it’s one of the best comedies ever made.

After originally optioning the Cold War novel 'Red Alert' for adaptation as a political drama, Kubrick found the black comedy in the fanaticism of the Cold War and the incompetence of world leaders toying with nuclear annihilation.

Depressingly, not a whole lot has changed since 1964, and maybe that’s why Dr. Strangelove is a perfect candidate for a stage adaptation.

So, stop your fighting in the war room, as it has been announced that The Thick of It and Veep creator Armando Iannucci is teaming up with British comedian Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge, Philomena) for a stage adaptation of Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece.

The play will premiere at London’s Noel Coward Theatre next fall, on 8 October 2024.

The official Stanley Kubrick account on X, formerly known as Twitter, made the Coogan casting announcement.

Iannucci confirmed the news on his own account, saying he “can’t wait to get started” on the adaptation. “We’re all hoping to send people home with a smile and a scream.”

This marks the first time the Kubrick estate has allowed a stage adaptation of one of the director's films.

It’s an intriguing prospect to say the least, as Iannucci has proven time and time again with his TV projects and films (in particular 2017’s brilliant The Death of Stalin) that he is unparalleled when it comes to comedy, and stands as the greatest modern-day satirist.

We don’t yet know whether the plot will be updated or whether the show will remain faithful to the original plot and script, about a rogue US general who triggers nuclear Armageddon. Considering the protectiveness of Kubrick’s estate, chances are it will be relatively faithful. It’ll still be very interesting to find out how Iannucci will make it his own.

We do know that the theatre adaptation will be directed and co-adapted by Sean Foley (Brass Eye, Mindhorn), and that Coogan will take on Peter Seller’s multiple roles. 

Sellers excelled at playing three radically different parts in Dr. Strangelove: British RAF officer Lionel Mandrake; the befuddled US President Merkin Muffley; and the famous wheelchair-bound German rocket scientist (and former Nazi) Dr. Strangelove.

Sellers picked up an Oscar nomination for his performance, and the film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.

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Coogan had this stay:

“The idea of putting ‘Dr. Strangelove’ on stage is daunting. A huge responsibility. It’s also an exciting challenge, an opportunity to bring this timeless classic to a new audience. Knowing that I will be part of a creative team led by Sean Foley and Armando Iannucci means I will be working with the best people. Sean is a master of stage comedy and Armando and I started working with each other over 30 years ago. We made some memorable comedy together so it’s great to be collaborating with him once again.”

Are you as excited as we are?

The Euronews Culture team is already planning a field trip...

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Public booking opens today (Wednesday 27 September), and the show will last from 8 October 2024 until 21 December 2024.

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