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The Motive and the Cue hero image
The Motive and the Cue hero image
The Motive and the Cue hero image

The Motive and the Cue Tickets

Noel Coward Theatre

Johnny Flynn and Mark Gatiss star as Burton and Gielgud in this fascinating backstage play, based on the pair’s 1964 production of Hamlet.

Tickets for The Motive and the Cue Available Now!

Go behind the scenes of a remarkable battle between theatrical heavyweights in The Motive and the Cue at the Noël Coward Theatre. Jack Thorne and Academy Award winner Sam Mendes’ hit National Theatre production transfers to the West End for a strictly limited season, giving theatregoers a second chance to see this gripping production, based on Richard Burton and John Gielgud’s tussle for power as they staged Hamlet on Broadway.

About The Motive and the Cue

This “love letter to theatre” (Evening Standard) throws the doors to a Broadway rehearsal room wide open, as iconic stars Richard Burton and John Gielgud are preparing for the premiere of their seminal, experimental 1964 Hamlet. Burton is newly married to Elizabeth Taylor, and stepping into the shoes of Denmark’s melancholy prince. Gielgud is directing, and his vision is clear. Soon, these two titans from different generations are butting heads, and the thread between actor, director and celebrity unravels with explosive results.

This compelling play premiered at the National Theatre in April 2023, with critics hailing it “brilliant, compassionate” (Financial Times) with “dazzling performances” (Time Out).

The True Story Behind The Motive and the Cue

The show is inspired by Letters from an Actor by William Redfield and John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet by Richard L. Stern, two books that reveal the long, sometimes arduous and fraught process that saw Hamlet hit New York’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1964. Remarkably, the production began because of a fun pact by Burton and Becket co-star Peter O’Toole: the pair flipped a coin and agreed that one would play Shakespeare’s most famous role in London, directed by Laurence Olivier, while the other would head to Broadway under the direction of John Gielgud.

Intense interest in the play led to company members Redfield and Stern releasing their books, which allowed a voyeuristic insight into the rehearsal process. Stern reportedly went as far as hiding tape recorders in his briefcase to get accurate transcripts!

The Motive and the Cue Cast and Creatives

With a creative team almost as star-studded as the people portrayed on stage, The Motive and the Cue is written by Jack Thorne, whose credits include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials and Netflix film Enola Holmes.

Academy Award winner Sam Mendes (1917; Skyfall) directs, bringing style and tension to a play that has showbiz beating at its heart.

The cast transfers from the National Theatre, with Johnny Flynn (Hangmen; Jerusalem) delivering a “fascinating” (Independent) performance as Richard Burton, opposite Mark Gatiss (Sherlock; The League of Gentlemen) as the exacting John Gielgud and Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey) as Elizabeth Taylor.

Book The Motive and the Cue Tickets at Noel Coward Theatre

This new play is an absolute treat for theatre fans and an engrossing window into an era of big stars with even bigger personalities, both on and off the stage. Don’t miss this captivating play during its West End season from December 2023.

Sorry this show closed 23 March 2024, we recommend these similar productions.

Guys and Dolls
Player Kings
Performance dates:
22 Mar 2024 - 23 Mar 2024
Running time:
2 hours and 40 minutes including an interval.
Age recommendation:
Best for age 12+
Audience Notes:
The appearance of any performer cannot be guaranteed and is always subject to illness, injury and statutory holiday entitlement.

The Motive and the Cue Reviews

149 Reviews
  • 5 Stars62%
  • 4 Stars27%
  • 3 Stars5%
  • 2 Stars3%
  • 1 Stars3%

User Reviews


This show is amazing! I don't normally give a standing ovation for plays, but this certainly deserved it. Brilliant acting from all the cast, especially the main characters. The set, staging and scene changes were really imaginative. Thanks for a gre Read more

Performance date: 21 March 2024

Johnny Flynn and Mark Gatiss were absolutely phenomenal. The Shakespeare parts went mostly over my head as I've never seen or read Hamlet but the 'behind the scenes' elements with Elizabeth Taylor were the heart of the play!

Performance date: 21 February 2024

Many excellent performances, particularly for the Gueilgud part, unsure if it's not a little too detailed & fast. The Burton part was overplayed at times

Performance date: 16 March 2024
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