Hampstead Stages Stephenson & Beaton PlaysDate: 6 November 2000
The Hampstead Theatre's winter season, which kicks off later this month, will feature new work by The Memory of Water author Shelagh Stephenson and political commentator Alistair Beaton. Stephenson's Ancient Lights runs from 6 December 2000 to 6 January 2001 (previews from 29 November 2000) while Beaton's Feelgood, a co-production with Out of Joint starring Henry Goodman, runs 31 January to 10 March 2001 (previews from 25 January).
Ancient Lights explores the hollowness of modern celebrity worship. When American movie star Tom Cavallero comes to England to spend Christmas with old friends Bea and Kitty, he craves peace and anonymity. But Tom is not the Hollywood hunk he pretends to be - and the holiday reveals many deceptions and half-truths.
The production stars Dermot Crowley, Ruth Gemmell, Don McManus, Joanne Pearce, Sheridan Smith and Gwyneth Strong. Crowley's stage credits include The Memory of Water (Hampstead Theatre), The Weir (Dublin, Royal Court and Broadway) and Dealer's Choice (US tour). Gemmell has appeared in Nabokov's Gloves (Hampstead) while, on film, her credits include Fever Pitch.
Stephenson's first play, The Memory of Water, originally commissioned and produced by Hampstead Theatre in 1996, transferred to the West End where it won this year's Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Her other plays include An Experiment with an Air-pump and Five Kinds of Silence. Ancient Lights is directed by Ian Brown, former artistic director of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre who also directed Stephenson's Five Kinds of Silence. It is designed by Tanya McCallin with lighting by David Hersey.
Feelgood is a political satire about a party more obsessed with image than content. Set at a party conference, in the leader's hotel suite, the spin-doctors are sweating over the Prime Minister's speech. With public opinion increasingly volatile, there are jitters at the top. The speech has got to be perfect. But, unbeknownst to the spin-doctors, there's a journalist down the corridor preparing to expose a scandal so far-reaching that it could topple the government.
A frequent presenter and current affairs commentator on BBC Radio 4, Beaton' 's stage plays include The Metropolitan Mikado, The Ratepayers' Iolanthe and The Nose, while for television, he has written for Spitting Image and Not the Nine O'Clock News. Feelgood is directed by Max Stafford-Clark, former artistic director of the Royal Court who founded Out of Joint in 1993. It is designed by Julian McGowan with lighting by Johanna Town.
Henry Goodman's many acclaimed stage credits include Guys and Dolls (RNT), Chicago (Adelphi), Hysteria (Royal Court and West End) and, most recently, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (RNT), for which he won this year's Olivier Award for Best Actor. The cast for Feelgood also includes Pearce Quigley.
Work has begun on a new facility for the Hampstead Theatre, due to open in 2002. Until then, the theatre will continue to present productions in the current 1962, pre-fab building at Swiss Cottage in North London. Over the past 12 years, the tiny theatre, under the directorship of Jenny Topper, has presented some 120 plays, 35 of which have either transferred to the West End or embarked on national tours.