Almeida's Edinburgh Challenge Starts TodayDate: 6 August 1998
The first Almeida Theatre festival in Malvern opens today in the West Midlands town, just three days before “the world's largest arts festival” in Edinburgh. Undaunted by the Scottish competition, the Almeida festival, running 6-22 August, is staging world premieres of two major new theatre productions and two classic revivals as well as presenting an accompanying programme of talks and films.
Diana Rigg leads the cast in the world premiere of Poet Laureate Ted Hughes' new version of Racine's classic tragedy Phèdre, directed by Jonathan Kent. Rigg, well-known for film and television work, has had a long career on the stage as well. Most recently, she played Martha in the Almeida production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which transferred to the West End. Phèdre will transfer to the West End as well following the seven Malvern performances (6, 7, 8, 10, 11 August at 8.00pm with matinees on 8 and 12 August).
Howard Davies directs the world premiere of Albee's new play, The Play about the Baby, at Malvern before it transfers directly to the Almeida's north London home. The play is billed as a 'complex, funny and moving play' which explores the relationship between four people crossing generation and gender. The Play about the Baby has nine performances at Malvern (14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 August at 7.30pm with matinees on 16 and 22 August).
In celebration of Brecht's centenary year, the Almeida, with the Right Size company, is co-producing a new version of the playwright's rarely performed satirical comedy Mr Puntila and his Man Matti. Comic duo Sean Foley and Hamish McColl of the Right Size, whose show Do You Come Here Often? was seen earlier this year at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre, play the title roles. After four performances in Malvern (7 and 8 August at 7.30pm with matinees on 8 and 9 August), the two take the show to the Traverse Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe and tour nationally for four weeks before final appearances at the Almeida in October.
Malvern concludes a national tour for the final Almeida production there. Bernard Shaw's romantic comedy The Doctor's Dilemma has been on a five-week tour since it finished the Almeida's season at its Islington home earlier this year. It arrives in Malvern for its final 11 performances (14, 15, 18, 19, 10, 21, 22 August at 8.00pm with matinees on 15, 16, 20 and 22 August).
The Malvern Festival Theatre complex re-opened in May 1998 following a £6.8m refurbishment. The development comprises the traditional Festival Theatre with 850 seats, a flexible 'New Space' with up to 840 seats and a cinema with 400 seats.
This year's Edinburgh Fringe runs from 9 - 31 August while its parent, the Edinburgh International Festival, runs 16 August - 5 September. The combined Edinburgh festivities attract millions of visitors each year and thousands of performances. This year's Fringe, with its usual strong emphasis on new writing and experimental theatre, features more than 300 UK and world premieres.
Following Malvern, the Almeida will also be embarking on its first full West End season at the Albery Theatre as well as opening a new season in Islington. For more on the Almeida's plans - direct from the mouth of joint artistic director Jonathan Kent - check out the What's On Stage feature, Almeida Spreads Its Wings in All Directions. And for all you need to know on what's happening north of Hadrian's Wall this month, visit the What's On Stage Edinburgh page.