Atkins Plays Woolf in Packed Hampstead AutumnDate: 19 September 2001
Dame Eileen Atkins (pictured) will star as Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own as part of a jam-packed autumn season at north London's Hampstead Theatre, where four major new shows will be mounted in just eight weeks. The third production in the newly announced schedule, Patrick Garland's stage adaptation of Woolf's writings on women and fiction previews on 13 November 2001, before opening the following night.
Garland's vision of Woolf's plea for women's economic and literary independence was originally produced at Hampstead in 1989, before transferring to the West End and Broadway. It is one of three revivals of landmark Hampstead Theatre productions to be presented during the venue's last year in the current building.
Eileen Atkins was born in Birmingham and trained at the Guildhall in London. Her West End debut arrived in 1953, and she later became members of both the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and Bristol Old Vic companies. Atkins' major break came with Frank Marcus' The Killing of Sister George, which transferred to Broadway. More recently, Atkins received an Olivier for her role of the Queen in Shakespeare's Cymbeline in 1988. Her last West End appearance was in Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man (1998), for which she also won an Olivier, at the Duchess and Barbican Pit, with Michael Gambon.
The forthcoming season at Hampstead Theatre commences on 8 October 2001 with Marc Salem's Mind Games. Salem is considered to be one of the world's great authorities on non-verbal communication. His Mind Games show has played Off-Broadway, and utilises psychological techniques, visual information and behavioural psychology to entertain and inform.
From 17 October comes Midden, the first work by Morna Regan. Directed by Lynne Parker, the play ran at the Traverse Theatre as part of Fringe 2001. Regan's story concerns three generations of an Irish Catholic family, plus a missing legacy and a daughter returning after 15 years in America.
Conversely, Irish Protestant life is explored in Michael West's Foley from 15 November. Andrew Bennett plays land-owner George Foley, rebelling against a dying culture. The one-man show also played at the Traverse during this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Bennett's work at the National theatre includes The Rivals and Translations, whilst he provided the voice of Frank McCourt in the film of Angela's Ashes.
The Hampstead Theatre, which still resides in a temporary structure erected two decades ago, successfully reached its £3 million fundraising target set by the Arts Council of England earlier this year. This allowed the next share of its Lottery grant to be released, enabling work on the new theatre to continue on schedule.
After launching its appeal, donations poured into the theatre from the local community, prominent theatre personalities and the business world alike. Sums offered ranged from £5 to £250,000 with donors including Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Cameron Mackintosh and the playwrights David Hare and Tom Stoppard.
Productions will continue in the existing theatre building until the new site opens. Greatly improved facilities, with flexible seating arrangements and educational activities, are among the attractions expected to feature. Both public and backstage areas will have full access for people with disabilities. A stylish bar and theatre café will also be open throughout the day and evening.
- by Gareth Thompson