Nunn, Sher & Shepard Open Attenborough's AlmeidaDate: 9 December 2002
Outgoing artistic director Trevor Nunn's first project after handing over the National Theatre reins to Nicholas Hytner will be to head the first production in incoming artistic director Michael Attenborough's inaugural season at London's Almeida Theatre. Long rumoured for the South Bank where Nicole Kidman was earmarked to star in it, Nunn's mounting of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea will mark his directorial debut and the opening of the Almeida's newly refurbished Islington home in April 2003. Casting and exact dates have yet to be announced.
Attenborough's 2003 programme at the Almeida will also feature two world premieres - actor Antony Sher's first play I.D. directed by Shared Experience's Nancy Meckler and 24-year-old Joanna Laurens' second play, Five Gold Rings, directed by Attenborough himself - the UK premiere of Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss and the return of the annual Almeida Opera. Further ahead, Attenborough plans to commission new translations of Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Colonus to direct in 2004.
In The Lady from the Sea, Ellida feels trapped in a stifling marriage to widower Dr Wangle and is haunted to the point of obsession by a former love. In an environment of strict moral rules, she must choose her path carefully. Nunn's staging of 1888 drama will be a new version by Pam Gems, whose own plays include Stanley, Marlene and Piaf.
As previously tipped (See The Goss, 14 Nov 2002), Sher's I.D. is a portrait of Old South Africa and two individuals: Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd and Demetrious Tsafendas, the man who, on 6 September 1966, posed as a messenger and stabbed the leader to death in Parliament. Sher's drama, in which he's previously said he will star, is inspired by A Mouthful of Glass, Dutch writer Henk van Woerden's biography of madman Tsafendas. Meanwhile, the actor is about to reprise his roles in The Roman Actor and The Malcontent as part of the RSC's Jacobean season, transferring this month to the West End.
Five Gold Rings revolves around Henry, who has invited his two sons and his wives and their wives to his home for Christmas. One son is sexually fertile, the other is not. The conflicting needs of the two couples clash, intertwine and explode. Laurens' new play follows her 2000 debut at the Gate Theatre, The Three Birds, which won her the Time Out Award for Most Outstanding New Talent.
Set near the Mexican border, Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss also involves two brothers who return home and will be directed by Attenborough. After a long absence, they confront each other, their violent past and the death of their father in a story that slips between the past and present. American actor and writer Shepard's many acclaimed plays include True West, Fool for Love and A Lie of the Mind. The Late Henry Moss received its world premiere in San Francisco in 2002 before opening in New York earlier this year.
Rounding out the Attenborough's programme is the Almeida Opera, an annual season of new opera and music theatre which, in its 12th year in 2003, will feature five world premieres including Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm?, running in a double bill with Salvatore Sciarrino's Infinito Nero.
A former RSC associate, Michael Attenborough took over from Almeida "dream team" Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid in July 2002. The company has been absent from the London stage since it finished its acclaimed season in a disused bus shelter at King's Cross that same month. The £4 million pound essential renovations to its home base in Islington, originally due to last just one year, were started in February 2001.
- Terri Paddock