Lady Reopens Almeida After Two-Year RenovationsDate: 15 May 2003
London's Almeida Theatre officially reopens tonight (Thursday, 15 May 2003) - after more than two years' closure during a £7.6 million refurbishment - with the opening night of The Lady from the Sea (following previews from 8 May). Directed by Trevor Nunn (in his first offering since stepping down as National Theatre artistic director) and starring Natasha Richardson (in her first London stage appearance in more than a decade), the much-anticipated production also inaugurates the artistic directorship of Michael Attenborough.
Ibsen's 1888 drama, in a new version by Pam Gems, centres on Ellida (played by Richardson), trapped in a stifling marriage to a widower and haunted by a love from her past to the point of obsession. Nunn's mounting has been on the cards for more than two years and was originally expected to be mounted at the National with Nicole Kidman. It marks his first theatre production after leaving the NT at the end of March.
Richardson - whose award-winning New York credits include Cabaret, Closer and Anna Christie - is the sister of actress Joely Richardson and daughter of Vanessa Redgrave, who famously played the part of the tragic Ellida some 25 years ago in a renowned production at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London.
Also in the cast of The Lady from the Sea are Claudie Blakley, John Bowe, Louise Clein, Benedict Cumberbatch, Geoffrey Hutchings, Tim McInnerny and Eoin McCarthy. The production - sponsored by Coutts - is designed by Rob Howell, with music by Shaun Davey, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by John Leonard.
Appointed in January 2002, Michael Attenborough officially took over as artistic director of London's Almeida last July, succeeding the "dream team" of Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid, who, over the previous decade, had built the intimate 320-seat venue into one of the country's most fashionable theatrical powerhouses (See News, 10 Jan 2002). Rather than producing, however, Attenborough has spent his first ten months in the job in planning and preparing to reopen the Almeida's home in Islington, north London, which has been closed since February 2001. (Click here to read our "Changing of the Guard" interview with Attenborough.)
- by Terri Paddock