Gish Goes to Chichester, Plater Premieres EmpireDate: 14 July 2003
Alan Plater's latest play receives its world premiere at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury later this month. Last Days of the Empire - which is Plater's second commission for the theatre, following last year's Only a Matter of Time - runs from 23 July to 30 August 2003.
Set in the 1950s, the comedy traces the decline of variety theatre. In a crumbling venue, the blacked-up Pedro Gonzales and his Caribbean Rhythm are all set to start their gig when their singer goes AWOL. A replacement arrives but he's not what they expected - Joe is actually black and from the Caribbean.
Directed by Watermill's John Doyle (who also directed Only a Matter of Time), the cast features Jim Bywater, Paul Greenwood, Oliver Judge, Heather Panton, Darren Saul and Susan Jane Tanner. Original music has been written for Last Days of the Empire by celebrated jazz musician John Dankworth.
Plater's award-winning television plays include Fortunes of War, A Very British Coup, The Beiderbecke Trilogy, The Barchester Chronicles and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. His other stage work includes Close the Coalhouse Door, Sweet Sorrow, Shooting the Legend, All Credit to the Lads and I Thought I Heard a Rustling. He was most recently represented in the West End by the 1999/2000 production of Peggy for You, the homage to the late and legendary literary agent Peggy Ramsay, played by Maureen Lipman.
Meanwhile, at Chichester Festival Theatre, Sheila Gish has joined the cast of The Seagull, appearing on stage for the first time with her real-life daughter Kay Curram. Gish will play Arkadina in Phyllis Nagy's new version of the 1896 Chekhov classic, and also starring Philip Quast (as Trigorin), Desmond Barrit (Sorin) and Michael Feast Dorn.
Gish's many stage credits include Berenice, Uncle Vanya, Suddenly Last Summer, A Streetcar Named Desire, Les Parents Terribles, What the Butler Saw, Neverland Company (for which she won an Olivier) and, more recently, the Edward Albee double bill Finding the Sun/Marriage Play at the National and last year's Phaedra.
The Seagull, the last main house production in this summer's Chichester Festival season, is directed by joint artistic director Steven Pimlott and designed by Alison Chitty. It runs in repertory from 1 August to 4 October 2003.
- by Terri Paddock