Darwin & Love Me Get Hampstead Back on TrackDate: 22 July 2004
North London’s Hampstead Theatre (pictured) – which, following months of financial crisis, has been dark since 19 June – has announced details for its two new autumn productions. The theatre will reopen on 22 September 2004 with the London premiere of Darwin in Malibu, which will be followed by the world premiere of Nick Stafford’s Love Me Tonight.
In Crispin Whittell’s Darwin in Malibu - first seen at Birmingham Rep in May 2003 and nominated for last year’s TMA Award for Best New New Play - Charles Darwin has wound up in a California beach house overlooking the Pacific with a girl young enough to be his daughter. Believing that all the heated debate about The Origin of Species is far behind him, Darwin now finds guidance from cheap tabloid horoscopes and trashy beach reading. But when his old friend Thomas Huxley washes up on the beach with the Bishop of Oxford, he finds himself entangled in a life and death comedy about God and science, love and loss, and the sex life of barnacles.
At Hampstead, Oliver Ford Davies (Absolutely! (perhaps), King Lear, Racing Demon) plays Darwin with Douglas Henshall (The Coast of Utopia, The Crucible) as Thomas Huxley and Nigel Planer (We Will Rock You, Feelgood, Chicago, TV’s The Young Ones) as the Bishop of Oxford.
The production is directed by Robert Delamere (Whistling Pscyhe, Accidental Death of an Anarchist and, at Hampstead, In Arabia, We’d All be Kings) and designed by Simon Higlett. It runs from 22 September to 16 October (previews from 16 September).
Love Me Tonight, directed by actress-turned-director Kathy Burke (The Quare Fellow and at Hampstead Born Bad and Out in the Open), is a tragi-comedy in which a family confronts itself when the need for love is intensified by grief. The cast includes Linda Bassett (Lucky Dog, Out in the Open, East Is East, Calendar Girls). It runs from 28 October to 20 November 2004 (previews from 21 October).
Hampstead’s autumn season will also feature an International Writers Play Readings week, running from 20 to 26 September 2004. The series includes the work of dramatists hailing from Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Canada and the US as well as the UK.
Hampstead Theatre opened its new £15.7 million state-of-the-art with much fanfare in February 2003, but ended last year, after a string of box office flops, with the resignation of its executive director and an appeal to the Arts Council for additional emergency funding (See News, 18 Dec 2003). A rejig to the spring programme saw the dropping of the premiere of Drew Pautz’s All This Stuff, which was meant to reappear this autumn.
Sell-outs for more recent productions – of Alistair Beaton’s political musical comedy Follow My Leader and American dramatist Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman - came as a welcome change of fortunes. However, the latter play ended its run on 19 June and, as the financial review continues, the theatre will remain dark for the rest of the summer.
- by Terri Paddock