Ehle & Reeves Join National's EnsembleDate: 1 August 1999
Over the next month, both Jennifer Ehle and Saskia Reeves will join the National Theatre's recently formed ensemble company. This week, Reeves stars in the UK premiere of Rita Dove's The Darker Face of the Earth which opens at the Cottesloe on 5 August while Ehle will join the cast of Maxim Gorky's Summerfolk, opening in the Olivier Theatre on 3 September.
National artistic director Trevor Nunn founded the NT Ensemble at the beginning of the year, bringing a more coherent repertory atmosphere to the country's leading stage. Since then, the company has mounted several well-received productions including Troilus & Cressida, Candide, Money and The Merchant of Venice.
The Darker Face of the Earth is the first full-length verse play by the Pulitzer prize-winning poet and former American Poet Laureate Rita Dove. Directed by James Kerr, making his National Theatre directing debut, it is described as a powerful exploration of sexual and racial tensions on a cotton plantation in pre-Civil War South Carolina.
Reeves, who plays a plantation owner named Amalia, makes her National Theatre debut in the part. Her extensive theatre credits include Much Ado About Nothing (Cheek by Jowl), Playhouse Creatures (Old Vic) and King Lear (Royal Court). Her film credits include Heart, Butterfly Kiss, Close My Eyes and December Bride.
Nunn himself directs Summerfolk on the National's main stage. The play centres around a group of Russian holidaymakers at the turn of the century. Relationships come under strain, love affairs are exposed and business scandals revealed as the arguments for social change disturb the tranquil summer.
Ehle, who plays Varvara, is known to television audiences for her roles in series such as Pride and Prejudice, Melissa and The Camomile Lawn. On film, she has appeared in This Year's Love and Bedrooms and Hallways. Currently, she is starring in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Donmar Warehouse. Other stage credits include Tartuffe for the Peter Hall company and a season with the RSC.