As its 30th anniversary year, 2002 was a big one for Richmond's Orange Tree, and now the schedule for 2003 looks like an equally promising and varied follow-up. The new winter/spring season launches next week with the British premiere production of Czech president Vaclav Havel's version of The Beggar's Opera and goes on to include a new play written and directed by Don Taylor, a new translation of a Frederico Garcia Lorca classic and a French Farce.

Havel's take on John Gay's well-known classic, newly translated by Paul Wilson, has no singing but is set in the dark underworld of 18th century London, rife with deceit, love and sex. The production is timed to coincide with Havel's departure from office in February.

In addition to his success as a politician in his native Czech Republic, Havel is internationally renowned as a prolific writer of books, speeches, essays and poetry as well as a number of plays, ten of which have previously been staged at the Orange Tree in the past. The Beggar's Opera is directed by Geoffrey Beevers and designed by Tim Meacock. It runs from 15 January to 15 February 2003.

Don Taylor's new play, which he directs from 19 February to 15 March 2003, is The Road to the Sea. A veteran TV director, Taylor's theatre credits include a new translation of Euripides' Women of Troy for the Orange tree in 2001 and Retreat from Moscow, which he wrote and directed at the New End in the early 1990s. The Road to the Sea follows a young woman's dangerous journey to find the identity of her father and explores themes of violence and war in the new millennium.

It's followed by associate director Auriol Smith's production of Lorca's final play, The House of Bernada Alba, in which a family of women struggle against one another and the repression of society. Smith has worked with Rebecca Morahan to create this new translation, running 19 March to 19 April 2003.

The last pre-summer offering at the Orange Tree is The Game Hunter by Georges Feydeau, the French playwright renowned for his farces. Artistic director Sam Walters will direct Richard Cottrell's translation of Feydeau's original Monsieur Chasse. Walter's recent productions include Chekhov's The Three Sisters early in 2002 and Saint's Day by John Whiting in November.

- by Hannah Khalil