The award-winning Almeida production of Festen has extended its West End booking period by a week ahead of a planned Broadway transfer. At the Lyric Theatre, where it’s now booking until 9 April 2005, several new cast members join the company from tonight (17 January).

In Festen, based on the 1997 Danish Dogme film of the same name, patriarch Helge Klingelfeldt is celebrating his 60th birthday with his family at a magnificent old house in the Danish countryside. Gathered together are his loyal wife Else, his daughter Helene, and sons Christian and Michael. As the evening progresses, Christian feels compelled to break the silence surrounding a dark family secret.

Paul Nicholls and William Beck now take over as brothers Christian and Michael. Following his role on TV’s EastEnders, Nicholls has appeared in West End productions of Vincent in Brixton and A Long Day’s Journey into Night. Beck’s screen credits include Quicksand, Snatch, Second Generation, Redcap and Attachments.

Carol Royle (most recently seen in the West End in See U Next Tuesday) takes over from Jane Asher as Else, and Susannah Wise (Three Sisters, Sanctuary, Life After George) assumes the role of Michael’s wife Mette from Lisa Palfrey, who will now play sister Helene. Also new to the cast are Morven Christie (as Pia) and Jason Baughan (Kim). In other roles, Stephen Moore (Helge), Sam Beazley (Grandfather), Sam Cox (Poul), Andrew Maud (Lars), Michael Thomas (Helmut) and Patrick Robinson (Gbatokai) remain.

This new English-language stage version of Festen is adapted by David Eldridge, directed by Rufus Norris and designed by Ian MacNeil, with costumes by Joan Wadge, lighting by Jean Kalman, sound by Paul Arditti and music by Orlando Gough. It had its world premiere on 25 March 2004 (previews from 18 March) at north London’s Almeida Theatre, where it ran until 24 April, before transferring to the West End’s Lyric, opening on 23 September 2004 (previews from 15 September). It’s produced in the West End by Marla Rubin and Bill Kenwright.

Amongst the production’s accolades to date are two Evening Standard awards for Best Director and Best Designer and a South Bank Show nomination. It has also been nominated for four Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, including Best New Play and Best Ensemble Performance (click here to vote now).

- by Terri Paddock