Theatregoers will have to wait a bit longer for Vanessa Redgrave’s much-anticipated return, after a 43-year absence, to the Royal Shakespeare Company (See News, 29 Mar 2004). Redgrave is still set to take the title role in Euripides’ ancient Greek classic, Hecuba, translated by Tony Harrison and directed by RSC associate director Laurence Boswell, but the production will no longer open next month in Stratford.

The Stratford dates, scheduled for 19 February to 26 March 2005, have been cancelled to allow Redgrave more time for recuperation following a recent operation. As compensation, some additional dates have been added to Hecuba limited London season (See News, 15 Jul 2004). Originally running from 1 April to 7 May at the West End’s Albery Theatre, the production will now begin there on 26 March, ahead of a 7 April press performance.

In a statement issued today, Redgrave (pictured) said: “I am very disappointed that I can’t play Hecuba at Stratford-upon-Avon, and that audiences who’ve made their bookings won’t be able to see the play there. I am grateful, though, that the RSC season in London gives time for me to fully recover from an operation, and that I can perform Hecuba at the end of March at the Albery Theatre. I am amazed by Tony Harrison’s translation of Euripides, and by Laurence Boswell’s vision of the play and so glad that I still have the chance to work with the company of Hecuba.”

Dating from the fifth century BC, Hecuba tells the tragedy of the Queen of Troy and her family during the Trojan wars. Redgrave’s last RSC performance was as Imogen in Cymbeline in 1962. The actress is well known internationally for her myriad film credits, including The Pledge, Girl, Interrupted, Mrs Dalloway, Mission: Impossible, Smilla's Sense of Snow, Howard's End, A Man for All Seasons, Mary, Queen of Scots and Murder on the Orient Express.

Her most recent London stage credits include, opposite her brother, Corin Redgrave (about to play King Lear and Tynan for the RSC in London), The Cherry Orchard at the National and Song at Twilight in the West End, and at Shakespeare's Globe, The Tempest, in which she played Prospero. In 2003, she starred in the Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, which won her the Tony Award for Best Actress (See News, 9 Jun 2003).

Following its London season, Hecuba will visit the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Theatregoers who booked for the cancelled performances in Stratford will be offered alternative booking dates for London performances or given refunds. The RSC is now in the process of re-scheduling a programme of performances to replace Hecuba at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

- by Terri Paddock