As previously tipped (See The Goss, 2 Jan 2007), Lee Evans won’t be the only comedian flexing his West End acting muscles care of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter next month. Prior to the opening of Pinter’s 1960 play The Dumb Waiter at Trafalgar Studios (See News, 2 Jan 2007), Bill Bailey will star in a series of 13 Pinter sketches and monologues, dating from 1958 up to 2002 and never before performed together.

The sketches – which include Night (1969) and The New World Order (1991) and are collectively titled Pinter’s People - will have a limited four-week season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 1 to 23 February 2007 (previews from 30 January). The premiere production is directed by Sean Foley of the Right Size fame (The Play What I Wrote).

British Comedy Award winner Bailey – a familiar TV face from Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Black Books who was last in the West End two years ago with his stand-up show Part Troll (See News, 7 Oct 2004) – is a lifelong Pinter fan and has been planning the project for over 20 years. He’s joined in the four-strong cast by Kevin Eldon (The Big Train), Geraldine McNulty (My Hero) and Sally Phillips (Green Wing).

Prior to its London season, Pinter’s People, earlier referred to as The Harold Pinter Sketches, had out-of-town tryout on 1 and 2 December at the 480-seat Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe, north Devon, near Bailey’s home in the village of Combe Martin. Pinter himself attended rehearsals before giving his blessing, and suggesting the new title.

Pinter’s People is produced by comedy producer Mick Perrin for Just for Laughs Live. Speaking to today, Perrin said he did not believe himself to be crossing over into theatre with the production. “These are comedy sketches,” he said. “Some of them are very black, but they are very very funny. People who don’t usually think of Pinter in a comic light are going to be very surprised.”

Currently at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, American comedy Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks - starring Claire Bloom and Hollywood’s Billy Zane will now finish on 27 January (See News, 5 Jan 2007). Following the Pinter will be a new production of Edward Albee’s rarely seen 1980 play The Lady from Dubuque (See News, 24 Nov 2006) - starring Maggie Smith and Catherine McCormack and directed by Anthony Page - which opens for a strictly limited three-month season on 20 March 2007 (previews from 8 March).

- by Terri Paddock