Simon Shepherd (pictured, with Connie Fisher), returns to the stage for the first time since his sudden departure from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Sound of Music (See News, 6 Nov 2006) in the world première of Frank McGuinness’ new version of Ghosts – Ibsen’s tale of secrets and lies - kicking off Bristol Old Vic's spring 2007 season helmed by acclaimed actor and director Robert Bowman, who has joined Bristol Old Vic as artistic associate.

Later in the year Bowman, who began his career at Ireland’s The Abbey Theatre and has worked extensively with the RSC and the National Theatre, will be taking the title role in Ranjit Bolt’s newly commissioned translation of Cyrano de Bergerac, directed by artistic director Simon Reade.

Other highlights of the season include Reade’s adaptation of Not The End of The World by award-winning writer Geraldine McCaughrean about what happened to Noah’s Ark in the aftermath of the flood, and Lyric Hammersmith artistic director David Farr’s version of the Indian epic, Ramayana.

Reade said: “Robert Bowman is the sparkiest actor of his generation, as well as a director of great promise. I first worked with him at London’s Gate Theatre in the early 1990s and subsequently at the RSC. I am delighted that he will be joining us in 2007 as our artistic associate to collaborate on a season of major new adaptations, exciting classic plays and brilliant works for young people.”

In the Main House

Ghosts runs from 30 January 2007 to 17 February (previews from 26 January). One of Ibsen’s most powerful works, but also one of his most controversial, Ghosts was not performed in the playwright's native Norway for almost a decade after its world première in Chicago in 1881.

Starring alongside Simon Shepherd (Peak Practice on television, the London productions of Art, Bent and The Secret Rapture on stage) are Sian Thomas (Up For Grabs, Hamlet RSC), John Stahl, Séainín Brennan and Sam Crane in McGuinness’ new version of the drama, which sees a mother try to shield her son from the moral lapses of his late father. McGuinness' other plays include Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Toward The Somme, Factory Girls, and Gates of Gold.

Bristol Old Vic artistic director Simon Reade’s adaptation of Not the End of the World, about what happened after the Biblical flood, runs from 13 to 31 March (previews from 9 March). The play is based on the book by Geraldine McCaughrean, whose other work includes the sequel to Peter Pan, Peter Pan in Scarlet.

Leading translator, Ranjit Bolt - whose recent work includes The Marriage of Figaro for Tara Arts in 2006 and the lyrics for the RSC’s Merry Wives of Windsor - has adapted Cyrano de Bergearc, which runs from 9 May to 2 June (previews from 4 May) directed by Simon Reade and starring Robert Bowman. Comic poet and dazzling swordsman, Cyrano is hopelessly in love with Roxane. But Roxane loves the dashing Christian. Cyrano, in a selfless act of love, woos Roxane on Christian’s behalf, writing his love letters, feeding him his lines, in this romantic tale of unrequited love.

Visiting productions include Beggarsbelief and Warwick Arts Centre’s production of George and the Dragon, by Tom Morris and Carl Heap (who also directs), which runs from 20 to 24 February 2007. It’s followed by another Frank McGuinness adaptation, as National Theatre Education in collaboration with Filter Theatre Company present McGuinness’ version of Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, about a servant girl who sacrifices everything to protect a child abandoned in the heat of civil war, only to face giving him back to his biological mother. The Caucasian Chalk Circle runs from 27 February to 3 March, directed by Sean Holmes.

David Farr’s new version of Indian Classic Ramayana, co-produced with the Lyric Hammersmith, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Bristol Old Vic, runs from 13 April to 28 April. A timeless story of love and honour, Ramayana follows the trials of Rama and Sita at the hands of demons, goddesses and an army of monkeys.

On Sunday 4 February, Michael Morpurgo reads from his award-winning novel Private Peaceful - which captures the memories of Private Tommo Peaceful, a young WWI soldier - to the accompaniment of songs especially written and arranged by a capella trio Coope, Boyes and Simpson. The following Sunday, 11 February, comedienne Sheila Steafel performs her one-woman show.

In the Studio

Two pieces by former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo, will feature in the Studio: The Mozart Question, adapted by Simon Reade and directed by Julia McShane, runs from 7 to 10 February, while Morpurgo’s retelling of a selection of Aesop’s Fables - devised for the stage by director Sally Cookson and designer Katie Sykes - runs from 30 March to 21 April (preview 29 March).

Travelling Light in association with Bristol Old Vic presents children’s story Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me from 20 to 24 February, based on the book by Eric Carle and told through physical storytelling, live music and dance. Firebird presents a bold, modern and deeply personal re-working of Marlowe’s classic Doctor Faustus in association with Bristol Old Vic, from 1 to 3 March.

Other visiting productions include gypsy music from The Devil’s Violin, Penny Dreadful’s The Bitches’ Ball, Bristol company Publick Transport’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Office, and Theatre Alibi’s Caught by Daniel Jamieson about Caravaggio’s Nativity painting.

- by Caroline Ansdell