Enron, the bankrupt American energy company whose name has become synonymous with corporate fraud, provides the inspiration for The Sugar Syndrome author Lucy Prebble’s new play, which will receive its world premiere in 2009 as part of Rupert Goold’s new Headlong Theatre season.

Goold announced his second season as artistic director of Headlong - the touring outfit formerly known as Oxford Stage Company, which he rebranded and relaunched in 2006 (See News, 29 Aug 2006) – at a press conference at London’s Hospital Club this morning. In an “eclectic and heady mix” of collaborations and co-productions, other programme highlights include new pieces by Richard Bean and Anthony Neilson, the winner of the frist Gate/Headlong New Directions Award, a re-imagining of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author and Goold’s previously announced King Lear with Pete Postlethwaite (See News, 12 Dec 2007).

The various productions will premiere at partner theatres across the country, with further casting details and full tour schedules announced in due course. At this morning's event Goold stated that his mission for the company going forward is that a full three-quarters of its output will be new and, rather than launching conventional tour schedules for each offering, “we will find the product and then the product will find its appropriate home”.

Headlong’s “Season Two” comprises:

  • The English Game - Richard Bean’s new play premieres at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud theatre, where it runs from 12 to 17 May 2008 (previews from 7 May) before touring to Exeter, Leeds, Oxford, Manchester and other venues. Billed as an “ambitious state-of-the-nation play in the epic tradition of Storey and Hare”, it explores racial politics and the modern British psyche through the experiences of an inept Cricklewood cricket team. It’s directed by Sean Holmes, who directed Bean’s The Mentalists at the National. Bean’s many other plays include Harvest, The God Botherers and Toast.

  • …Sisters - Adapted and directed by Chris Goode, this deconstruction of Chekhov’s Three Sisters is at London’s Gate Theatre from 11 June to 5 July 2008 (previews from 5 June). Described as an investigation of “what the liveness of theatre can mean for both performer and audience”, the events and concerns of the original are “re-wired into constantly shifting relationships”, resulting in a different performance every night. Goold says only about two percent of Chekhov remains in the piece by 34-year-old Goode, who, he says, is “streets ahead of everyone in his generation”. Goode’s company Signal to Noise previously had a hit with The Tempest, which was first seen at the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe and launched a UK-wide tour of people’s living rooms. …Sisters is the winner from more than 300 entries to the inaugural New Directions competition, launched by the Gate and Headlong in order to find a new approach to classic international plays.

  • Six Characters in Search of an Author - Headlong updates this 1921 classic, the best-known play by Italian Luigi Pirandello, for the “media-obsessed age” of the 21st century, running at Chichester Festival’s Minerva Theatre (where Goold’s multi award-winning production of the Patrick Stewart-led Macbeth started last summer) from 8 July to 30 August 2008 (previews from 28 June). The new version is by Goold and Ben Power, whose previous hit Faustus melded Marlowe with a tale of modern concept artists, the Chapman brothers.

  • King Lear - Pete Postlethwaite takes the title role in Goold’s new production of Shakespeare’s tragedy, which is now confirmed for a run from 5 to 29 November 2008 (previews from 30 October) at Liverpool Everyman as part of the theatre’s programme for Liverpool’s reign this year as the European Capital of Culture (See News, 12 Dec 2007). Though further casting has not yet been confirmed, Goold has offered the part of the Fool to Ken Dodd and invited the comedian to perform his own material within the play.

  • Edwart Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness - Anthony Neilson’s play was first seen at the Drum Theatre in Plymouth in 2002, the first in the writer-director’s trilogy which went on to comprise Realism and The Wonderful World of Dissocia. It will be recreated in rehearsal for the new Headlong production in 2009 at a venue and date still to confirmed. It’s inspired by a 19th-century freak show act and is billed as “a strange and beautiful exploration of performance and performers, of sadness, mortality and wonder”.

  • E.N.R.O.N. - Lucy Prebble’s new play will also be staged in 2009, date and venue to be confirmed. Prebble won the George Devine and Critics’ Circle Most Promising Playwright Award for her debut, The Sugar Syndrome, in 2004. The new piece promises to mix classical tragedy with the savage comedy of David Mamet as it follows a group of hubristic men and women in their story of greed and loss. Before Texas-headquartered energy company Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001, it employed 22,000 people around the world and reported annual revenues of some $111 billion. It later emerged that "America's Most Innovative Company" had been perpetrating a creative and complex accounting fraud for years.

    Prior to the newly announced shows, Headlong will conclude its “Season One: Reinventing the Epic” with the previously announced European premiere of American Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot which runs from 3 April to 10 May 2008 (previews from 28 March) at London’s Almeida Theatre, directed by Goold (See News, 30 Oct 2007).

    - by Terri Paddock

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