Following two sell-out seasons in east London, Theatre Royal Stratford East’s critically acclaimed screen-to-stage adaptation of the cult reggae film The Harder They Come returns this year for a month at the Barbican Theatre, where it runs from 11 March to 5 April 2008 (previews from 6 March) before also visiting Birmingham Hippodrome from 11 to 13 April 2008.

Based on the 1972 film that starred Jimmy Cliff and introduced reggae to a worldwide audience, The Harder They Come tells the story of young singer Ivan Martin who heads to Kingston in Jamaica with dreams of becoming a reggae star, but the harsh reality of the music scene drives him to a fast and furious life as an outlaw.

The stage version – written by Perry Henzell, the co-writer, director and producer of the original film, who died in 2006 – premiered in April 2006 at Theatre Royal Stratford, where it had a return season last year. It features songs from the film soundtrack, including “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and “By the Rivers of Babylon”, accompanied by a live reggae band.

Rolan Bell and Joanna Francis, who appeared in both previous stagings of the musical, will reprise their performances at the Barbican. The production is directed by Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael and Dawn Reid, and designed by Ultz with choreography by Jacki Guy. To complement The Harder They Come, the Barbican will present a concurrent season of Jamaican cinema.

Ahead of The Harder They Come, other theatre highlights in the Barbican’s new 2008 season include: the award-winning duo Ridiculusmus celebrating their 15th anniversary with a new piece, Tough Time, Nice Time (13 February to 15 March), in which two naked Germans trade stories in a Bangkok spa; and, from Berlin’s Schaubuhne am Lehniner Platz, celebrated director Thomas Ostermeier’s contemporary version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (27 February to 1 March), performed in Genrman with English surtitles.

- by Terri Paddock