Northampton’s Royal Theatre will next month present a new production of Hamlet, directed by artistic director Rupert Goold as a finale before the venue closes for a 14-month redevelopment.

The Northampton production of Hamlet will star Tobias Menzies (pictured – whose other credits include Complicite’s Light, Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance and Michael Blakemore’s Three Sisters) as the Prince of Denmark with Jane Birkin (star of over 60 films and infamous for the song “Je T’Aime" recorded with her partner, Serge Gainsbourg) making a rare stage appearance as his mother Gertrude. The cast also features Paul Shelley (as Polonius), Hilton McRae (Claudius), David Ganly (Horatio) and Poppy Miller as Ophelia.

Hamlet follows Goold’s 2003 staging of Shakespeare’s Othello. Other acclaimed Royal productions in recent years have included Paradise Lost and Arcadia (which also featured Menzies). Elsewhere, Goold’s credits have included Sunday Father and the Whatsonstage.com Award-winning Scaramouche Jones, starring Pete Postlethwaite.

Hamlet is designed by Laura Hopkins and has original music composed by Adam Cork. It runs from 17 March to 3 April 2005, when the theatre will hold a special final performance to mark the closure.

The Royal’s current in-house production is a revival of Tom Stoppard’s multi award-winning 1982 comedy The Real Thing, which continues its limited season until 26 February 2005. Directed by Gareth Machin, it stars Matthew Lloyd Davies as Henry , the smartest, sharpest and most wickedly witty playwright of his generation. But writing about betrayal is one thing - living with it is another. When Henry starts to blur the boundaries of life and art, his relationships with the women in his life get rather sticky.

Visiting productions during the Royal’s brief spring 2005 season next month are Kathy Burke’s Sheffield Theatres’ revival of Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange and the Eclipse Theatre premiere of Roy Williams’ Little Sweet Thing.

Over in the twinned Derngate Theatre, the schedule of visiting productions includes kids shows Scooby Doo's Stagefright, the Chuckle Brothers and Postman Pat, as well as the Russian State Ballet, Marie Jones’ Stones in his Pockets and Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I.

Both theatres close in April 2005 for a 14 month redevelopment and are due to reopen in late summer 2006.

- by Hannah Kennedy & Terri Paddock