After addressing the collapse of the UK’s railways in last year’s The Permanent Way, Out of Joint and its artistic director Max Stafford Clark are handling another political hot potato. For OjO’s new play, Talking to Terrorists, the company interviewed people who’ve been actively involved in terrorism in an attempt to understand what drives ordinary people to take such extreme actions.

The production opens on 21 April 2005 at Bury St Edmunds’ Theatre Royal. It then continues, until 25 June 2005, to eight other venues – in Oxford, Malvern, Leeds, Manchester, Ipswich, Coventry, Salisbury and Liverpool - before transferring to London’s Royal Court Theatre from 4 to 30 July 2005 (previews from 30 June).

Like David Hare’s drama about the railways, Talking to Terrorists is a “verbatim play”, with the basis for the text the words of real people. In preparing the piece, Stafford-Clark, actor-turned-playwright Robin Soans and the actors spoke not only to terrorists, but also to peacemakers, warriors, hostages, politicians and psychiatrists. The various stories are drawn from Africa, Israel, Turkey, Iraq and Ireland as well as Britain.

As a playwright, Soans has previously had success in the verbatim medium with A State Affair (for OjO), uncovering fear and hope on a Bradford council estate, and last year’s The Arab-Israeli Cookbook (for London’s Gate Theatre), which featured recipes for food and peace in Palestine from 42 real-life characters.

In Talking to Terrorists, an ensemble of eight will play 24 characters. The cast are: Alexander Hanson, Lloyd Hutchinson, Ruth Negga, June Watson, Christopher Ryman, Chipo Chung, Catherine Russell and Chris Ettridge. The production is directed by Stafford-Clark and designed by Jonathan Fensom, with lighting by Johanna Town and sound by Gareth Fry.

At the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Talking to Terrorists will be preceded in the newly confirmed summer season schedule by Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Woman Before, running from 17 May to 18 June 2005 (previews from 12 May). Translated by David Tushingham and directed by Richard Wilson, the play revolves around Frank, who doesn’t recognise the woman at the door, though she tells his wife they’re lovers. She’s come to remind him of a promise made 20 years before.

Meanwhile, in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, the season opens with the world premiere of Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness, the latest play from David Eldridge, who won this year’s Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best New Play for his adaptation of Festen, still running in the West End. In Eldridge’s new play, ordinary man Joey feels like everywhere he looks people are slipping away. In a world he can’t connect with, is there someone out there who can connect with Joey?

The cast for Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness are: Tom Georgeson (Frozen), Kellie Bright, Keir Charles, Shaun Dingwall, Diane Parish and Heshima Thompson. The premiere production is directed by Sean Holmes and designed by Anthony Lamble. It runs from 9 to 28 May 2005 (previews from 6 May).

Eldridge’s play is followed Upstairs by: Juan Mayorga’s 1942-set Way to Heaven, translated by David Johnston and directed by Ramin Gray (running 16 June to 9 July); and Amid the Clouds, written and directed by Amir Reza Koohestani and performed by Shiva Fallahi and Hassan Madjooni in Farsi with English surtitles (13 to 23 July).

- by Terri Paddock