English Touring Theatre’s new revival of Alan Bennett’s 1977 play The Old Country, starring Timothy West, had its West End opening last night (20 March 2006, previews from 13 March) at Trafalgar Studios, where it continues its limited season in the larger Studio 1 until 16 May 2006.

West plays Hilary, a British spy in exile. When his sister Victoria and newly knighted brother-in-law Duff (Susan Tracy and Simon Williams) come to visit him and his wife Bron (Jean Marsh) at their outpost in the Russian countryside, all are forced to re-examine their allegiances. The cast also includes Rebecca Charles and Tim Delap as neighbours Olga and Eric.

West was last seen in the West End in 2003 playing the title role in ETT’s production of King Lear, also directed by ETT artistic director Stephen Unwin. That was the company’s last transfer prior to a financial crisis that threatened to shut it down (See News, 19 Nov 2003). However, The Old Country is ETT’s second transfer in 2006, following last month’s opening of Hamlet, starring Ed Stoppard and Anita Dobson, at the New Ambassadors.

Co-produced by Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, The Old Country first opened at Guildford on 1 February 2006 before visiting Brighton, Bath, Malvern and Richmond and transferring to the West End.

Our Whatsonstage.com photographer nipped in to Trafalgar Studios for last night’s curtain call and the post-show party with The Old Country’s cast and director. West was joined there by Prunella Scales, his actress-wife of 42 years.

- by Terri Paddock

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