This week, Jeremy Irons (pictured) returned to the London stage for the first time in nearly 18 years to star in the world premiere of Embers, adapted by Christopher Hampton from Sandor Marai’s best-selling novel of the same name and directed by Michael Blakemore. Whatsonstage.com was there at the opening night (Wednesday 1 March 2006) to capture all of the celebrity comings and goings, front of house and backstage, at the West End’s Duke of York’s Theatre.

Amongst the stars attending the play’s premiere were actors Charles Dance, Nigel Havers, Kevin Spacey, Robert Powell, Fenella Fielding and Bond girl Miriam D’Abo, director Richard Eyre, musician Jools Holland, writer John Mortimer and advertising guru Maurice Saatchi. (Plus, Charles Spencer, Michael Billington and John Peter – critics of the Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Sunday Times, respectively – were caught in the first night act.)

Whatsonstage.com also caught the curtain call and went backstage into the dressing rooms with Irons, his actress-wife Sinead Cusack and son Max Irons as well as co-stars Patrick Malahide and Jean Boht and the Embers’ creative team and producers.

Embers is set in 1940 war-torn Europe in a Hungarian castle where retired general Henrik (Irons) and his long-time servant (Boht) await the arrival of Konrad (Malahide), the one-time friend of him and his beautiful wife Kriztina, who he hasn’t seen in decades. Long after Konrad’s departure and Kriztina’s death, Henrik still has questions that need answering.

The play is presented in the West End by debut theatre producers, Eric Abraham and Robert Haggiag, who are both better known for their TV and film credits including A Murder of Quality, Dalziel and Pascoe, Moulin Rouge, El Cid, The Barefoot Contessa and Lolita.

- by Terri Paddock

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