Embers, the new Christopher Hampton play which has returned Jeremy Irons (pictured) to the London stage for the first time in nearly 18 years, has extended its limited West End season. It opened at the Duke of York’s theatre on 1 March 2006 (previews from 15 February) and had been booking until 27 May 2006. It will now continue for a further four weeks to 24 June 2006.

The play is based on the novel of the same name, which was written by the late Hungarian Sandor Marai in 1942 and which became an international best-seller when it was rediscovered and published in English and German in 2002. Embers is set in 1940 in war-torn Europe. In a Hungarian castle, retired general Henrik (Irons) awaits the arrival of Konrad, 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.

Though Irons appeared regularly on stage earlier in his career – not least opposite Glenn Close in a Broadway production of The Real Thing, for which he won the 1984 Best Actor Tony – he is now best known internationally for his films. Those include Brideshead Revisited, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Dead Ringers, Reversal of Fortune (for which he won a Best Actor Academy Award), Damage, Die Hard III, Stealing Beauty, The Man in the Iron Mask, Longitude, The Merchant of Venice and Kingdom of Heaven. On television, he’s just been seen opposite Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I.

Irons has had brief appearances on stage in recent years – appearing in Camelot at the Hollywood Bowl and A Little Night Music in New York and narrating the one-off performance of A Soldier’s Tale at West End’s Old Vic last November (See News, 15 Oct 2004) – but his last full London stage credits were in 1988, when he appeared in Richard II and Aphra Behn’s The Rover for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Mermaid Theatre.

Irons is joined in the Embers cast by Patrick Malahide and Jean Boht. The three-hander is directed by Michael Blakemore and 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.

Commenting on today’s extension, Eric Abraham said: “The response to Embers clearly shows that there is a real appetite for serious drama in the West End.”

- by Terri Paddock