Ben Miles (pictured) stars as a desperate father facing a custody battle in My Child, a new play by Mike Bartlett which runs at the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 3 May to 2 June (See News, 6 Feb 2007).

Miles was nominated for the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Bolingbroke in Richard II at the Old Vic, alongside Kevin Spacey. His many other stage credits include Macbeth, Trelawney of the Wells, Mary Stuart, The London Cuckolds and The Cherry Orchard at the National, and Hand in Hand to the Promised Land at Hampstead. On TV, he’s best known as Patrick in Coupling. He has also starred in Under the Greenwood Tree, A Thing Called Love, Hustle, Spin, Prime Suspect, Love Again, The Project, Peak Practice, Holby City and Cold Feet.

The play, directed by new Court associate director Sacha Wares, also stars Lia Williams (As You Like It for the RSC, Oleanna, King Lear, Skylight for the National) and Sara Kestelman (Nine at the Donmar, Copenhagen at the National and in the West End). My Child also marks the start of a new ticket pricing scheme for under-25’s, with 500 tickets for each main run available at just £5.

Meanwhile at the National (See News, 15 Feb 2007), Rory Kinnear (currently starring in The Man of Mode) and Ruth Wilson (who starred in the title role in the BBC drama adaptation of Jane Eyre) are joined by Phil Davis (Notes on a Scandal, Vera Drake, Bleak House, Rose and Maloney) making his NT debut; Conleth Hill (The Seafarer at the NT, The Producers and Stones in His Pockets in the West End, both of which won him Oliviers); Duncan Bell (The Life of Galileo); and Justine Mitchell (Coram Boy, The House of Bernarda Alba) in Philistines.

Howard Davies directs Maxim Gorky’s darkly comic 1902 play in a new version by Andrew Upton, running in rep in the NT Lyttelton from 30 May 2007 (previews from 23 May). Amongst a restless bunch of young radicals, sometime law student Pyotr (Kinnear) falls for the loose-living lodger while his sister Tanya (Wilson) carps on about the tedium of life and botches her own suicide.

At the Young Vic, Vernon God Little, based on the Booker Prize-winning novel by DBC Pierre, will star Sian Reeves (Cutting It, Just the Two of Us) and newcomer Colin Morgan (who has been chosen from his course at Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) in the title role in Rufus Norris’ production (See News, 5 Jul 2006).

The play, adapted by Tanya Ronder, receives its world premiere on 2 May 2007 (previews from 27 April) and continues until 9 June 2007. In the sheriff’s office, fast-talking Vernon sits in his underpants, staring at his Nikes, after his best friend Jesus killed all their classmates before committing suicide.

** DON’T MISS our Outing to VERNON GOD LITTLE on 9 May 2007 - including our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with Rufus Norris & the cast - all for just £20!! – click here for more details! **

At the Almeida (See News, 3 Nov 2006), Tony Armatrading (Fair Maid of the West, Macbeth, The Constant Couple for the RSC), Lenora Critchlow (93.2FM at the Royal Court, TV’s Sugar Rush), Jenny Jules (Fabulation, Gem of the Ocean, Walk Hard, Talk Lou, The Promise and The Colour of Justice at the Tricycle), Novella Nelson (Raisin in the Sun at the Young Vic and Lyric Hammersmith) and Danny Sapani (The Overwhelming, His Dark Materials, OJO’s Macbeth) star in the European premiere of black American playwright Theodore Ward’s Big White Fog, which is directed by Almeida artistic director Michael Attenborough and runs from 17 May to 30 June 2007 (previews from 11 May).

Set in Chicago between 1922 and 1933, it follows the journey of members of the Mason family and the pursuit of their own ideological beliefs, as they steer a course through post-World War II racism and the Great Depression. Supported by wife Ella, Vic’s loyalty is to Marcus Garvey’s separatist Back to Africa campaign, while his brother-in-law Dan is committed to the American Dream, believing that the black community can prosper and succeed within the system.

The play also features Ayesha Antoine, Martin Barron, Aaron Brown, Clint Dyer, Tunji Kasim, Al Matthews, Guga Mbatha-Raw, Susan Salmon, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Gynn Sweet and Tony Turner.

Also at the Almeida, the cast has been announced for A Chain Play, which will be performed on Friday (23 March 2007) to raise money for the theatre (See News, 2 Mar 2007).

Michelle Austin (Generations at the Young Vic), Tito Fagbenle (a student at Identity Drama School), Alastair Mackenzie (Monarch of the Glen), Big White Fog’s Jenny Jules and Danny Sapani, and Jodie Whittaker (Enemies at the Almeida, Venus on screen) star in the play.

Samuel Adamson, Moira Buffini, David Hare, Charlotte Jones, Frank McGuinness and Roy Williams have all contributed to the piece, which will be staged by Tom Cairns. Each writer was given two weeks to write a 10 to 15 minute scene before handing over to the next writer in the chain. Tickets cost £150 and are available from the Almeida box office.

Finally, at the West End’s Criterion Theatre, Robert Portal (Tom and Viv at the Almeida) takes over from Charles Edwards as Richard Hannay, while Jimmy Chisholm (The Merchant of Venice, A Life in the Theatre, The Comedy of Errors, Three Sisters and Hamlet at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum) replaces Rupert Degas as one of the two “clowns”, alongside existing cast members Simon Gregor and Rachel Pickup in the and Olivier Award-winning comedy The 39 Steps (See News 13 Dec 2006).

Patrick Barlow’s comic stage adaptation of John Buchan’s whodunit – which premiered in June 2005 at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse – features four actors playing “150 roles” between them to tell the tale of London bachelor Hannay fleeing to Scotland and breaking a spy ring to prove his innocence after a woman is found murdered in his home.

The 39 Steps was memorably filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935, and the stage version recreates all of the story’s thrills and spills, including the chase on the Flying Scotsman and the escape on the Forth Bridge. It is directed by Maria Aitken and presented in the West End by Edward Snape for Fiery Angel Ltd and Tricycle London Productions Ltd in association with the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

- by Caroline Ansdell