Lisa Goldman - who was appointed artistic director of Soho Theatre last year (See News, 27 Apr 2006) – has announced her first full season of productions as well as other plans for the new writing centre. The new season, running from May to September 2007, will see premieres of three plays commissioned and developed by Soho, including the latest from Philip Ridley with a cast including Ben Whishaw (pictured) and Maxine Peake.

Goldman will direct two of the three new productions, starting with Ridley’s Leaves of Glass, which kicks off the schedule from 3 to 26 May 2007. The haunting drama about a family dealing with loss is set near Ridley’s home in the East End of London. It’s billed as a “story of fractured memories, frozen feelings and what lies beneath the fragile veneer we present to those around us and to ourselves”. The play’s run is accompanied at Soho by an exhibition of photos Ridley created to help his writing process, shown in public for the first time, and late night readings by Ridley of his poems charting the stages of a love affair.

Since his critically acclaimed teenaged prince of Denmark in Trevor Nunn’s Award-winning 2004 staging of Hamlet at the Old Vic, Ben Whishaw has found big screen fame playing the smell-sensitive serial killer in Perfume. His other stage credits include His Dark Materials and The Seagull (opposite Juliet Stevenson) at the National and Ridley’s 2005 play Mercury Fur for Paines Plough on tour and at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Maxine Peake is best known for her roles in TV series Shameless, Messiah and Dinnerladies, but she has also starred in many stage productions including The Cherry Orchard, The Relapse (both at the National), Mother Theresa Is Dead (Royal Court), and in the West End, Miss Julie and last year’s On the Third Day, winner of Channel 4’s playwriting competition The Play’s the Thing. Whishaw and Peake are joined in the Leaves of Glass cast by Ruth Sheen and Trystan Gravelle.

Following Leaves of Glass, the Soho season continues, from 31 May to 21 June 2007, with The Christ of Coldharbour Lane, the new play by British Nigerian writer Oladipo Agboluaje whose The Estate was at Soho in 2006. Directed by Paulette Randall (formerly artistic director of Talawa Theatre), the comedy, set in Brixton, follows a preaching ex-prisoner’s mission to make revolution.

Finally, Goldman will direct the premiere of Baghdad Wedding, the first play by London-based Iraqi writer Hassan Abdulrazzak, which runs from 28 June to 21 July 2007. Against a backdrop of London and war-torn Iraq, three friends grapple with their sexual, cultural and political identity. The in-house productions are followed by the returns of Deafinitely Theatre with Playing God (26 July to 4 August) and the National Youth Theatre with a season of Tanika Gupta’s White Boy and Marcy Kahan’s 20 Cigarettes (10 August to 1 September).

In addition, Goldman has today outlined her intentions to: “define” the theatre “by its Soho location, with its vibrant and subversive history” while also creating a dialogue with London’s “global culture”; use the entire building as a vehicle for “public debate around politics, culture and art”; explore the crossover between comedy and “pioneering new writing”; and expand the theatre’s work with young people and the local community.

As part of these changes, the building’s ground floor bar is now under new management with cheaper prices and a new name (the Soho Theatre Bar), a strand of provocative Talks has been introduced, and work with young people and the community has been brought together under the banner of Soho Connect, which will create annual site-specific walkabout pieces involving locals. The first of these will be “Moon Walking in Chinatown”, timed to coincide with the Chinese Autumn Moon Festival in September.

- by Terri Paddock