Painting a portrait of 'old' South Africa, I.D. follows the fortunes of two individuals: Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd and Demetrious Tsafendas, the man who, on 6 September 1966, posed as a messenger and stabbed the leader to death in Parliament. The drama is inspired by A Mouthful of Glass, Dutch writer Henk van Woerden's biography of madman Tsafendas.
South African-born Sher - who will play the assassin - has just completed the RSC's Jacobean season in the West End, in which he starred in The Roman Actor and The Malcontent. His many other acting credits include The Winter's Tale, Cyrano de Bergerac, Richard III, Stanley and King Lear.
In I.D., Sher will be joined in the cast by former EastEnders star Alex Ferns (who recently appeared in the West End in Art), we as well as Jon Cartwright, Jonathan Duff, Alex Ferns, Paul Herzberg, Lucian Msamati, Christopher Wells and Jennifer Woodburne. The production is directed by Shared Experience's Nancy Meckler and designed by Katrina Lindsay.
The Almeida season - which reopens the newly refurbished theatre (See News, 7 Apr 2003) - begins in May with the much-anticipated revival of Ibsen's 1888 drama The Lady from the Sea, which will be Trevor Nunn's first production since stepping down as artistic director of the National Theatre. It runs from 15 May to 28 June 2003 (previews from 8 May).
As previously announced, Natasha Richardson will play the lead of Ellida, trapped in a stifling marriage to a widower and haunted by a love from her past. The cast also includes Claudie Blakley, John Bowe, Louise Clein, Benedict Cumberbatch, Geoffrey Hutchings and Tim McInnerny. The production is designed by Rob Howell, with music by Shaun Davey, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by John Leonard.
In between The Lady from the Sea and I.D., the Almeida will host the Almeida Opera, an annual season of new opera and music theatre. Now in its 12th year in 2003, the programme will feature five world premieres including Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm?, running in a double bill with Salvatore Sciarrino's Infinito Nero. The Almeida season continues in the autumn with the UK premiere of Neil LaBute's The Mercy Seat and the world premiere of Joanna Laurens' Five Gold Rings, both directed by Almeida artistic director Michael Attenborough.
A former RSC associate, Attenborough took over from Almeida "dream team" Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid in July 2002. The company has been absent from the London stage since it finished its acclaimed season in a disused bus shelter at King's Cross that same month. The £4 million pound essential renovations to its home base in Islington were started in February 2001. The theatre officially reopens on 8 May 2003.
- Terri Paddock