As previously tipped (See The Goss, 3 Mar 2005), New York hit The Countess will transfer to the West End this summer after receiving its UK premiere next month (4 to 14 May) at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (See News, 29 Mar 2005). It opens on 7 June 2005 (previews from 2 June) at the Criterion Theatre, where it’s initially booking up to 17 September.

A long-running hit Off-Broadway, where it had 634 performances at multiple venues before finishing in December 2000, Gregory Murphy’s drama recounts a real-life love scandal dating from 1853.

In Victorian London society, when his wife Effie sued art critic John Ruskin for divorce on the grounds that their marriage had never been consummated, she was ostracised. Later, the involvement of another man - John Everett Millais, a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement – in the love triangle was revealed. Who is the woman who one man calls mad and the other calls … The Countess.

In the UK, Nick Moran (pictured - who’s best known for the film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, has been seen on stage in Four Nights in Knaresborough and has just made his playwriting debut with Telstar) and Alison Pargeter (Evening Standard Best Newcomer for Damsels in Distress) will star as John Ruskin and Effie. They’re joined in the cast by Damian O'Hare (Juno and the Paycock, Richard II, Coriolanus, The Magic Toyshop) as Millais, Gerald Harper (London Assurance, Mrs Warren’s Profession, TV’s Adam Adamant Lives!, Hadleigh) and, as previously announced, Jean Boht (TV’s Bread) and Linda Thorson (The Constant Wife, TV’s The Avengers).

The Countess is directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser, who produced and directed the play’s world premiere in New York. Villar-Hauser’s previous West End credits include Long Day’s Journey into Night. She moved to the US in 1985 and bought New York’s Greenwich Street Theatre, where Murphy’s play was originally seen in 1999.

The Countess is Gregory Murphy’s first play. Since its premiere, he’s written a screenplay of the stage original, a first novel, entitled Incognito, and is now working on a new play about the life of Charles Dickens. The UK production of The Countess is designed by Jason Denvir, with costumes by Christopher Lione, lighting by Doug Filomena, sound by Dan Last and music by Dewey Dellay. It’s presented by Counts Productions UK Ltd.

- by Terri Paddock