British-born American TV star Tracey Ullman is returning to the London stage for the first time in over 20 years to star in Stephen Poliakoff’s new play My City at the Almeida Theatre.

According to the Daily Mail, Ullman will play a former primary school headmistress in Poliakoff’s “high octane” drama, which runs from 15 September (previews from 8 September) to 5 November 2011.

Ullman, who was born and started her career in the UK, found fame in America with The Tracey Ullman Show in the late 80s, which spawned The Simpsons. She subsequently made a number of series including, most recently, Tracey Ullman's State of the Union.

Early in her career she established herself at the Royal Court and in the West End, and has subsequently appeared on stage in a number of one-woman shows as well as starring in The Taming of the Shrew opposite Morgan Freeman and Helen Hunt in New York in 1990.

Celebrating the power of storytelling to raise the human spirit, My City sees Richard Kenton find his primary school headmistress lying on a park bench in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral. As he becomes reacquainted with her and the other teachers that helped shape him, memories of their vivid and imaginative lessons come to life and their tales of London inspire him once more.

Stephen Poliakoff, who also directs the production, told the Mail's Baz Bamigboye, “The character is a very proficient story teller and that plays very strongly to Tracey’s talent for buttonholing us,” adding that it’s a straight role with “one or two mercurial, edgy, hopefully funny moments in it”. He describes the play as an ensemble piece, and “not the Tracey Ullman Show”.

The news comes as a welcome boost for the Almeida, which lost 39 percent of its funding in the recent Arts Council spending review. In a statement, artistic director Michael Attenborough and executive director James Bierman said, “there will be no cuts to our innovative artistic policy or to our ambitions. In the coming years we will take our work to more people than ever before and continue to be a leading national cultural institution.”


In other casting news, Imogen Stubbs, Jonathan Cullen and Doreen Mantle will lead the cast of Jermyn Street Theatre’s forthcoming revival of Ibsen’s 1894 classic Little Eyolf, which runs from 5 to 28 May 2011 (previews from 3 May).

The production, which is directed by Jermyn associate Anthony Biggs, follows the small fringe venue’s recently acclaimed revivals of Terence Rattigan’s Less Than Kind and Tennessee Williams' The Two-Character Play.

Exploring the tension between personal responsibility and high expectations from life and delving into themes of change and the quest for redemption, Little Eyolf was described by George Bernard Shaw as a tragedy that ‘tempts us in spite of ourselves’.

Eyolf is a nine year-old boy on crutches. His ambitious father, Alfred Allmers, returns from the mountains with a new determination to cease his life’s work as a writer and dedicate his passions to his son. His life and his relationship with his wife Rita is irrevocably damaged by Eyolf’s drowning. In the aftermath, the parents sink into recrimination and guilt, and then attempt to rise in a spiritual rebirth.

Imogen Stubbs (Rita), is currently starring in Private Lives at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Her other recent credits include Shared Experience’s The Glass Menagerie (Salisbury Playhouse) and Hampstead Theatre’s revival of Michael Frayn's Alphabetical Order.

Jonathan Cullen (Alfred), was recently seen in Love the Sinner (National Theatre), as well as When the Rain Stops Falling (Almeida), The Stone (Royal Court), State of Emergency (Gate) and Happy Now? (NT).

The cast is completed by Doreen Mantle (One Foot in the Grave), Nadine Lewington and Robin Pearce.