Steven Berkoff's latest play, The Secret Life of Ophelia, will receive its world premiere next month at the renowned fringe venue, the King's Head Theatre, in north London. It will have a limited five-week run from 18 June to 28 July 2001.

Through imaginary correspondence, the play explores the affair between Shakespeare's great lovers, Hamlet and Ophelia. Berkoff himself describes it as "an epistolary piece...describing their love life and tragic end". Relative newcomers Martin Hodgson and Freya Bosworth will star in the production directed by Berkoff himself.

A prolific British writer, director and performer, Berkoff's career took off in 1975 when his first original stage play, East, was presented at the Edinburgh Festival. His other plays include West, Decadence, Greek, Kvetch, Massage and Brighton Beach Scumbags, as well as acclaimed adaptations of Kafka's Metamorphosis and The Trial, Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and Aeschylus' Agamemnon.

Berkoff's last play, Messiah, about the events leading up to the crucifixion, was a success at last year's Edinburgh Festival but struggled to find a London home. However, in 1999, a revival of East, another Edinburgh hit, did transfer to the West End's Vaudeville Theatre, while Berkoff himself brought his one-man show, Shakespeare's Villains, which is now on tour, to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1998. Internationally, he is also well known for playing baddies in films including Octopussy, Beverley Hills Cop and Rancid Aluminium.

The King's Head production of The Secret Life of Ophelia coincides with the UK publication of the book by Faber & Faber.

- by Terri Paddock