Michael Attenborough has announced his second season as artistic director of north London’s renowned Almeida Theatre. The season, running from September 2004 to April 2005, will include the Almeida’s first-ever musical (the premiere of John Barry and Don Black’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock), as well as the world premiere of a new Peter Whelan play, classical turns from Simon Russell Beale as Macbeth and Eve Best as Hedda Gabler and the second visit from a former National Theatre artistic director (Richard Eyre, following in the footsteps of Trevor Nunn who directed Attenborough’s inaugural production of The Lady from the Sea last May).

The season opens with Brighton Rock, which, as previously tipped (See The Goss, 4 May 2004 & 18 Jun 2003), will run at the Almeida from 5 October to 13 November 2004 (previews from 20 September), ahead of an anticipated West End transfer care of commercial co-producer Bill Kenwright, who’s been developing the project for several years. The new musical is based on Greene's 1938 literary classic about gang warfare at the English seaside town, where the only witness to Pinkie’s ruthless murder of a man is 16-year-old Catholic Rose.

Brighton Rock has a book by Giles Havergal (former artistic director of Glasgow’s Citizens’ Theatre, who's previously adapted Greene's Travels with My Aunt), music by Oscar-winning film composer John Barry (Born Free, Out of Africa, Goldfinger) and lyrics by Don Black (Tell Me on a Sunday, Sunset Boulevard, Bombay Dreams). It’s directed by Michael Attenborough, whose father Richard Attenborough played Pinkie in the 1947 film version (pictured).

Brighton Rock will be followed, from 24 November 2004 to 8 January 2005 (previews from 18 November), by the world premiere of The Earthly Paradise by Peter Whelan, an honorary associate artist for the RSC where his many plays have included The Accrington Pals, The Herbal Bed and A Russian in the Woods.

Set in a country manor in the summer of 1871, Whelan’s new play centres around poet and designer William Morris, his wife Janey, and the pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a close family friend and Janey’s lover. The Earthly Paradise will be directed by Robert Delamere, who directed A Russian in the Woods and whose premiere production of Sebastian Barry’s Whistling Psyche opens at the Almeida this week (See Today’s Other News).

In 2005, the Almeida season continues with two high-profile classical revivals. Following his multi award-winning Hamlet for the National in 2001, Simon Russell Beale will return to Shakespeare’s tragedies, taking the title role in Macbeth. The new production, directed by John Caird, who also directed Hamlet, will run from 20 January to 5 March 2005.

Finally, from 16 March to 30 April 2005 (previews from 10 March), Eve Best, who won this year’s Critics’ Circle Best Actress Award for Mourning Becomes Electra at the National, will play the title role in Hedda Gabler (See The Goss, 22 Jan 2004). The new version of Henrik Ibsen’s 1890 Norwegian classic, about a woman whose passions exceed the confines of her bourgeois marriage, is adapted and directed by Richard Eyre, who was NT artistic director from 1988 to 1997 and whose other recent credits include the multi award-winning Vincent in Brixton on stage and Iris on screen.

- by Terri Paddock