Speaking exclusively to Whatsonstage.com to coincide with a company announcement at Sheffield Theatres today, Michael Grandage (pictured) revealed full 2004/2005 programming details for the three-auditorium Northern complex, where he acts as associate director in addition to his job as artistic director of London’s Donmar Warehouse.

Highlights of the year will include the return of Derek Jacobi, the reunion of former Almeida joint artistic directors Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid and Sheffield debuts for actors-turned-directors Samuel West and Kathy Burke in a programme that combines major revivals of Friedrich Schiller, Edward Bond, Terry Johnson and Joe Penhall with world premieres of Steve Waters, Morris Panych and Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen.

In the Crucible

The Crucible schedule launches with Grandage’s own production of Schiller’s 1787 thriller Don Carlos, in a new translation by Mike Poulton. Jacobi – returning to Sheffield after his acclaimed performance as Prospero in Grandage’s 2002 staging of The Tempest, later transferred to the West End’s Old Vic - will play King Philip II of Spain, Don Carlos’ tyrannical father who marries his son’s lover, thus provoking a full-scale rebellion against an oppressive regime.

Don Carlos will be designed by Christopher Oram, with music by Adam Cork and will run from 28 September to 2 November 2004 (previews from 22 September). It will be followed in the Crucible by a Christmas production of the Fats Waller jazz musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, running from 7 December 2004 to 22 January 2005 (previews from 2 December).

An accomplished pianist, singer and songwriter, Waller wrote or performed many of the black American standards of the 1920s and 1930s, including “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”, “T’Aint Nobody’s Business If I Do”, “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling”, “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’”. The musical, a celebration of Waller’s music, based on an idea by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr, was a hit on Broadway, where it opened in 1978 and ran for 1,565 performances.

Grandage admits that for Sheffield, which has only a small black population, putting on the jazz musical could be a risk, but it’s a calculated one. “All the time we’re wanting to push our own boundaries in how we’re reaching out to our audience.” The new production will be directed Philip Wilson.

In the new year, Kathy Burke will present the regional premiere of the multi award-winning play Blue/Orange, from 8 to 26 February 2005 (previews from 2 February), ahead of a short regional tour. First seen at the National in 2000 before transferring to the West End, Joe Penhall’s three-hander is set against the backdrop of a crumbling NHS where definitions of sanity are influenced by the colour of your skin.

The Crucible schedule concludes, from 15 March to 2 April 2005, with a revival of Edward Bond’s rarely performed 1972 play Lear, in which Ian McDiarmid, currently starring in Grandage’s Donmar Warehouse production of Pirandello’s Henry IV, will take the title role, directed by Jonathan Kent for the first time since 2001’s Faith Healer at the Almeida Theatre.

As joint artistic directors, McDiarmid and Kent turned north London’s tiny Almeida into an international powerhouse. They stepped down, after ten years in the job, in summer 2002 (See News, 5 Sep 2001). Bond’s version of Shakespeare’s tragedy embraces myth, superstition and reality to expose the false morality at the story’s core.

In the Studio

In the Studio, the in-house season kicks off, from 26 October to 13 November 2004 (previews from 21 October) with the world premiere of The Unthinkable by Steve Waters, whose World Music moved from Sheffield to the Donmar this year. Inspired by the history of DEMOS, the play finds five think-tank founders reuniting to toast their success after 15 years of thinking the unthinkable. It’s directed by Josie Rourke.

At Christmas, The Unthinkable will be followed by the staging of Hans Christian Andersen’s 19th-century children’s tale The Little Fir Tree, in a new dramatisation adapted and directed by James Phillips. It runs from 13 December 2004 to 8 January 2005 (previews from 9 December) and is suitable for aged four and up.

In the new year, the Studio will see the British premiere of Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, a new play about the end of childhood by Canadian writer Morris Panych (Auntie and Me), which will be directed by resident director David Newman and will run from 22 March to 9 April 2005 (previews from 17 March).

In the Lyceum

Meanwhile, in the Lyceum, Whatsonstage.com Award-winning actor Samuel West - who’s at Chichester this summer starring in The Master and the Margarita and directing the premiere of Three Women and a Piano Tuner (See News, 13 Feb 2004) - will continue extending his list of directorial credits with a revival of Terry Johnson’s Insignificance.

Set in New York in 1953, Johnson’s 1982 play brings together four of America’s most famous legends – a beautiful film star, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, a renowned baseball player and an infamous senator – in an extraordinary confrontation. Insignificance runs in Sheffield from 1 to 12 March 2004 (previews from 24 February) and will then follow a similar two-month touring route as Grandage’s own revival of Tennessee Williams Suddenly Last Summer, which has just transferred to the West End with Diana Rigg and Victoria Hamilton (See News, 25 Feb 2004).

2005 & Beyond

The 2004/2005 programme completes Grandage’s five-year artistic plan for Sheffield, in which the aim was to create a diverse repertoire of classics with 20th-century standards and new writing and to build a national reputation for the theatre. He told Whatsonstage.com that the future for Sheffield will build on current successes with expanded programming in the Lyceum, more touring and continued development of young directors in particular.

Grandage anticipates that perhaps one to two shows a year may continue to move on to the West End, but insists that this is never pre-planned and is always secondary to meeting the needs of the local audience. “It’s about making sure that Sheffield leads and London follows,” the director told Whatsonstage.com.

- by Terri Paddock