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Almeida Debuts McGuinness & Jones, Revives Viv

By • West End
Ahead of tonight’s opening of his production of Enemies, the final play offering in the 2005/6 season at the Almeida Theatre, artistic director Michael Attenborough has announced details for his fourth season at the north London landmark. The new season, currently programmed from September 2006 through to March 2007, comprises premieres of new plays by Charlotte Jones and Frank McGuinness and a major revival of Tom and Viv, Michael Hastings’ play about TS Eliot and his disturbed first wife.

Tom and Viv kicks off the new schedule, running from 22 September to 4 November 2006 (previews from 12 September). In Cambridge in 1915, awkward American graduate Tom meets the wild Vivienne Haigh-Wood and a whirlwind romance leads to a hasty marriage. But as Tom finds literary success, Viv’s volatility becomes harder to bear.

Tom and Viv premiered at the Royal Court in 1984 and was made into a 1994 film starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson. Hastings’ other plays include The World’s Baby, Lee Harvey Oswald, Unfinished Business and Calico, centring on another literary relationship (between Samuel Beckett and James Joyce’s family), which premiered in the West End in 2004. The Almeida’s production of Tom and Viv, directed by Lindsay Posner, will be the first London revival of the play in 22 years.

It will be followed at the Almeida by the world premiere of The Lightning Play, by Charlotte Jones, whose other credits include Humble Boy, The Dark, In Flame and the book for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Woman in White. Anna Mackmin, who has previously directed Jones’ premieres of The Dark and In Flame, makes her Almeida debut to helm the new play. Mackmin’s other credits include Auntie and Me, Mammals, Breathing Corpses and Burn/Citizenship/Chatroom, currently at the National.

The Lightning Play, which runs from 17 November 2006 to 6 January 2007 (previews from 9 November), takes places on Halloween in north London where celebrity ghost writer Max Villiers and his talented shopper wife Harriet are hosting a party. As Max connects his first plasma TV, the evening is hijacked by interference from the past. There are trick-or-treaters at the door and strangers on the brand new rug.

Attenborough himself will direct the world premiere of Irishman Frank McGuinnessThere Came a Gypsy Riding, running from 18 January to 3 March 2007 (previews from 11 January). The McKenna family convenes at their remote west of Ireland holiday home to mark the 21st birthday of their late son Gene. Eccentric cousin Bridget appears, invites herself in for cake, and makes ready to expose a family secret.

McGuinness’ many other plays include Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Dolly West’s Kitchen, Sleeping Like Magpies, Gates of Gold and The Bird Sanctuary and translations of The Storm (for the Almeida), Hedda Gabler, Three Sisters, Peer Gynt, Hecuba and Phaedra (currently at the Donmar Warehouse).

Further ahead in 2007, Anthony Page, who has just been appointed an associate director at Kevin Spacey’s Old Vic (See News, 9 May 2006), will direct Ibsen’s 1886 classic Rosmersholm. Page’s most recent West End productions include Night of the Iguana and the Kathleen Turner-led Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which finishes at the Apollo Theatre this weekend. For the fourth year, the Almeida season is being sponsored by Coutts & Co.

- by Terri Paddock


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