Steven Berkoff’s new semi-autobiographical play Sit and Shiver will receive its European premiere on Monday 29 May 2006 (previews from 24 May) at the New End Theatre in Hampstead, north London, where it will have a limited six-week season until 2 July 2006.

A comedy set in the East End of London, where Berkoff was born, Sit and Shiver finds a husband and wife mourning for the wife’s father, a stern patriarch with a reputation for self-denial and integrity. During this day of mourning, a visitor arrives bringing some astounding news which affects the family and friends who have come to pay their respects.

Some of the characters in Sit and Shiver are based on Berkoff’s own family background. An earlier version of the play was seen in Los Angeles in 2004. Faber and Faber will publish the playtext to coincide with the UK opening, which Berkoff will also direct. The cast are: Catherine Bailey, Leila Crerar, Barry Davis, Iddo Goldberg, Linal Haft, Louise Jameson, Sue Kelvin, Saul Reichlin and Bernice Stegers.

Berkoff's often combative career in entertainment began in repertory theatre, before he formed his own production unit. Plays which he's written, directed and often appeared in include Messiah and Shakespeare’s Villains, both seen in the West End in recent years, East, West, Salome, Decadence (which premiered at the New End in 1980), Kvetch, The Secret Love Life of Ophelia and Requiem for Ground Zero. Last summer, he directed a high-profile production of Richard II in the grounds of Ludlow Castle as part of the annual Ludlow Festival.

- by Terri Paddock