Gregory Murphy’s The Countess, which was a long-running hit Off Broadway, has posted closing notices in the West End less than three weeks after its opening night (See News, 4 Jun 2005). The play, recounting a real-life scandal from Victorian London, opened on 7 June 2005 (previews from 2 June) at the Criterion Theatre and had been booking to 17 September. It will now close on 9 July.

In 1853, when his wife Effie sued art critic John Ruskin for divorce on the grounds that their marriage had never been consummated, she was ostracised. Later, the involvement of another man - John Everett Millais, a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement – in the love triangle was revealed.

The Countess stars Nick Moran (pictured), who’s best known for the film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and, on Friday night, made his West End playwriting debut with Telstar at the New Ambassadors.

Moran joined in the cast by Alison Pargeter (Evening Standard Best Newcomer for Damsels in Distress) as Effie, Damian O'Hare (Juno and the Paycock, Richard II, Coriolanus, The Magic Toyshop) as Millais, Gerald Harper, Jean Boht and Linda Thorson.

The Countess is directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser, who produced and directed the play’s world premiere in New York. It’s designed by Jason Denvir, with costumes by Christopher Lione, lighting by Doug Filomena, sound by Dan Last and music by Dewey Dellay. It’s presented by Counts Productions UK Ltd.

No further productions have yet been announced for the Criterion though a revival of Simon Gray’s Otherwise Engaged, starring Richard E Grant, is tipped for an October opening there (See The Goss, 24 Jun 2005).

- by Terri Paddock