Actor-director Samuel West (pictured) didn’t waste much time returning to the stage after his shock, pre-Christmas announcement that he was stepping down as artistic director of Sheffield Theatres (See News, 21 Dec 2006) – the first preview of Betrayal, in which he stars with Toby Stephens and Dervla Kirwan was last night (31 May 2007) ahead of a press performance next Tuesday 5 June (See News, 30 Mar 2007).

And he isn’t wasting much more time before resuming director duties. After Betrayal, which finishes on 21 July, West will start rehearsals for the first major London revival of Patrick Marber’s first play, Dealer’s Choice, which he’s directing at the Menier Chocolate Factory for a limited season from 3 October (previews from 27 September) to 17 November 2007. No cast or further creative details have yet been confirmed.

Dealer’s Choice is set after-hours in a restaurant where six men meet to play poker. Tonight the stakes are high – but winning has its price. In a night of psychological violence and bluff, the players stay up late and bust each other out.

The play premiered at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre in 1995, later transferring to the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre and winning the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy. Best known at that point as a stand-up comedian and TV sketch writer, Marber partly based his playwriting debut on his own experiences with gambling addiction.

Two years later, he followed it up with Closer. Marber’s other writing credits include Howard Katz, After Miss Julie and Don Juan in Soho on stage, and Notes on a Scandal on screen.

The son of actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales, Samuel West’s many acting credits include: on film, Van Helsing, Cambridge Spies, Iris, Howard's End, Notting Hill, Complicity, Carrington and Persuasion; and on stage, A Life in the Theatre, Arcadia, Hidden Laughter, The Sea, Mr Cinders, The Importance of Being Earnest, Henry IV and Richard II. For his last London stage appearance, the title role in Steven Pimlott’s 2001 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, West won both the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Shakespearean Performance and the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Actor.

Although he has always continued to act, since Hamlet, West has often concentrated his stage efforts on directing since his directorial debut with The Lady’s Not for Burning at Chichester in 2002. In June 2005, he took over the running of Sheffield from Michael Grandage and programmed productions including the first major revival of Howard Brenton’s controversial The Romans in Britain (which he also directed), the world premiere of Tanika Gupta’s Gladiator Games and the regional premiere of Caryl Churchill’s A Number (in which he starred with his father_. Two hits from West’s most recent Sheffield season secured London berths – Jamie Lloyd’s production of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker transferred to the Tricycle and Lindsay Posner’s revival of Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof opened at the West End’s Savoy Theatre this week (See Review Round-up, 30 May 2007).

Currently at the 150-seat Menier Chocolate Factory is All Mouth, Jonathan Lewis and Miranda Foster’s new comedy about voiceover artists, which opened last night (31 May 2007, previews from 23 May) and continues until 7 July (See News, 3 May 2007). It’s followed by the world premiere of Broadway veterans Richard Maltby Jr, David Shire and John Weideman’s much-anticipated new musical Take Flight, which runs from 25 July to 22 September 2007 (previews from 13 July), reuniting the creative team behind the Menier’s five-time Olivier Award-winning revival of Sunday in the Park with George and starring Award winner Sally Ann Triplett (See News, 14 May 2007).

- by Terri Paddock

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