Simon Gray’s latest The Old Masters, directed by his long-time collaborator and fellow playwright Harold Pinter, has extended its West End season by two-and-a-half months (See News, 4 Jun 2004). The play, premiered in June at Birmingham Rep (See News, 4 Mar 2004), opened at London’s Comedy Theatre last week (on 1 July, previews from 26 June) and had been scheduled to finish on 28 August. It will now continue booking until 13 November.

On a summer’s day in 1937 in the gardens of his Florentine villa, Bernard Berenson, the renowned art critic and collector, is casually discussing art and world affairs with his wife Mary and his mistress Nicky. Unbeknownst to Berenson, at a nearby hotel, multi-millionaire Joseph Duveen is preparing to bring him a priceless painting to examine – though Duveen knows this may shatter their 30-year, and highly secret, business arrangement.

Edward Fox (whose recent stage credits include The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version and A Letter of Resignation and films include The Importance of Being Earnest, A Passage to India, Gandhi and The Day of the Jackal) plays Berenson and Peter Bowles (Wait Until Dark, Sleuth, The Royal Family in the West End, TV’s Perfect Scoundrels) is Duveen.

Fox and Bowles are joined in the cast by Barbara Jefford (Power, Phedre, Britannicus) as Mary, Sally Dexter (The Maths Tutor, Closer) as Nicky and Steven Pacey (Democracy, The Constant Wife, Things We Do for Love as Edward Fowles.

The Old Masters is the ninth Gray play directed by Pinter. The pair’s previous collaborations include Life Support, The Common Pursuit and The Late Middle Classes, while amongst Gray’s other plays are Quartermain’s Terms, Japes, Hidden Laughter, and, in the West End earlier this year with Simon Callow, The Holy Terror.

The new Birmingham Rep production is designed by Eileen Diss, with costumes by Dany Everett and lighting by Mick Hughes. It continues in Birmingham until 19 June ahead of the Comedy transfer, which is presented by Greg Ripley-Duggan with Duveen Productions and Ted Tulchin.

- by Terri Paddock