After more than two years of closure, with numerous delays while undergoing an £8.7 million refurbishment, Watford Palace will reopen this autumn. At a launch event held today in Watford, artistic director announced, “We have been in exile… Today is the start of our first day back.”

As such, the reopening season is appropriately entitled “Back with a Bang” and features three new in-house productions. The emphasis is on new work which will “make a difference” while attracting more young people to the theatre and setting a high standard for future programming.

The schedule kicks off, from 8 to 30 October 2004, with William Wycherley’s 1675 Restoration comedy, The Country Wife, in a new version by Tanika Gupta, directed by Till and designed by Richard Foxton. As in Gupta’s acclaimed version of Hobson's Choice for the Young Vic, the action has been updated to 21st-century, multi-racial Britain.

Following Hardeep’s return to London, he begins broadcasting his newly invented celibate state in a bid to attract women. He soon turns his attention to naïve Preethi, the Indian virgin bride of his old friend Alok. A special gala performance of The Country Wife will be held on 21 October to celebrate the reopening of the theatre.

Over the festive period, pantomime will return to Watford with Christmas classic Mother Goose, given a modern twist and the subtitle “3 weddings and a golden egg”. It runs from 3 December 2004 to 9 January 2005 and is followed in the new year by a new production of Amy Rosenthal’s play Sitting Pretty.

First seen at London’s Chelsea Centre in 1999, Sitting Pretty concerns a redundant woman in her fifties, who stumbles across a life-drawing class. What starts out as a hobby, soon provides a whole new lease of life. In 2001, Maureen Lipman, Rosenthal’s mother, starred in a UK tour of the play (See News, 17 Jul 2001). The new production is presented by Watford Palace in association with Nica Burns, Max Weitzenhoffer and Keith Murray.

The Watford reopening season also comprises a secondary schools tour of Hanif Kureishi’s 1984 adaptation of Mother Courage and Her Children as well as visiting productions of The King and I, Hans Christian Andersen – The Anatomy of a Storyteller and Sing-a-long-a Abba and Elvis.

- by Terri Paddock