South London’s Battersea Arts Centre tonight (Friday 15 July 2005) launches a short season of new work by two of the young directors distinguished in this year’s James Menzies-Kitchin Awards. Both directors, Natalie Abrahami and Sam Leifer, have undertaken “visionary” productions of classical texts.

2005 JMK winner Abrahami directs two of Samuel Beckett’s short late plays, 1964’s Play and 1977’s Not I, staged together for the first time in a short, sharp burst of drama. While a spotlight interrogates a man, his wife and his mistress, elsewhere a voice speaks into the void. The double bill (pictured) will run for three weeks from tonight until 7 August 2005.

Meanwhile, this year’s JMK runner-up, Sam Leifer, directs James Kerr’s translation of The Suppliants from 19 July to 7 August 2005. Aeschylus’ drama, written in the fifth century BC, questions the issues of asylum and compassion through the story of three sisters who arrive in Greece, claiming to have fled from forced marriages in Libya. The Greek king must decide whether to take pity on them by allowing them entry but thus incurring war from Libya, or send them back to face their aggressors. This translation of the play was first staged in 1997 at London’s Gate theatre.

The JMK Award was set up by the relatives and friends of James Menzies-Kitchin, who staged his first production in 1994 at the age of 26 but then died suddenly at the age of 28. The award was launched in his memory to encourage and help other young directors.

Previous JMK winners include Thea Sharrock, who is now a JMK trustee, having won the award in 2000 for her production of Top Girls, which transferred to the Aldwych. She is now artistic director of the Gate theatre and has directed major productions with the Peter Hall Company, including Blithe Spirit which transferred to the West End last year.

- by Caroline Ansdell