Hampstead Theatre’s newly announced autumn/winter season comprises eight new plays, including the world premiere of Antony Sher’s latest, The Giant, starring Roger Allam (pictured) as the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci. Other highlights include new work by Robin Soans, Diane Samuels, Richard Cameron and Hampstead artistic director Anthony Clark.

The season kicks off from 10 to 15 September 2007 with Daring Parings, a week of cross-cultural, interdisciplinary arts events celebrating the diversity and daring of new writing in London. Companies such as Paines Plough and Talawa will be involved, and Dennis Kelly, Gary Owen, Amy Rosenthal, Gabriel Bisset-Smith and Cosh Omar add their literary presences.

This is followed by the premiere of actor-writer Robin Soans’ new piece, Life After Scandal. Following success with Talking to Terrorists and The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, Soans here turns his brand of verbatim theatre - mixing investigative journalism with drama - towards the national obsession with scandal. He interviews those affected, and uses their words to explore our media-saturated culture. Directed by Anthony Clark, it runs from 20 September to 20 October 2007.

Richard Cameron’s latest play Flower Girls receives its London premiere from 23 to 27 October 2007. Hampstead welcomes Graeae, the UK’s foremost disabled-led company, to tell the story of a group of disabled women who live and work at the Crippleage, Edgware. The play was inspired by personal testimony, and is produced in association with the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.

The Giant, the latest play by actor turned writer and director Antony Sher, currently appearing in Kean in the West End, receives its premiere on 1 November 2007. Sher’s last play, Primo, in which he took on the role of Primo Levi, on whose memoirs it was based), had a 2004 stint at Hampstead between its premiere at the National and a New York transfer. He also starred in his debut play, I.D., at the Almeida in 2003.

This new piece sees Sher “fulfil a lifelong ambition to write a play in which he doesn’t also appear”. Instead, Roger Allam - whose recent West End credits include Boeing-Boeing, Blackbird and Democracy - will play Leonardo Da Vinci in the exploration of the dark interplay between sexuality and creativity. Sher’s partner, Royal Shakespeare Company chief associate director Gregory Doran, directs The Giant.

Rather than traditional pantomime fare, Anthony Clark adapts and directs Ian Whybrow’s children’s story Little Wolf’s Book of Badness for Hampstead’s Christmas family show. Running from 6 December to 5 January, mischief, comedy and songs create a most dastardly musical for anyone very bad (or wanting to be bad) aged five and up.

The season is then rounded up in the new year with Penny Gold’s politically-charged The President’s Holiday, which runs from 17 January to 16 February 2008 and tells the story of the Gorbachev family under siege in 1991, and the Chekhov-inspired Three Sisters on Hope Street, which relocates this complex story of family ties to 1940s Liverpool. Written by Diane Samuels and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, it runs from 21 February to 29 March 2008.

The new programme is billed as Hampstead’s “most extensive season of new writing to date”, a feat aided by co-operative partnerships with Plymouth’s Drum Theatre, Southampton’s Nuffield and the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse. According to press materials, the eight plays have “a common desire to take inspiration from history and explore characters who struggle to find a sense of identity in the face of social and personal upheaval”.

- by Stuart Denison