Based on the life of writer Jean Rhys - who gave full literary scope to the character of the title, first made famous as the "madwoman in the attic" in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre - After Mrs Rochester stars Diana Quick and is written and directed by Shared Experience joint artistic director Polly Teale, who's previously directed the company's staging of Jane Eyre.
Born in Dominica in the West Indies, the daughter of a white Creole mother, Jean Rhys was sent to England when she was 16. Following a series of demi-monde jobs, she settled in Paris and, with the encouragement of Ford Maddox Ford, began to write. Rhys published several novels and short stories between 1927 and 1939, during which time she returned to England. For the next 25 years, she disappeared from public view until her signature work, Wide Sargasso Sea, was published in 1966. An inspired prequel to Jane Eyre (written in 1847), Wide Sargasso Sea gave Bronte's madwoman, Mrs Rochester, her own remarkable story.
Prior to the West End, After Mrs Rochester completed a two-and-a-half-month regional tour, which included a limited London season at the Lyric Hammersmith from 22 April to 10 May 2003. The production is designed by Angela Davies, with lighting by Chris Davey, music by Howard Davidson and movement by Leah Hausman.
Meanwhile, at the Playhouse Theatre, Richard Eyre's award-winning National Theatre production of Nicholas Wright's Vincent in Brixton, will conclude its West End return season a week earlier than previously announced. It opened at the Playhouse on 10 July 2003 (previews from 8 July) and will now finish on 23 August, prior to a planned three-month tour which launches at Milton Keynes on 2 September 2003 (See News, 6 Aug 2003).
A fictitious love story based on the true facts of painter Vincent Van Gogh's early life in London in the 19th century, Vincent in Brixton received its world premiere at the NT Cottesloe in May 2002. It then had a three-month autumn 2002 season at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre, before transferring to Broadway for two months this past spring.
On tour, the painter's widowed landlady Ursula Loyer will again be played by Clare Higgins, who scooped a hat trick of Best Actress honours at the Evening Standard, Critics Circle and Olivier awards for the role. She'll be joined by Ruben Brinkman, who makes his UK stage debut as Van Gogh, taking over from fellow Dutch actor, Jochum ten Haaf. The tour cast will also feature Emma Darwell-Smith, Charlie Watts and Amy Darcy.
Following Milton Keynes, Vincent in Brixton calls at Bromley, Brighton, Glasgow, Woking, Warwick, Edinburgh, Belfast, Stoke-on-Trent, Oxford and Richmond, where it finishes its current schedule concludes on 29 November 2003.
- by Terri Paddock