Brian Friel’s new play The Home Place, starring Tom Courtenay, has posted early closing notices at the West End’s Comedy Theatre. The play, which opened on 25 May 2005 (previews from 7 May) following its world premiere in February at Dublin’s Gate Theatre, had been booking until 27 August (See News, 24 Mar 2005). It will now close a fortnight earlier, on 13 August.

Set in 1878, Tom Courtenay plays the widowed Christopher Gore, who lives with his son David and the woman they both love, their housekeeper Margaret, in The Lodge in Ballybeg. In the era of unrest at the dawn of Home Rule, their seemingly serene life is threatened by the arrival of Christopher’s English cousin.

Prior to The Home Place, Friel’s last play in the West End was 2002’s Afterplay, which starred Penelope Wilton and John Hurt and also transferred from the Gate. His other plays include Dancing at Lughnasa, Faith Healer, Fathers and Sons, Translations, Volunteers, Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Aristocrats, currently being revived at the National.

Courtenay was last seen in the West End in 2003’s Pretending to Be Me, his one-man show about poet Philip Larkin, which also ran at the Comedy Theatre. The actor is well known for his working class film roles of the 1960s, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Doctor Zhivago and, most famously Billy Liar, which he also played on stage. His other stage credits include The Dresser (also on film) and the original West End cast of Art, in both of which he starred alongside his friend and contemporary Albert Finney. More recently, Courtenay has appeared on screen in Nicholas Nickleby, Last Orders and Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?.

The Home Place also features Hugh O'Conor, Derbhle Crotty and Nick Dunning. It’s directed by former Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Adrian Noble, designed by Peter McKintosh and presented in the West End by Sonia Friedman Productions and Michael Colgan.

The next scheduled production for the Comedy Theatre is Peter Gill’s revival of John Osborne and Anthony Creighton’s 1957 play Epitaph for George Dillon, starring Joseph Fiennes (brother of Ralph), which will open on 27 September 2005, following previews from 20 September (See News, 8 Jul 2005).

- by Terri Paddock