The South African creators of the Olivier Award-winning Kat and the Kings will return to north London’s Tricycle Theatre later this year with their new musical delving into Cape Town’s early slave history. Spice Drum Beat - Ghoema receives its European premiere as part of the theatre’s new autumn/winter season, which also features new work from Shared Experience and the world premiere of a new verse play by Tamsin Oglesby.

Spice Drum Beat - Ghoema - which premiered at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre last year and which runs at the Tricycle from 11 December 2006 to 27 January 2007 (previews from 6 December) - delves deep into Capt Town’s early history, when the Dutch first settled in South Africa. Were it not for the European desire to fine an alternative spice trade route to the East, no settlement would have been established here and the history of southern Africa would have been much different.

Traditional folk songs are woven together with original music by Kat and the KingsDavid Kramer (who also provides the book and directs) and Taliep Petersen (musical direction). The cast of South African actors and musicians includes: Jody Abrahams, Loukmaan Adams, Danny Butler, Munthir Dullisear, Zenobia Kloppers, Gammie Lakay, Howard Links, Carmen Maarman, Solly Martin and Charlie Rhode.

When it received its UK premiere at the Tricycle in 1997, Kat and the Kings - which offered a glimpse of the ‘Cape Coloured’ community through the life of a non-white band during apartheid - was the first South African musical to open in London since the advent of black majority rule in its native country. (Since then, other major South African hits to arrive on these shores have included Umoja and The Mysteries.)

In addition to two other runs at the Tricycle, most recently in 2003, Kat and the Kings transferred to the West End and Broadway and toured internationally. At the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards, the musical scooped the prizes for Best New Musical as well as Best Actor in a Musical which was awarded to the entire South African cast.

Prior to Spice Drum Beat - Ghoema, the Tricycle’s new winter season kicks off with Shared Experience’s new production of Orestes, running from 8 November to 2 December 2006 (preview 7 November). Helen Edmundson’s new version, freely adapted from Euripides’ ancient Greek tragedy about the son on trial for his mother’s murder, is directed by Shared Experience joint artistic director Nancy Meckler. It visits the Tricycle as the end of a national tour which opens on 14 September 2006 at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and continues to Dublin, Warwick, Salford, Liverpool and Oxford prior to London.

In the new year, Tricycle artistic director Nicolas Kent will direct the world premiere of Tamsin Oglesby’s The War Next Door, from 6 February to 3 March 2007 (previews from 1 February). In the verse play, thoroughly modern and cosmopolitan British couple Sophie and Max come into conflict with their neighbours, Hana and Ali. Oglesby’s other plays include US and Them, Only the Lonely and Olive.

Currently at the Tricycle, Patrick Barlow’s comic take on John Buchan’s The 39 Steps continues until 9 September 2006 before transferring to the West End’s Criterion Theatre. It’s followed by the return of Lynn Nottage’s Fabulation, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, from 18 September to 14 October 2006 (previews from 14 September). In addition, How Long Is Never?, short plays written in response to the situation in Darfur and performed by members of the Fabulation, will be presented from 24 to 28 October 2006; and Mark Thomas will bring As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela, his one-man show based on his book about the arms trade, to the theatre from 30 October to 4 November 2006.

- by Terri Paddock