American screen star Elizabeth McGovern (pictured) will play Jackie Kennedy, widow of president John F Kennedy and lover of Robert Lindsay’s Aristotle Onassis in the world premiere of Bent author Martin Sherman’s new play about the late Greek tycoon (See News, 21 Feb 2008). As one of the final productions in this summer’s Chichester Festival Theatre season, Aristo runs at CFT’s Minerva Theatre from 25 September to 11 October 2008 (previews from 11 September).

The play is based on the last years in the life of Onassis, including his complex connections and interwoven relationships with Kennedy, singer Maria Callas (played by Diana Quick) and his son Alexandros (Joe Marsh). The cast also includes Denise Black, Julius D’Silva, Ben Grove, John Hodgkinson, Robin Soans and June Watson.

McGovern, who has lived in London for many years, is best known for her many film credits including The House of Mirth, Wings of a Dove, The Handmaid\'s Tale, Racing with the Moon, Once upon a Time in America and Ragtime. Her UK stage credits include Hurlyburly, Three Days of Rain, Dinner With Friends and, most recently, Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, presented at Chichester in 2005.

Aristo is directed by Shared Experience joint artistic director Nancy Meckler and designed by Katrina Lindsay, with lighting by Paul Pyant and music and sound by Ilona Sekacz.


In other play casting news:

  • The Royal Court has announced further company details for two of its upcoming productions (See News, 12 Jun 2008). First up, in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs from 23 September to 11 October (previews from 18 September), Debbie Chazen and Esther Cole (both from TV’s Tittytittybangbang) will play prostitutes in Alecky Blythe’s new verbatim drama The Girlfriend Experience, directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins. They’re joined by Lu Corfield, Beatie Edney and Alex Lowe (TV’s Peep Show, Phoenix Nights). The title refers to a specific service from a prostitute, whereby, rather than just having sex, she will pretend to be the client’s girlfriend for an allotted time. The piece is created from edited conversations recorded inside a real brothel in Bournemouth.

  • Further ahead, in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 28 November 2008 (previews from 20 November) to 10 January 2009, the cast of Wig Out! will include Leon Lopez (currently in Piaf at the Donmar Warehouse), Danny Sapani (Big White Fog, The Overwhelming, Macbeth), Katie Gillespie and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as well as Kevin Harvey, Alex Lanipekun, Holly Quin-Ankrah, Craig Stein and Jessika Williams.

    The new American play is written by 26-year-old Tarell Alvin McCraney who received his UK debut last year with The Brothers Size at the Young Vic, where it returns this October along with the UK premiere of his In the Red and Brown Water (See News, 3 Jun 2008). The Court’s Downstairs auditorium will be transformed, by designer Ultz, into the House of Light, a “hyper-glamorous and uber-competitive” drag queen refuge where the residents are primping and preening for a catwalk showdown. Artistic director Dominic Cooke directs.

  • Finally, Juliet Rylance, the daughter of actor and former Shakespeare’s Globe artistic director Mark Rylance, is joined in the cast of Romeo and Juliet at London’s historic Middle Temple Hall by Santiago Cabrera (from US TV’s Heroes) as her titular lover Romeo, Ann Mitchell as the Nurse, Nicolas Tennant as the Friar and acclaimed dancer Will Kemp (Equus) as Mercutio. Tamara Harvey directs the production for Rylance’s Theatre of Memory company. It runs from 26 August to 13 September (previews from 20 August) as part of a year-long festival celebrating the 400th anniversary of the venue’s Royal Charter (See News, 8 Jan 2008).

    - by Terri Paddock