A specially formed repertory company has been created for the programme, of which Kempinski says: "No particular theory binds these plays. They are each inspired by a genius of European art, with three plays and one history, and of course the themes and stories are close to my own heart."
Highjumpers is based on the true story of 10,000 Greek mercenary soldiers who were abandoned in Babylon. The play focuses on six ordinary men who were caught up in the subsequent march through Turkey and along the Black Sea, after which 8,500 of the troops finally made it home. Of the epic struggle, Kempinski comments: "No back-up, no cell-phones, no food supply lines... just hostile tribes, disease, hunger, loneliness".
From 10 October 2001 comes Penthisilea, inspired by Heinrich von Kleist's dramatic poem. It relates the love/hate relationship between the Queen of the Amazons and Achilles, the Greek macho-man of the Trojan War. Family, described as a "Mafia version of Corneille's El Cid", plays at the New End from 31 October 2001. The drama observes a woman and a young man torn between their love for each other and their family honour.
To close the season, from 21 November 2001, comes Alfred de Vigny's Chatterton. Kempinski has revised the French writer's text, about a young poet who falls for the beautiful wife of an older man with tragic consequences. Kempinski says: "It tells the story of the artist destroyed in a world dedicated to material things only. A bit like now, you may think".
Tom Kempinski's theatre career began as an actor in the 1960s. His performances included Blitz (Adelphi Theatre), Love For Love (National) and Dingo (Royal Court). He has written around forty plays, including Sellout (National), Flashpoint (May Fair) and Addicted To Love (Bristol Old Vic). His Duet For One, which ran for a year in the West End in 1980, was also made into a movie starring Julie Andrews. It won the London Theatre Critics Best Play in 1980, and Kempinski was later Olivier-nominated for Separation.
All the productions for the New End season are designed by Nicolai Hart Hansen, with lighting from Sebastian Williams. Directors for the works are Ruth Carney, Gareth Corke and Diana Hillier.
- by Gareth Thompson
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