Simon Gray’s latest The Old Masters, directed by his long-time collaborator and fellow playwright Harold Pinter, has extended again at the West End’s Comedy Theatre (See News, 4 Jun 2004).

The play, premiered in June at Birmingham Rep (See News, 4 Mar 2004), opened at London’s Comedy Theatre on 1 July 20004 (previews from 26 June) and had originally been scheduled to finish on 28 August. In July, it extended to 13 November and has now added another five weeks to 18 December.

On a summer’s day in 1937 in the gardens of his Florentine villa, Bernard Berenson (played by Edward Fox), the renowned art critic and collector, is casually discussing art and world affairs with his wife Mary and his mistress Nicky. Unbeknownst to Berenson, at a nearby hotel, multi-millionaire Joseph Duveen (Peter Bowles) is preparing to bring him a priceless painting to examine – though Duveen knows this may shatter their 30-year, and highly secret, business arrangement.

The Old Masters is the ninth Gray play directed by Pinter. The pair’s previous collaborations include Life Support, The Common Pursuit and The Late Middle Classes, while amongst Gray’s other plays are Quartermain’s Terms, Japes, Hidden Laughter, and, in the West End earlier this year with Simon Callow, The Holy Terror. It’s produced by Greg Ripley-Duggan with Duveen Productions and Ted Tulchin.

Meanwhile, at the Fortune Theatre, Robin Herford’s long-running production of The Woman in Black, which celebrated its 15th birthday in June (See News, 9 Jun 2004), welcomes a new cast this month. From 20 September, Brian Miller and William Rycroft will star in Stephen Mallatratt’s thriller based on Susan Hill’s novel.

Originally produced at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre in December 1987, The Woman in Black has been seen by over two million viewers in London alone. It has also been produced around the world in 22 countries, including Malaysia, Uruguay, Japan, the US and a US naval base on the coast of Iceland.

Young solicitor Arthur Kipps is sent to wind up the affairs of a recently deceased woman. He begins to piece together the details of her strange reclusive life, alone in a remote and mysterious house, and soon finds himself under a curse cast by the spectre of a 'woman in black'. Years later, he recounts his experiences to a sceptical young actor in a desperate attempt to exorcise his fears.

- by Terri Paddock