Kristin Scott Thomas, Bob Hoskins and other cast members of the upcoming West End production of Luigi Pirandello’s As You Desire Me took a break from their first day of rehearsals at London’s Jerwood Space to lunch with the press today (See News, 26 Jul 2005).

Written in 1930, the play premiered on Broadway in 1931 and was made into a film starring Greta Garbo in 1932. It has not been staged in London since its first UK production in 1934. This new version, translated by Hugh Whitemore, opens for a limited 13-week season at the West End’s Playhouse Theatre on 27 October 2005 (previews from 21 October).

Speaking at today’s reception, director Jonathan Kent described As You Desire Me as a “play about identity and madness” which will be an “extremely potent evening in the theatre”. The Italian playwright wrote it for his mistress Marta Abba – “it’s a very personal play about Pirandello’s own life”.

In it, Elma (played by Scott Thomas) is a singer in a sleazy 1930s Berlin nightclub. She was the victim of an appalling assault during the First World War and, as a result, lost her memory. A man appears and tells her that she is, in fact, the wife of an Italian aristocrat. A new life awaits her. But when she goes to Italy to pursue this dream, she finds unexpected problems and disappointments.

The script leaves the audience guessing as to who Elma really is – and even the actors aren’t sure. “I love the play,” Scott Thomas said today, “but at the same time I’m not really sure what goes on in it.” She described it as “very extraordinary and challenging” and admitted that, at this stage, she’s operating mainly from fear. “I haven’t a clue how I’m going to do this,” she smiled.

“It’s a great script, a very good cast and a brilliant director,” said Hoskins, who plays Scott Thomas’ German lover, “so I think it’s going to have something to say.” The pair are joined in the cast by Margaret Tyzack, John Carlisle, Richard Lintern and Finbar Lynch. The production is designed by Paul Brown and produced by Duncan C Weldon & Paul Elliot, ATG, Tulchin/Bartner Productions and Eric Abraham.

- by Terri Paddock


Kristin Scott Thomas & Bob Hoskins
Kristin Scott Thomas