Gael Garcia Bernal (pictured) - the Mexican-born star of Amores Perros, Bad Education and The Motorcycle Diaries - leads the roll call of names treading the boards at north London’s Almeida Theatre over the coming months. He’ll star in a new production of Spaniard Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1932 play Blood Wedding, which will run from 12 May to 18 June 2005 (previews from 5 May).

Others now confirmed for upcoming Almeida productions include Saffron Burrows, Alan Cox, Nigel Lindsay and Emma Fielding in addition to, as already announced (See News, 10 May 2004), Simon Russell Beale and Eve Best who take the title roles in, respectively, Macbeth and Hedda Gabler.

The next production at the Almeida will be the world premiere of Peter Whelan’s The Earthly Paradise, which is directed by Robert Delamere and runs from 24 November 2004 to 8 January 2005 (previews from 18 November). Set in a country manor in the summer of 1871, Whelan’s new play centres around poet and designer William Morris, his wife Janey, and the pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a close family friend and Janey’s lover.

Saffron Burrows (whose film credits include Troy, Peter Pan, Miss Julie and Circle of Friends) plays Janey, with Alan Cox (John Bull’s Other Island, The Flue Season, On the Razzle, An Enemy of the People) as Rossetti and Nigel Lindsay (The Pillowman, The Tempest, The Real Thing, Bedroom Farce) as William Morris. Also in the cast is Sean Guilder (Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs) as John Hennie.

Emma Fielding (Cymbeline, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night for the RSC, Private Lives, Look Back in Anger, Heartbreak House) will play Lady Macbeth opposite Simon Russell Beale in Macbeth, directed by John Caird, who also directed Russell Beale in the National’s 2001 production of Hamlet.

The cast also includes Tom Burke (seen this summer in Romeo and Juliet at the Globe) as Malcolm, Paul Higgins as Macduff, Paul Ritter as Ross, John Rogan as Porter/Doctor and, as the Witches, Hilary Sesta, Jane Thorne and Janet Whiteside.

Macbeth runs from 20 January to 5 March 2005 (previews from 13 January) and is followed by Hedda Gabler, running from 16 March to 30 April 2005 (previews from 10 March). Eve Best, who won this year’s Critics’ Circle Best Actress Award for Mourning Becomes Electra at the National, plays Hedda in the new version of Henrik Ibsen’s 1890 Norwegian classic, about a woman whose passions exceed the confines of her bourgeois marriage, which is adapted and directed by former NT artistic director Richard Eyre.

In next spring’s production of Blood Wedding, Bernal will play Leonardo. Lorca wrote the tale of love, lust and betrayal in response to a newspaper article concerning a local murder in rural Spain. A young Andalusian bride elopes with her childhood sweetheart Leonardo on her wedding day, abandoning her husband-to-be at the altar.

Blood Wedding, in a new version by Tanya Ronder, will be directed by Rufus Norris, whose acclaimed Almeida production of Festen has just transferred to the West End’s Lyric Theatre. It’s designed by Katrina Lindsay, with music by Orlando Gough. No further casting has yet been announced.

Currently at the Almeida, the theatre’s first-ever musical, Brighton Rock, continues until 13 November 2004. An adaptation of Graham Greene’s literary classic, it has book by Giles Havergal, music by John Barry and lyrics by Don Black and is directed by artistic director Michael Attenborough.

- by Terri Paddock