The Royal Shakespeare Company launches its second annual New Work Festival this week. The two-week event, which continues until 28 October 2005, features numerous world and UK premieres, including work from Debbie Tucker Green and political commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown as well as a controversial play about Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.

Breakfast with Mugabe opens the festival in the Swan Theatre with seven performances from 19 October 2005 (previews from 17 October). The play portrays the combative relationship between Mugabe and his psychiatrist, who is white. Actor Antony Sher, who was born in South Africa, directs a cast that includes Noma Dumezweni, Joseph Mydell, Christopher Obi and David Rintoul. Grace’s previous plays include Perpetua, about the war between abortion clinics and pro-lifers.

The new Grace play is followed by Tucker Green’s Trade, subtitled Sex Tourism: A Collage of Voices from Home and Abroad and running from 25 to 28 October 2005. The piece about female sex tourism featured in last year’s festival as a development project and subsequently transferred to London’s Soho Theatre. Sacha Wares directs a cast that includes Lorna Brown, Nadine Marshall and Tanya Moodie.

At Cox’s Yard, new work takes the theme of Postcards from America featuring the UK premieres of plays by US writers David Adjmi (formerly international playwright in residence at the Royal Court) and Brett Neveu. Adjmi’s Elective Affinities, starring Suzanne Burden, examines the limits of tolerance in the age of global terror. Neveu’s Eric LaRue is set in the American Mid-West in the aftermath of a school shooting. The action is seen from the viewpoint of the killer’s mother, played by Lia Williams.

Postcards from America is followed by political commentator Alibhai-Brown’s monologue, Nowhere to Belong, which was showcased at last year’s festival and at London’s Soho Theatre. The one-woman show, directed by Gavin Marshall, explores the writer’s life-long love of Shakespeare and details how her own experience of playing the role of Juliet as a teenager in 1960s Uganda shocked her family and shaped her emotional and political life.

Two young directors will present works in progress as part of the festival’s Development Project on 25 October 2005. Former RSC assistant director William Galinksy will collaborate with playwright Biyi Bandele on an adaptation of Sudanese author Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North at Cox’s Yard, while Daniel Kramer, whose reinterpretation of Hair has extended at London’s Gate Theatre, presents Sweet Charity - A Darker Look at Life about the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami, at the Swan Gallery.

- by Caroline Ansdell