Leading Royal Court playwright Caryl Churchill has withdrawn permission for her modern classic Cloud Nine to be performed as part of next year’s year-long celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of English Stage Company’s foundation at the Sloane Square landmark (see News, 11 Oct 2005).

The revival of the 1979 drama about race, class, gender and sexuality was to be directed by outgoing Royal Court artistic director Ian Rickson for a limited season in February/March. But according to a Royal Court spokesperson, Churchill feels that the planned run might distract her from work on a new project. The spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com: “It is a very recent decision she (Churchill) has made. There is nothing sinister about it at all. She will be working on a new play at the time, and she finds it distracting when there is another one of her plays being performed. She has an amazing creative process.”

Since Owners in 1972, Churchill has had more than 15 of her plays presented at the Royal Court including premieres of Top Girls - a drama school production of which will go ahead as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, as schedule - Fen, Serious Money, Blue Heart, Far Away and, most recently, 2002’s A Number, which starred Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig directed by Rickson.

“We would love it if her new play was being written for the Royal Court,” said the theatre spokesperson, “but I don’t think she has decided yet.” The production that will replace the gap left by the cancellation of Cloud Nine has not yet been confirmed, but it will be “a revival of one of the plays that has been a hit at the Royal Court over the last 50 years and it will be something fabulous”, said the spokesperson.

Other highlights of the Royal Court’s 50th anniversary celebrations include: Tom Stoppard making his Royal Court debut with his latest, Rock ‘n’ Roll, directed by fellow Court first-timer Trevor Nunn; playwright Harold Pinter performing Samuel Beckett’s one-man Krapp’s Last Tape; the returns of former Royal Court artistic directors Max Stafford-Clark, Anthony Page, William Gaskill (adapting and directing James Joyces’ Ulysses) and Stephen Daldry; new plays by contemporary playwrights Stella Feehily, Tanika Gupta, Simon Farquhar, Christopher Shinn, Marina Carr and Simon Stephens; a ten-week season of rehearsed readings of landmark productions from the Court’s history; and a one-off performance of John Osborne’s groundbreaking Look Back in Anger will be showing on 8 May 2006, 50 years to the day after it had its world premiere at a two-month-old Court.

- by Caroline Ansdell