Maureen Lipman and Jill Halfpenny (pictured) will lead the casts of Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis and Uncle Vanya in Rachel Kavanaugh’s first season as artistic director at Birmingham Rep. The spring/summer 2007 season includes seven new productions and goes on sale to the public this weekend (25 November 2006).

The spring 2007 season begins with Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis, the 1999 comedy by Charlotte Jones whose latest, The Lightning Play opened at the Almeida last week. It stars Maureen Lipman, who returns to the Rep following her stint there in last summer’s Glorious, which subsequently transferred to the West End. Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis runs from 16 February to 10 March 2007, directed by Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh will also direct Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, in a new adaptation by Bryony Lavery, which runs from 23 March to 14 April 2007, starring Jill Halfpenny (Waterloo Road, Eastenders, Chicago) as Sonya. The production reunites the team that created A Doll’s House at the Rep in 2004. It’s followed, from 23 April to 12 May 2007, by a major revival of Terry Johnson’s 1993 farce Hysteria, which imagines an encounter between Salvador Dali and Sigmund Freud.

In The Rep’s studio space, The Door, the programme in features four home-produced commissions. For families, Mike Kenny’s re-telling of Snow White, Whiter Than Snow, runs from 16 to 24 February 20007 and is presented in collaboration with Graeae Theatre Company. Set in Uganda, Jennifer Farmer’s Bulletproof Soul runs from 1 to 10 March, as well as touring to venues across the West Midlands for the theatre’s annual Door on Tour. Playmakers, created by and for families and written by Peter Wynne-Willson, runs from 17 to 19 April. It’s followed, from 3 to 19 May, by Dennis Kelly’s docu-drama Taking Care of Baby, which tackles the controversial case of Donna McAuliffe, imprisoned for killing her children.

Throughout March and April, The Rep will present Generation, a festival providing the best new theatre for and about teenagers and twenty-somethings. The new initiative will feature national and international work from visiting companies, a site-specific piece devised and performed by young people at The Old Rep, a series of short plays for one performer, plus international collaborations including a piece by young people in Birmingham and Beijing inspired by the 2008 Olympics.

The Rep will be welcoming back several touring companies throughout the spring and summer, including Kneehigh Theatre Company with their recent production of Cymbeline (which runs from 6 to 10 March); NITRO, the UK’s premier black theatre company, return with a fiery, high-energy salsa musical, The Wedding Dance (running from 13 to 17 March); Tamasha Theatre bring their stage adaptation of the Booker-shortlisted novel, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry from 15 to 19 May; and South Africa’s great stage and film actor John Kani will star in his own post-apartheid play, Nothing But The Truth, from 23 to 26 May.

During June, The Rep will be travelling out on the canals of Birmingham with a new play by Sarah Woods, Box, which runs from 4 to 23 June 2007. With the audience on boats, the play will take place both on board and along the towpaths of Birmingham’s canal network. Back at the theatre, visiting companies will include Kneehigh, Nitro and Tamasha.

Commenting on the programme, Kavanaugh said: “I’m thrilled to announce my first season as artistic director of The Rep. Both the Main House and The Door will have some of the most exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking shows which will delight our regular audiences, but we hope will encourage new visitors too.”

- by Caroline Ansdell