As previously tipped (See The Goss, King of Hearts, the new Royal Family-inspired satire by Feelgood’s Alistair Beaton, will receive its London premiere at Hampstead Theatre in the New Year. It’s part of a just-announced spring/summer season at Hampstead which, building on the theatre’s increasingly award-winning reputation as a champion of new writing, also offers new work by Richard Bean, Dennis Kelly, Nell Leyshon and South African John Kani as well as second chances to see two previous Hampstead hits.

Princess Di, Wallis Simpson … why is it always affairs of the heart that send the Windsors into meltdown? In King of Hearts, when a handsome young heir to the throne falls for a very “unsuitable” girl, he finds himself at war with a panicked Prime Minister. Suddenly it’s not just the future of the Royal Family that’s at stake, but the very identity of Britain itself.

A co-production with Out of Joint, King of Hearts is co-directed by OJO artistic director Max Stafford-Clark, who is still recovering from a stroke he suffered this summer (See News, 31 Jul 2006), and Ramin Gray. Before its Hampstead engagement from 5 to 31 March (previews from 28 February), it tours to Guildford (8 to 10 February), Oxford (13 to 17 February) and Salisbury (20 to 24 February). After Hampstead, it visits Liverpool (3 to 7 April), with further dates to be confirmed.

Alistair Beaton’s television writing credits include Channel 4’s recent comedy about David Blunkett, A Very Social Secretary. His stage plays Feelgood and Follow My Leader were both presented at Hampstead Theatre. The former also transferred to the West End.


Ahead of King of Hearts, the Hampstead season starts with a second chance to see Comfort Me With Apples, which premiered at the theatre in October 2005 and won author Nell Leyshon that year’s Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright (See News, 18 Jul 2005). As apples fall and rot on a Somerset farm, old ways are tested in the tale about our changing rural landscape. Directed by Lucy Bailey and designed by Mike Britton, Comfort Me With Apples returns from 22 to 27 January 2007 (previews from 18 January), before touring from 29 January to 31 March 2007.

UK Arts International in association with Hampstead Theatre presents the UK premiere of Nothing But the Truth, written by and starring John Kani, in London from 5 to 24 February 2007 (previews from 1 February) as part of a UK tour. The death of an estranged brother forces aging librarian Sipho Makaya to confront the betrayals, jealousies and animosities of the past, both political and personal. Janice Honeyman directs.

John Kani, regarded as one of South Africa’s greatest actors, wrote the play in 2002 and was awarded an Obie for his contribution to theatre in the same year. In March, 35 years on from their first performance, Kani and Winston Ntshona recreate their roles in Athol Fugard’s modern South African classic Sizwe Banzi Is Dead (See News, 2 Nov 2006). Kani and Ntshona were last seen at the National in 2002 in The Island (which they also co-wrote with Fugard and which later transferred to the West End).

A Fine Balance - premiered at Hampstead this past January and presented in association with Tamasha Theatre (See News, 17 Nov 2005) - returns from 10 to 21 April (previews from 4 April). Based on Rohinton Mistry’s 1995 Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, adapted by Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar, the play is set in India in 1975, where a state of emergency has been declared. It’s directed by Landon-Smith and designed by Sue Mayes, with an original score by Felix Cross.

Following A Fine Balance, Shared Experience and Hampstead Theatre revive Diane Samuels’ Verity Bragate Award-winning 1993 play Kindertransport, in London from 25 April to 26 May (preview 24 April) as part of a UK tour. Between 1938 and the outbreak of war, almost 10,000 children, most of them Jewish, were sent by their parents from Germany to Britain. Nine-year-old Eva arrives in Manchester, changes her name and tries to bury all memory of her previous life. Shared Experience artistic director Polly Teale directs.

Dennis Kelly’s Taking Care of Baby receives its London premiere at Hampstead from 30 May to 23 June 2007, in a co-production with Birmingham Repertory (See News, 21 Nov 2006). The play uses the popular techniques of drama documentary and verbatim theatre to tackle the controversial, fictional, case of Donna McAuliffe, a woman imprisoned for killing her children.

In the summer, there’s another dose of Nell Leyshon, with her new play Glass Eels, also directed by Lucy Bailey, receiving its London premiere at Hampstead, running from 28 June to 21 July 2007. At the height of summer on the Somerset Levels, a young girl reacts to her widowed father’s new girlfriend and embarks upon her own journey of sexual discovery with her father’s lonely friend. The season concludes, from 25 July to 25 August 2007, with In the Club, a new play Criticc’s Circle award winner Richard Bean (Harvest, Honeymoon Suite, Under the Whaleback). With much door-slamming shenanigans, Bean’s political sex farce follows a corrupt MEP whose personal and political life clash on a single day in a Strasbourg hotel. David Grindley directs.

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock