Dominic Cooke has announced further details for his second year as artistic director of the Royal Court (See News, 6 Feb 2007). Following the previously announced European premiere of David Hare’s The Vertical Hour (See News, 29 Oct 2007), spring/summer 2008 highlights will include new plays by Martin Crimp, Mark Ravenhill, Anthony Neilson, Debbie Tucker Green, Mike Bartlett and Levi David Addai and a new translation by Caryl Churchill.

In addition, several 2007 hits from the Royal Court’s 80-seat Jerwood Theatre Upstairs will be revived in the 400-seat Jerwood Theatre Downstairs in a new summer season called “Upstairs Downstairs”. And Cooke will take two new productions out of the auditoria completely, with performances “in unusual locations and at unusual times, behind the scenes” of the Sloane Square venue.

In the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

After Hare’s The Vertical Hour, which runs from 22 January (previews from 18 January) to 1 March 2008, the Downstairs schedule continues with random, written by Debbie Tucker Green, whose previous plays include born bad (which won her the 2004 Olivier for Most Promising Newcomer), stoning mary, generations, trade and dirty butterfly. random is directed by Sacha Wares and stars Nadine Marshall. It runs from 10 March (previews from 7 March) to 12 April 2008.

Martin Crimp’s new play The City, a “darkly comic mystery” in which three characters fight to make sense of a surreal and collapsing world, premieres on 29 April 2008 (previews from 24 April) and runs until 7 June. It’s directed by Katie Mitchell who revived Crimp’s 1997 Royal Court play at the National earlier this year. Crimp and Mitchell have also collaborated on The Country and Face to the Wall at the Court and The Seagull at the NT.

Productions and dates have not yet been announced for the “Upstairs, Downstairs” summer season, though it’s likely to include Polly Stenham’s debut play That Face which received critical acclaim when it premiered in April, starring Lindsay Duncan and Matt Smith. The piece has already won Stenham the TMA Award for Best New Play and has this week been nominated for two Evening Standard Awards, Most Promising Playwright for Stenham and Outstanding Newcomer for Smith (See News, 7 Nov 2007).

In the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

In the studio, the year commences, from 14 to 28 January 2008, with the second instalment of “Rough Cuts”, the Court’s bi-annual season of experimental works-in-progress. It’s followed by a new, two-part production of Fiona Evans’ 2007 Fringe First-winning play Scarborough, in which a 15-year-old and their teacher have an illicit weekend away. The Northern Firebrand production is directed by Deborah Bruce and runs from 11 February (previews from 7 February) to 8 March 2008.

Bliss, a play about celebrity and fantasy, follows Scarborough from 2 to 26 April 2008 (previews from 28 March). It’s written by French Canadian Olivier Choiniere and translated by Caryl Churchill, whose first play was performed at the Court in 1972 and whose seminal 1979 play Cloud Nine has just been revived at the Almeida.

Levi David Addai’s new comedy Oxford Street, based around security guard Kofi in the Total Sports shop, then runs from 7 to 31 May 2008 (previews from 2 May), directed by Dawn Walton. Addai’s play 93.2FM was first staged at the Court in 2005 and revived last year. The new Upstairs schedule concludes with an as-yet unformed and unnamed new play by Anthony Neilson, whose Wonderful World of Dissocia transferred to the Royal Court earlier this year and whose latest, God in Ruins for the Royal Shakespeare Company, premieres at Soho Theatre next month. The brand new play for the Court, which Neilson will begin writing in the rehearsal room, will run from 10 June (previews from 6 June) to 5 July 2008.

Elsewhere…

The new plays by Mark Ravenhill (Shopping and Fucking, Some Explicit Polaroids) and Mike Bartlett (My Child) will be the two “unusual spaces and times … behind the scenes” experiments. Ravenhill’s contribution, entitled Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat, is in fact a cycle of work which arose out of the playwright’s Fringe First-winning challenge to write a new 30-minute play every day at this year’s Edinburgh Festival (See News, 17 Aug 2007). It’s co-produced by Paines Plough and will arrive in April.

Meanwhile, Bartlett’s Contractions will run – somewhere, sometime at the Court – in May, directed by Lyndsey Turner. In the “ink-black comedy”, the audience is invited to a meeting in which Emma, who’s been seeing Darren and thinks she’s in love, and her boss discuss a possible breach of contract.

Commenting on the new programme today, Dominic Cooke said: “The best plays are written by those who need to tell a story, and these are the writers to whom we’ve turned this season – writers whose perspectives on the world are urgent and vivid. Our programming reflects a thrilling variety of voices from different backgrounds telling stories about the way we live now, which is exactly what I think the Royal Court exists to do, as a theatre for new writing.

”I’m delighted that we’ve been able to put together a season in which our greatest and most established writers such as David Hare and Caryl Churchill share the same theatre as younger writers like Fiona Evans and Levi David Addai. I’m determined to find ways of building our audience among those groups who might not normally go to the theatre. The sheer breadth and variety of our new season will enable us to reach out to new communities, as well as continuing the tradition of innovation and experimentation which is at the heart of the Royal Court’s mission.”

- by Terri Paddock