Steven Berkoff’s semi-autobiographical play Sit and Shiver, which received its European premiere at north London’s New End Theatre this past spring (See News, 8 May 2006), will return to London in the new year. It will have a limited season, from 29 January to 18 February 2007 (previews from 25 January), at east London’s Hackney Empire, where the author-director will also join the cast.

A comedy set in the East End of London, where Berkoff was born, Sit and Shiver finds Lionel (Berkoff) and his wife Debbie (Sue Kelvin) mourning for Debbie’s father, a stern patriarch with a reputation for self-denial and integrity. During this day of mourning, a visitor arrives bringing some astounding news which affects the family and friends who have come to pay their respects.

Some of the characters in Sit and Shiver are based on Berkoff’s own family background. An earlier version of the play was seen in Los Angeles in 2004. In this new re-staged version, several New End cast members will reprise their performances: Catherine Bailey, Leila Crerar, Barry Davis, Louise Jameson and Bernice Stegers in addition to Sue Kelvin (pictured with Berkoff).

Steven Berkoff's often combative career in entertainment began in repertory theatre, before he formed his own production unit. Plays which he's written, directed and often appeared in include Messiah and Shakespeare’s Villains, both seen in the West End in recent years, East, West, Salome, Decadence (which premiered at the New End in 1980), Kvetch, The Secret Love Life of Ophelia and Requiem for Ground Zero. In summer 2005, he directed a high-profile production of Richard II in the grounds of Ludlow Castle as part of the annual Ludlow Festival.

Sit and Shiver ran for six weeks, from 24 May to 2 July 2006, at the New End Theatre in Hampstead. It’s designed by Lotte Collett, with lighting by Mike Robertson. In Hackney, it’s presented by Hackney Empire Ltd and the New End Theatre in association with SAW Productions.

- by Terri Paddock