East London’s semi-derelict Wilton’s Music Hall (pictured) – which has been dark since the October conclusion of John Doyle’s Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated actor-musician production of Amadeus, starring Matthew Kelly and Jonathan Broadbent (click here to vote now!) – will play host to two new productions in the new year: David Mamet’s adaptation of Chekhov’s 1899 classic Uncle Vanya and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Uncle Vanya - running from 26 January to 10 February 2006 (previews from 23 January) – stars Colin Stinton (last seen on stage in Mamet’s Romance at the Almeida) as Vanya, Ronan Vibert (The Pianist, Rome on screen) as Astrov, Rachael Stirling (Look Back in Anger, Theatre of Blood on stage, TV’s Tipping the Velvet) as Yelena, Catherine Cusack (Mary Stuart, Measure for Measure) as Sonya and Philip Voss (most recently seen in The Royal Hunt of the Sun) as Professor Serebryakov. Others in the cast are: Lucinda Curtis, Michael Gunn and Marlene Sidaway.

Chekhov’s tragicomedy is set on a provincial Russian estate, where little disturbs the inhabitants’ quiet lives - until the head of the family brings home his beautiful new wife. Mamet’s adaptation was originally presented by the American Repertory Theatre, Massachusetts in 1988, from an English translation by Vlada Chernomordik. The subsequent award-winning film Vanya on 42nd Street starred Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore in 1996. Mamet’s own plays include Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo, Edmond, Speed the Plow and Romance.

This new production of Uncle Vanya is directed by Hugh Fraser, best known as Captain Hasting in TV’s Poirot, and designed by Charlie Cridlan with lighting by Nick Holdridge. It’s followed at Wilton’s by a new production of Shakespeare’s battle-of-the-sexes comedy The Taming of the Shrew, which runs from 5 March to 28 April 2007, although no further details have yet been announced.

Built by pub owner John Wilton in 1858, Wilton's is the world's oldest surviving extant music hall, built on the back of a pub. It was closed in the 1880s and later became a Methodist church and then a rag warehouse. Once condemned, it was saved by the intervention of Sir Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Sir John Betjeman.

Though only 40 percent of the Music Hall is safe and in use, it now plays host to a select number of theatrical and musical events each year. The Wilton’s Music Hall Trust has been set up to stabilise the building, at an estimated cost of £3.5 million. HRH The Prince of Wales is now Patron of Wilton’s.

- by Terri Paddock