Real-life couple Julian Glover and Isla Blair will play former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa in Penny Gold’s new drama The President's Holiday. The piece receives its world premiere on 22 January 2008 (previews from 17 January) at north London’s Hampstead Theatre, where it runs until 16 February as the first in a series of five Russian-themed plays.

Set on 18 August 1991 at the Gorbachev’s summer house, The President's Holiday - part political thriller, part personal drama – draws on the diaries of Raisa Gorbachev to tell the story of a family under siege and an idealist who unwittingly destroys all that he’s fought for.

Author Penny Gold’s long-standing interest in Russian history and politics led her to write her 2006 radio play Three Days That Shook the World, about the 1991 coup and the collapse of the USSR from the limited media perspective. The President's Holiday tells the Gorbachevs’ side of the story.

Blair and Glover last played a husband and wife in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Blair’s other recent credits include The History Boys, Stuff Happens, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Noises Off for the National. Glover’s most recently been seen on stage in The Voysey Inheritance at the National, Richard II at the Old Vic and The Dresser in the West End.

The couple are joined in The President's Holiday cast by Sophie Cornelius, Amy Jane Cotter, Robert Demeger, Anna Hewson, Roger May, Ella O’Brien and Skye Stuart. Following Hampstead, the Nuffield Theatre Southampton co-production, directed by Patrick Sandford, will transfer to Southampton from 20 February to 8 March 2008.

Hampstead’s Russian season then continues with: Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman’s 3 Sisters on Hope Street (21 February to 29 March), a reworking of Chekhov’s Three Sisters set in post-World War II Liverpool, that’s co-produced with Liverpool Everyman where it premieres next month (See News, 12 Dec 2007); Shared Experience’s first revival of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace (10 April to 11 May), visiting as part of a national tour (See News, 21 Nov 2007); and the world premiere of Steve Waters’ Fast Labour (2 to 21 June), about illegal immigration and people-trafficking, which first runs at co-producing house, the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.

The season’s penultimate play, still to be confirmed, will be a contemporary Russian play care of the Sputnik Theatre Company and will fill the gap from 16 April to 3 May 2008.

- by Terri Paddock