Pete Postlethwaite (pictured) will return to his Merseyside roots to take the title role in King Lear at the Liverpool Everyman next year as part of the theatre’s programming during the city’s reign as European Capital of Culture 2008 (See News, 27 Sep 2007). The production will be directed by Rupert Goold, who has just won the Evening Standard Award and been nominated in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards for his acclaimed Patrick Stewart-led production of Macbeth (click here to vote!).

Other 2008 programming highlights for the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse include the return of Matthew Kelly, who will star with his son Matthew Rixon in a new production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, a new version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters relocated to post-World War II Liverpool and two new Liverpudlian musicals.

The new year schedule kicks off with 3 Sisters on Hope Street, which opens on 30 January 2008 (previews from 25 January – to coincide with the UK National Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January) and which continues at the Everyman until 16 February, before transferring to London’s Hampstead Theatre from 21 February to 29 March 2008.

The piece, co-written by Liverpool’s Diane Samuels (Kindertransport) and Tracy-Ann Oberman transplants Chekhov’s 1901 Russian classic to the Jewish community of Liverpool in 1946. The co-production is directed by Lindsay Posner with a cast including Ben Caplan, Anna Francolini, Elliot Levey, Jennie Stoller and Philip Voss.

Lucy Pitman-Wallace directs Samuel Beckett’s 1957 existentialist play Endgame at the Everyman from 16 April to 3 May 2008 (previews from 11 April). Set in a bare, partially underground room, Beckett's 1957 existentialist play finds a wheelchair-bound Hamm (Matthew Kelly) passing the time by ordering his servant Clov (Matthew Rixon) to move him around, fetch objects and peer out the window for signs of life, while his bin-dwelling parents Nagg and Nell look on.

Exact dates have not yet been set for the two musicals - Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi and Eric’s - which will open in June and October respectively. Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi, written and directed by Phil Willmott, takes an irreverent look at the city’s iconic hotel in its 1930s heyday. Eric’s, written by Mark Davies Markham and directed by Jamie Lloyd (a graduate of the Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts), celebrates the club that was a musical hothouse in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

The Pete Postlethwaite King Lear will open at the Everyman in October, as a co-production with touring company Headlong Theatre, of which Rupert Goold is artistic director.

Born in nearby Warrington, Postlethwaite has said that he was inspired to become n actor after attending productions at the Everyman in the 1960s. Best known internationally for his roles in films such as In the Name of the Father, The Usual Suspects, Brassed Off and The Shipping News, Postlethwaite’s many stage credits include Richard II, The Good Person of Sichuan, Funny Peculiar, The Recruiting Officer, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and 2002’s Scaramouche Jones, for which he won Best Solo Performance in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. Most recently, he’s appeared in productions of The Homecoming and The Tempest at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

Liverpool’s 2008 schedule will also feature visiting productions including: the Donmar Warehouse revival of Arthur Miller’s The Man Who Had All the Luck; Shared Experience’s War and Peace, Northern Broadsides’ Romeo and Juliet, Akhram Khan’s dance collaboration with Hanif Kureishi and Nitin Sawhney, Bahok, and Out of Joint’s premiere of David Edgar’s new play Testing the Echo.

- by Terri Paddock