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Sheffield Announces New David Hare Season

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One of the major triumphs of the Richard Eyre years at the National Theatre was the compelling David Hare Trilogy in 1993, three State of the Nation plays, Racing Demon (dealing with the Church), Murmuring Judges (the law) and The Absence of War (politics). The strongest of these was undoubtedly Racing Demon, originally staged three years earlier and winning Olivier Awards for Best New Play and for Oliver Ford Davies’ performance in the leading role – the play picking up a Tony nomination when it opened in New York in 1996.

There is something about the intensity and variety of David Hare’s writing that makes such trilogies, seasons or retrospectives peculiarly powerful and, when Racing Demon opens in the Crucible Theatre on February 10th, it will be part of a rather different threesome of David Hare plays. Artistic Director Daniel Evans, who has scheduled a retrospective of Hare’s work from 1978 to 2002, commented:

David Hare is one of the most significant figures of post-war British drama and I’m delighted that for the first time ever at Sheffield Theatres we will celebrate the work of one writer on all three of our stages simultaneously.”

For most of February, spilling over into the first week of March, the David Hare Season fills Sheffield’s three performances spaces. First to surface (on February 3rd) is his early success, Plenty, in the Studio Theatre. Hattie Morahan, last seen in Yorkshire in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Twelfth Night, plays Susan Traherne, victim of the drab dishonesty of post-war England, in a production by Thea Sharrock whose many London productions include Equus with Daniel Radcliffe which later transferred to Broadway.

Racing Demon is directed by Daniel Evans himself, with a superb cast including Malcolm Sinclair, most recently in the National Theatre tour of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, as the leader of a team of vicars in an inner-city parish whose good intentions never translate into sizeable congregations. The evangelical curate who stirs things up is played by Jamie Parker, the original Scripps in The History Boys, and the cast also includes Matthew Cottle, Jonathan Coy, Ian Gelder and Jane Wymark of Midsomer Murders fame.

Finally, on February 16th, The Breath of Life opens in the Lyceum Theatre, with Isla Blair and Patricia Hodge taking on the roles originally played by two Dames of the theatre, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Peter Gill, who directs, is, of course, equally celebrated as a playwright and coincidentally was himself the subject of a highly successful festival in the Crucible and Studio Theatres in 2002.

Plenty is at the Studio Theatre, February 3rd-26th. Racing Demon is at the Crucible Theatre, February 10th-March 5th. Breath of Life is at the Lyceum Theatre, February 16th-26th.

- Ron Simpson


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