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Almeida Premieres Shepard Horse, LaBute’s Dark

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Irish actor Stephen Rea (pictured) will return to the London stage this autumn to star, for 16 performances only, in the British premiere of American Sam Shepard’s latest play Kicking a Dead Horse, as part of the newly announced autumn/winter season at the Almeida Theatre. The season will also include the European premiere of In a Dark Dark House, written by Shepard’s compatriot Neil LaBute, and a major new production of Harley Granville Barker’s banned play Waste, directed by Samuel West.

Kicking a Dead Horse opens the schedule from 10 to 20 September 2008 (previews from 5 September). In it, Rea plays Hobart Struther, a wealthy Manhattan art dealer, who has ditched his shiny city life in search of authenticity in the modern-day Wild West. Shepard’s play received its world premiere, with Rea, at Dublin’s Peacock Theatre in March 2007 and, prior to the Almeida, will make its US premiere next month at New York’s Public Theater. The production is directed by the author.

An actor, director and playwright, Sam Shepard has written over 45 plays to date, including True West, A Lie of the Mind, Fool for Love and Buried Child, which won the Pulitzer Prize. His play The Late Henry Moss received its UK premiere at the Almeida in 2006. Stephen Rea’s many film credits include The Crying Game, Michael Collins, The End of the Affair, V for Vendetta and Pret-a-Porter. His myriad stage credits – at the National, Royal Court, Hampstead Theatre and his native Ireland – include Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and, most recently in London, Cyrano de Bergerac (at the NT in 2004) and Celebration.

Kicking a Dead Horse is followed, from 2 October to 15 November 2008 (previews from 25 September) by Samuel West’s revival of Granville Barker’s Waste. Radical independent politician Henry Trebell is persuaded to join the Conservative Party in order to champion his bill to disestablish the Church of England and to use its funds to finance a vast education programme. But a liaison with a married woman, who dies after aborting their child, brings private scandal into the political arena.

Waste was written in 1907 but was banned by the Lord Chamberlain and was not performed until 1936 at London’s Westminster Theatre. Granville Barker’s other plays include The Madras House, The Marrying of Ann Leete and The Voysey Inheritance, which was revived two years ago at the National. Actor-director Samuel West’s directing credits include The Romans in Britain, Insignificance and As You Like It at Sheffield Crucible, where he stepped down artistic director in 2006 (See News, 21 Dec 2006), and most recently Dealer’s Choice, which transferred to the West End after its run at the Menier Chocolate Factory last year.

Neil LaBute’s In a Dark Dark House concludes the new schedule, from 27 November 2008 from 17 January 2009 (previews from 20 November). Two brothers are brought together as one undergoes court-ordered rehab. The forced reunion brings to light barely-hidden animosities between the two and their troubled legacy, both inside and outside their dark family home. In a Dark Dark House received its world premiere at Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater in May 2007. The UK premiere will be directed by Almeida artistic director Michael Attenborough.

Neil LaBute has had a long association with the Almeida. His plays The Shape of Things, The Distance from Here, Bash and post-9/11 drama The Mercy Seat all had premiere runs at the theatre, the last directed by Attenborough in 2003. LaBute is currently in the West End directing the UK premiere of his 2004 Off-Broadway comedy Fat Pig, which stars Robert Webb and Kris Marshall and opens at Trafalgar Studios on 27 May (See News, 4 Apr 2008). His other plays include Some Girls and This Is How It Goes, while his films include In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, Possession, The Wicker Man and adaptations of The Shape of Things and Bash.

In other Almeida news, Peter McDonald will star in the European premiere of Adam Rapp’s one-man play Nocturne, which has ten performances only from 16 to 26 July as part of the Almeida’s Summer Festival season (See News, 8 Apr 2008). No casting has yet been announced for Waste or In a Dark Dark House.

- by Terri Paddock


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