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Attenborough stages Turn of the Screw, Ackland & Headlong Chimerica before leaving Almeida

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Michael Attenborough’s final season at London’s Almeida Theatre will include a new adaptation of Henry James’ 1898 ghost story The Turn of the Screw, a revival of Rodney Ackland’s 1949 play Before the Party, and, in a co-production with Headlong, the world premiere of Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimera, a drama sparked by the Tiananmen Square protests in China in 1989.

Attenborough announced earlier this month that he will step down in the spring after 11 years at the helm.

His final season opens, from 24 January to 16 March 2013 (previews from 18 January) with The Turn of the Screw. Adapted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, it will be directed by Lindsay Posner.

Henry James' novella centres on a new governess who arrives at a remote estate in Bly to care for two children, Miles and Flora. Wild but angelic they charm their guardian with flowers, poetry and song. But as she grows to love her two wards, figures appear in the darkness outside and the corners of the house are haunted by those that have gone before.

Most famously adapted by Benjamin Britten as an opera, James’ original novella has also been adapted for film (as The Innocents starring Deborah Kerr) and for television (with Lynne Redgrave in 1974 and in 1999 with Jodhi May and Colin Firth), as well as as a ballet by William Tuckett, a Radio 4 adaptation by Neville Teller and a BBC TV drama starring Michelle Dockery and Sue Johnston.

Lindsay Posner’s many other credits include The House of Games, Tom and Viv, The Hypochondriac and Romance at the Almeida, and currently previewing in the West End, Uncle Vanya starring Ken Stott, Anna Friel, Samuel West and Laura Carmichael.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz’ adaptations include Ghosts and An Enemy of the People.  Her original plays include The Painter, Stars Over Kabul, Her Naked Skin, The Lioness, The Soldier’s Tale, Shoreditch Madonna and The Night Season.

The Turn of the Screw is designed by Peter McKintosh, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by John Leonard. It’s presented in association with Act Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions and Hammer Theatre of Horror.

It's followed, from 28 March to 11 May (previews from 21 March), by Matthew Dunster's rare revival of Rodney Ackland’s Before The Party.

Based on a short story by Somerset Maugham, the play centres on the high society Skinner family in the wake of the Second World War.

Dunster’s directing credits include Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Mogadishu for the Royal Exchange and Lyric Hammersmith and Love The Sinner for the National Theatre. His play Children’s Children received its world premiere at the Almeida earlier this year directed by Jeremy Herrin.

Playwright Rodney Ackland (1908–1991) wrote over 40 plays, including Improper People, Birthday, The Dark River and Absolute Hell (which starred Judi Dench in 1966).Before the Party is his first play at the Almeida – and this production is the first one mounted in over 25 years.

Rounding off the season is the world premiere of Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica, which runs from 23 May to 29 June 2013 (previews from 17 May).

An Almeida and Headlong co-production, the play is directed by Lyndsey Turner, whose recent credits include Posh at the Royal Court and Duke of York's and Philadelphia, Here I Come! at the Donmar Warehouse.

Tiananmen Square, 1989. As tanks roll through Beijing and soldiers hammer on his hotel door, Joe – a young American photojournalist – captures a piece of history.  In New York, 2012 Joe is covering a presidential election, marred by debate over cheap labour and the outsourcing of American jobs to Chinese factories.  When a cryptic message is left in a Beijing newspaper, Joe is driven to discover the truth behind the unknown hero he captured on film. Who was he? What happened to him? And could he still be alive?

Lucy Kirkwood’s plays include The Small Hours (Hampstead Theatre), Beauty and The Beast (National Theatre), It Felt Empty When the Heart Went at First But It is Alright Now (Clean Break Theatre Company at the Arcola) and Tinderbox (Bush Theatre). Her latest play NSFW premieres at the Royal Court next week.

Headlong returns to the Almeida Theatre following the 2008 co-production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The collaboration will continue in autumn 2013 with another new co-production and world premiere: the previously announced musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ gory modern novel American Psycho, with book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik. American Psycho will be directed by Headlong artistic director Rupert Goold and will go on sale next spring.


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