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Briers, Russell Beale & Shaw Lead NT Assurance

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Complicite’s Endgame was meant to be Richard Briers’ final stage appearance, but he pulled out of that earlier this year after his friend and intended co-star Adrian Scarborough withdrew due to commitments in Alan Bennett’s new play The Habit of Art at the National Theatre (See News, 13 Aug 2009).

Once again following in Scarborough’s footsteps, Briers will head to the National in the new year, although rather than the NT Lyttelton, where The Habit of Art receives its world premiere next Tuesday 17 November 2009, Briers will return to the stage in the NT Olivier in artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s new production of Dion Boucicault’s 1841 comedy London Assurance, which joins the rep on 10 March 2010 (previews from 2 March).

Although Scarborough isn’t in it, Briers will be joined in London Assurance by, as previously tipped (See The Goss, 9 Nov 2009), Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw as the classic comic characters Lord Harcourt Courtley and Lady Gay Spanker. Also confirmed for the cast are Paul Ready and Michelle Terry.

In London Assurance, Sir Harcourt is lured away from the epicentre of fashionable London by the promise of a rich and beautiful bride, Grace, 45 years his junior. Arriving at Oak Hall, Gloucestershire, he marvels at this rural Venus until her charms are eclipsed by her hearty cousin, the foxhunting Lady Spanker. Meanwhile, his disguised son turns up in flight from his creditors and falls head over heels for Grace. When Lady Spanker discovers the young couple, she needs little prompting from the visiting chancer Dazzle to lead Sir Harcourt astray.

The new NT production is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting by Neil Austin, music by Rachel Portman and sound by John Leonard. It’s presented in the NT Olivier as part of the sponsored Shell Series: Classic drama offerings.

Other openings for the National’s newly announced schedule for January to March 2010 will include a new play by Tamsin Oglesby, Inua Ellams’ autobiographical one-man piece The 14th Tale and, as previously tipped (See The Goss, 9 Nov 2009), a new version of Bulgakov’s banned Russian classic The White Guard.

For theatregoers who can’t get to the South Bank, the next two dates for the NT Live pilot season have been announced: a matinee performance of Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Nation will be broadcast live to cinemas on Saturday 30 January, followed on Thursday 22 April by an evening performance of Alan Bennett’s new play The Habit of Art, starring Alex Jennings, Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour.

In the NT Lyttelton

Howard Davies directs Bulgakov’s rarely performed “masterpiece” The White Guard, in a new version by Andrew Upton (joint artistic director of Sydney Theatre Company with his wife Cate Blanchett, who previously adapted another Russian classic, Gorky’s Philistines, directed by Davies in the NT Lyttelton in 2007. This new production will join the Lyttelton rep on 12 March 2009 (previews from 15 March).

Originally written as a novel in 1926, The White Guard was turned into the play The Days of the Turbins that was also banned during Bulgakov’s lifetime. The near-farcical story follows the fortunes of the Turbin family from 1918, as the opposing forces in the Russian civil war and the Ukrainian peasants fight over the city of Kiev. Bulgakov’s 1928 epic Flight, about the exodus of White Russian émigrés after the war, was staged at the NT in 1998.

Cast so far confirmed for The White Guard include Conleth Hill (who also appeared in Philistines), Pip Carter, Paul Higgins and Justine Mitchell. The production is designed by Bunny Christie, with lighting by Neil Austin and sound by Christopher Shutt.

In the NT Cottesloe

Tamsin Oglesby’s new “furious comedy” about fear of old age, Really Old, Like Forty Five, receives its world premiere in the NT Cottesloe on 3 February 2009 (previews from 27 January), directed by Anna Mackmin.

There are just too many old people. As a government research body seeks to deal with the problems of a maturing population, a family addresses its own. Lyn’s memory starts to go, Alice takes a fall and even Robbie has to face the signs of ageing. Relations are put to the test across three generations. As are those who enter the increasingly sinister world of State Care.

The Really Old, Like Forty Five cast is: Lucy May Barker, Paul Bazely, Amelia Bullmore, Tanya Franks, Gawn Grainger, Thomas Jordan, Michela Meazza, Judy Parfitt, Paul Ritter and Marcia Warren.

Really Old, Like Forty Five is joined in the NT Cottesloe rep, for ten performances only from 9 February to 13 March 2010, by Fuel’s production of The 14th Tale written and performed by Inua Ellams. Visual and performance artist and poet Ellams was born in Nigeria in 1984 and moved to the UK as a teenager. The 14th Tale is a free-flowing narrative that tells the hilarious exploits of this natural born mischief from the clay streets of Nigeria to rooftops in Dublin and finally to London.


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