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Cast: Hancock in 50th Birthday, Repeat & Piranha

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Sheila Hancock (pictured) will star in the 50th anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, which runs from 12 to 24 May 2008 (previews from 8 May) at west London’s Lyric Hammersmith, where it was first seen and famously written off by the critics of the time, closing after just eight performances.

Hancock has a long association with Pinter, dating back to when they were both starting out as actors. “I remember seeing The Birthday Party at the Lyric in 1958 … and being astounded that my fellow actor was a brilliant writer”, says Hancock, who describes it as a “great joy” to be part of the milestone production. Hancock’s recent stage credits include The Anniversary, The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, Vassa and Cabaret, for which she won an Olivier last year.

Another member of the cast, Nicholas Woodeson, also has a long-standing association with Pinter. He played Lenny in Peter Hall’s 1991 production of The Homecoming and McCann in Sam Mendes’ National Theatre production of The Birthday Party. He can currently be seen in John Mortimer’s Legal Fictions at the West End’s Savoy Theatre.

The production is directed by David Farr, artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith. Farr found Pinter extremely receptive when he proposed the project, saying “when I suggested to Harold Pinter the idea of celebrating the anniversary, I was struck by his enthusiasm for the idea, and by his vivid memories of the original production.”

Farr describes Hancock as a “Lyric legend”, who has performed in many productions there including a Pinter comedy sketch, written by Pinter, which she performed as part of a revue in 1959 with Beryl Reid and in 1997 with Dawn French. Also in The Birthday Party cast are Sian Brooke, Lloyd Hutchinson, Justin Salinger and Alan Williams.

Mark Ravenhill’s 16-play cycle Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat starts its London season tonight (3 April 2008), with the likes of David Bamber, Harriet Walter, Lesley Manville and Deborah Findlay featuring in performances across the city until 20 April 2008.

The project began life at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe as Ravenhill for Breakfast (produced by Paines Plough), in which the playwright wrote a daily 30-minute play for performance the following morning. The resulting cycle is being shown at four venues across the capital – the National, Royal Court and Gate theatres as well as a found warehouse space in Shoreditch titled the Village Underground (See News, 6 Mar 2008).

Exploring the personal and political effects of war on modern life via a collage of different scenes, the plays all take their titles from diverse classic works including War and Peace, Birth of a Nation and G&S operetta The Mikado. Other cast members include: at the National, Philip Voss, Danny Sapani and Amit Shah; at the Royal Court, Burn Gorman, Toby Jones, Pearce Quigley, Joseph Millson and Joanna Riding; at the Gate, Elliot Cowan and Madeleine Potter; and at the Village Underground, Raquel Cassidy.

And, at Soho Theatre, War Horse star Luke Treadaway will star in Philip Ridley's new play Piranha Heights, which runs from 15 May to 14 June 2008, directed by Soho artistic director Lisa Goldman, who premiered Ridley’s Leaves of Glass at the theatre last year. Treadaway is joined in the cast by Matthew Wait, Nicholas Tennant, Jade Williams and John McMillan.

- by Theo Bosanquet


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