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Cast: Mrs Higgins, Taylor Pricks, Lapotaire Door

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Three-time Olivier Award winner Clare Higgins will make her Almeida Theatre debut this autumn to take the title role in the first major London revival of Nicholas Wright’s Mrs Klein (See News, 19 May 2009), which runs from 29 October to 5 December 2009 (previews from 22 October).

Mrs Klein premiered in 1988 at the National, where Higgins frequently treads the boards (currently in All’s Well That Ends Well) and where she starred in Wright’s Vincent in Brixton, which subsequently transferred to the West End and Broadway (and back again) and won her one of her Oliviers for Best Actress.

Higgins’ many other stage credits include Oedipus, The Secret Rapture, Children’s Hour, Sweet Bird of Youth, Absence of War, Napoli Millionaria, King Lear (all at the NT), The Fever (Royal Court), Phaedra (Donmar), Death of a Salesman, Night of the Iguana and Ride Down Mount Morgan (West End).

Set in London in 1934, Wright’s play revolves around Melanie Klein, who is one of the most admired, yet controversial, psychoanalysts of her time. Though a supposed expert on childhood, Melanie’s relationship with her own daughter, also a psychoanalyst, is badly damaged. An unexpected message from abroad brings it to bitter confrontation. The news also poses a mystery that even Mrs. Klein, despite her genius for analysis, cannot solve. It’s left to her new assistant, a refugee from Hitler’s Berlin, to find a possible answer.

Higgins is joined in the cast by Nicola Walker as Paula and Kate Ashfield as Melitta. Mrs Klein is directed by Thea Sharrock.

Ahead of Mrs Klein at the Almeida (See News, 14 Oct 2008), Christopher Hampton resumes his fascination with Austrian playwright Odon von Horvath, who in 1938 was killed by a falling tree branch in Paris, with the world premiere of von Horvath’s final play, 1937’s Judgment Day, which is directed by James Macdonald and runs from 10 September to 17 October 2009 (previews from 4 September).

In a small village in Austria, diligent station master Thomas Hudetz is a well respected member of the local community until flirtatious young Anna momentarily distracts him from his duties, causing a fatal train wreck for which the town needs to find the culprit. Hampton has previously adapted von Horvath’s Tales from the Vienna Woods, Faith Hope and Charity and Don Juan Comes Back from the War and, in his own original play, Tales from Hollywood, imagined him as a character who survived the tree branch and emigrated to Los Angeles.

The full cast is Suzanne Burden (Mrs Hudetz), Alan David (Pokorny/Prosecutor), Laura Donnelly (Anna), Ben Fox (Kohut/Customer), Tom Georgeson (Landlord), Daniel Hawksford (Ferdinand), Jack James (Salesman/Detective/Platelayer), Joseph Millson (Thomas Hudetz), Jake Nightingale (Policeman), Julie Riley (Leni), Andy Williams (Woodsman/Inspector) and Sarah Woodward (Frau Leimgruber). Lewis Lempereur-Palmer and Thomas Patten will alternate the role of the child.

In other play casting news elsewhere:

  • Jane Lapotaire returns to the stage for the first time since suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2000 to star in the world premiere of Another Door Closed, Peter Gill’s first new play in six years, which runs from 4 to 29 August 2009 (press performances 11 August) as part of Peter Hall’s seventh annual summer repertory season at the Theatre Royal Bath (See News, 17 Mar 2009). Two sisters’ memories of their childhood home are disrupted by a male visitor who reveals that their mother had been very kind to him. Lapotaire is joined by June Watson and Sean Chapman in the production, directed by Gill himself. Lapotaire won a best actress Tony Award for Piaf and her many other stage credits include Master Class, A Month in the Country, A Room with a View, Shadowlands and numerous classical roles at the RSC, National, Young Vic and elsewhere.

  • Gwen Taylor will join Chris New and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas in the world premiere of Prick Up Your Ears, Simon Bent’s new play about the life and tragic death of Joe Orton, based on the John Lahr biography of the same name (See News, 22 Jun 2009). Taylor plays Mrs Corden, neighbour to New’s Orton and his lover/murderer Kenneth Halliwell, played by Lucas. Taylor is best known for her TV roles in the likes of Heartbeat, Barbara, A Bit of a Do, Conjugal Rites, Duty Free, Class Act and Belonging. Prick Up Your Ears is booking at London Comedy Theatre from 30 September to 6 December 2009 (previews from 17 September). Prior to the West End opening, it tours to Richmond (26-29 August), Salford (31 August-5 September) and Brighton (7-12 September).

  • Penny Downie will take the title role in Frank McGuinness’ new version of Euripides’ fifth-century BC play Helen, the first full-scale Greek drama to be staged at Shakespeare’s Globe (See News, 19 Nov 2008), where it runs in from 5 to 23 August 2009 (previews from 2 August). Having never arrived in Troy, Helen is now trying to escape from Egypt and the marriage intentions of its king, Menelaus, played by Paul McGann.

  • And, from tonight (13 July 2009), there’s an all-new cast in the Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Award-winning comedy The 39 Steps at the West End’s Criterion Theatre. In Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation of the John Buchan whodunit, inspired by the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, four actors play “150 roles” between them to tell the tale of London bachelor Richard Hannay fleeing to Scotland and breaking a spy ring to prove his innocence after a woman is found murdered in his home. The new cast are: John Hopkins as Richard Hannay, Natalie Walter as Annabella Schmidt and Stephen Critchlow and Stephen Ventura as the two clowns. Maria Aitken directs.
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