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Evans Inaugurates New Crucible with Sher Enemy

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Sheffield Crucible will reopen in February 2010 - after a two-year, £15.3 million renovation - with an epic new production of Ibsen’s 1882 classic An Enemy of the People, starring Antony Sher and directed by Sheffield’s newly appointed artistic director, the Olivier Award-winning actor Daniel Evans (See News, 8 Apr 2009).

Evans, speaking at a press conference today, scheduled the “great civic play” as a timely opener because of its “dynamic between political accountability and expediency”. It will run from 17 February to 20 March 2010 (previews form 11 February), “just before a general election”.

In An Enemy of the People, it’s boom town in a spa town, where visitor numbers are higher than ever and the pay-off is huge. But Dr. Tomas Stockmann knows the toxic secret underlying the town’s newfound wealth. If he’s concerned for the health of the people, how can he be their enemy?

Evans is using the Christopher Hampton version of Ibsen’s play which, coincidentally, Trevor Nunn first directed as the opening production of his tenure as artistic director of the National Theatre in 1997. This was when Ian McKellen starred as Stockmann, the part now being taken by Sher, who will be supported in the 53-strong production by the largest chorus of local residents ever seen on the Crucible stage.

Speaking today, Evans said Antony Sher was “number one my list” to star. He said “it will be fantastic to have a knight of the realm” to open his first season and the first season in the new theatre, he said. An actor whose multi award-winning credits include Richard III, Stanley and Torch Song Trilogy, Sher has most recently been seen on stage in The Tempest, Kean, Othello and Primo, the one-man play which he also wrote.

The large-scale production of An Enemy of the People will mark a major step up for Evans, who only started directing five years ago and. To date, he has mounted mainly small-scale productions, including two Peter Gill plays at the Young Vic and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. “I felt that I should start with a bang” and “offer myself up” immediately, he said today.

Other highlights of Evans’ opening season announced today include:

In the Crucible

  • True West, 18 May to 5 June 2010 (previews from 13 May) – Associate director Paul Miller will direct Sam Shepard’s 1980 play about sibling rivalry and Hollywood hypocrisy, in which brothers Austin, a screenwriter, and Lee, a small-time crook, battle it out in the family’s Mojave Desert homestead. The two actors playing the brothers will alternate their roles each performance, with assignments for press night decided by the toss of a coin. The play has famously encouraged such role-swapping in the past, with renowned productions at the Donmar Warehouse in 1994 (starring Mark Rylance and Michael Rudko) and on Broadway (with Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C Reilly) in 2000. Sheffield casting has not yet been confirmed.
  • Alice, 22 June to 24 July 2010 (previews from 17 June) – Sheffield-born playwright Laura Wade’s radical “response” to Lewis Carroll’s classic 1865 children’s novel Alice in Wonderland will be set in modern Sheffield with a “wonderland the like of which we’ve never seen before”. Evans hopes that the family show will provide “a great antidote to the World Cup” taking place at the same time next summer. The world premiere adaptation will be directed by associate director Lyndsey Turner.
  • In the Studio

  • Sisters, 16 to 27 March 2010 (previews from 11 March) – Stephanie Street will star in her own verbatim drama based on interviews with more than 30 fellow British Muslim women about their experiences in the wake of the 7 July 2005 bombings in London. Evans said the play “gives you answers to lots of questions” – such as burqas and hygiene – “that, unless you have close Muslim friends, you’re often too uncomfortable to ask”. Ruth Carney will direct.
  • There’s Only One Wayne Matthews, 30 March to 2 April 2010 (previews from 31 March) – Roy Williams’ 2007 children’s play, about a young boy battling racism to become the first black footballer to make the England squad in 1979, is revived in the lead-up to the World Cup, directed by Dawn Walton. It will tour schools prior to its Sheffield season.
  • That Face, 7 to 24 July 2010 (previews from 1 July) – Polly Stenham’s award-winning debut play, written when she was just 19, receives its English regional premiere in a production directed by associate director Richard Wilson, a former associate director of the Royal Court, where the drama about “uber family dysfunction”, centring on a drug-addicted mother and her teenage children, premiered in 2007 prior to a West End season.
  • Speaking about the programme, Evans explained: “In choosing the plays for the opening season, I’ve concentrated on two guiding principles: first, I wanted to offer a variety of work (including classics, world premieres, adaptations and theatre for young people), and secondly, I wanted to present plays that speak directly to the city of Sheffield and the region at this moment in time.”

    Further ahead, though details are still under wraps, Evans promised that a major musical revival, as well as Shakespeare, will be on offer in late 2010, while 2011 will see a festival across Sheffield’s three auditoria – the next-door Lyceum as well as the Crucible and Studio – dedicated to one playwright and a formative period in their career.

    The new artistic director also said that he will “definitely not stop acting” himself and promised that “I will act on our stages” within the next two years. He also plans to programme more in-house work in the Lyceum, traditionally reserved for visiting musical, dance and opera productions, and to reinstitute Sheffield’s youth theatre programme.


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