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Hall Adapts James’ Portrait, Revives Doll at Bath

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Sir Peter Hall has announced details of his sixth annual summer repertory season at the Theatre Royal Bath, which as previously tipped (See The Goss, 26 Mar 2008), includes a new adaptation of Henry James’ 1881 novel The Portrait of a Lady and revivals of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Alan Bennett’s Enjoy and Peter Nichols’ Born in the Gardens.

Amongst the big names already lined up to appear in the season, which runs in Bath from 3 July to 30 August 2008, are Catherine McCormack (pictured), Niamh Cusack, Stephanie Cole, Alison Steadman and Jean Marsh. The 2008 repertoire marks the 20th anniversary of the Peter Hall Company and also includes a new family-friendly collaboration with the Royal Opera House.

The season kicks off in the main house, from 3 July to 9 August 2008 (press performance on 23 July), with the world premiere of Nicki Frei’s new adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady, directed by Hall and starring Catherine McCormack (most recently seen in the West End in The Lady from Dubuque and The 39 Steps) as Isabel Archer, a young American heiress who sets out on a European voyage of self-discovery, meeting eligible and not-so-eligible bachelors en route.

McCormack is joined in the cast by Niamh Cusack, Jean Marsh, Anthony Howell and Finbar Lynch. Lynch and McCormack will also star in Hall’s revival of Ibsen’s 1879 classic A Doll’s House, which runs in rep with The Portrait of a Lady from 8 July to 9 August (press performance on 23 July). Nora (McCormack) thought she had the perfect life until a ghost from the past returns, and makes her realise she’s stuck in a suffocating marriage.

Stephanie Cole plays Maud, an eccentric old woman whose children try to persuade her to move from her Victorian house into a modern duplex, in a revival of Peter Nichols’ 1979 play Born in the Gardens, which runs from 15 July to 9 August 2008 (press performance on 22 July). It’s directed by Stephen Unwin, formerly the head of English Touring Theatre who earlier this year took over the artistic director reins from Hall at the Rose Theatre, Kingston (See News, 21 Jan 2008).

In August, Alison Steadman will star in Bennett’s rarely seen 1980 play Enjoy, which is set in the playwright’s home town of Leeds, where an ageing couple living in the city’s last, and soon-to-be-demolished back-to-back are soon to be re-housed in a modern maisonette. When a sociologist comes to observe them in their daily life, normality takes a decidedly atypical turn. Christopher Luscombe directs the production, which runs from 12 to 20 August 2008 (press performance 18 August).

The final production in the Peter Hall Company’s 2008 season marks the first time that the Royal Opera House will visit the Theatre Royal Bath, with a co-production of Faeries, a family show combining puppetry, dance and storytelling. It’s inspired by children’s book illustrator Arthur Rackham and features puppets by Blind Summit Theatre and choreography by Will Tuckett, who also directs. Faeries runs in the Egg studio from 22 to 30 July (press performance 24 July).

- by Terri Paddock


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