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Hall Lures Eyre, Wright & Mitchell to Hampstead

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Building on the success of his inaugural season at Hampstead Theatre, which concludes with the current sell-out production of Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, artistic director Edward Hall has announced details for his next autumn/winter programme.

The new season will include four premieres – by Nicholas Wright, Simon Stephens, Richard Nelson and Steve Thompson – helmed by leading directors Richard Eyre, Katie Mitchell, Roger Michell and Hall himself. There will also be a return Christmas engagement for this past year’s festive hit, Melly Still and Tim Supple’s adaptation of Carol Ann Duffy’s Beasts and Beauties.

The autumn launches with the world premiere of Steve Thompson’s Monty Python-inspired No Naughty Bits, directed by Hall and running from 13 September to 15 October 2011 (previews from 8 September). The play reimagines the real-life trials of Pythons Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin as they take on the American television networks and courts in defense of English humour after all the rude bits were cut out of the Monty Python series when it was first broadcast in the US.

It’s followed, from 26 October to 26 November 2011 (previews from 20 October), by the world premiere of Nicholas Wright’s The Last of the Duchess, directed by his frequent collaborator, former National Theatre artistic director (and successor to Hall’s father Sir Peter on the South Bank) Richard Eyre.

The Last of the Duchess is based on Caroline Blackwood’s 1995 book about the last days of Wallace Simpson, the American divorcee who became the Duchess of Windsor after marrying and necessitating the abdication of Edward VIII. Blackwood was originally commissioned to write an article about the Duchess, who died in 1986, for the Sunday Times in 1980. The book focuses on her attempts to organise interviews, while being obstructed by the Duchess’ lawyer Maitre Suzanne Blum, who Blackwood accused of essentially imprisoning the royal in her villa in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne.

Wright’s new play was previously tipped for the West End as a star vehicle for Maggie Smith. Wright and Eyre have worked together before on the multi award-winning Vincent in Brixton and The Reporter, both premiered at the National, and co-wrote the book Changing Stages, about British theatre across the 20th century.

Beasts and Beauties, a retelling of eight grisly stories for ages eight and up, returns from 6 December 2011 to 7 January 2012 (previews from 1 December), directed by Melly Still. After that, the new year will kick up with the UK premiere of Simon StephensThe Trial of Ubu, running from 24 January to 18 February 2012 (previews from 18 January).

The Trial of Ubu picks up the story of the titular megalomaniac from Alfred Jarry’s 1896 play Ubu Roi and questions how civilised society deals with the perpetrators of unspeakable crimes. In it, Ubu finds himself before a UN-constituted International Tribunal charged with violations of humanitarian law. The Trial of Ubu will be the second collaboration between Stephens and director Katie Mitchell – it follows next month’s premiere of Wastwater at the Royal Court.

The new Hampstead schedule concludes with another world premiere, Farewell to the Theatre, written by Tony and Olivier Award-winning American dramatist Richard Nelson (Goodnight Children Everywhere, Some Americans Abroad) and directed by Roger Michell. It runs from 7 March to 7 April 2012 (previews from 1 March).

Nelson’s play centres on one of the founders of modern British theatre, author, actor, director and producer Harley Granville Barker, whose plays Waste and The Voysey Inheritance have recently had major London reclamations. Set in Massachusetts in 1916, Farewell to the Theatre finds an embittered Granvlle Barker attempting to rediscover his love of art amongst a community of ex-pats.

Commenting on the autumn/winter programme, Edward Hall said: “It is an enormous pleasure to be producing work of variety and quality over the next year and is indicative of a theatre that continues to go from strength to strength. Hampstead Theatre is now producing more work across its two spaces than ever before, selling more tickets and operating more efficiently. With Richard Eyre, Nicholas Wright, Katie Mitchell, Simon Stephens, Roger Michell and Richard Nelson amongst the artists joining us for our next major season of work, the theatre is looking forward to a very exciting phase in its history as one of the key new writing houses in the UK theatre landscape.”

Prior to the new season, this summer at Hampstead will comprise a Royal Shakespeare Company residency of new plays and a London transfer for Hall’s all-male Propeller company productions of Shakespeare’s Richard III and The Comedy of Errors.


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