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Poliakoff My City & LaBute Pretty Debut at Almeida

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The Almeida Theatre have announced their upcoming season which includes debuts of Stephen Poliakoff's first new play in 12 years My City and Neil LaBute's return to the Almeida with the UK premiere of Reasons to be Pretty.

Poliakoff, who also directs his first new play for over a decade, opens My City on 15 September (previews from 8 September) playing until 5 November 2011. Celebrating the power of storytelling to raise the human spirit, his new plays sees Richard Kenton find his primary school headmistress lying on a park bench in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral. As he becomes reacquainted with her and the other teachers that helped shape him, memories of their vivid and imaginative lessons come to life and their tales of London inspire him once more.

Having started his career as resident playwright at the National Theatre at the age of 22, Stephen Poliakoff won the Evening Standard most promising playwright award in 1976 for Hitting Town and City Sugar and has since written over 20 plays. His stage work which have premiered in the UK include Pretty Boy, Heroes, Strawberry Fields, Breaking the Silence, Coming In To Land, Sweet Panic, Blinded by the Sun, Talk of the City and Remember This.

His extensive screen credits include the award-winning Caught on a Train, The Lost Prince, Friends and Crocodiles, Joe’s Palace, and most recently, Glorious 39 which starred Julie Christie, Romola Garai, Christopher Lee, Bill Nighy, Eddie Redmayne and David Tennant.

Neil LaBute's Reasons to be Pretty, which opens on 17 November (previews from 10 November) and runs until 14 January 2012, opened at the Lucille Lortel Theater in 2008 and examines our perception of beauty. LaBute will also direct the play, which asks whether it is as much of a curse to be conventionally attractive as it is to be considered ugly.

Reasons to be Pretty was previously tipped to open in the West End last year, starring Lily Allen in her stage debut. Further rumours had Ugly Betty star America Ferrera and film actress Julia Stiles pegged for the play, however casting for the Almeida's production is still to be announced.

Labute's In A Forest Dark and Deep opens tonight at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre staring Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams. His relationship with the Almeida goes back to 2000 with the theatre having staged productions of The Shape of Things, The Distance From Here, The Mercy Seat and In a Dark Dark House. His other plays include Autobahn, Fat Pig, Some Girls and This Is How It Goes with screen credits including Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, Possession, The Shape of Things and the award-winning In the Company of Men.

Also announced today, this year's Almeida Festival will feature work by Greyscale theatre company, Belarus Free Theatre and Young Friends of the Almeida (LAB).

Greyscale will present The Theatre Brothel, a performance in spaces around the theatre, where audiences are "invited in to buy the experience they want or maybe need". It will run from 6 to 16 July. Belarus Free Theatre, who face oppression in their home city of Minsk and have been described as the "bravest theatre in the world" will present 14 plays from 13 countries around Europe. The UK premiere of the piece, which is titled Eurepica. Challenge., it will run from 20 to 26 July. The festival ends with performances by the Young Friends of the Almeida (LAB) who have responded to last year's Almeida season. Having devised their own play based on their experiences, directed by Lu Kemp, the work will be presented on 29 and 30 July 2011.

Currently previewing at the Almeida, artistic director Michael Attenborough’s production of The Knot of the Heart opens on 17 March. A new play by David Eldridge, it stars Kieran Bew, Abigail Cruttenden, Lisa Dillon, Margot Leicester and Sophie Stanton and runs until 30 April 2011.

Prior to the start of the new season the previously announced revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance runs from 12 May to 2 July 2011 (previews from 5 May). Tim Pigott-Smith plays Tobias in the production which also stars Penelope Wilton, Imelda Staunton and Lucy Cohu.


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