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Roger Allam Heads Frayn Afterlife in NT Summer

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The National Theatre has today (7 April 2008) released further programming details for its summer season (See News, 16 Jan 2008). Highlights of the new booking period, from May to August 2008, include the world premiere of Michael Frayn’s latest play Afterlife, which will star Roger Allam (pictured), returning to the National for the first time since appearing in Frayn’s Demococracy in 2003.

In the NT Olivier

The third production in this year’s Travelex £10 Season in the 1,100-seat NT Olivier will be Thomas Middleton’s bloody Elizabethan classic The Revenger’s Tragedy, which opens on 4 June 2008 (previews from 27 May). Rory Kinnear, who won a Best Supporting Performance in a Play Olivier for his flamboyant fop in The Man of Mode in last year’s Travelex season, returns to play the vengeful Vindice, whose bloodlust is unleashed after a Duke poisons his beloved.

Kinnear will be joined in The Revenger’s Tragedy cast by Adjoa Andoh, Tom Andrews, Ken Bones, Donatella Cabras, Billy Carter, Elliot Cowan, Conor Doyle, Barbara Flynn, John Heffernan, Peter Hinton, Derek Howard, Pieter Lawman, Jane Leaney, Tommy Luther, Katherine Manners, Rob McNeill, Pamela Merrick, Simon Nagra, Rick Nodine, Jamie Parker, Richard Shanks, Ross Waiton and Lizzie Winkler. The production is directed and designed by Melly Still, whose previous Olivier hit Coram Boy transferred to Broadway.

The Revenger’s Tragedy is joined in rep from 31 July 2008 (previews from 24 July) by Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s Suffragette drama Her Naked Skin, the final production in the Travelex season and the first new play written by a woman to premiere on the National’s 1,100-seat main stage. Lenkiewicz’s previous plays include The Night Season (which premiered at the NT Cottesloe in 2004 and won her the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright), Soho – A Tale of Table Dancers and Shoreditch Madonna, while her adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People has just opened at the Arcola Theatre (See News, 4 Apr 2008).

Set in London in 1913 when the Suffragette movement is at its height, Her Naked Skin centres on Lady Celia Cain, an upper-class woman trapped in a frustrating marriage who, while serving time in Holloway prison as part of the emancipation fight, begins an erotic relationship with a young seamstress. The premiere production is directed by NT associate director Howard Davies and designed by Rob Howell.

In the NT Lyttelton

Afterlife, Michael Frayn’s first new play since Democracy, which premiered at the National in 2003 before West End and Broadway transfers, opens in the 900-seat NT Lyttelton on 4 June 2008 (previews from 27 May). It investigates the life of the Austrian impresario and founder of the Salzburg Festival, Max Reinhardt. Roger Allam, who played West German leader Willy Brandt in Frayn’s Democracy (pictured, right), will star as Reinhardt, once again directed by Frayn’s long-term collaborator Michael Blakemore.

Each year at the Salzburg Festival, Reinhardt directed the morality play Everyman, about God sending Death to summon a representative of mankind for judgement. Then in 1938 Hitler sends Death into Austria where Reinhardt, a Jew, is left as vulnerable as Everyman himself and must now face judgement himself. The Afterlife cast will feature another Democracy veteran, David Burke, as well as Abigail Cruttenden, Peter Forbes, Glyn Grain, Selina Griffiths and David Schofield.

Also in the Lyttelton, Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins, currently appearing together in the Olivier in Major Barbara, will play another long-married couple in a revival of Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter’s 1961 short three-hander A Slight Ache, which will have a run of nine early evening performances (at 6.00pm) between 21 July and 13 August 2008. In the same time slot, Corin Redgrave will read Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, the poetic love letter written during his sentence in Reading gaol, on 16 June, 1 and 2 July 2008.

In the NT Cottesloe

In the 400-seat NT Cottesloe, the new booking period kicks off with Lee Hall’s new play The Pitmen Painters, running in rep from 21 May to 25 June 2008 (previews from 19 May). Premiered at Newcastle’s Live Theatre last September, the piece is set in 1934 in Ashington, where a group of miners have hired a professor to teach an art appreciation class.

Hall’s credits include Spoonface Steinberg, Cooking with Elvis and Billy Elliot on stage and screen. The production, directed by Max Roberts, will feature the original Newcastle cast: Christopher Connel, Michael Hodgson, Ian Kelly, Brian Lonsdale, Lisa McGrillis, Deka Walmsley, David Whitaker and Phillippa Wilson.

It’s followed, from 10 June 2008 (previews from 3 June), by …some trace of her, inspired by Dostoyevsky’s 1869 Russian novel The Idiot and adapted and directed by Katie Mitchell and her company, including Ben Whishaw (who played Konstantin in Mitchell’s 2006 NT staging of The Seagull) and Hattie Morahan.

A woman lies dead on a bed in her wedding dress, a silver knife through her heart. The two men who loved her lie beside her. The multimedia performance develops the use of live video seen in Mitchell’s NT work on Waves and Attempts on Her Life. Director of photography is Leo Warner, the set design is by Vicki Mortimer.

Meanwhile, running across both the Olivier and Cottesloe stages from 3 to 8 July 2008 is the culmination of New Connections, the National’s annual festival of new plays for and about young people performed at schools and youth theatres across the country. One example of each of the ten new plays commissioned this year – written by playwrights including Moira Buffini, Abi Morgan, Mark Ravenhill, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Nicholas Wrights – will be showcased at the South Bank.

- by Terri Paddock


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