The Almeida has finally announced full programme details for its major new collaboration with the Malvern Theatres, which will take Edinburgh head on for theatrical pre-eminence this summer. During the Malvern Festival, running from 6 - 22 August 1998, the Almeida Theatre Company will premiere three major new productions and a classic revival and present an accompanying programme of talks and films, bringing a mix of renowned actors, writers, directors and designers to the West Midlands town.
The the two and a half week event clashes directly with the Edinburgh Festival, the self-proclaimed "world's largest arts festival". This year's Fringe Festival in Edinburgh runs from 9 - 31 August while its parent, the Edinburgh International Festival, runs 16 August - 5 September. The combined Edinburgh festivities attract millions of visitors each year and thousands of performances. Last year's Fringe, with a strong emphasis on new writing and experimental theatre, featured 400 UK and world premieres.
But the Almeida remains undaunted by its Scottish competition and is serving up some compelling dramatic dishes in Malvern. Diana Rigg will lead the cast in the world premiere of Poet Laureate Ted Hughes' new version of Racine's classic tragedy Phedre, directed by Jonathan Kent. Rigg, well-known for film and television work, has had a long career on the stage as well. Most recently, she played Martha in the Almeida production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which transferred to the West End. The Almeida plans to transfer Phedre to the West End following the six Malvern performances (6, 7, 8, 10, 11 August at 8.00pm with a matinee on 8 August).
Howard Davies will direct the world premiere of Albee's new play The Play About the Baby at Malvern before transferring directly to the Almeida's north London home. The play is billed as a "complex, funny and moving play" which explores the relationship between four people crossing generation and gender. The Play About the Baby will have eight performances at Malvern (15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 August at 7.30pm with matinees on 16 and 22 August).
In celebration of Brecht's centenary year, the Almeida, with the Right Size, will co-produce a new version of the playwright's rarely performed satirical comedy Mr Puntila and his Man Matti. Comic duo Sean Foley and Hamish McColl of the Right Size, who have just finished an extended run of Do You Come Here Often? at the Vaudeville, will play the title roles. After four performances in Malvern (7, 8, 9 August at 7.30pm with a matinee on 8 August), the two will take the show to the Traverse Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival and tour nationally for four weeks before final appearances at the Almeida in October. Malvern will conclude a national tour for the final Almeida production there. Bernard Shaw's romantic comedy The Doctor's Dilemma will finish the Almeida's London season and then embark on a five-week tour before arriving in Malvern for its final 11 performances (14, 15, 18, 19, 10, 21, 22 August at 8.00pm with matinees on 15, 16, 20 and 22 August).
The Malvern Theatres re-open in May 1998 following a £6.8m refurbishment. The development comprises the traditional Festival Theatre with 850 seats, a flexible "New Space" with up to 840 seats and a cinema with 400 seats.
For more information on the August schedule, contact the Malvern Festival box office on +44-1684-892277.