Producer Bill Kenwright announced yesterday the launch of Sir Peter Hall's repertory company at the Piccadilly Theatre with a company of 40 actors headed by Dame Judi Dench, Elaine Paige, Peter Bowles, Anna Cartaret, Michael Pennington and Eric Sykes. The season opens on 10 March (previews from 3 March) with Halls much heralded production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot which has been recast.
The season builds on Hall's critically acclaimed residency at the Old Vic which ended prematurely, after only one season, in December when owners the Mirvishes put the theatre up for sale. Since announcement of the sale last August, Hall has engaged in ongoing negotiations to find the Company a new home. The new arrangement puts Hall into the very heart of the West End -- as opposed to the peripheral, Waterloo location of the Old Vic -- and reunites him with Kenwright who has produced many of his earlier productions, including An Ideal Husband which has just extended its life yet again with a transfer to another new home at the Albery.
Waiting for Godot will be joined in rep on 13 March by Moliere's The Misanthrope, in a new translation by Ranjit Bolt, and Shaw's Major Barbara on 1 May. The autumn repertory schedule, still to be finalised, will include, from 30 September, Eduardo de Filippo's Filumena, in a new translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker, and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Waiting for Godot, staged at the Old Vic with Ben Kingsley and Alan Howard, has been recast with Alan Dobie as Estragon and Julian Glover as Vladimir. For the first week of the production, from 3-10 March, all seats will be priced at only £10.
The Misanthrope will star Elaine Paige as the flirtatious Celimene and Michael Pennington as Alceste. Peter Bowles, playing Oronte, returns to Moliere after his success in Hall's earlier production of The School for Wives. The cast also includes Anna Carteret and David Yelland. The cast of Major Barbara will be headed by Bowles, Carteret and Yelland in the first major West End revival of the work since the National's production in 1982.
Fans of Judi Dench, who is currently wowing West End audiences in Hare's Amys View while collecting film awards on the side, will have to wait until late September to see her in the lead of Filumena. Michael Pennington will play opposite her as Domenico Soriano, her lover. In Much Ado About Nothing, Eric Sykes will take on the comic role of Dogberry to Pennington's Don Pedro.
Even after the Company's £10 first week, prices will remain comparatively low in the West End, starting at £8.50. Discounts will also be available for groups, concessions and multiple show bookings. Unfortunately, the popular Sunday performances, which Hall instituted at the Old Vic, will not transfer to the new venue. Nor, does it currently seem, will the practice of mixing classics with new, more experimental works.