Edward Hall Announces First Season at the Helm of London's Hampstead; Plays by Mike Leigh, Athol Fugard Planned

News   Edward Hall Announces First Season at the Helm of London's Hampstead; Plays by Mike Leigh, Athol Fugard Planned Edward Hall, the new artistic director of Hampstead Theatre, has announced the U.K. premieres of new plays by Shelagh Stephenson and Athol Fugard, as well as the return of Mike Leigh to the theatre to stage a revival of his 1979 play Ecstasy, as part of Hall's first season at the helm.

In a press statement, Hall said, "I was bowled over to be given responsibility for Hampstead Theatre, which is unquestionably one of the finest theatres in the U.K. Since January I have been privileged to meet many leading theatre makers and show them our beautiful and adaptable space, and I’ve been overjoyed at how many of them have responded positively and have wanted to come and make work for us. Announcing my first season as artistic director of Hampstead Theatre is a very special experience. With writers and directors of the calibre we have secured, I’m sure the quality of the work will speak for itself. There really is something for everyone and I look forward to the journey we are now embarking on."

The season will begin with Hall himself directing the U.K. premiere of Shelagh Stephenson's Enlightenment, beginning performances Sept. 30 prior to an official opening Oct. 6, for a run through Oct. 30. It is described in press materials as a chilling modern mystery about the lengths to which people will go to find the missing pieces of their lives. Stephenson has had her work produced at Hampstead many times before, including on the premiere of her award-winning The Memory of Water which subsequently transferred to the West End.

The season will continue with Athol Fugard's most recent play The Train Driver, directed by Fugard himself, that will begin performances Nov. 4 prior to an official opening Nov. 9, for a run through Dec. 4. The play opened at the newly established Fugard Theatre in Cape Town and will be having its European premiere at Hampstead. It is described in press materials as an emotional study of the encounter between two men, who bring together two sides of a broken society and find a common humanity. A tormented train driver is compelled to visit a windswept graveyard in the Eastern Cape to find the unmarked grave of the woman he unintentionally killed. Inspired by a true event, The Train Driver is a deeply personal journey into the human soul.

For the festive season, director Melly Still brings an adaptation of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s much admired Beasts and Beauties to the theatre, dramatized by Still and Tim Supple, beginning performances Dec. 10 prior to an official opening Dec. 15 for a season through Dec. 31. Still is best known for such shows as "Grimm Tales," "More Grimm Tales" and "Coram Boy" (first seen at the National Theatre and subsequently on Broadway). In these stories, someone usually lives happily ever after – but not everyone – and not always.

Next, Nina Raine will make her debut at Hampstead directing the world premiere of her new play, Tiger Country, beginning performances Jan. 13, 2011, prior to an official opening Jan. 19, for a sason through Feb. 5. Described in press materials as a fast paced examination of the life of a busy London hospital, the play explores the range of clinical and ethical issues that underlie working life on medical and surgical wards Fighting exhaustion and a hierarchical system, the medical staff face personal and moral decisions which affect their lives and those o their patients. Raine's first play Rabbit won both the Charles Wintour Evening Standard Award and Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright. Hampstead then inaugurates a new partnership with Druid, Galway’s renowned theatre company, transferring Enda Walsh's new play Penelope (being premiered at the Traverse Theatre in August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe) to London. It begins performances Feb. 10, prior to an official opening Feb. 16, for a season through March 5. The play reunites the creative team behind Walsh's award-wining The Walworth Farce, including director Mikel Murfi. The play is an interpretation of the story of Penelope and her suitors from Homer's Odyssey. We meet four ridiculous men who play for Penelope's unwinnable love while facing their inevitable deaths. Walsh's dark comedy takes a look at just how far men will go to win a woman's heart when their ultimate salvation is at stake.

Finally, having started his career in theatre and now one of the most awarded British film directors, Mike Leigh returns to the stage and Hampstead to re-explore one of his early stage works, Ecstasy, which opened at the old Hampstead Theatre in 1979 and now returns, beginning performances March 10 prior to an official opening March 15, for a season through April 9. This is the first time Leigh has ever returned to one of his works and marks the continuation of a relationship with Hampstead, which began with the premiere of Leigh's Abigail’s Party in 1977 and also subsequently saw Goosepimples premiere there, amongst others. It is described in press materials as a lively ribald comedy with dark overtones which combines Leigh’s mastery for observation with a satirical caustic edge.

Casting and the rest of the creative teams will be announced shortly.

To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7722 9301, or visit www.hampsteadtheatre.com

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