Hampstead Theatre to Launch 50th Anniversary Season with Britton and Price in Private Lives

News   Hampstead Theatre to Launch 50th Anniversary Season with Britton and Price in Private Lives North London's Hampstead Theatre, founded in 1959, scored its first big hit in 1962 when it revived Private Lives at a time when the playwright Noel Coward was deeply unfashionable.

Now the venue's 50th anniversary year will be launched by a new production of the play, directed by Lucy Bailey and starring Jasper Britton and Claire Price. Performances will begin Jan. 22, 2009, prior to an official opening Jan. 27 for a run to Feb. 28. The full company will also comprise Lucy Briggs-Owen, Jules Melvin and Rufus Wright.

Coward's play, which received its West End premiere at the Phoenix Theatre in 1930 in a production that starred the playwright himself and Gertrude Lawrence, plus Adrianne Allen and Laurence Olivier, is set in the late 1920s, and begins in a French hotel where divorcees Elyot and Amanda are honeymooning in the same hotel with the new spouses, Sybil and Victor, respectively. They are, in fact, staying in rooms with adjoining balconies and inevitably meet again, only to realize immediately that they are still in love, to abandon their new spouses and run away to Paris, before rediscovering just why they were unable to live together in the first place.

Britton, who plays Elyot, is currently playing Creon in the National's production of Oedipus (running in the Olivier Theatre to Jan. 4, 2009); earlier this year he was also seen at the National in Fram and as John Gielgud in Nicholas de Jongh's Plague Over England at the Finborough.

Rufus Wright, who plays Victor, was seen in the recent national tour of Royce Ryton's Crown Matrimonial. He has also been seen in Frost/Nixon (Donmar Warehouse and Gielgud) and Mary Stuart (Donmar Warehouse and Apollo); and in Journey's End (Playhouse/Duke of York’s) amongst others.

Briggs-Owen, who plays Sybil, was last seen in Cheek by Jowl's production of Troilus and Cressida (seen at the Barbican in May/June 2008) and on an international tour. She has also appeared in a number of productions at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre. Jules Melvin, who plays Louise (the French maid), has appeared in The Rose Tattoo (at the National) and extensively at Shakespeare's Globe.

The production is directed by Lucy Bailey, who has previously directed Comfort Me with Apples and Glass Eels at Hampstead Theatre, and whose other recent credits include Titus Andronicus and Timon of Athens at Shakespeare’s Globe. She is also due to make her RSC directing debut in 2009 with a new production of Julius Caesar at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Courtyard Theatre.

Private Lives will be designed by Katrina Lindsay, winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Costume Design for the Roundabout's production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and who recently designed Love's Labour's Lost for the RSC.

The director and designer previously collaborated on Twelfth Night for Manchester's Royal Exchange in 2003.

Original music score and sound design are by composer Errollyn Wallen, who was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2007.

Hampstead's 50th anniversary season will also include two world premieres – Michael Rudman, former artistic director of the theatre, will direct The Berlin Hanover, which marks the stage debut for TV writer Ian Kennedy Martin and will run from March 5 to April 4, 2009. Anthony Clark will direct April de Angelis' Amongst Friends, running May 21-June 13. There will also be revivals of two more former Hampstead hits – Michael Frayn's Alphabetical Order, originally premiered there in 1975 before transferring to the West End, will be staged by Christopher Luscombe for a run from April 16-May 16, and Frank McGuinness' Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, originally seen at Hampstead in 1986, will be staged by John Dove for a run from June 18-July 18. There will also be a series of rehearsed readings of other plays that were previously seen at Hampstead.

In a press statement, Anthony Clark said, "I am extremely proud to present the programme for the first half of our 50th anniversary year. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate past achievements and look to the future. Looking back, the diversity of style and content at Hampstead Theatre has been quite astonishing. Our programme for 2009 pays homage to that diversity by reviving a successful play from each decade, complemented by two rehearsed readings of plays which premiered at Hampstead in the same decade. Between each revival we will present a new play, maintaining our dedication to new writing and leading us boldly into the next 50 years."

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