The summer season will include a new theatrical adaptation of Henry James' novel The Portrait of a Lady, with a cast including Catherine McCormack, Niamh Cusack, Finbar Lynch and Jean Marsh; Ibsen's A Doll's House, Peter Nichols' Born in the Gardens starring Stephanie Cole, and Alan Bennett's Enjoy, starring Alison Steadman.
The Portrait of the Lady, which will launch the season with performances commencing on July 3 (prior to an official opening on July 23, and then running in rep to Aug. 9), will be directed by Hall and adapted by Hall's wife, Nicki Frei. Set in London, Rome and Florence, the novel – written in 1881 — tells the story of a beautiful young American heiress, Isabel Archer, as she sets out on a voyage of self-discovery in Europe, meeting eligible (and not-so-eligible) bachelors and receiving marriage proposals on her journey, and discovering which of her friends can, and can't, be trusted. McCormack, who plays Isabel, was last seen in the West End in the original production of The 39 Steps; she has also appeared in All My Sons at the National (earning an Olivier nomination in 2001), as well as Honour and Dinner there. Her film roles include "Braveheart," "The Land Girls," "Spy Game," "The Moon and the Stars" and "28 Weeks Later." Also in the cast are Niamh Cusack (one of the Cusack sisters, best known for playing Dr. Kate Rowan in TV's "Heartbeat"), Finbar Lynch (last seen at Hampstead Theatre in 3 Sisters on Hope Street, and whose other theatre credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream for the RSC, The Hothouse at the National, and Not About Nightingales at the National and subsequently at Broadway's Circle in the Square, where he was nominated for a Tony Award), Anthony Howell ("Foyles War" on TV) and Jean Marsh (most recently seen in the West End in Boeing-Boeing and best known for her TV credits in "Upstairs, Downstairs," which she also co-wrote, and "The House of Eliott").
Hall will also direct A Doll's House, joining the repertoire on July 8 (prior to an official opening on July 23 and then running in rep to Aug. 9), starring McCormack and Lynch. McCormack plays Nora, who thinks she had the perfect life until a ghost from the past returns, and makes her realize she is little more than her husband's play thing, stuck in a suffocating marriage she is desperate to get out of.
Hall, founder of the RSC and artistic director of the National Theatre for 15 years from 1973, established the Peter Hall Company in 1988 after he left the National. Current West End productions include Coward's The Vortex (at the Apollo) and Pygmalion (transferring to the Old Vic in May in a production first staged as part of last year's Bath season).
Born in the Gardens will join the repertoire July 15, prior to an official opening on July 22, for a run in rep to Aug. 9. This Peter Nichols comedy was originally produced at the West End's Globe Theatre (now the Gielgud) in 1979, and revolves around a woman, Maud, who lives with her son Mo in a decaying mock-Tudor house in Bristol. She chats to people on the telly, he converses with the cat and both share a penchant for bizarre cocktails, tinned food and keeping the past alive. When older son Hedley and Mo's twin, Queenie, return for their father's funeral, they try to persuade Maude and Mo that the time is ripe to escape the confines of their crumbling home – but not everyone wants freedom when it's offered. Maud is played by Stephanie Cole, who most recently took over in Hall's Bath production of Blithe Spirit from Penelope Keith during its West End run at the Savoy Theatre. She also starred in the original stage production of Nichols' most recent play, So Long Life. She is best known for her TV roles in "Tenko," "Keeping Mum" and "Waiting for God." The production will be directed by Stephen Unwin, who is now artistic director of the Rose at Kingston and previously ran English Touring Theatre. Alan Bennett's rarely seen 1980 play Enjoy will run from Aug. 12 (prior to an official opening on Aug. 18) through Aug. 30. Set in the playwright's home town of Leeds, it revolves around an aging couple who are living in the city's last back-to-back. With the demolition of the area in progress, Wilf and Connie are soon to be rehoused in a new maisonette with a waste disposal unit and non-slip vinyl flooring. When a sociologist comes to observe them in their daily life, normality takes a decidedly atypical turn. Christopher Luscombe directs Alison Steadman in the play. Best known for her TV roles in "Gavin and Stacey" and "Pride and Prejudice," Steadman also created the role of Beverley in Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party (originally on stage and subsequently on TV) and Jim Cartwright's The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the National Theatre, for which she won an Olivier Award.
The season will also include the first visit by the Royal Opera House to the studio Egg Theatre with Faeries, a family show that combines puppetry, dance and storytelling that is directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett and is inspired by the work of celebrated children's book illustrator Arthur Rackham. It runs from July 22 (prior to an official opening on July 24) through July 30.
To book tickets, contact the box office at 01225 448844, or visit www.theatreroyal.org.uk.