By Mark Shenton
18 Feb 2013
In a press statement, Edward Hall, the theatre's artistic director, commented, "One of the UK's leading playwrights, Howard Brenton returns to Hampstead to shine a light on contemporary international politics and the role of art, and we are excited to welcome David Mamet, one of America's greatest living playwrights, to our Theatre for the first time since the theatre's presentation of his play The Water Engine in 1989. Hampstead is thriving in these difficult times, and these two thought provoking and immediate plays promise to ignite debate amongst everyone who sees them."
#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei will begin performances April 11 prior to an official opening April 17, for a run through May 18. Directed by James Macdonald, it is based on Barnaby Martin’s conversations with Ai Weiwei. On April 3 2011, as he was boarding a flight to Taipei, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Airport. Advised merely that his travel "could damage state security" he was escorted to a van by officials, after which he disappeared for 81 days. On his release, the government claimed that his imprisonment related to tax evasion. In his conversations with Martin, Ai Weiwei told the story of his imprisonment - by turns surreal, hilarious and terrifying. According to press materials, the play is a portrait of the artist in extreme conditions, it is also an affirmation of the centrality of art and of freedom of speech in civilised society.
Brenton was last represented at Hampstead Theatre by the premiere of 55 Days last year. Other recent plays include Never So Good and his adaptation of Danton's Death (both at the National Theatre) and Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare's Globe).
Race will begin performances May 23 prior to an official opening May 29 for a run through June 29. Terry Johnson, who won the 2010 Tony Award for best direction of a musical for the transfer of his London staging of La Cage Aux Folles to Broadway, last directed Old Money at Hampstead, where he has also directed The Memory of Water, Cracked and his own play Dead Funny. Other Broadway credits include The Graduate and End of the Rainbow.
In Race, a man is accused of rape. The accused is white, the accuser black. Two lawyers, one black and one white, must uncover and sift the facts of the case. Is the man guilty? And, irrespective of that, can his case be won?
Casting is still to be announced for both productions. To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7722 9301, or visit www.hampsteadtheatre.com for more details.