The plays will then head to the West End's Duchess Theatre, beginning performances May 20 and running in repertory to Aug. 22.
The same cast will appear again for the plays this year, headed by Michael Pennington as Wilhelm Furtwängler and Richard Strauss and David Horovitch as Stefan Zweig and Major Arnold, respectively. The two plays are directed by Philip Franks, designed by Simon Higlett with lighting by Mark Jonathan, soundtrack by Matthew Scott and sound by John Leonard.
Both plays explore the fine line between collaboration and betrayal during the Second World War. Taking Sides, originally premiered in 1995 (also at Chichester) and subsequently transferred to the West End's Criterion Theatre and also seen on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in 1996, deals with an investigation into the great conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, who remained conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic during the Third Reich. Furtwängler, played by Pennington, was prized by Hitler and became the cultural jewel in his crown. After the war he became the target for vigorous interrogation by Major Steve Arnold, who had witnessed the horrors of Belsen.
Pennington also plays composer Richard Strauss in Harwood's new play Collaboration. The play opens in 1931 in a spirit of optimism as Strauss and writer Stefan Zweig embark on an invigorating artistic partnership. However, Zweig is a Jew and the Nazis are on the march.
In a press statement Harwood said, "It is no exaggeration to say that one of the great highlights of my professional life was to learn that Taking Sides and Collaboration were transferring from Chichester to the Duchess Theatre, London. Of all West End playhouses, the Duchess is one of the very few theatres able to hold audience and actors in an intimate embrace. It is, I believe, the ideal home for these plays which deal with the conflict between art and politics and the agonizing personal and moral choices that had to be faced by the protagonists. But those choices have still to be made by us, now, and the question how would we have behaved lies at the heart of both plays." Pennington's career has spanned over 40 years, during which he has played a wide variety of leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and the English Shakespeare Company, which he co-founded in 1986 and which toured the world three times. David Horovitch plays both Major Arnold in Taking Sides and Stefan Zweig in Collaboration. He was most recently seen in the West End in Absurd Person Singular at the West End's Garrick Theatre. Other recent credits include Losing Louis and Mary Stuart.
The cast also includes Isla Blair (The History Boys at Wyndham's), Pip Donaghy (The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby at Chichester Festival Theatre), Martin Hutson (The Voysey Inheritance and The Mandate at the National), Melanie Jessop and Sophie Roberts.
Harwood's other plays include The Dresser, Quartet, Mahler's Conversion and An English Tragedy. His film credits include the film versions of "The Dresser" (Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay) and "Taking Sides" (XXIX Flaiano Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay), "The Pianist" (Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Palme d'Or, 2002 Cannes Film Festival and 2003 BAFTA for Best Film), "Being Julia," "Oliver Twist" and, most recently, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (winner of the 2008 BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and Humanitas Prize 2008, Writers' Guild Award for Best Screenplay, Prix Jacques Prevert du Scenario 2008) and "Love in the Time of Cholera”."
Director Philip Franks is associate director at Chichester Festival Theatre, where he has previously directed The Cherry Orchard and Twelfth Night and co-directed The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, the latter of which went on to a U.K. national tour and West End run at the Gielgud Theatre, and was also seen in Toronto.
The double bill is being produced in the West End by Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer for Nimax Theatres, Chichester Festival Theatre and Duncan Weldon.
In a press statement Burns commented, "We are delighted to be co-producing with Chichester Festival Theatre their wonderful productions of these two fine plays. Whilst they are set during World War Two, the moral debate they raise is burningly relevant today. We very much hope that our attractive ticket offers to see both plays will enable people to fully engage with the issues raised across the two productions."
Tickets are priced from £21-£46, but for those buying both shows, best tickets are available for £50 for the Wednesday double bill, £70 on Saturdays, and over any other two days at £80. To book tickets call the box office at 0844 412 4659 or visit www.nimaxtheatres.com.