Hall lines up Leigh and Fugard for Hampstead

Published July 6, 2010

Theatrical heavyweights Mike Leigh and Athol Fugard will direct their own plays as part of the forthcoming season at Hampstead theatre, the first under new Artistic Director Edward Hall.

The impressive season also includes Enda Walsh’s new play Penelope and the premieres of new work by Melly Still and Nine Raine, while Hall kicks off proceedings by directing Shelagh Stephenson’s psychological thriller Enlightenment.

Speaking about the season, Hall said: “I was bowled over to be given responsibility for Hampstead Theatre which is unquestionably one of the finest theatres in the UK. 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.”

South African playwright Fugard directs his own play The Train Driver from 4 November to 4 December (press night 9 November) following its premiere in Cape Town. Inspired by a true story, the play centres on a train driver who is compelled to visit a windswept graveyard in the Eastern Cape to find the unmarked grave of the woman he unintentionally killed.

Fugard is an internationally respected playwright whose work is frequently produced on the UK stage. Recent productions have included Dimetos at the Donmar Warehouse, Hello And Goodbye at the Trafalgar Studios and Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at the National Theatre.

Next year, Leigh returns to the theatre where his famous play Abigail’s Party premiered in 1977 to direct a new production of his 1979 play Ecstasy (10 March to 9 April 2011), which also premiered at Hampstead. A lively, dark and satirical play, Ecstasy explores the frustrations of four working-class friends living in north London.

Since this early work, Leigh has enjoyed a hugely admired film career, writing and directing the movies High Hopes, Life Is Sweet, Naked, Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky.

Enda Walsh’s Penelope is presented at Hampstead from 10 February to 5 March (press night 16 February) in a new partnership between the venue and Irish theatre company Druid. Penelope is a comic interpretation of the story from Homer’s Odyssey, in which four ridiculous men play for Penelope’s unwinnable love while facing their inevitable deaths.

Walsh’s previous plays include The Walworth Farce, which was staged at the National Theatre, Disco Pigs, Small Things, Chatroom and The New Electric Ballroom.

Melly Still, the theatremaker who has worked on Coram Boy, Nation and The Revenger’s Tragedy at the National Theatre, applies her visual brand of theatre to poet Carol Ann Duffy’s fairytale collection, Beasts And Beauties, from 10 to 31 December (press night 15 December). Still teams up with Tim Supple (A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Roundhouse) to dramatise these eight dark and dangerous fairytales from across Europe.

Hall’s debut as Artistic Director, Stephenson’s Enlightenment, begins the season on 30 September, playing to 30 October (press night 6 October). A chilling mystery about the lengths people go to to find the missing pieces of their lives, Enlightenment centres on a young man who disappears on a backpacking holiday, causing his desperate parents to go down paths they would never have previously contemplated.

Stephenson’s other plays include The Long Road, Mappa Mundi and The Memory Of Water, which premiered at the Hampstead theatre in 1996 and went on to win a Best New Comedy Laurence Olivier Award in 2000.

Finally, the season gives young playwright and director Nina Raine – whose debut play Rabbit won a clutch of awards in 2006 – a platform to present her new play Tiger Country from 13 January to 5 February (press night 19 January).

Hampstead theatre is currently presenting productions by visiting companies following the departure of outgoing Artistic Director Anthony Clark in January. Headlong’s Salome is followed by Tamasha’s production of The House Of Bibi Bilquis, which plays from 22 July to 14 August.

CB