Hampstead launches benchmark season

Published April 17, 2008

Hampstead theatre has raised the bar with its autumn/winter season, announcing a total of eight new plays, the most extensive season of new writing staged by the theatre under Artistic Director Anthony Clark. The season features new work by playwrights including Antony Sher, Robin Soans, Diane Samuels, Tracy Ann Oberman, Penny Gold, Richard Cameron and Clark, and includes collaborations with Plymouth's Drum theatre, Southampton's Nuffield theatre and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.

The season opens with a new piece by verbatim theatre specialist Robin Soans, who has interviewed many victims of scandal and press intrusion to create Life After Scandal, which runs from 20 September to 20 October.

A week's performance of Richard Cameron's Flower Girls by Graeae follows Life After Scandal and precedes Antony Sher's new piece The Giant. Set in 1501 Florence, The Giant features the huge characters of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Machiavelli and tells of the competition for the commission to carve a statue of David, while exploring the link between creativity and sexuality and the commissioning of art. Designer William Dudley is the lucky artist who has to find away of transforming a block of marble into the statue of David during the course of the performance. Roger Allam, most recently seen in Boeing Boeing, plays Leonardo.

Playwright Penny Gold begins Hampstead's new year with a play inspired by the 1991 Soviet revolution, The President's Holiday. Blending political thriller with personal drama it follows Mikhail Gorbachev and family as, enjoying a summer afternoon by the sea, they are taken captive and cut off from the world. The President's Holiday runs from 17 January to 16 February.

Tracy Ann Oberman, probably best known for her acting appearances in Eastenders, Sorted and Big Train, has collaborated with Diane Samuels to create 3 Sisters On Hope Street (21 Feb-29 Mar), a new piece inspired by Chekhov's Three Sisters, but setting the action in a Jewish family in 1946 Liverpool.

Speaking about the inspiration behind the show, Oberman said: "I had seen many reverential, slow, Chekhovian productions of Three Sisters, I'd seen all black productions, I'd seen all Asian productions, and I wanted to see what would happen if you could get an all-Jewish production of Three Sisters that talked without any of the stereotypes that we have been used to seeing in Jewish characters."

This year's Christmas show, which had already been announced, is Clark's adaptation of Little Wolf's Book Of Badness (6 Dec-5 Jan), in which Little Wolf is just too good so has to be sent to Cunning College to learn how to be bad.

Also included in the season is Truckstop, which plays in the Michael Frayn space from 5-9 November. The piece, which won the 2005 Van der Vries prize for best new play in the Netherlands, tells the story of three characters and how a moment in time changes their lives forever.

At the press launch, Clark talked about his desire "for there to be a theatre in London that could collaborate regularly with the regional theatres who have committed so much time and so many resources towards developing writers and new work which very often disappeared once it had been produced or launched in a studio after two or three weeks. As far as I am aware, there's nowhere in the capital that is better placed in terms of the scale of its stage and its relationship with its audience to embrace some of that work. This season announces that desire to collaborate with the regions."

MA