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Honour trio in new Species

Published June 3, 2008

Eileen Atkins and Anna Maxwell Martin are to reunite with director Roger Michell for Joanna Murray-Smith’s play The Female Of The Species, which opens at the Vaudeville on 16 July (previews from 10 July).

The Female Of The Species is the first full-length comedy by Australian playwright Murray-Smith, whose other plays include Bombshells, Scenes From A Marriage and Honour, which had its UK premier at the National Theatre in 2003, starring Atkins and Maxwell-Martin, directed by Michell.

The play centres on literary giant Margot Mason (Atkins), who is on a strict deadline. When an uninvited fan, Molly (Maxwell Martin), arrives unexpectedly at her home, followed by her family and friends, Margot’s feminist world begins to spiral hilariously out of control.

Atkins is something of a giant herself – albeit in the theatrical world. Her long and accomplished career includes The Unexpected Man at the Duchess (Best Actress Laurence Olivier Award 1999), The Birthday Party at the Duchess, A Delicate Balance at the Haymarket and Doubt on Broadway, as well as screen appearances in Upstairs Downstairs, Cold Mountain, The Hours and Gosford Park. She was last on the West End stage in Edward Bond’s The Sea at the Haymarket earlier this year, and recently received a BAFTA Award for her performance in BBC serial Cranford.

In addition to Honour, Maxwell Martin’s stage credits include His Dark Materials, Three Sisters and The Coast Of Utopia at the National, The Entertainer and Dumb Show at the Royal Court and Little Foxes at the Donmar Warehouse. In 2006 she played Sally Bowles in Rufus Norris’s production of Cabaret at the Lyric. On screen, Maxwell Martin has been seen in Poppy Shakespeare, White Girl, Bleak House and North And South.

The cast of The Female Of The Species also features Con O’Neill (Frank), Sophie Thompson (Tess), Paul Chahidi (Bryan) and Sam Kelly (Theo).

O’Neill won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1998 for originating the role of Mickey in the musical Blood Brothers. Since then he has notched up stage credits including Mother Clap’s Molly House and Southwark Fair at the National, Telstar at the New Ambassadors, Featuring Loretta and The Awakening at Hampstead, and The Caretaker at the Tricycle.

Thompson is a familiar face on screen thanks to her credits in Gosford Park, Emma, EastEnders and Michell’s Persuasion and The Railway Children. Also an accomplished stage actress, Thompson won the 1999 Best Actress in a Musical Laurence Olivier Award for Into The Woods at the Donmar Warehouse.

Chahidi was most recently seen in London in Rhinoceros and The Arsonist, which played in repertoire at the Royal Court last year. He has worked frequently in London and with the RSC and appeared in two films directed by Michell, Notting Hill and the recent Venus.

Kelly is best known for his extensive television work including roles in ‘Allo ‘Allo, On The Up and Barbara. His many stage credits encompass Kean at the Apollo, Aladdin at the Old Vic, Dead Funny at the Savoy, The Homecoming at the National – directed by Michell – and Under The Whale Back at the Royal Court.

Michell has directed many productions at the National Theatre, namely The Coup, Under Milk Wood, The Homecoming, Blue/Orange and last year’s Landscape With Weapon. Elsewhere his credits include My Night With Reg at the Royal Court and West End, plus Old Times and 2007’s Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse. In addition to Notting Hill, and Venus, he directed the films Enduring Love, Titantic Town, My Night With Reg and the 1993 television series The Buddha Of Suburbia.

The Female Of The Species opens at the Vaudeville following Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, starring Greta Scacchi, which is booking to 5 July.

CB

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