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Hot summer season at the National

Published 17 April 2008

Ian Rickson is to direct Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse in the National’s Lyttelton theatre this July. Other highlights in the summer season, announced today, include Thea Sharrock’s production of The Emperor Jones, a new version of Victoria Benedictsson’s The Enchantment and a new play by Matt Charman.

Rickson, who recently departed the Royal Court where he had been Artistic Director since 1998, returns to the National to direct Pinter’s darkly comic play The Hothouse, which opens on 18 July (previews from 11 July). Set in a menacing state institution, The Hothouse is a sinister portrayal of government control. Pinter wrote it in 1958, just before The Caretaker, but did not allow it to be published nor performed until many years later. It received its stage premiere at the Hampstead in 1980, transferring to the Ambassadors, and was revived at the Comedy in 1995, when Pinter himself starred in the lead role.

This new production stars Stephen Moore, recently seen in the National’s production of The History Boys in the West End (which is embarking on another UK tour this autumn), frequent National collaborator Paul Ritter, who is currently in The Reporter in the Cottesloe, Lia Williams, whose credits include Mappa Mundi at the National and As You Like It in the RSC’s 2005/06 London season, plus Leo Bill, Finbar Lynch and Henry Woolf.

In the Olivier, The Emperor Jones, by Eugene O’Neill, opens on 28 August (previews from 22 August), in repertoire with Marianne Elliott’s production of Saint Joan, which was previously announced. Both are part of the Travelex £10 season.

The Emperor Jones is directed by Thea Sharrock, director of recent West End hits A Voyage Round My Father and Equus, and former Artistic Director of the Gate, where this production of The Emperor Jones ran in 2005. Sharrock now reconceives her production for the National, with Paterson Joseph – who also stars in Saint Joan – reprising his performance in the title role.

Southern American ex-convict Brutus Jones, aided by his double-crossing British ally Smithers, connives his way into an uncompromising dictatorship over a remote island in the West Indies. Faced with a terrifying people’s revolt, the delusional 'Emperor' escapes to the forest, but in the searing heat Jones is driven to make his way through every lead bullet in his gun, right down to the silver one he is saving for himself.

Two new productions are to premiere in the Cottesloe. Firstly, opening on 20 June (previews from 13 June), is a new play by NT writer-in-residence Matt Charman, The Five Wives Of Maurice Pinder. A provocative look at married life and the alternatives, the story centres on Rowena, young, nervous and pregnant, who is welcomed into the family fold of Maurice, his three wives and teenage son. Soon, her presence has the family questioning the nature of their delicate balance.

The cast includes Sorcha Cusack (The Playboy Of The Western World at the National in 2001), Larry Lamb (Fool For Love at the Apollo), Adam Gillen, Carla Henry, Clare Holman, Martina Laird, Tessa Peake-Jones and Steve John Shepherd.

The second new play in the Cottesloe is The Enchantment, by 19th century Swedish novelist and playwright Victoria Benedictsson, in a new version by Clare Bayley, opening on 1 August (previews from 24 July).

Set in Paris, artist and philanderer Gustave Alland visits Louise Strindberg, who is convalescing in her brother’s studio, and casts her effortlessly under his spell. In a vain attempt to escape she exiles herself to Sweden, but a letter propels her back to Paris and into his arms.

The Enchantment is directed by Paul Miller, Artistic Associate at the Bush. His credits include Elling and Total Eclipse, which are currently running at the Bush and the Menier Chocolate Factory respectively.

The National’s summer plans include the annual Watch This Space free outdoor festival, which takes place on the square outside the National, this year from 6 July – 16 September. A full schedule of events will be released shortly.

Booking for all new productions opens on 24 May.

CB

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