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Lyric Hammersmith set for a radical 2008

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 18 April 2008

The Lyric Hammersmith has announced a spring/summer 2008 season which celebrates some of the radical greats of world theatre. Highlights of the season include Artistic Director David Farr and Zimbabwean actor Lucian Msamati collaborating in a new version of Brecht’s disturbingly hilarious The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and a 50th anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party.

The season begins with a new production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Brecht wrote this biting satire in three weeks of rage-fuelled creativity in 1941 as a response to the world’s antipathetic failure to prevent the rise of fascism in Europe. Farr has collaborated with the Zimbabwean actor Lucian Msamati to transpose the play’s action to modern Africa. Msamati will play the role of the hugely vain and utterly violent Arturo Ui, who is at once a ludicrous fool and a terrifying tyrant. The production runs from 15 Feburary-15 March.

Contains Violence by David Rosenberg, a founder-member of Shunt, runs from 27 March-26 April. This innovative site-specific performance is a Hitchcockian thriller where events unfold in windows on the Hammersmith skyline, seen and heard from the Lyric terrace. At the heart of this production is the very latest audio-technology which will allow audiences to hear each whisper, secret and nefarious threat as if they were in the same room as the speaker.

While Contains Violence is happening on the terrace, The Seven, which runs from 9 April-3 May, will play in the main house. Created by Will Power and based on The Seven Amongst Thebes by Aeschylus, this production fuses rap, 1970's funk, R&B, gospel and the blues in a high-octane performance exploring gang warfare in American cities today.

The Seven is followed by the 50th anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s masterpeie of menace, The Birthday Party. On 19 May 1958 The Birthday Party premiered at the Lyric Hammersmith – and received almost universally negative reviews. Only one critic, Harold Hobson, praised the piece and celebrated Pinter as a voice for the future. Fifty years later the play is regarded as one of the undisputed classics of post-war drama and Pinter is considered as one of the world’s greatest living playwrights. The Birthday Party runs from 8-24 May and it can only be hoped that on May 19 itself, there will be a birthday party after The Birthday Party.

After the betrayals, murders and glowering menaces of the first four shows in this season, Love will provide an uplifting finale. It is a heart-warming romantic musical set in an old people’s home. Love celebrates the passion of two elderly people who find love right at the end of their lives, and sing about it. Love won’t last forever, however, as it runs from 28 May-21 June.

Complementing the season in the main house (and on the terrace) will be a raft of shows in the Lyric Studio. These include The Arab & The Jew by Gecko (18 January-19 February), Sarajevo Story by Lightwork (26 February-15 March), Have Box, Will Travel by Charlie Dark and Benji Reid (15 April-3 May), Hard-Hearted Hannah and Other Stories by Cartoon de Salvo (15 May-7 June). The Lyric Studio will also host three children’s shows during the season: Shadow Play (19-23 Feb), Circus Minimus (8-12 April) and Little Red Things (28-31 May).

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