Open Air Theatre goes Wilde in 2009

Published January 9, 2009

For the first time in a decade, the Open Air theatre season will feature a non-Shakespearean play revival, when The Importance Of Being Earnest is staged at Regent’s Park this summer.

The classic Oscar Wilde comedy plays alongside Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Jerry Herman musical Hello Dolly!. The summer season does feature a second Shakespearean text; following 2008’s youthful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest is to be re-imagined for a younger audience.

While no casting has yet been confirmed for the productions, directors have been announced. Irina Brown directs Wilde’s comedy about two men with secret imagined personas, which runs from 3 to 25 July. The Russian-born director, who has been working in the UK since 1978, was Artistic Director of Glasgow’s Tron theatre between 1996 and 2000 and has previously worked at the National Theatre and in the West End.

The Open Air theatre’s Artistic Director Timothy Sheader takes charge of both the season opener Much Ado About Nothing, which runs between 25 May and 27 June, and Hello Dolly!, which runs later in the summer from 30 July to 12 September.

Sheader reunites with choreographer Stephen Mear, who worked with the director on 2008 hit musical Gigi, to bring the Tony Award-winning musical to the leafy surrounds of Regent’s Park. Mear won the Laurence Olivier Award for Theatre Choreography in 2005 for his work alongside Matthew Bourne on Mary Poppins. He has also choreographed shows including Anything Goes, Singin’ In The Rain and Tonight’s The Night.

The productions will be the first directed by Sheader since his last directorial outing, Imagine This, played a shortened run at the New London theatre before Christmas.

Liam Steel, who worked with Sheader on Imagine This, directs the new adaptation of The Tempest, aimed at an audience aged six and older. The tale of a banished sorcerer seeking revenge will include boldly interactive elements. It will also be the first show to have two Sunday performances at the Open Air theatre, in a move made to allow families more opportunities to experience theatre together.

The Open Air theatre’s schedule of comedy and music performances is yet to be announced.

MA