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OL 08 – Lee Mead, Connie Fisher, Andrew Lloyd Webber & Elena Roga

Lee Mead, Connie Fisher, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elena Roger at the Laurence Olivier Awards 2008

Roger takes on Piaf at Donmar

First Published 18 April 2008, Last Updated 21 April 2008

Elena Roger is to make her debut at the Donmar Warehouse playing French icon Edith Piaf in Pam Gems’s play about the tragic performer, Piaf. The production, which opens in August, continues the Donmar’s 2008/09 season, further details of which were announced today.

Playwright Gems has reworked her 1978 play Piaf for this new 30th anniversary production, which captures the glamour and squalor of the life of complex, fragile singer Edith Piaf, who rose from the streets of Paris to worldwide fame, before her tragic, early death in 1963. The performer’s life story was recently captured on the big screen in the film La Vie En Rose, which earned Marion Cotillard an Academy Award for her portrayal of Piaf.

Argentine actress and singer Roger was first seen on the London stage as Eva Perón in Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Michael Grandage’s revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita at the Adelphi in 2006. The diminutive actress went on to appear in the farce Boeing Boeing at the Comedy last year.

Piaf, which runs from 8 August to 20 September (press night 13 August), will be directed by Jamie Lloyd, who worked with Grandage on Evita and Guys And Dolls and has just been appointed to the post of Associate Director at the Donmar from May 2008. Lloyd’s other recent productions include The Caretaker at the Tricycle and The Lover & The Collection at the Comedy.

Piaf opens at the Donmar following the previously announced production of Enid Bagnold’s The Chalk Garden, which runs from 5 June to 2 August (press night 11 June). Joining Penelope Wilton in the cast are: Felicity Jones (That Face, Royal Court), Suzanne Burden (Macbeth, Gielgud), Margaret Tyzack (As You Desire Me, Playhouse; Lettuce And Lovage, Gielgud), Clifford Rose (The Crucible, Anthony And Cleopatra, RSC), plus Jamie Glover, Steph Bramwell and Linda Broughton.

Actor and director Alan Rickman is confirmed to direct Strindberg’s Creditors, in a new version by David Greig, which runs from 25 September to 15 November (press night 30 September). Rickman’s previous directorial outings include My Name Is Rachel Corrie at the Royal Court and Playhouse, and The Winter Guest at the Almeida. As an actor, his many films include Truly, Madly, Deeply, Robin Hood, Love Actually, the Harry Potter films and Sweeney Todd.

Continuing the season into the autumn, TS Eliot’s The Family Reunion (20 November to 10 January, press night 25 November) forms the centrepiece of a festival celebrating the works of the great poet and playwright. Jeremy Herrin (The Vertical Hour, That Face) is to direct Eliot’s powerful play about family secrets, sin and redemption.

During the run of the play, the venue will host various readings of other works by Eliot: Douglas Hodge, Associate Director at the Donmar, directs a reading of Murder In The Cathedral on 2 December; Lloyd directs Eliot’s 1949 comedy The Cocktail Party on 17 December; Stephen Dillane reads Four Quartets on 14-17 January 2009, directed by Katie Mitchell; author and director Josephine Hart produces two evenings of Eliot’s verse on 1 December and 5 January. Further casting is to be announced.

Taking the Donmar into 2009, Ian McDiarmid is to star in his own adaptation of Andrew O’Hagan’s novel Be Near Me from 22 January to 14 March 2009 (press night 26 January). A co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland, the play is directed by NTS Associate Director John Tiffany, whose credits include The Bacchae and Black Watch.

The play centres on David Anderton (McDiarmid), an Oxford-educated Catholic priest who is assigned to a parish in a dispirited Scottish town on the Ayrshire coast. Lonely and adrift, he befriends two unstable teenagers from the local school and is drawn into their exotic world. As events spin out of control he is forced to face his greatest trial yet.

McDiarmid has previously performed at the Donmar in John Gabriel Borkman and Pirandello’s Henry IV. He has also worked extensively at the Almeida, where he was Joint Artistic Director, and with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Currently playing at the Donmar Warehouse is Small Change, written and directed by Peter Gill, which runs until 31 May.

CB

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