Turandot premieres in Hampstead season

Published June 26, 2008

Brecht’s comic parable Turandot will kick off the autumn season at the Hampstead theatre, Artistic Director Anthony Clark announced today.

The epic opener is one of three Hampstead commissions in a season that reflects the theatre’s recent funding boost by Arts Council England and its intention to produce more work in-house as a result, according to Clark.

Turandot, Brecht’s last play and his only comedy, finally receives its UK premiere more than 50 years after his death, in a translation by Edward Kemp, whose version of Nathan The Wise was produced at Hampstead in 2004. Inspired by a Chinese fairytale, Turandot follows the varied fortunes of the Emperor of China, who employs a team of spin doctors to save the dynasty after the plummeting price of cotton devalues the imperial coffers.

Directed by Clark and with a cast of 11 including Chipo Chung and David Yip, Turandot is designed by Garance Marneur, who won the 2007 Linbury Prize for her vision of the production.

A new comedy by Alexis Zegerman, currently Pearson writer-in-residence at the Hampstead, is the second commission in the season, playing from 31 October to 22 November (press night 4 November). Lucky Seven is inspired by the Granada Television reality programme Seven Up!, and focuses on three of the participants who are contracted to meet once every seven years to have their lives scrutinised by the nation and each other. Speaking at the launch, Zegerman said she was excited about seeing her play being performed by just three actors who play the characters in all their incarnations, from age seven to 49.

In December, Clark directs the third in-house production at the Hampstead, his own musical stage adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, suitable for families with children aged seven and over.

The third most printed book in the world, The Little Prince was written in 1943 and has remained an international bestseller. A magical fable, it tells the story of a pilot who is forced to crash land in the Sahara Desert. While he tries to fix his plane he meets the Little Prince, a child who claims to be from another planet. The two become friends and the child entertains the pilot with stories of his interplanetary journey to Earth.

Clark’s musical adaptation, with music by Mark Vibrans, has been produced all over the country, but this is the first time is has been staged in London. It plays at the Hampstead over the Christmas season from 4 December to 14 January 2009 (press night 8 December). Clark also directed last year’s Christmas show, Little Wolf’s Book Of Badness.

Neil Grutchfield, the new Literary Manager at Hampstead, confirmed the theatre’s intention to “work towards commissioning and producing more work for children,” of which The Little Prince is a part.

In addition to Hampstead’s own productions, the theatre invites Polly Teale, joint Artistic Director of Shared Experience, to direct her new play Mine at the Hampstead from 7 to 25 October (press night 9 October).

Mine is an exploration of parenthood focusing on a wealthy, glamorous but childless couple who are desperate to adopt, and a baby’s troubled mother who can’t let go. Teale’s other productions for Shared Experience include After Mrs Rochester, which won her the 2003 Evening Standard Award for Best Director, Kindertransport and War & Peace, both of which recently played at the Hampstead.

The autumn season is completed by a week of performances by Michael Pennington, who brings his two one-man shows, Sweet William and Anton Chekhov, to the Hampstead from 24 to 29 November. The plays draw on Pennington’s 40-year acting career to present a portrait of two of the world’s most performed playwrights.

The Hampstead also confirmed the continuation of the theatre’s successful young company, Heat & Light, which this year invites anyone aged 10 to 25 to become involved in creating three productions over a three-week period in the autumn. Auditions are being held on 16 and 17 September. Heat & Light is free to members, thanks to a three-year funding grant by John Lyon’s Charity.

CB