Mike Leigh tops Hampstead’s bill

Natalie Woolman

Mike Leigh is to return to Hampstead Theatre to direct his 1979 play Ecstasy as part of Edward Hall’s inaugural season as artistic director at the venue.

Ecstasy will mark the first time that Leigh, whose play Abigail’s Party began his relationship with Hampstead

Theatre in 1977, has ever returned to one of his own texts. It will play from March 10 to April 9, 2011, with press night on March 15.

Enda Walsh’s new play Penelope will also receive its London premiere at the

theatre. The performances mark the

venue’s new partnership with Galway theatre company Druid, which will present the piece based on the heroine of Homer’s Odyssey.

The season will open with the British premiere of Enlightenment by Shelagh Stephenson, directed by Hall.

Stephenson’s new work, a modern mystery, follows a number of her plays to premiere at the venue. The season also includes Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver, which is directed by the playwright, an adaptation of Carol Ann Duffy’s Beasts and Beauties, directed by Melly Still, for Christmas and Nina Raine’s new play Tiger Country.

Commenting on the season, Hall said: “I was bowled over to be given responsibility for Hampstead Theatre, which is unquestionably one of the finest theatres in the UK. “Announcing my first season as artistic director of Hampstead

Theatre is a very special experience. With writers and directors of the calibre we have secured, I’m sure the quality of the work will speak for itself.”

Hall was announced as Hampstead’s new artistic director in January, succeeding Anthony Clark at the venue. He directs all-male Shakespeare company Propeller’s productions and is an associate of the National Theatre, Old Vic and Watermill Theatre, Newbury.

Hampstead Theatre moved into its current £17 million, 325-seat home in 2003. The Stage revealed earlier this year that, since reopening, its overall average attendance has been 61%.

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