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Old Vic - Sheridan Smith is Hedda Gabler

Sheridan Smith as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical. Photo credit: Ellie Kurtz.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE OLD Vic has announced its Autumn/Winter programme and it includes Brian Friel’s adaptation of Hedda Gabler with Sheridan Smith in the title role, and the Old Vic and Chichester Festival Theatre co-production of Cole Porter’s multi award-winning musical Kiss Me, Kate, directed by Trevor Nunn.

The season opens with Brian Friel’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, which runs from September 12 (previews from September 5) to November 10, 2012.

Ibsen’s brilliant masterpiece on the conflict of the requirements of society and those of the individual explores the corrosive descent of Hedda Gabler into the treacherous void between expectation and reality.

The general’s daughter has married the respectable academic Tesman – a husband she despises as mediocre – and now, driven by fear and loathing, Hedda’s despair goads her independent spirit to a rage expressed in the wilful contamination of life around her which eventually leads to disaster for her and all those beguiled by her.

Directed by Anna Mackmin, this major new production stars Olivier award-winning actress Sheridan Smith in the title role with Buffy Davis (as Bertha), Anne Reid (Juliana Tesman), Adrian Scarborough (George Tesman) and Fenella Woolgar (Thea Elvsted).

Sheridan Smith, one of Britain’s finest young stage stars, won the Olivier and Evening Standard Best Actress awards for her performance in Trevor Nunn’s production of Flare Path (Theatre Royal Haymarket) and the Olivier and What’s On Stage Best Actress awards for Legally Blonde (Savoy Theatre).

Her other theatre credits include Tinderbox (Bush Theatre), Little Shop Of Horrors (Menier Chocolate Factory/Duke Of York’s Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), The People Are Friendly (Royal Court Theatre), Ancient Lights (Hampstead Theatre) and Into The Woods (Donmar Warehouse).

She has recently completed filming the title role in the much-anticipated BBC
drama Mrs Biggs and Jimmy McGovern’s acclaimed BBC series Accused. Her other screen work includes Gavin & Stacey and Jonathan Creek (TV); Quartet directed by Dustin Hoffman (film).

Although Buffy Davis is best known as Jolene in The Archers, she has appeared on stage in The Government Inspector, Annie Get Your Gun, The Rose Tattoo and The Beggar’s Opera. Her television work includes Doc Martin, Silk, Upstairs Downstairs, Mutual Friends and Fear of Fanny. Soon, she can be seen in Joe Wright’s film Anna Karenina.

Anne Reid, who has just completed filming the BBC drama Anthony and Cleopatra with Derek Jacobi due to be screened later this year, has also appeared on screen in Upstairs Downstairs, Marchlands, Five Days and Doc Martin (TV); Ricky Gervais’ Cemetery, Junction, The Mother and Savage Grace (film)

Her theatre credits include Dimetos (Donmar Warehouse), Thea Sharrock’s Happy Now (National Theatre) and Into The Woods (Royal Opera House).

Adrian Scarborough’s extensive theatre work includes Richard Eyre’s Betty Blue Eyes (Novello Theatre), After The Dance, The Habit Of Art, Time And The Conways, Henry IV Part 1 & 2 and The Mandate (National Theatre), Accidental Death Of An Anarchist (Donmar Warehouse) and Humble Boy (Gielgud Theatre).

His screen credits include Mr Pritchard in Upstairs Downstairs, Miranda, Gavin & Stacey and the forthcoming Mrs Biggs (TV); Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables and The King’s Speech, Notes On A Scandal and Vera Drake (film).

Fenella Woolgar returns to The Old Vic following a hugely successful run in the award-winning production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, also directed by Anna Mackmin. Her other stage credits include Rupert Goold’s Time and The Conways and The Veil (National Theatre) and Motortown (Royal Court Theatre).

On screen, she has appeared in Case Histories, Silk, Doctor Who and Poirot (TV); St Trinians, Scoop, Richard E Grant’s WahWah and Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake (film).

As well as The Real thing, Anna Mackmin also directed Brian Friel’s Dancing At Lughnasa at the Old Vic. Her credits elsewhere include Di and Viv and Rose (Hampstead Theatre) which transfers to the West End next spring, Me and My Girl (Sheffield Crucible) and Really Old Like Forty Five (National Theatre).

Brian Friel is one of Ireland’s most prolific and distinguished playwrights working today. His plays also include Uncle Vanya (after Chekhov), Give Me Your Answer Do!, Molly Sweeney (New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play), Dancing at Lughnasa (three Tony Awards including Best Play, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, Evening Standard and Olivier Award for Best Play), Three Sisters (after Chekhov) and Aristocrats (Evening Standard Award for Best Play, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play).

Hedda Gabler is designed by Lez Brotherston, with lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Simon Baker. The composer is Paul Englishby.

Speaking about the production, Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of The Old Vic, said: “I am particularly pleased to unveil our production of Hedda Gabler, such an iconic and impactful play, with Sheridan Smith in the lead. Sheridan is a wonderful actress who has rightly received acclaim for her recent work and I am sure audiences will be intrigued to see her tackle this role.”

OTHER NEWS FROM THE OLD VIC

Michael Frayn’ Democracy extends its run by two weeks – until July 28, 2012.

Acclaimed director and choreographer Rob Ashford joins The Old Vic as Associate Director. His theatre credits include the Olivier nominated productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Parade (both Donmar Warehouse), Evita (West End and Broadway), Guys and Dolls (West End) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (West End and Broadway). He also provided choreography for the film Beyond The Sea directed by and starring Kevin Spacey.

Kevin Spacey said: “Our Associate Directors are an important and influential group who contribute greatly to the development of our programmes and provide valuable insight and experience. I have long admired Rob Ashford’s work and am looking forward to working with him at The Old Vic.”