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Sheila Hancock to star in the London stage premiere of Harold and Maude at Charing Cross Theatre

Sheila Hancock

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

Olivier Award-winning West End star Sheila Hancock is to star in the London premiere of the black comedy romantic drama Harold and Maude, which runs at Charing Cross Theatre for a strictly limited six week season – from February 26 (previews from February 19) to March 31, 2018.

Written by Colin Higgins, Harold and Maude will reunite Sheila with director Thom Southerland after their acclaimed sold-out success with the UK premiere of the musical Grey Gardens in 2016.

Harold and Maude is an idiosyncratic romantic fable told though the eyes of the most unlikely pairing: a compulsive, self-destructive young man and a devil-may-care, septuagenarian bohemian.

Dame Marjorie “Maude” Chardin (Sheila Hancock) is a free spirit who wears her hair in braids, believes in living each day to its fullest, and “trying something new every day”. Harold Parker Chasen is an 18-year-old man who is obsessed with death, attends funerals of strangers for entertainment and stages elaborate fake suicides. Through meeting Maude at a funeral, he discovers joy in living for the first time.

Part dark comedy and romantic innocence, Harold and Maude dissolves the line between darkness and light along with ones that separate people by class, gender and age.

Artistic Director of Charing Cross Theatre, Thom Southerland said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be bringing Colin Higgins’ masterpiece Harold and Maude to Charing Cross Theatre for its first ever London production. I am honoured and delighted to be teaming up again with Sheila Hancock on this incredible piece, which dares us to think beyond the obvious.”

Sheila Hancock’s extensive career spans theatre, radio, television and film. And now, she is also enjoying a career as a features presenter and as a writer, with books including the 2004 biography The Two of Us: My Life with John Thaw which won the British Book Award for Author of the Year, and her debut novel Miss Carter’s War.

Her recent theatre roles in London include Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale in Grey Gardens; Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret (Olivier Award, Clarence Derwent Award); Mother Superior in Sister Act the Musical (Olivier nomination); Emmie Packer in Barking in Essex; ‘Mum’ in The Anniversary (a role played by Bette Davis in the film version which saw Hancock as the daughter-in-law Karen Taggart); Maitre Suzanne Blum in The Last Duchess (Hampstead Theatre); and Meg in The Birthday Party (Lyric Hammersmith).

She was also in the original London productions of Annie and Sweeney Todd (Olivier nomination), and played Rose in Gypsy at West Yorkshire Playhouse (TMA Best Actress Award) and Kath in the New York production of Entertaining Mr Sloane (Tony nomination).

Thom Southerland is Artistic Director at Charing Cross Theatre, where his opening season of major musicals included the European première of Maury Yeston’s Death Takes A Holiday, the return of his acclaimed multi award-winning Titanic and Ragtime (nominated for a record 14 Off West End awards). He is directing the first ever revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White at Charing Cross Theatre in November.

Harold and Maude is produced by Patrick Gracey, Steven M. Levy and Vaughan Williams. Further casting and creatives will be announced in due course.

Tickets: £35 stalls, £25 balcony and £17.50 slips. Premium seats are also available at £42.50 and include prime stalls locations, a programme and a glass of bubbly. To book, call the box office on 08444 930650 or visit charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Wednesday matinees at 2.30pm and Saturday at 3pm.

The world stage premiere of Jack Rosenthal’s The Knowledge continues at Charing Cross Theatre until November 11, 2017.