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The Lion in Winter - Theatre Royal Haymarket

Joanna Lumley as The Princess in La Bête. Photo credit: Manuel Harlan.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

ROBERT Lindsay and Joanna Lumley will lead the cast in Trevor Nunn’s production of James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter, which runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from November 15, 2011 (previews from November 5) to January 28, 2012.

A family Christmas becomes a family at war when Henry II, now not so young as he was, invites his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitane, and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, to spend the festive season with him, his mistress Princess Alais, and her brother, the young King Philip of France.

Will Henry name who is to be his successor as King of England? Their yuletide celebration turns into a combat zone of deceit, betrayal, bitter power games and scabrous wit.

Robert Lindsay, who previously appeared at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac, has also appeared on stage as Archie Rice in The Entertainer (Old Vic), the eponymous king in Richard III (Savoy Theatre) and Fagin in Oliver! (London Palladium) for which he won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

He also received an Olivier Award for his performance in Me and My Girl, as well as the Tony Award when the show transferred to Broadway. He was seen most recently on the West End stage playing the title role in Onassis (Novello Theatre).

His numerous screen credits include My Family (as Ben Harper), The Trial of Tony Blair, Extras, Jericho, Citizen Smith, Jake’s Progress, Genghis Cohn and GBH, for which he won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor (TV); Wimbledon, Divorcing Jack and Remember Me (film).

Although comedienne and actress Joanna Lumley is best known for playing Patsy Stone in the award-winning BBC television series Absolutely Fabulous, she has also appeared on television in The New Avengers (as Purdy), Sapphire and Steel, Jam and Jerusalem and Sensitive Skin.

Her other screen credits include Shirley Valentine, Trail of the Pink Panther, Curse of the Pink Panther, The Tale of Sweeney Todd (as Mrs Lovett), Mad Cows and Maybe Baby. She also provided the voice for Aunt Spiker in James and the Giant Peach.

Following a run at the West End’s Comedy Theatre, Lumley recently made her Broadway debut in La Bête. Her other UK theatre credits include Madame Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard (Sheffield Theatres), Gertrude Lawrence in Noel and Gertie (King’s Head Theatre), Elvira in Blithe Spirit (Vaudeville Theatre) and the title role in Hedda Gabler (Dundee Rep).

Author of several best-selling books and a human rights and animal welfare activist, Lumley recently headed a successful campaign in recognition of the Gurkhas. She was awarded an OBE in 1995.

Further casting will be announced shortly.

Trevor Nunn was the longest-serving Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1968 to 1986). During that time he directed most of the Shakespeare canon, as well as Nicholas Nickleby and Les Misérables. He later returned to the RSC to direct King Lear and The Seagull.

From 1997 to 2003, he was Director of the National Theatre where his 21 productions included award-winning revivals of Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, Summerfolk and The Cherry Orchard, as well as the musicals Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady and Anything Goes.

He also directed the world premieres of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, The Coast of Utopia and Rock ‘n’ Roll and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard and The Woman in White.

His more recent theatre work includes Hamlet, Richard II and Inherit the Wind (Old Vic), Timon of Athens and Skellig (Young Vic), The Lady From the Sea (Almeida Theatre), Scenes from a Marriage (Belgrade, Coventry), A Little Night Music (Menier Chocolate Factory, West End and Broadway), Cyrano de Bergerac (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Birdsong (Comedy Theatre).

Nunn’s opening production as Artistic Director of the Theatre Royal Haymarket was Flare Path. Following the current run of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, he will direct Ralph Fiennes in The Tempest.

The Lion in Winter premiered at New York’s Ambassador Theatre in 1966, with Noel Willman directing a cast led by Rosemary Harris and Christopher Walken. In 1999, a Broadway revival starred Stockard Channing and Laurence Fishburne and was directed by Michael Mayer.

Anthony Harvey directed the 1968 film adaptation, which starred Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins and Peter O’Toole, and in 2002, Andrey Konchalovskiy directed a television version starring Patrick Stewart, Glenn Close, Jonathan Rhys Myers and Ralph Small.

Tickets: £11 – £60 – available from the box office on 0845 481 1870 or online at Day Seats – a number of top price tickets at £15 will go on sale at 10am on the day of each performance and can purchased from the Theatre Royal Haymarket Box Office in person.

Times: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.