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Dateline: 1st June, 2003

Summer at the National

THREE SISTERS - Lyttelton Theatre

Katie Mitchell directs THREE SISTERS by Anton Chekhov, in a new version by Nicholas Wright, opening at the Lyttelton on Tuesday 12 August (following previews from 2 August). The sisters are played by Lorraine Ashbourne (Olga), Eve Best (Masha) and Anna Maxwell Martin (Irina), and the cast also includes Ben Daniels (Vershinin), Paul Hilton, Tim McMullan, Peter Needham, Dominic Rowan (André), Lucy Whybrow (Natasha) and Angus Wright. This will be the first production of the play at the National since Laurence Olivier's celebrated 1967 production.

Lorraine Ashbourne (Olga) makes her debut at the National; theatre work includes Katie Mitchell's production of The Phoenician Women at the RSC, Fool for Love (Donmar Warehouse) and The Kitchen (Royal Court). Her extensive television credits include several series of Playing the Field and City Central; films include Distant Voices Still Lives, Jack and Sarah and Fever Pitch.

Eve Best, Anna Maxwell Martin and Lucy Whybrow were recently seen at the NT in Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia. Eve Best's other stage credits include Varya in The Cherry Orchard and The Heiress at the NT, The Misanthrope (Chichester), Lady Macbeth (Globe) and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (Young Vic, winning the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Outstanding Newcomer awards); her television credits include Shackleton.

Anna Maxwell Martin has just completed the run of Honour at the Cottesloe, while Dominic Rowan was recently seen there as Freud in The Talking Cure.

Ben Daniels won an Olivier Award playing Chris Keller in Howard Davies's production of All My Sons at the Cottesloe and Lyttelton Theatres; other theatre work includes 900 Oneonta (Old Vic), Tales from Hollywood (Donmar) and As You Like It (Sheffield Crucible). TV includes two series of Cutting It, Real Men and Aristocrats; films include Conspiracy, Fanny and Elvis and Madeleine.

Nicholas Wright's most recent play at the NT was the award-winning Vincent in Brixton; his other plays include Cressida, Mrs Klein and The Desert Air. His many adaptations include Wedekind's Lulu, Pirandello's Naked, Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. His adaptation of Philip Pullman's novels His Dark Materials will be staged at the National later this year.

Katie Mitchell's previous work at the National includes Ivanov, The Oresteia, Rutherford and Son and The Machine Wreckers.

Three Sisters will be designed by Vicki Mortimer, with lighting by Paule Constable, music by Paul Clark and sound by Gareth Fry.

Opens Tuesday 12 August

DEMOCRACY - Cottesloe Theatre

Michael Blakemore directs the world premiere of Democracy by Michael Frayn, with Roger Allam as Willy Brandt and Conleth Hill as Günter Guillaume. It previews in the Cottesloe from 30 August, with a press night on Tuesday 9 September. The cast also includes Nicholas Blane, Jonathan Coy, Christopher Ettridge, Paul Gregory, Glyn Grain, Steven Pacey and David Ryall.

West Germany, 1969. Willy Brandt begins his brief but remarkable career as the first left-of-centre Chancellor for nearly forty years. Always present but rarely noticed is Günter Guillaume, Brandt's devoted personal assistant - and no less devoted in his other role, spying on Brandt for the Stasi.

Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, also directed by Michael Blakemore, premiered at the National in 1998, winning the Evening Standard, South Bank Show and Critics' Circle Best New Play awards before transferring to the West End, Paris (where it won the Prix Molière) and Broadway, winnng the Tony Award for Best Play. His many other plays include Noises Off (recently revived at the NT, also West End & national tour), Benefactors, Make or Break, Donkeys' Years, Clouds and Alphabetical Order. A prolific translator and novelist, his most recent book Spies won the 2002 Whitbread Prize for Best Novel. His screenplays include Clockwise and First And Last.

Roger Allam's previous work at the National includes Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard, Hitler in Albert Speer, Summerfolk, Money (Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor) and Troilus and Cressida. His other recent West End theatre credits include What The Night Is For, Privates on Parade (Olivier Award for Best Actor) and two of the roles in Art; TV includes Manchild, Waking the Dead and The Creatives.

Conleth Hill makes his NT debut; he won the Laurence Olivier Best Actor award for Stones in his Pockets, which he performed in Ireland, London, Toronto and New York.

Democracy is the ninth play by Michael Frayn that Michael Blakemore has directed. His long association with the National includes productions of After The Fall, Plunder, The Cherry Orchard, Macbeth, The Front Page, Long Day's Journey into Night and The National Health. In 2000 he became the first director to win Tony Awards for a musical (Kiss Me Kate ) and a play (Copenhagen) in the same year. Recent West End credits include Three Sisters and Mr Peter's Connections.

Set designs are by Peter J Davison, costumes by Sue Willmington, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Neil Alexander.

THE TRAVELEX £10 SEASON - casting updates

The Travelex £10 Season continues until November in the Olivier Theatre. Playing in repertoire are HENRY V (until 20 August); HIS GIRL FRIDAY (until 22 November); EDMOND (opening on 17 July, in rep until 4 October); and TALES FROM THE VIENNA WOODS (opening on 14 October, in rep until 19 November).

More than two thirds of the tickets are just £10. The rest are £25.

Joining Kenneth Branagh in the cast of David Mamet's EDMOND, opening on 17 July, are Jude Akuwudike, Stephen Greif, Tony Haygarth, Robert Horwell, David Kennedy, Adam Levy, Iain Mitchell, Nicola Stephenson and Harry Towb - all of whom are also appearing in Henry V or His Girl Friday - together with Elli Garnett, Rebecca Johnson, Tom Marshall, Joseph Mydell, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Nicola Walker.

The company for TALES FROM THE VIENNA WOODS includes Frances Barber (Valerie), Darrell D'Silva (Oskar), Karl Johnson and David Ross; further casting will be announced shortly.

West End and Touring

Trevor Nunn's acclaimed production of Cole Porter's ANYTHING GOES will open at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 7 October (following previews from 26 September). As at the National, the cast will be led by John Barrowman as Billy Crocker and Sally Ann Triplett as Reno Sweeney.

The production originally ran at the Olivier Theatre from December 2002 - March 2003, where it received ecstatic reviews and played to sold-out houses. The show won the 2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production.

The original creative team - director Trevor Nunn, choreographer Stephen Mear, set designer John Gunter, costume designer Anthony Powell, lighting designer David Hersey and musical supervisor/conductor Gareth Valentine - again collaborate on the production, which is presented at Drury Lane by Act Productions and Clear Channel Entertainment.

The NT productions of Tom Stoppard's JUMPERS and Kwame Kwei Armah's ELMINA'S KITCHEN will tour to the following UK venues, with their original casts:

JUMPERS visits Milton Keynes Theatre 15 - 20 September; Plymouth Theatre Royal 23 - 27 September; and Sheffield Lyceum Theatre 30 September - 4 October.

ELMINA'S KITCHEN visits Bath Theatre Royal, 1 - 6 September.

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©Peter Lathan 2003