John O'Mahony on theatre

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The Independent Culture
Just when those Olivier nominations, West End appearances and world tours are in danger of becoming tediously predictable, it's good to have something more solid and substantial to fall back on. The trajectory of Adrian Lester's meteoric ascent takes an unlikely turn this week with the opening, at the BAC, of an intriguing double-bill: Antigone by Jean Anouilh (below right) paired with a new play, a family tragedy by Bill Gallagher, entitled Little Creatures.

Audiences accustomed to seeing Lester deliciously camping it up as Rosalind in Cheek by Jowl's all-male As You Like It, or taking on the male lead in John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation, will only fleetingly notice him in the supporting role of Haemon and in the even more concealed, supporting role of producer and co-founder of Ensemble Theatre Co. "This is not about furthering our careers," he says, "we've turned down high-profile work in order to do this. It's about taking what we have been doing for so long for other people and seeing if we could conjure that up and create it for ourselves. It's about getting our craft right."

The two-year-old company brings together a wide range of cultural backgrounds and it is this, Lester hopes, that will give the interpretation of these plays an original, whetted edge. "A homogenous reading of a play is usually the most dull and boring," he says, "and there are just too few stories told these days involving women or people of other colours. We're hoping to redress that balance and produce something exciting while we are doing it." The title role in Anouilh's adaptation will be taken by black actress Lolita Chakrabarti.

Interest has focused on the second offering, Little Creatures, for an entirely different reason: the company's refusal to divulge any plot details. "Throughout the play the audience are kept entirely in the dark," says Lester, "it is only at the final climax that everything is revealed. This is an unusual tactic, but it works. And it's great to offset a classic with something dark, brooding and foreboding."

'Antigone', 'Little Creatures' at the BAC, London SW11 (0171-223 2223)

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