The other Diana effect, on the Almeida

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The Independent Culture
IF Diana Rigg's last two performances under Jonathan Kent's direction are anything to go by, then the Almeida's new production of Racine's Phedre will be well worth a visit, assuming you can get a ticket. Over the last six years, Dame Rigg (above, in full tragic mode) and Jonathan Kent (artistic director of the Almeida) have collaborated on a series of ventures, all of which have reaped rich rewards. Medea in 1992 finished up on Broadway with a Tony award. Then four years later, the same team produced Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Almeida, and Mother Courage and Her Children at the National. Rigg scooped the Evening Standard Best Actress award for both.

There is the further appeal that this is a new version of Racine's tragic masterpiece, translated for the Almeida by Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. Based on Euripides' Hippolytus, Phedre traces the trajectory of doom from the moment that Phedre first becomes consumed by incestuous desire for her obsessively chaste stepson, Hippolyte (Toby Stephens). The father/son and husband/wife relationships are subjected to the ultimate test. And since its plot is firmly rooted in the tradition of Greek tragedy, there are of course horrendous repercussions for all. Other cast members include David Bradley, Holly de Jong, and Julian Glover.

The Almeida season at the Albery continues later in the year with another of Racine's tragedies, Brittanicus (in a new version by Robert David Macdonald). Set in Rome, this political thriller explores the corruption of the Imperial era during the reign of the scheming Agrippina and her evil son the Emperor Nero. Kevin McKidd of Small Faces and Trainspotting fame joins the cast in the role of Brittanicus. ('Phedre': Albery, WC2, 0171 369 1730, previews from Thurs, opens 9 Sept, to 28 Nov; 'Brittanicus', Albery, previews from 29 Oct, opens 4 Nov to 28 Nov.)