Stoppard makes his Royal Court debut to mark its 50th birthday

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The Independent Culture

Pinter, who was last on stage four years ago, will perform Samuel Beckett's powerful one-man play Krapp's Last Tape while Daldry, the Billy Elliot director who used to run the Royal Court, wants to direct a play, possibly the yet unfinished work by Hare.

Stoppard is writing his first work for the venue, a play called Rock 'n' Roll which will span the history of his native Czechoslovakia. "I want to be part of the Royal Court's history before I pack it in," he said. "Some of my best nights of the past 40 years have been spent in the Royal Court's auditorium, I don't want to fall under a bus before having a play on its stage." Trevor Nunn, the former National Theatre head, will make his Royal Court debut to direct the play.

The Hollywood star Alicia Witt will appear in a play written for her by Terry Johnson, the author of Hitchcock Blonde and Insignificance, while Christopher Hampton, famed for his adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, will provide a new translation of Chekhov's The Seagull.

Ian Rickson, the Royal Court's artistic director, said the anniversary, which will celebrated from January to December next year, presented a dilemma because reminiscing went against what the theatre was about.

It was founded as the home of the English Stage Company by George Devine and Tony Richardson in 1956 and its third play, John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, defined a generation, dubbed the Angry Young Men.

Under the leadership of artistic directors including Lindsay Anderson and Max Stafford-Clark, the Royal Court encouraged writers such as Howard Brenton, Joe Orton, David Edgar, Sam Shephard, Arnold Wesker and Caryl Churchill. More recently it has nurtured talents such as Mark Ravenhill, Joe Penhall and Sarah Kane. Always willing to challenge accepted mores, its early history was littered with battles with the Lord Chamberlain, the nation's censor, who refused performance licences to plays such as Edward Bond's Saved and Osborne's A Patriot for Me. But his victories were pyrrhic as his office was abolished in 1968.

With such a history, Rickson said the best way to celebrate was with work from new writers such as Simon Farquhar and Stella Feehily, talent from the last decade such as Tanika Gupta, Patrick Marber and Simon Stephens and the established heavyweights - "a mix of discovery, consolidation and maturity".

There will be a tribute to The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O'Brien which was recently voted the public's favourite Royal Court play. A separate evening will celebrate the anniversary of the premiere of Look Back in Anger.

Daldry said: "The Royal Court has been at the centre of British cultural life for the past 50 years ... I think the fact that it's managed to maintain its position over 50 years is an extraordinary achievement."

Christopher Hampton, whose first work was presented by the theatre when he was 20, said: "The Royal Court sort of invented me. When Ian asked me to do The Seagull, which is one of my favourite plays of all time, I couldn't resist."