Theatre With David Benedict

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The Independent Culture
Hot news: David Hare is to direct Heartbreak House. His bold, rigorous translation of Chekhov's little known Ivanov swept audiences off their feet at the Almeida earlier this year (I know, I saw it twice). And Heartbreak House - a Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes is George Bernard Shaw's most Chekhovian play. So enticing is the combination of Hare and the Almeida and this terrific text, that a dynamite cast has already signed up for the pounds 260 per week wage. After playing Galliano there in Hare's Brecht Translation, Richard Griffiths returns to play Captain Shotover. Malcolm Sinclair will play the idealistic Mazzini Dunn, with Emma Fielding as his daughter Ellie and there's the altogether alluring prospect of a sister act by the illustrious Penelope Wilton and Patrica Hodge as Hesione Hushabye and Lady Utterword.

The play doesn't begin previewing until August, but Hare is not exactly lazing about in the interim. His film of Wallace Shawn's The Designated Mourner is a surprise US art-house hit, with a record box-office take and a transfer to the Angelika Film Center, Manhattan's trendiest cinema. Dame Judi Dench and Samantha Bond, whose voices are eerily alike, play mother and daughter in his new play Amy's View, opening at the National next month, and he has already written another, about Oscar Wilde.

Shakespeare's forgotten masterpiece is back. His little-known tale of the twilight world of the heterosexual colliding with a dangerous, drug- dealing fairy ring is about to be returned to public view after a silence of, oh, about 20 minutes.

A Midsummer Night's Dream begins with an argument about an Indian boy, so no one batted an eyelid when Jatinder Verma directed it for Tara Arts. Mind you, even the most ardent bigot couldn't complain about cultural appropriation when anyone who was anyone had already produced the play - I count at least six major revivals in the last 12 months, including Ninagawa's glorious production at the Mermaid and Adrian Noble's RSC version (graced by a super saturated colour set by Anthony Ward), which toured the States and went (briefly) into the cinemas. For those of you who have been living in an isolation tank and missed it, Blue Raincoat have arrived from Sligo "All for your delights" and in a flash of, umm, inspiration, The Dream will also open this year's open-air season at Regents Park.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is at the Riverside Studios, Crisp Street, London W6 (0181-741 2255) to 31 May, and at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (0171-486 2431/1983) in rep to 6 Sep. Heartbreak House previews at the Almeida, London N1 (0171-359 4404) in August

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