Photo Flash: WAITING FOR GODOT at Royal Haymarket

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Sean Mathias directs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot which is his first production as Artistic Director of the 2009 Theatre Royal Haymarket Company. Waiting for Godot will tour the UK prior to its opening in London in April.

Designs are by Stephen Brimson Lewis and lighting is by Paul Pyant. Waiting for Godot is produced by the Theatre Royal Haymarket Company in partnership with Duncan C. Weldon Productions Ltd. Further casting for Waiting for Godot and the subsequent productions in Sean Mathias' Theatre Royal Haymarket Season will be announced shortly.

Prior to the Theatre Royal Haymarket run, Waiting for Godot will tour to Milton Keynes Theatre (16 - 21 March), Brighton Theatre Royal (23 - 28 March), Bath Theatre Royal (30 March - 4 April), Norwich Theatre Royal (6 - 11 April), Edinburgh King's Theatre (13 - 18 April) and Newcastle Theatre Royal (20 - 25 April).

Waiting for Godot will preview at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from April 30th with press night on May 6th 2009 and is booking until June28th, 2009 for a strictly limited season.

Waiting for Godot follows two consecutive days in the lives of tramps, Vladimir (Patrick Stewart) and Estragon (Ian McKellen), who divert themselves by clowning around, joking and arguing, while waiting expectantly and unsuccessfully for the mysterious Godot. Beckett's Waiting for Godot exploded on to the London stage over 50 years ago when it shocked as many people as it delighted.

Waiting for Godot received its world premiere at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris in 1953. The English-language premiere in 1955, was directed by Peter Hall at the Arts Theatre. Beckett himself directed the play at the Schiller Theatre, Berlin in 1975. Born in Dublin in 1906, Samuel Beckett was an Irish writer, dramatist, critic and poet. He wrote in both French and English and is best known for his plays including Endgame, Krapp's Last Tape and Happy Days as well as Waiting for Godot. Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, both renowned Shakespearean actors at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the West End and on Broadway, first worked together in Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1977 and more recently in the X-Men films, as Magneto and Professor X. Each of them has established their own iconic screen persona, as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and as Star Trek's Jean-Luc Picard.

Ian McKellen makes his Beckett debut as Estragon. He will play alongside Patrick Stewart following their onscreen rivalry in the X-Men films. McKellen has previously collaborated with Sean Mathias who has directed him as Uncle Vanya, the Captain in Dance of Death and as Widow Twankey twice. Since he started acting in 1961, he has worked non-stop on stage and screen. For The National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Companies, McKellen has produced and acted in plays old and new, most recently on the RSC's world tour as King Lear. He produced and wrote the screenplay for his Richard III and was nominated for an Oscar for Gods and Monsters and for Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. He recently played in Coronation Street and has just completed ITV's remake of The Prisoner.

Patrick Stewart is currently playing Claudius/Ghost in Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford before transferring to the Novello Theatre later this year. Earlier this year he won an Evening Standard Award, a Critics' Circle Award, a TMA Theatre Award, a Theatregoers' Choice Award nomination, an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, a Laurence Olivier Award nomination, and a Tony Award nomination for playing the title role in Rupert Goold's Chichester Festival Theatre production of Macbeth which subsequently transferred to the West End and then Broadway. His many other appearances for the RSC include The Tempest and Antony and Cleopatra both in Stratford and at the Novello Theatre. His other London theatre credits include A Life in The Theatre and The Masterbuilder and in New York his credits include Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Ride Down Mount Morgan and The Tempest. Stewart performed his acclaimed, award winning one-man show, A Christmas Carol, both in the West End and on Broadway. His many film and television credits include the X-Men films, Moby Dick, King of Texas and King Lear, as well as his role as Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek series. Stewart was made an OBE in 2001.

Director and writer Sean Mathias most recently directed Triptych at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg and the Southwark Playhouse and Ring Round the Moon for The Playhouse Theatre. Previously he has directed Ian McKellen in Uncle Vanya for The National Theatre, Dance of Death in London, on Broadway and in Australia, and Aladdin for the Old Vic. In London he has directed plays including Talking Heads for the Theatre Royal Haymarket, A Little Night Music and Antony and Cleopatra for The National Theatre, Suddenly Last Summer for Warehouse Productions at the Comedy Theatre, Shoreditch Madonna at the Soho Theatre as well as Les Parents Terribles for the National and Design For Living at the Donmar, for both of which he was awarded the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Best Director Award. Mathias also directed Bent at the Adelphi, National and Garrick Theatres and later directed a film version, winning the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997. His other Broadway credits include The Elephant Man, Marlene and Indiscretions for which he was nominated Best Director at the Tony Awards. Also in the US his productions include Company as part of the Kennedy Centre Sondheim Celebration and a production of The Cherry Orchard at the Mark Taper Forum starring Annette Bening. As a writer his plays include Cowardice, Infidelities, A Prayer for Wings, Poor Nanny and Swansea Boys.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is to offer a number of top price tickets at £10 for each performance of Waiting for Godot. These Day Seats will go on sale on the day of each performance at 12 noon and need to be purchased from the Theatre Royal Haymarket Box Office in person.

In a new initiative pioneered by the theatre's producers, Arnold M. Crook and Nigel Everett, the newly created Theatre Royal Haymarket Company presented their first season of work in 2007/08 under the direction of Jonathan Kent. The season comprised The Country Wife, The Sea and Marguerite.

The historic Theatre Royal Haymarket, a Grade 1 listed building built in 1821 by John Nash, was erected on The Haymarket a short distance from the original site which dates back to 1720. More recently, in 1994, under the direction of Chairman Arnold M Crook and the Board of Director's, a £1.3 million investment saw a major overhaul and refurbishment of the theatre, restoring the building to its original glory as well as the modernization of facilities for both theatergoers and theatre practitioners alike.

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