J M Synge's comic masterpiece and one of Ireland's greatest plays, The Playboy of the Western World will preview at The Old Vic from 17 September 2011. Directed by John Crowley, this major new production will star Robert Sheehan as Christy Mahon, Ruth Negga as Pegeen Mike and Niamh Cusack as Widow Quinn.

John Crowley says: "I'm absolutely thrilled to be directing The Playboy of The Western World at The Old Vic. It's been my most favourite play for the longest time, and we're gathering such an exciting cast to bring it to life."

Set in a small village on the west coast of County Mayo, The Playboy of the Western World tells the story of lonely dreamer Christy Mahon (Robert Sheehan) who takes refuge in Michael Flaherty's pub, claiming that he has killed his oppressive father. Christy beguiles the locals with his tall and dramatic tale of bravery in the face of danger and becomes an instant hero. He both charms the village women including Widow Quinn (Niamh Cusack) and captures the heart of the landlord's fiery daughter Pegeen (Ruth Negga). However, when his tale turns out to be less straightforward than they first thought, the simmering violence of the villagers comes to light.

The Playboy of the Western World premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1907, provoking riots in the audience during its opening run. In the intervening years, the play became an Irish classic and enjoyed successful revivals including the 1975 National Theatre production at The Old Vic with Stephen Rea as Christy. Playboy was last staged in London in 2001 at The National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre. There have also been film and operatic interpretations and playwright Mustapha Matura transposed the story to 1950s Trinidad in Playboy of the West Indies.

John Millington Synge was a co-founder of The Abbey Theatre and wrote only six plays before his untimely death at the age of 37, including In the Shadow of the Glen, Riders to the Sea and The Well of the Saints.

John Crowley has directed on both stage and screen, with recent theatre work on Broadway including Martin McDonagh's A Behanding in Spokane starring Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, and A Steady Rain starring Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman. His production of McDonagh's The Pillowman transferred from The National Theatre to Broadway, earning him a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction with Jeff Goldblum and Billy Cruddup in the lead roles. John has directed extensively at Dublin's Gate, Abbey and Peacock Theatres and other theatre credits include the Donmar productions of Tales From Hollywood, Juno and the Paycock (also off Broadway) and Into The Woods. Screen credits include Is Anybody There? starring Michael Caine, the awardwinning Boy A which earned him the BAFTA TV Award for Best Direction, Intermission staring Colin Farrell, garnering a BIFA and Channel 4's Celebration, written by Harold Pinter and starring Michael Gambon and Colin Firth.

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