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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 17:18 GMT
Race play for new National season
Matthew McFadyen
Spooks actor Matthew McFadyen will star in the National's Henry IV
Racial tension will be tackled in the National Theatre's new season, despite the controversial closure of Behzti at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 2004.

Playing with Fire is part of a season which also includes Henry IV starring Matthew McFadyen and a new play by director Mike Leigh.

National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner said: "I hope we're going to be as bold as we always have been."

Behzti's depiction of murder in a Sikh temple led to riots in Birmingham.


Several police officers were hurt and two people were arrested when hundreds of protesters gathered outside Birmingham Repertory Theatre in December.

The theatre said it was forced to cancel the production because the safety of its staff was threatened.

"The situation in Birmingham was complicated and fraught with ludicrous ironies," Mr Hytner said on Thursday.

Behzti was cancelled after protests by Sikhs in Birmingham
"Birmingham Rep was let down by those responsible for the law and order in the streets of Birmingham."

Announcing the new season, he said: "I'm absolutely determined that we won't hold back."

Written by David Edgar, Playing With Fire is set in a contemporary industrial northern town run by an Old Labour council.

Described by Mr Hytner as "very pertinent", it is due to open at the National's Olivier Theatre in London in September.

Spooks actor Matthew McFadyen will star alongside Sir Michael Gambon in the new production of Henry IV at the Olivier Theatre from 26 April.

Horror adaptation

Jim Broadbent will play Edward Lionheart in The Theatre of Blood, an adaptation of the 1973 horror film, at the National's Lyttelton Theatre from 9 May.

His daughter will be played by Tipping the Velvet star Rachael Stirling whose mother, Dame Diana Rigg, starred in the same role in the original film.

Mike Leigh has revealed no further details about his Cottesloe Theatre project, which will open in September.

The new season also includes Paul, a new play by Howard Brenton whose father was a Methodist minister, which "doesn't conform to the absolute truth that fundamentalist Christians believe".

Theatre attacks Sikh play protest
19 Dec 04 |  West Midlands
Theatre stormed in Sikh protest
19 Dec 04 |  West Midlands


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