Page last updated at 18:02 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

Mamma Mia! writer returns to city

Catherine Johnson in front of Bristol Suspension Bridge
Ms Johnson was inspired to write the new play while strolling over the bridge

The writer of the hit film Mamma Mia! is to return to Bristol Old Vic after 21 years to premiere her latest work.

Catherine Johnson was asked by the Old Vic's executive chairman, Dick Penny, to write the black comedy Suspension to launch its new writing programme.

Ms Johnson penned the stage version of Abba-themed musical Mamma Mia!, which opened in the West End in 1999. It became the UK's highest grossing film.

Her latest production, Suspension, launches on 27 February.

'Passionate about Bristol'

After the worldwide success of Mamma Mia! she need never work again but Ms Johnson turned her talent to the re-launch of the Bristol Old Vic which launched her career.

In a play about Bristol, for Bristol, the production centres around Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge and the nearby Avon Gorge Hotel.

"I thought well of course I'd love to write another play - but I've got no ideas. I was just strolling along the bridge and the story started to come to life," Ms Johnson said.

Suspension's director Heather Williams said: "It needed to be a new play and somebody who was passionate about Bristol, passionate about the Old Vic.

"I think it's extraordinary what she has come up with."

The Old Vic has been closed for 18 months now and at one point it looked likely to lose its Arts Council funding.

Mr Penny believes there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

"The whole thrust of getting going again is that we get people through the doors," he said.

"We get artists through the doors, we get audiences through the doors.

"Just get people talking to each other, get them excited about the whole telling of stories in a live environment."

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