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Acclaimed in New York, where it ran for 634 performances, The Countess‚
by Gregory Murphy, is a sumptuous and passionate new
drama based on one of the most notorious scandals of the Victorian age.
In 1853, the celebrated art critic John Ruskin, his wife Effie, and the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais depart in high spirits for the Scottish Highlands. When they return four months later, London is already beginning to whisper of the woman one man calls mad, and the other...The Countess.
Starring Nick Moran as John Ruskin, Alison Pargeter as Effie, Damian O'Hare as Millais, Gerald Harper as Mr Ruskin, Jean Boht as Mrs Ruskin and Linda Thorson as Lady Elizabeth Eastlake. It is directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser, who also produced and directed the New York production.
Alison Pargeter (Effie) was named Outstanding Newcomer in the Critics Circle Awards and nominated as Best Newcomer in the Evening Standard Awards for the West End production Damsels in Distress. On TV she recently played Sarah Cairn, Martin Fowler‚s psycho-stalker in EastEnders.
Nick Moran (John Ruskin) made his film debut in 1990, alongside Roger Daltrey in Buddy's Story, but he is probably best remembered as Eddy in Guy Ritchie‚s seminal British gangster film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. On stage he starred as Billy in Billy Liar, Brito in Four Knights in Knaresborough and David in the West End production of The Rivals. As a playwright, his latest play, Telstar, is about to be produced in the West End following a highly successful UK tour.
Damian O‚Hare (Millais) was in Juno and the Paycock (Donmar Warehouse) and the Almeida productions of Richard II and Coriolanus, which transferred to New York and Tokyo. He also appeared in Shared Experience‚s critically acclaimed production of The Magic Toyshop at Soho Theatre and in the Crucible Theatre's award-winning Small Change by Peter Gill.
Gerald Harper (Mr Ruskin), starred in London Assurance and Mrs Warren's Profession, both at Manchester Royal Exchange. He was a TV heartthrob in the 1960s, starring in the series Adam Adamant Lives! as an Edwardian adventurer deep-frozen in suspended animation at the turn of the century, who is thawed out 60 years later in swinging London, and for seven years as a suave Yorkshire stately home owner in Hadleigh (twice voted the most popular actor on TV).
Jean Boht (Mrs Ruskin), best known as long-suffering Nellie Boswell in the top-rated BBC TV series Bread (Top TV Comedy Actress Award), has appeared on stage in UK tours of The Vagina Monologues and Just Between Ourselves.
Linda Thorson (Lady Elizabeth Eastlake), last seen in the West End in The Constant Wife, is best known for playing Tara King in the cult 1960s TV series The Avengers (which won her a special BAFTA Award in 2000). She won a Drama Desk Award for the American production of Noises Off. She recently played the alien Gul Ocett in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The cast also features Chris Garwood, Edmund Kente, Deidra Morris. Director Ludovica Villar-Hauser produced and directed Long Day's Journey Into Night at The Arts Theatre, which transferred to the West End. In 1985 she moved to the U.S. and bought The Greenwich Street Theatre in New York where in 1999 she produced and directed the world premiere of The Countess, transferring the play twice - first to the Samuel Beckett on Theatre Row, then to The Lamb's Theatre where it ended after 634 performances.
During the run of The Countess, she was contacted by among others, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sarah Jessica Parker, Joan Rivers, Eli Wallach and Betty Comden, whose impassioned support of the play helped to contribute to its success. In 2001 she co-produced a critically acclaimed production of Joe Penhall's Some Voices. In June 2003, she produced Philip Ridley‚s The Pitchfork Disney and she directed Rona Munro's Bold Girls at the 29th St. Rep. Later that same year she produced and directed Otho Eskin's Duet, a new American play about the rivalry between the actresses Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse. She plans a British production later this year.
The Countess is Gregory Murphy‚s first play. He has written a screenplay based on the play, has just completed his first novel Incognito, and is at work on a new play based on the life of Charles Dickens. He was named by Spotlight magazine as one of 10 people to watch in the new millennium.