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The Big Sleep

by Raymond Chandler

The Mill at Sonning Theatre, Reading Box Office: 0118 9698000

Adapted for the stage by John D Rakoff and Alvin Rakoff will have its world stage première at the Mill at Sonning for a five week season from Thursday 20 October to Saturday 26 November. The press performance will be on Thursday 27 October.

In the cast are Simon Merrells as Philip Marlowe, with Samantha Coughlan, Anna Doolan, and Martyn Stanbridge. It is directed by Alvin Rakoff with set design by Eileen Diss and costumes by Jane Kidd and lighting by Matthew Biss.

“ I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars….”

The four million dollars is General Sternwood, an ailing old man. He has two beautiful sexy daughters – one is a high-living gambler, the other a fast-living rebel. The general is being blackmailed, and to stop the malicious threats hires Phillip Marlowe, a Private Eye with a dislike for guns but a liking for smart, dangerous women. Marlowe is soon immersed in a world of deceit and double-cross, and then he stumbles across the first corpse…. “Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.”

The Big Sleep is set in 1940 in Los Angeles and was Raymond Chandler’s first novel. He has had an immense stylistic influence on modern private detective stories. His other novels include ‘The Long Goodbye’ and ‘Farewell My Lovely’.

Simon Merrells was nominated for a Stage Award Edinburgh Festival in the title role of Steven Berkoff’s ‘Oedipus’. This year he has also been in ‘Emperor and Galilean’ at the National. Other recent credits include as Oberon in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ directed by Raz Shaw at the Globe. His numerous stage appearances at the National and RSC include in ‘Comedy of Errors’ with his brother Jason Merrells. Samantha Coughlan was in ‘The Children’s Hour’ with Kiera Knightly and Elizabeth Moss and Terry Johnson’s West End production of ‘Rain Man’. Anna Doolan was in the BBC series ‘The Hour’ with Dominic West. Martyn Stanbridge was in ‘The Shaughraun’ directed by Garry Hynes at the Abbey Dublin.

Alvin Rakoff has directed ‘A Sentimental Journey’ starring Sally Hughes as Doris Day which has just played a sell out season at Edinburgh 2011 and will be at the El Portal Theatre Los Angeles in November. He has directed a dozen feature films and over 100 TV films. He has twice won Emmy Awards for ‘A Voyage Round My Father’ and ‘Call Me Daddy’.

Thurs 20 Oct to Sat 26 November Running Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Perfs: 8.15pm dinner 6.30pm. Mats Sat/Sun 2.15pm, lunch 12.30pm.
Prices: £37.50 (Sat Mat), £43.50 (Thurs Fri eve and Sun Mat), £48.00 (Sat eve) (inc dinner)

10 October 2011