Lia Williams is taking on the role that won Dame Maggie Smith her first Oscar in a new stage version of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.
The play, based on the 1961 novel by Muriel Spark, is set in the Thirties and follows inspirational teacher Miss Brodie as she takes a group of pupils under her wing to introduce them to the world of art and politics — with tragic consequences.
It has been adapted by Scottish playwright David Harrower at the request of Spark, who approached him before her death in 2006.
The play will open at the Donmar Warehouse in the summer, marking the centenary of the novelist’s birth. Artistic director Josie Rourke said it kept the “spirit of the novel” alongside “David’s voice”. “It is one of the greatest novels, it is iconic and it gives an extraordinary role for someone of the sublime class and range of Lia Williams,” she added.
“It was actually brought to us through a very special connection between Muriel Spark and David, she wanted him to adapt it, he was her anointed adaptor. There is a tradition that plays that have schools in them and teachers in them really work on stage, The History Boys being the most obvious example, but audiences love plays set in school.”
Dame Maggie won the best actress Oscar for her turn as Miss Brodie in the 1969 film. A stage version of the novel ran on Broadway and in the West End in the Sixties.
Williams, who was recently seen in the West End in Mary Stuart, will work with director Polly Findlay. Rourke said Findlay would bring out “the lack of choice women are able to make about their lives, their careers and sexuality”.
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie runs from June 4 until July 28