Theatre Royal Haymarket to stage The Lion in Winter with Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley from November 2011

Posted: 26th September 2011

Ah, the family Christmas. Mum getting up at 3am to baste the turkey, Dad fetching the extra chair from the spare room, the whole clan gathering to watch the DVD you've just been bought being shown on ITV and a sleeping, sozzled aunt quietly passing wind in the armchair, sherry perfectly balanced in her sleeping hand until the moment she wakes up.

And those are the good ones. For most families, 'Christmas' is just the name of another field of battle to play out feuds no one can remember the origin of. It has always been this way, surrounded by the people you love most but whose company you cannot bear. It is probably the same story for most families, rich or poor.

Certainly, the dynasty at the heart of James Goldman's The Lion in Winter seem little different. Henry II, King of England, seemingly cannot resist the festive urge to assemble a potent mix of explosive personalities at Christmas, as he invites his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitane and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, to join him for Yuletide in the year 1183. He also invites his mistress (and half-sister) Princess Alais, and her brother, the young King Philip of France to join them. Whatever could go wrong?

The assembled group quickly dissolves into betrayal, deceit and subterfuge, as the festivities turn into a bitter power struggle; driven by fear and desire and the greatest goal of its time - the role of Henry's successor, the seat as King of England.

No parlour room farce, the parts of kings and queens call for the finest performers money can buy, and in Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley, playing Henry and Eleanor, director Trevor Nunn has exactly that. The roles enjoy their own illuminated past, having been galvanised into Hollywood history by Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn in 1968; Hepburn taking home a Best Actress Oscar for her turn.

Fittingly, The Lion In Winter begins at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 5th November 2011, running through Christmas and now booking until 28th January 2012. Evening performances are Monday to Saturday, with a 2.30pm matinee on Thursday and Saturday

We have tickets available now, priced from just £11 for Gallery seats to £90 for the best stalls and the Royal Circle.

The Lion In Winter replaces The Tempest, starring Ralph Fiennes, which runs until 29th October - we still have tickets available.

Stewart Darkin