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BRINGING some of the world's most powerful women to the stage has become almost a trademark for Helen Edmundson.

The actress-turnedwriter won awards for her adaptation of Mill On The Floss by Nuneaton's George Eliot and has also enjoyed success with bringing War And Peace and Anna Karenina to the stage.

Now she is turning the spotlight on the extraordinary life of poet, nun and major Mexican literary figure Sor Juana Ins de la Cruz in The Heresy Of Love.

Nancy Meckler directs the Royal Shakespeare Company premiere at the Swan Theatre in Stratford with Catherine McCormack as Juana.

Helen, who also adapted the West End production of Swallows And Amazons which comes to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry next week, was inspired to write the play after seeing the RSC's production of Sor Juana's House Of Desires at the Swan Theatre in Stratford in 2004.

"I saw House Of Desires and thought it was terrific and surprisingly funny and meaningful and everything a good play should be," she says enthusiastically. "After the show I spoke to the play's director, Nancy Meckler - someone I've been lucky enough to work with a great deal - and she told me that the story of the playwright was extraordinary and that she thought I would love it.

"She lent me a huge tome about Sor Juana, written by Octavio Paz, and before I was half way through the book, I knew the she was right ... it was inspiring stuff, and there was certainly a play to be written."

Helen did a huge amount of research and immersed herself in Sor Juana's life and work for Heresy Of Love.

"I've taken what's known about her as a starting point and then let my imagination go. Just enough is known about her to inspire me, but not enough to stifle me.

"The play imagines a particular time in her life - a time of crisis. A crisis which throws up questions about, among other things, the role of women in the church and about what happens when we move away from organized religion and try to create a form of faith which suits the way we want to live."

Helen past work has included an adaptation of Jamila Gavin's awardwinning Coram Boy at the National Theatre, Orestes - Blood and Light for Shared Experience and she has written an adaption of Therese Raquin for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York.

Helen, who grew up on the Welsh border and was one of four children, says: "I'm just coming to the end of a play about Mary Shelley for Shared Experience, which goes into rehearsals this month."

She attended rehearsals for The Heresy Of Love and declares the Swan Theatre is one of her favourite venues. "I feel like I have died and gone to heaven," she laughs. "All the projects I have worked on have been very different. I like ideas. That's what inspires me to write."

*The Heresy Of Love runs at the Swan Theatre, Stratford, until March 9. Box office 0844 800 1110.

StageWhispers STRATFORD actor Richard Griffiths, of The History Boys and Harry Potter movies, is to appear alongside American comedy actor Danny DeVito in the West End production of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys. The comedy, directed by Thea Sharrock, previews at London's Savoy Theatre from April 27.

PLAYBOX Theatre is hosting a week-long half-term holiday project at Cox's Yard in Stratford from Monday. They say the "five days of creative mayhem" is open to five to 11-year-olds and includes acting, make-up, storytelling, spells and performance. Call 01926 41955 for further details.

THE Royal Shakespeare Company has teamed up with PilotNights to allow West Midlands theatre makers interested in the Bard to showcase their work at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford on July 12 as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

HAYLEY Mills is to star in the world premiere of Ladies In Lavender this Christmas at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton. She made a surprise appearance at the recent launch via a video link from New York.

MICKEY Mouse is set to bring some Disney magic to the NIA stage in Birmingham. Disney Live's Mickey's Magic Show runs from July 25 and sees a host of favourite characters including Minnie, Donald Duck, and Cinderella. Ticketline 0844 338 8000.


COMPELLING: Catherine McCormack as Sor Juana Ins de la Cruz and Sarah Ovens as Angelica with, inset, playwright Helen Edmundson
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 10, 2012
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