ESTHER Richardson is directing her first Pilot Theatre production since taking over as the York company's artistic director from Marcus Romer.

Bryony Lavery’s new adaptation of Graham Greene’s iconic novel Brighton Rock will be presented in a co-production with York Theatre Royal, where the premiere will be staged in the main house from February 16 to March 3 before heading out on tour.

Joining Richardson and Lavery in the production team are designer Sara Perks, lighting designer Aideene Malone, who lit the National Theatre's Jane Eyre, and Hannah Peel, the Northern Irish singer, musician, electronic composer and member of The Magnetic North, who has composed the soundtrack and will perform in the play in the opening run in York.

"The process of choosing Brighton Rock was finding something that we could get the rights to that felt exciting and relevant; something that got people thinking about the world we live in now, even though it's a classic story; something that was compelling for our target audience aged under 30," says Esther.

"Staging Brighton Rock is a coup because it's not often done on stage and arguably never been done well on stage, so the challenge was to find the theatrical language to tell that story."

Greene's thriller is set in 1930s' gangland Brighton, where 'Pinkie' Brown, a teenage would-be gangster with psychotic tendencies, strives to hang on to his mob rule in the town. After the murder of Daily Messenger man Kolley Kibber (an alias for former gangster Fred Hale), Pinkie is trailed by amateur detective Ida Arnold, who tries to save Pinkie's girl, Rose, from his violent behaviour.

"It's a fascinating dystopian story when we're living in dystopian times again and the relevance of the piece is quite extraordinary. In fact it feels like it's becoming more relevant each day, if you look at the way Rose is treated and consider the self-worth of young people today," says Esther.

York Press:

Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson

"Most of all, it's just a fantastic story, so gripping, with so much to get your teeth into with these characters. We all latch on to Pinkie: does he have a personality disorder or is he a product of social and political context where he's raging against the world with only one suit in his possession and is living in a flat share?

"The other character who's incredible is Ida. You always think Brighton Rock is Pinkie's story but actually it's Ida's story too. She's this working-class character who's a citizen detective, asking questions, taking up the challenge to save Rose. She's fascinating, and we still don't see such working-class characters on stage very often.

"It's a story with a Shakespearean quality, Pinkie being like Macbeth, caught up in the world of murder that consumes him, and then there are the themes of good and evil, right and wrong and spirituality: so many different themes."

Bryony Lavery adapted Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited for York Theatre Royal in 2016 and now returns to the York theatre to adapt Green's novel at Esther's request. "First of all, Bryony has an amazing sense of lyricism and poetry to her work," says the director. "Theatre, for her, is a space for the imagination to take root, and she has a great sense of economy and theatricality in her stage adaptations too. She was absolutely my first choice for Brighton Rock.

"I was aware of some of the pitfalls of adapting it; I didn't want a literal version but one that probed at the story's humanity and emotional pulses and got to grips with good and evil and finding the right theatrical language to express it all, and Bryony has come up with a very jazzy, poetic adaptation.

"That's why it's also great to have Hannah Peel involved as the composer. She's interested in what music does to us, as well as being a great entertainer."

Brighton Rock will open at York Theatre Royal from February 16 to March 3 and then will tour to Brighton, Colchester, Hull Truck Theatre (March 20 to 24), Cheltenham, Winchester, Watford, Birmingham, Newcastle, Mold, Derby and The Lowry, Salford Quays. Box office: York, 01904 623568 or at; Hull, 01428 323638 or