New Ava Gardner play announces world premiere at Riverside Studios

Ava Master - Photo credit Simon Annand

Elizabeth McGovern will adapt and star in a new play about Hollywood icon Ava Gardner.

AVA: The Secret Conversations is adapted by Academy Award-nominee Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey, ITV) from the book by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner.


It will play at Riverside Studios in London from 14 January to 16 April 2022, produced by Karl Sydow with design by 59 Productions, costume design by Fotini Dimou, lighting design by Elliot Griggs, sound design by Ella Wahlström.

McGovern stars as Ava alongside Anatol Yusef (Boardwalk Empire, Punisher) as Peter Evans, the journalist Ava hired to write her autobiography when she lived in 1980s

Oscar nominated Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s greatest stars during the 1940s and 1950s, co-starring with legends such as Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster and Humphrey Bogart. But Ava’s film career was sometimes overshadowed by her three marriages to: Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

AVA: The Secret Conversations follows Ava’s collaboration with writer Peter Evans for her biography; throughout the process Evans struggled to elicit material from his often elusive and moody subject and, in the end, learned things about Ava he never expected. The book based on Evans’ notes, drafts and recordings was finally published in 2013, the year after his death.

Ava Gardner – The Secret Conversations is the stunning story of a legendary star’s public and private lives. Part fact, part fiction, the play assumes the time Ava and Evans spent together collaborating while she was living in London, flashing back to various moments throughout her career and introducing audiences to the men in her life.

Elizabeth McGovern commented: “I was drawn to The Secret Conversations to begin with by my fascination with Ava Gardner. There is something in her character that goes beyond physical beauty: an unselfconscious combination of humour, intelligence, warmth and humility that the camera was able to capture and we can still enjoy today.

“But also, the conversations were mostly unadulterated, and , without coming to any pat conclusions, reveal the price she paid for fame, the toll it took on her life. I wanted to explore this for selfish reasons. I feel qualified to draw from my own experience in order to explore the subject.”

Producer Karl Sydow added: “I’m thrilled to have cast Anatol Yusef alongside Elizabeth McGovern in this fantastic new play that explores so much about what the legendary Ava Gardner had to deal with throughout her illustrious career and tumultuous marriages.”

Tickets are on sale now via

Picture: Simon Annand

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