As we move into the new season, there are many changes upon us. At the Royal Court, currently closed in Sloane Square but fully functional at more central London addresses, Stephen Daldry hands over to his deputy Ian Rickson, while on the road, the hugely triumphant Cheek by Jowl company, led by director Declan Donnellan and his longtime personal and professional associate, the designer Nick Ormerod, have announced that they will disband next year for "a long period of reflection."
Others forced into periods of reflection include the Peter Hall Company at the Old Vic, which after a triumphant nine months (productions have thus far included the Felicity Kendal/Michael Pennington Waste and the Ben Kingsley/Alan Howard Waiting for Godot, with Howard's King Lear still to come) has been devastated by the news that the Canadian father-and-son team of Ed and David Mirvish wish to sell the theatre in December for around £7 million, a price that clearly will not be easily raised by Hall or any other theatre management. Then we have the Royal Shakespeare Company repositioning itself with an extended touring program and playing only six months a year at the Barbican, while at their home base they are planning major refits of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (untouched for 60 years) and the Other Place.
So what else is new? This month on the musical front brings us Enter the Guardsman, the score that won "Musical of the Year" in Denmark last autumn, as well as Julia McKenzie directing Liz Robertson in the first-ever musical staging of Stepping Out, Richard Harris's comedy about an amateur dance troupe, which was a Liza Minnelli movie some years ago.
From Broadway we get the reopening of Damn Yankees after Jerry Lewis's summer break, and the triumphant new revival of Chicago with an all-European cast led by Uta Lemper, the great Brecht/Weill singer, Ruthie Henshall and Henry Goodman. On the legit front the opening of the month is an all-star revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance with Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Henry Goodman, while in from the ever-hot Almeida in Islington come Patricia Hodge, Richard Griffiths and Penelope Wilton in Shaw's Heartbreak House, adapted and directed by David Hare, the first great "state of the nation" drama this century, now being revived just as it ends. Elsewhere, Trevor Nunn opens his management of the National with Ian McKellen in Ibsen's An Enemy of the People; John Wood also stars there in Tom Stoppard's new play about the poet Housman (The Invention of Love).
Biggest box-office hit of all time may well be the new Matthew Bourne ballet Cinderella, coming to the Piccadilly this month after the sell-out success of his Swan Lake, while the other great musical hit of the late London nineties, Riverdance, also reappears with new routines at Hammersmith; oh yes, and two new Othellos (at the National and the black touring Talawa) to keep brushing up your Shakespeare talking of which, a joyous Kiss Me, Kate from the Open Air in Regent's Park may well make it indoors for the winter.
-- By Sheridan Morley