London's West End Offers an Autumn Feast

London's West End Offers an Autumn Feast After the usual summer lull, when producers keep their heads down and pray for bad weather, the West End's autumn line-up is looking more than usually succulent.

After the usual summer lull, when producers keep their heads down and pray for bad weather, the West End's autumn line-up is looking more than usually succulent.

After the usual summer lull, when producers keep their heads down and pray for bad weather, the West End's autumn line-up is looking more than usually succulent.

In personality terms, we have the return of favorites such as Judi Dench, Penelope Wilton, Antony Sher, Julia Mackenzie, Prunella Scales, Alan Rickman and Ian Holm.

Speaking of Priestley, Stephen Daldry's award-laden revival of An Inspector Calls reopens in the West End on Sept. 20, this time at the Playhouse, with Niall Buggy as the mysterious sleuth.

Also returning after a successful run earlier this year is David Mamet's lesbian comedy Boston Marriage, starring Zoe Wanamaker and Anna Chancellor, which comes to the New Ambassadors in early December. Ian Holm's eagerly awaited return to the London stage in Pinter's The Homecoming has been delayed slightly due to some minor health problem, and is now opening in the last week of September. The cast is also strong and includes Lia Williams and Ian Hart.

Meanwhile Holm's wife, Penelope Wilton, heads the cast of Lillian Hellman's 1939 play The Little Foxes, as the domineering matriarch of a ruthless family in the deep south of America, opening at the Donmar Warehouse early next month.

In November, the same theatre is reviving Privates on Parade, the rumbustious 1977 Peter Nichols play based on his experiences of organizing army concert parties in Malaya in the Fifties, with the likes of Kenneth Williams and Stanley Baxter.

Peter Nichols's controversial first play, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, about a young couple with a severely handicapped child, also receives a major revival in the West End next month, with Clive Owen, Victoria Hamilton and Prunella Scales.

The three big theatre events in October are likely to be Michael Blakemore's award-winning production of Kiss Me, Kate, the Cole Porter musical based on The Taming of the Shrew, coming to the Victoria Palace; Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan trying to recapture some of the sexual chemistry from Les Liaisons Dangereuses in Howard Davies's revival of Privates Lives; and Antony Sher playing the title role in Ronald Harwood's new play about the composer Gustav Mahler.

The big ones in November are The Royal Family, based on the American theatrical dynasty, the Barrymores, starring Judi Dench, Peter Bowles, Julia Mackenzie, Harriet Walter and Toby Stephens; the RSC's new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland (industrial action permitting); and the magnificent Ken Stott in The Faith Healer at the Almeida King's Cross.

Big musicals such as Bombay Dreams, We Will Rock You (based on the music of Queen), and Taboo (about the New Romantics of the 1980s) have yet to finalize dates and venues, but Trevor Nunn's revival of South Pacific, designed by John Napier, is definitely coming to the National in December. Plenty to look forward to, I think you'll agree.

—by Nick Smurthwaite Theatrenow