LONDON TICKET -- November 1997
The months ahead promise stars, royals and a Cowardly celebration in London.
NOVEMBER NOVELTIES: After a long and difficult summer (the only thing that an unaccustomed heat wave and the tragedy of Princess Diana had in common was that both were very bad news at the box office), all signs are again buoyant for a tremendous West End winter. The great stars are back, from Maggie Smith in Edward Albee's scorching A Delicate Balance (Eileen Atkins and John Standing also in that) to the great Berlin cabaret diseuse Uta Lemper joining our own Ruthie Henshall for Ann Reinking's London staging of the Kander/Ebb masterpiece that is Chicago.
This month we also get John Wood in Tom Stoppard's wonderfully bleak, acerbically funny account of the reclusive Shropshire lad himself, poet A. E. Housman, in The Invention of Love, ending, on an all-time high, Richard Eyre's management of the National Theatre.
Had enough of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor yet? While we are still reeling from the catastrophe of an Abdication musical (I kid you not) called Always, we now get Corin Redgrave and Amanda Donohoe in HRH, Snoo Wilson's scathing drama about the ex-royal couple in the Bahamas during the war at the time of the extremely seedy Harry Oakes murder. This script accuses the late Duke of being not only pro-Nazi, but also instrumental in preventing local police from the discovery of the real Oakes killer lest that should affect his wartime shareholdings in a Swiss bank. Any more Windsor horror stories still to come? Meanwhile, talking of real-life politics, we also now have Edward Fox as Prime Minister Macmillan in Hugh Whitemore's new drama about the Profumo affair (remember Christine Keeler?), A Letter of Resignation. On a happier note, this month also brings Kim Criswell, the only truly golden foghorn since Merman, in an amazing play called The Slow Drag, which tells the true story of an American jazz musician who spent her entire life and career as a man despite the little inconvenience of having been born a woman. Another eccentric, but in this case a truly wonderful new musical is Kat and the Kings, which tells the equally true and sometimes heartbreaking story of five black South African rock-and-rollers from the 1950's who were only allowed to play Cape Town hotel cabarets as long as they carried luggage all day, and who were introduced each night by a white D.J. with the immortal line, "If these kids weren't singing for you right now, they'd be out in the car park breaking into your vehicles." It was all, as you can gather, a long time pre-Mandela, but the show and its score are even better than the long-running Five Guys Named Moe.
What else is new? Well, there's The Remarkable Piety of the Infamous, one of about a dozen new Oscar Wilde plays and revivals to mark the centenary of his release from Reading Gaol, and as part of a marathon French Theatre Season (the greatest ever this side of the Eurotunnel), we get Peter Brook's wife Natasha Parry in his celebrated production of Beckett's Oh! Les Beaux Jours and Geraldine Mc-Ewan in a rare revival of Ionesco's The Chairs, the play and the role that made a star of Joan Plowright 40 years ago.
PETER PAN AND WENDY: As Barrie's great, dark classic ("to die will be an awfully big adventure") comes into the National Theatre for the first time this Christmas, with Sir Ian McKellen doubling Hook and Mr. Darling and a male Peter no less, and with Alec McCowen narrating as Barrie himself, what of Wendy? Well, if you mean Wasserstein, she is now living over here engaged in an amazing and unusual project, turning her award-winning The Sisters Rosensweig into a weekly British TV sitcom for Maureen Lipman, one of the original stars of the London staging.
-- By Sheridan Morley