What’s Hot in London: July 9-15

News   What’s Hot in London: July 9-15
 
Kit Harington defends West End audiences, Rebel Wilson opens to raves in Guys and Dolls, Fiasco’s Into the Woods comes to London, and Sheridan Smith returns to Funny Girl.
What’s Hot in London
What’s Hot in London

Kit Harington defends West End audiences.
Game of Thrones star Kit Harington recently completed a run in the West End in a new production of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Richard Jordan, a columnist for The Stage and an independent producer in his own right, wondered aloud whether "West End theatre audiences sunk to a new low" with their behaviour at the performance he attended.

As he described it, "Further down my row in the royal circle, after the interval, a couple saw nothing wrong in producing from their bag a box of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and a large side of fries. At the interval, they had popped out and purchased these to consume through the second half.... The couple to my left ate their way through a large tub of popcorn during Act I, while the couple on my right chomped through a packet of crisps."

But Harington has responded publicly, telling The Guardian, "I am afraid that, if the theatre is going to die of anything, it will be from exactly this type of stereotyping and prejudice aimed towards a new and younger generation of theatregoers. I have been a theatregoer since childhood and I didn’t feel that our audiences were disrespectful in the slightest. In the whole run of 10 weeks, I can count one time that a phone went off in the audience."

But Richard Gresham, a theatregoer who drew up a Theatre Charter in 2014 to address the deteriorating standards of behaviour in audiences, has replied, “If Kit Harington defended his audience’s behavior, then Kit has never sat in an audience and experienced it himself, because behavior nowadays is atrocious. You can’t miss it.”

Rebel Wilson scores a triumph in London.

Rebel Wilson
Rebel Wilson Johan Persson

The Australian-born star of such films as Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect has taken over as Miss Adelaide in the current West End revival of Guys and Dolls, and has already received rave reviews. In the London Times, Ann Treneman wrote, “This is Guys and Dolls as no one has seen it before, for you’ve never seen a doll quite like Rebel Wilson.” She adds that she plays Miss Adelaide with a kind of raunchy knowingness. It may be true that Adelaide, a dancer at the ironically named Hotbox, may have done a little bump and grinding before. But now, with Wilson in charge, she does a hump and grind—a lot of it."

In my own review for The Stage, I dub her "big, bold and brassy—in every sense. And fearless, too....[She] does not, to be frank, have a pitch-perfect singing voice—it’s a loud instrument rather than a subtle one. But she’s refreshingly vanity-free and celebrates her body. She’s well cast as Miss Adelaide, who has held down a job as a Times Square nightclub hostess and dancer for a long time; if she was any better, she’d have left for better things. Guys and Dolls, like Cabaret, works when the leading lady isn’t much of a singer; if she was, she wouldn’t be working in this dive."

Into the Woods earns acclaim in London.
Sondheim and Lapine’s Into the Woods is currently receiving its third major U.K. outing in the space of seven months. It has also been produced in major regional theatres in Manchester last December and Leeds in June. Now London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, currently represented on Broadway by The Color Purple, has imported Fiasco’s production, seen Off-Broadway in 2015. In a four-star review for The Independent, Paul Taylor has written, "It’s a compliment to say that this production feels like the polar opposite of Rob Marshall’s glossy, lushly orchestrated Disney film adaptation of the show.... There’s a big-hearted improvisatory feel to the proceedings here.... The production manages to be joyously ingenious (a trembling feather duster, say, as the hen that lays the golden eggs) and teasingly incongruous (Jack’s female cow is played by bearded bloke with a baby’s bottle for an udder) without seeming too pleased with itself."

In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish expressed initial doubts, but then admitted, "Misgivings melted away under the double-glare of both the company’s talent and tenacity and this 30-year-old musical’s innate capacity to enchant."

Latest production and casting news...
Mark Strong (A View from the Bridge) and Hope Davis are to star in the world premiere of David Hare’s latest play The Red Barn at the National Theatre from October 6. While Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently in previews at the Palace Theatre and original Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe is in Privacy at the Public Theater in New York, another original cast member of the films, Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom, is also heading to the stage. He will appear in Owen McCafferty’s Unfaithful at Found111, a pop-up performance space a few hundred yards from the Palace Theatre on Charing Cross Road. Sheridan Smith has returned to the West End company of Funny Girl, in which she headlines as Fanny Brice, after a six week absence to recover from ”stress and exhaustion“; also newly announced, the cast recording will be released August 5.

For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com—and follow me on Twitter @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.

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