All change at Sydney Theatre Company
This column is about what’s happening in London, but inevitably what happens on the world stage also affects what happens here, and vice versa. Jonathan Church has become one of the most important figures in West End theatre in the last decade, but from a regional perch at Chichester Festival Theatre. Under his leadership it has become the major summer theatre to produce hits that then come to the West End, including his own revival of Singin’ in the Rain, and Jonathan Kent’s productions of Sweeney Todd and Gypsy (both starring Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Lovett and Momma Rose, respectively).
He currently presides over his final season at the helm of the theatre, having already begun his new job as artistic director of Sydney Theatre Company across the world in Australia. But this week STC—who have regularly brought productions to London’s Barbican and New York’s City Center and BAM—suddenly announced his departure from the company.
In a press statement, the STC chairman Ian Narey commented, “Since September last year, Jonathan has led the development of an exciting season for 2017. Over these nine months, he has been balancing his time in Sydney with his ongoing commitments in the U.K. and elsewhere, and it has become apparent that the combined workload and travel will be unsustainable. We understood when we made the appointment in August last year that Jonathan was much in demand and we agreed that time would be made for him to remain engaged in other opportunities around the world through his company, Jonathan Church Productions. But ultimately, both parties have decided that this arrangement won’t be in the best interests for either in the long term.”
Church himself stated, “It has been a great experience working with this wonderful company and getting to know its network of extraordinary artists over the past nine months. I expect to maintain close contacts with Australian theatre-makers over the coming years, although, regrettably, it has not proved viable for me to continue as STC’s Artistic Director while balancing my other interests as we had hoped.”
The day before this announcement was made public, Jonathan Church Productions appeared on the billing for a new West End production of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser that will arrive at the Duke of York’s Theatre from October 5. The show will be directed by Sean Foley and star Ken Stott as an ageing actor-manager and Reece Shearsmith in the title role of his long-suffering dresser.
Donmar Warehouse heads to King’s Cross... and Brooklyn
Spreading its producing wings, Covent Garden’s prolific Donmar Warehouse—which previously announced New York transfers for its productions of Privacy (to the Public in July) and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (to Broadway’s Booth Theatre in October)— has announced plans to present a trilogy of all-female Shakespeare productions at a new temporary theatre in King’s Cross, from September 23.
These will include revivals of its previous productions of Julius Caesar and Henry IV, newly joined by a new production of The Tempest. All will star Harriet Walter (reprising her roles as Brutus and Henry IV, and newly playing Prospero), and are directed by Phyllida Lloyd. The Tempest will also go on to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn next January.
The Donmar shows are part of a trend this year that will also see Michelle Terry playing the title role of Henry V at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, beginning performances June 22, and Glenda Jackson playing the title role in King Lear at the Old Vic from October 25.
Reviews for Richard Madden and Lily James as Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed
The critics have been divided over their reception for the Kenneth Branagh/Rob Ashford co-directed Romeo and Juliet that opened at the West End’s Garrick Theatre May 25. The production reunites Richard Madden and Lily James—who co-starred in Branagh’s film version of Cinderella—in the title roles.
Reviews have ranged from two stars to five stars. At the top end, Quentin Letts applauds the production for approaching “Shakespeare with a seriousness and opulence not much seen in British theatre at present,” while in a four-star notice in The Guardian, Michael Billington applauded the production’s “pulsating energy” and said of the stars, “they acquit themselves very well: they have youth, looks and passion on their side.” In my own two-star notice for The Stage, however, I wrote that it “feels so old-fashioned it’s like watching Romeo and Juliet as played by the cast of Dynasty.”
Production and casting news around town....
The return of Christmas pantomime to its one-time traditional home at the London Palladium—for the first time in nearly 30 years—has announced casting for Cinderella. It includes such panto regulars as Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary, Lee Mead and America’s Got Talent winner Paul Zerdin, beginning performances December 9.
Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures is to receive its British premiere in a newly revised draft of the play, directed by former RSC artistic director Michael Boyd, at London’s Hampstead Theatre from October 15. It follows a development workshop led by Kushner and Boyd at Hampstead last fall.
The West End edition of the Tony- and Olivier-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots has a cast change line-up, with David Hunter taking over from Killian Donnelly as Charlie Price from August 15. Olivier-winning Matt Henry will continue in the role of Lola into 2017.
Stephen Daldry’s Tony-winning production of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls—originally premiered at the National Theatre before transferring to the West End then Broadway—will return to the West End, beginning performances at the Playhouse November 4.
For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com—and follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.