LONDON SPRING PREVIEW 2012: In the West End and Beyond, Expect Susan Boyle, Mark Rylance, a Musical Bridget Jones' Diary and More

By Mark Shenton
02 Jan 2012

Laurie Metcalf

Beyond musicals, the West End has a few plays lined up: David Haig reprises his touring role in Alan Bennett's The Madness of George III at the Apollo (from Jan. 18), followed at the same address by David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (from April 2). U.S. screen star Zach Braff, best known for his appearances in "Scrubs" and "Garden State," will lead the cast in the West End premiere of his own play All New People, previously seen without him Off-Broadway, at the Duke of York's (from Feb. 22).

Ayckbourn's 1974 play Absent Friends will be revived at the Harold Pinter Theatre (from Feb. 9), with a cast that includes Reece Shearsmith (last seen in Betty Blue Eyes), Kara Tointon, David Armand and Katherine Parkinson. Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys is eyeing a West End return in April, starring Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths at a theatre to be announced.

A play by Noël Coward will come to the Coward Theatre for the first time since that theatre took his name, for a production of Hay Fever that will star Lindsay Duncan and Jeremy Northam (from Feb. 9). It will be followed in August by back-to-back runs for the RSC's new Stratford productions of Julius Caesar (re-set to modern Africa, and with a cast that includes Ray Fearon and Paterson Joseph), and Much Ado About Nothing (relocated to an Indian setting, with Meera Syal as Beatrice).

Jonathan Pryce
photo by Aubrey Reuben

The RSC will also return to the Roundhouse this summer, transferring new Stratford productions of The Comedy of Errors (from June 1), Twelfth Night (from June 5) and The Tempest (from June 9), as part of the World Shakespeare season that the RSC is itself curating around the U.K. during the summer in 2012.

Elsewhere, the World Shakespeare Festival will include Simon Russell Beale appearing in the title role of Timon of Athens for director Nicholas Hytner at the National in July, and Jonathan Pryce starring in the title role of King Lear at the Almeida (from Aug. 31). Shakespeare's Globe will present Globe to Globe, a season of all 37 plays presented in 37 different languages by visiting companies from around the world, over a six-week season (from April 23).

The Globe's own season that follows will see the return of Mark Rylance to the theatre he previously ran for its first decade, to both reprise his award-winning performance as Olivia in Twelfth Night that he previously gave there (from Sept. 22), and star in the title role of Richard III (from July 14). The Globe season will also include Henry V with Jamie Parker in the title role (from June 7), and The Taming of the Shrew (from June 23). At the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, there will be a return to what used to be an annual staple there with a new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (from June 2).