A LETTER FROM LONDON: Jonathan Pryce in King Lear, the Refurbished Bristol Old Vic, Josie Rourke's Donmar Slate

By Ruth Leon
01 Oct 2012

Kerry Ingram in the West End production of Matilda.
photo by Alastair Muir

Matilda is heading for New York. The hugely popular musical, adapted from Roald Dahl's story about a clever little girl with superhuman powers, has won just about every award the British theatre can offer, including Olivier Awards for its four rotating 10-year old stars, the youngest ever to win this major prize. Now 400,000 tickets have gone on sale in the U.S., booking from opening night in April 2013 through to Christmas. I found it a little scary, but the children in the audience didn't turn a hair at the cruelty that gave me pause. They're used to Roald Dahl, one of the most popular children's authors ever, and know it will all work out in the end. I think Matilda will be another Book of Mormon story — a megahit sellout — so if you have a moppet with a strong stomach, get your tickets now.

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In an effort to offset the principal complaint of theatre audiences — that even though they love the theatre they can no longer afford to go — one of London's premier theatres has a new initiative. The Donmar Warehouse is planning to hold back two-thirds of its front-row seats across both the stalls (orchestra) and circle for all performances, and put them on sale every Monday for just £10 ($15). The Donmar is small and exclusive, with most shows selling out as soon as they go on sale, so this is a real boon for serious theatregoers. And the new season under new artistic director Josie Rourke looks interesting. First up is a new production of Julius Caesar, the play in which Shakespeare tells us what he thinks of power, with an all-female cast. Yes, you read aright. After the Globe's all-male Twelfth Night, the Donmar is planning to put on the most testosterone-fueled of all Shakespeare's history plays with an all-women cast and a female director, Phyllida Lloyd. Not so surprising when you remember that the monarch at the time of the play's writing was Queen Elizabeth I. Then Joe Wright, the director of the current movie of "Anna Karenina," makes his stage-directing debut with Pinero's Trelawney of the Wells. And to round it off, Rourke is directing a new production of Conor McPherson's searing The Weir. And you might be able to see all these for £10 each.

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