A LETTER FROM LONDON: Simon Russell Beale, Lindsay Duncan, Ibsen, Shaw and The Curious Incident of the Dog

By Ruth Leon
07 Feb 2012

Simon Russell Beale in <i>Collaborators</i>
Simon Russell Beale in Collaborators
Johan Persson

The monthly roundup of London's theatrical events past, present and future includes a peek into the Young Vic, the National, the Noel Coward and the Rose.

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The theatre season has started slowly this year, but looking forward, I realize that it will all heat up rapidly and that soon, as usual, I won't have enough nights in the week to cover all that's opening.

The National Theatre alone has a blistering season planned, and my experience is that what they plan, they pull off. If you've been to London before, you already know that the National is a marvelous destination even without a play to see, a busy, absorbing place to spend a few hours. There's always something going on here, inside the complex's three theatres, in the lobby and even outside by the Thames.

If you're planning to be in London for the Olympics, or even planning your summer now, you don't want to miss what the National is calling "National Inside Out." Between June 2 and Sept. 9, activities normally conducted inside the theatre will spill out onto the terraces and squares, with a packed festival program of free activities entering into the spirit of a summer in which London has to put its best foot forward. A specially designed riverfront café bar will invite passersby into a setting evoking the backstage world, and a pop-up space on the terrace balcony will offer activities and performances for children and families.

It's too much (and ego run wild) to hope that they listened to me, but you might remember that I complained loudly, in print, about Collaborators, starring Simon Russell Beale and Alex Jennings, being staged only for a short and limited season in the smallest of the National's spaces, the Cottesloe. It is, even as I write, being transferred to their largest space, the Olivier Theatre, for a much longer run. Oh, all right, I wasn't the only one who objected to this marvelous production being hidden away in a tiny theatre for a sold-out run.

And talking of Simon Russell Beale, he'll be taking the title role in one of Shakespeare's lesser-performed plays, Timon of Athens. Directed by the National's director, Nick Hytner, it will be part of the World Shakespeare Festival, which everybody over here is getting very excited about. The National season will also feature a new play by Alan Bennett (always an event), another by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and yet another by the American Lisa D'Amour, while Richard Bean — who has had such a spectacular success with One Man, Two Guvnors on both sides of the Atlantic — has adapted that hoary old warhorse The Count of Monte Cristo. Also on the classical front, there's more Shakespeare, Gorky's Children of the Sun and George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma. Interestingly, there will also be an adaptation of Mark Haddon's runaway hit novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and a brief revival of London Road, Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork's verbatim musical that won all the awards last year. Altogther, it's a marvelous season if you do go to see the plays, and an entertaining place to visit even it you don't.



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