A New Theatre and Old Plays
The year may have ended disastrously in the West End with the partial collapse of a ceiling at the Apollo, a 112-year-old Edwardian theatre that left over 80 theatregoers injured (seven of them seriously). But 2014 begins more happily with the opening of a brand-new indoor Jacobean theatre within the complex of Shakespeare's Globe on the South Bank that will turn the building into a year-round theatrical producer.
The Sam Wanamaker Theatre – named in honor of the Globe's American actor-founder – will seat 340 people with two tiers of galleried seating and a pit seating area, predominantly lit by candles. Its inaugural production will see Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole directing Gemma Arterton -- who made her professional stage debut at the Globe in 2007 -- in the title role of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi (from Jan. 9). Also in the opening season there will be a new production of The Knight of the Burning Pestle (from Feb. 20) and a solo show about Ellen Terry, performed by Eileen Atkins (from Jan. 12).
Looking ahead to the summer months in the main Globe auditorium, the 2014 season will draw together two momentous anniversaries: the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and the centenary of the First World War, with a season of four Shakespeares and four new plays being presented under the umbrella title Arms and the Man. There will be new productions of Antony & Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and The Comedy of Errors, plus a revisiting of a 2006 staging of Titus Andronicus; and new plays by Howard Brenton, David Eldridge, Richard Bean and Simon Armitage.
Meanwhile at London's other main summer outdoor theatre, the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, the season will include new productions of Arthur Miller's All My Sons (from May 15), Hobson's Choice (from June 12), Porgy and Bess (from July 17) and the return of last year's hit production of To Kill a Mockingbird (from Aug. 28, prior to a national tour), as well as daytime performances of a production of Twelfth Night produced specifically for audiences of six and over (from June 21).
Elsewhere around town, there's more Arthur Miller at the Young Vic, where Dutch director Ivo van Hove will stage A View From the Bridge (from April 4). Also at the Young Vic, Juliet Stevenson will star in Beckett's Happy Days (from Jan. 23), Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne will return with The Valley of Astonishment (from June 20, a new piece exploring the mysteries of the human brain), Benedict Andrews will direct Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (summer 2014, dates to be confirmed) and Katie Mitchell will direct Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (from Oct. 10, in a new version by playwright Simon Stephens). There's more Chekhov – in Russian – when Moscow's Moccbeta State Academic Theatre brings Andrei Konchalovsky's productions of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters (to Wyndham's from April 23).
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Other classical theatre highlights coming up include Simon Russell Beale and director Sam Mendes reuniting for King Lear (at the National's Olivier Theatre from Jan. 14), with a cast that also includes Kate Fleetwood, Anna Maxwell Martin, Adrian Scarborough, Stanley Townsend and Sam Troughton. Also in coming months at the National, Lesley Sharp and Kate O'Flynn (who made such an impression in Simon Stephens' Port at the National in 2013) will star in a new production of Shelagh Delaney's 1958 first play A Taste of Honey (in the Lyttelton Theatre from Feb. 10), and a season by comedian Daniel Kitson in his latest show Analog.Ue (from Feb. 22).
Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company will bring their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream to the Barbican (from Feb. 6), reuniting director Tom Morris and Handspring for the first time since their triumph with War Horse. Cheek by Jowl will revive their 2012 production of John Ford's Tis Pity She's a Whore (at the Barbican's Silk Street Theater from April 9), as well as their production of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi (from June 18).
The Donmar Warehouse's hit 2013 revival of Conor McPherson's contemporary classic The Weir moves to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre from Jan. 16, with the full original cast that comprises Brian Cox, Ardal O'Hanlon, Risteárd Cooper, Dervla Kirwan and Peter McDonald reprising their roles in Josie Rourke's production. Also at the Donmar itself, 2014 will see a revival of Brian Friel's Fathers and Sons, based on the novel by Ivan Turgenev (from June 5), directed by Lyndsey Turner (currently represented on Broadway by her new production of Machinal for Roundabout Theatre Company).
At London's Tricycle Theatre, Adrian Lester reprises his performance as the American actor Ira Aldridge, who took over the title role of Othello from Edmund Kean in a London production of that play in 1833, in Lolita Chakrabarti's Red Velvet, from Jan 23, prior to transferring to New York's St. Ann's Warehouse, where it will run March 25-April 20. Lester won the Best Actor Award in the U.K.'s Critics' Circle Theatre Awards for this performance, and the play saw its author win the most promising playwright award in both the Critics' Circle and Evening Standard Theatre Awards.
At the Royal Court, Lisa Dwan reprises her performance in Beckett's Not I at the Royal Court (from Jan. 9), where it was seen previously, in a new triple bill with Beckett's Footfalls and Rockaby, for a two-week run prior to an immediate brief transfer to the West End's Duchess Theatre (from Feb. 3). And also in the West End, British-born stage and screen star Angela Lansbury will make her long-awaited London stage return for the first time in nearly 40 years when she reprises her 2009 Tony winning performance in Blithe Spirit at the Gielgu Theatre (from March 1). Michael Blakemore directs a cast that also includes Janie Dee, Charles Edwards, Simon Jones, Sandra Dickinson and Jemima Rooper.
There are also plenty of new plays around town. At the Donmar Warehouse, Francesca Annis will star in the world premiere of Peter Gill's Versailles (from Feb. 20), a play about the legacy of the decisions made at the end of the First World War. It will be followed by the premiere of James Graham's Privacy (from April 10), which poses the question: Is there any such thing as privacy in the twenty-first century? The play is based on research undertaken by the playwright and his director Josie Rourke into the impact of social media and big data on our on-and-off-line lives.
At the National Theatre's The Shed, Blurred Lines (from Jan. 16) is a new work created and devised by director Carrie Cracknell and playwright Nick Payne, which is described in press materials as "a blistering journey through the minefield of contemporary gender politics." The cast includes Marion Bailey, Sinéad Matthews, Ruth Sheen and Claire Skinner.
The busy Cracknell will also next direct the premiere of Simon Stephens' Birdland at the Royal Court from April 3. Described as looking at empathy, money and fame, it revolves around Paul, a rock star at the height of his fame. He will be played by Andrew Scott, a regular at the Royal Court who has been seen on Broadway in David Hare's The Vertical Hour.
Before that, Saskia Reeves and Danny Webb will star in the premiere of Abi Morgan's The Mistress Contract (from Jan. 30), based on on the true story of a real-life couple who came to an unconventional arrangement to manage their sex lives with each other. Also at the Royal Court, Tim Crouch's Adler & Gibb (from June 13) revolves around Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb, who were conceptual artists working in New York at the end of the last century. The play was co-commissioned by the Royal Court and LA's Center Theatre Group.
Jennifer Haley's The Nether (originally produced in LA, also under the auspices of the Center Theatre Group), will receive its U.K premiere at the Royal Court (from July 17), co-produced with Headlong, whose artistic director, Jeremy Herrin, directs the play that originally premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles under the auspices of the Center Theatre Group. It won the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and is described in press materials as an intricate crime drama and a haunting sci-fi thriller that explores the consequences of making dreams a reality. In the Royal Court's studio Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, premieres include John Donnelly's The Pass (from Jan. 13), directed by John Tiffany (currently represented on Broadway by The Glass Menagerie and Once); Vivienne Franzmann's Pests (from March 27, co-produced with Clean Break and Manchester's Royal Exchange); and Gurprett Kaur Bhatti's Kandan (Family), co-produced with Birmingham Repertory Theatre (from June 11).
At the West End's Theatre Royal Haymarket, Trevor Nunn is to direct Fatal Attraction, a new stage adaptation of the 1987 film of the same name (from March 8), and Simon Beaufoy's own adaptation of his 1997 screenplay to The Full Monty will transfer to the Noel Coward (from Feb. 20), after premiering in the story's home town of Sheffield in 2013 and subsequently touring the U.K.
On the musicals front, the London Palladium will see the world premiere of I Can't Sing! – The X Factory Musical (from Feb. 27), with a cast that includes Nigel Harman as Simon Cowell and Cynthia Erivo. Written by Harry Hill (best known as a TV and stage comedian) with a score by Steve Brown (previously represented in the West End by the Olivier Award winning Spend Spend Spend), it is directed by Sean Foley.
There will be U.K. premieres for two Broadway musicals. At the Savoy, Jerry Mitchell will direct Tony winner Robert Lindsay ( Me and My Girl), Rufus Hound and Katherine Kingsley in David Yazbeck and Jeffrey Lane's 2005 musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (from March 10, following two out-of-town engagements in Manchester from Feb. 12 and Aylesbury from Feb. 26). At the St. James Theatre, Jamie Lloyd will direct Richard Fleeshman, Jenna Russell, Jonathan Slinger and Cory English in Urinetown (from Feb. 22), originally seen on Broadway in 2001 where it was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won three, including Best Book ( Greg Kotis) and score (Mark Hollman).
On the revivals front, Cameron Mackintosh will revive Boublil and Schonberg's Miss Saigon that he originally produced at Drury Lane 25 years ago. Now remounted in a new production at the Prince Edward Theatre (from May 3) by Laurence Connor that will utilize the original musical staging of Bob Avian, it stars 17-year-old American actress Eva Noblezada as Kim, a recent high school graduate who was discovered during the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York last June, with Alistair Brammer as Chris and Jon Jon Briones (an ensemble member of the original cast at Drury Lane) as the Engineer.
Chichester Festival Theatre's summer revival of the 1954 Broadway musical The Pajama Game will transfer to the Shaftesbury (from May 1), with Joanna Riding reprising her perfomrance as Babe Williams, newly joined by Michael Xavier replacing Hadley Fraser as Sid Sorokin in Richard Eyre's production.
Also being revived elsewhere, Joan Littlewood's Oh What A Lovely War returns to its original home, the Theatre Royal, Stratford East (from Feb. 1), to mark both the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and the 50th anniversary of this show's 1963 premiere. Terry Johnson directs a cast that includes Caroline Quentin. Johnson will also direct the return of another Stratford East classic, Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be (from May 8), starring Jessie Wallace (from TV's "EastEnders") and Gary Kemp (famous for the pop group Spandau Ballet). Lionel Bart's musical, originally premiered in 1959, will be presented in a new adaptation by Elliot Davis. On the fringe, Sam Buntrock (previously represented on Broadway by the transfer of his London production of Sunday in the Park with George) will direct the premiere of Gwyneth Herbert and Diane Samuels' The A-Z of Mrs P (at Southwark Playhouse from Feb. 20), revolving around the true story of the woman who created the London A-Z street map. The cast will include Isy Suttie as Mrs P (best known for her TV roles in "Peep Show" and "Shameless") and Frances Ruffelle (Tony winner as the original Eponine in Les Miserables) as her mother.
For further details of all of these shows, search Playbill.com And for breaking news, as it occurs, check Playbill.com regularly.