What’s Hot in London: December 3-9

News   What’s Hot in London: December 3-9
A new trend amongst London artistic directors, a Tony winner starts a theatre podcast, and more.
What’s Hot in London
What’s Hot in London

The new trend of artistic directors going indie.
While the artistic directors of many New York companies seem have tenure for life—think of the longevity of Lynne Meadow at Manhattan Theatre Club, Todd Haimes at Roundabout, André Bishop at Lincoln Center, or Carole Rothman at Second Stage—in the U.K. directors tend to take turns at different companies, typically staying for between five and ten years in a post before moving on elsewhere.

But an increasingly prolific trend shows former artistic directors going independent, setting up companies that often bear their names to operate in the commercial arena. Peter Hall long ago pioneered this approach after he left the National, with the eponymous Peter Hall Company that thrived in the West End and on Broadway with shows like Orpheus Descending, The Merchant of Venice (with Dustin Hoffman), An Ideal Husband and Amadeus (that he had also directed the original production of at the National) all eventually transferring from the West End to Broadway.

More recently, Michael Grandage, Jamie Lloyd (who hasn’t actually run a theatre yet), and Kenneth Branagh founded companies in their names that have all had West End successes. Former NT artistic director Nick Hytner has announced plans with his former executive producer, Nick Starr, to set up a new theatre near Tower Bridge. And now former NT associate director Marianne Elliott, who co-directed War Horse there and was also responsible for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Dominic Dromgoole have also newly announced plans to helm companies of their own. Dromgoole, formerly artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, has formed a partnership with West End theatre owner and producer Nica Burns to produce theatre classics, like its debut show Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance, that will premiere in October 2017.

Tyler Lea in <i>Curious Incident</i>
Tyler Lea in Curious Incident Photo by Joan Marcus

Curious Incident to bow out in the West End (but continues on tour).
The open-ended West End run for a play title is a rare thing indeed; mostly they're booked in for 13 or 14 week engagements, related partly to star availability, but also to concentrate demand in a shorter period of time so that audiences have become newly trained to see them sooner rather than later. In the West End there’s currently, of course, those hardy perennials—the now-and-forever Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which recently entered its 65th year at the St Martin's Theatre, and The Woman in Black, currently in its 27th year at the Fortune. They've been newly joined by the Mischief Theatre double bill of The Play That Goes Wrong (now in its third year at the Duchess, and Broadway-bound this season to open at the Lyceum in April) and The Play About a Bank Robbery (at the Criterion).

Two other play titles have played open-ended runs in the West End in recent years, both of them from the National Theatre: War Horse (which ran for nearly seven years at the New London) and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (which has been playing in the West End for three years after transferring from the National, first to the Apollo in 2013 and then moving to the Gielgud in July 2014 after the roof fell in at the Apollo mid-performance the previous November). Its Broadway run at the Barrymore ended in September after a nearly two-year run; it has now been announced that Curious Incident will bow out of the West End, too, on June 3, 2017. By the time it closes, it will have played over 1,600 performances and been seen by over 1 million people in London, and almost 2.5 million people worldwide.

But it will still continue to be seen on U.K. and U.S. theatre stages; a 25-city tour begins January 2017 and a North American tour continues through September 2017.

Tony-winning Playwright Simon Stephens launches a podcast.
Simon Stephens, Tony winner for The Curious Incident... and currently represented on Broadway by Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of his play Heisenberg at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, has launched a 12-part podcast series of interviews with fellow playwrights. The first episode features Enda Walsh (currently represented in London by his book for David Bowie’s Lazarus and previously in the West End and on Broadway with Once). Listen here.

Heisenberg meet and greet_HR_4735.jpg
Simon Stephens Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Future episodes, which go live every Friday, will include interviews with playwrights David Hare, Robert Holman, Dennis Kelly, Joe Penhall, Lucy Prebble, Anya Reiss, Polly Stenham, and more. In a press statement, Stephens commented, “Over the past few months I have had conversations with some of the most exciting playwrights in the country. It has been a real honour. Our conversations have been rangy and lengthy and detailed and fun. I’ve asked them about their careers and their lives, their ambitions and their work. I think, collectively, they offer an extraordinary insight into how playwrights work in the U.K. today. I am thrilled that these conversations will be aired over the next few months.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber reveals plans for The Other Palace.
Sir Lloyd Webber’s plans for the former St. James Theatre, now newly re-branded The Other Palace, will see it open its doors February 2017 with the first major London outing for Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party, from February 13. Joining the previously announced Frances Ruffelle as Queen are Donna McKechnie as Dolores and John Owen-Jones as Burrs, amongst a cast that will also include Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Simon Thomas, and Dex Lee.

Meanwhile in the downstairs Other Palace Studio, the first production will be a London outing for the Off-Broadway musical Murder for Two, running from March 2, in a production that will transfer there from Newbury’s Watermill Theatre.

Casting has also been announced for the European premiere of the 2011 Off-Broadway musical Death Takes a Holiday, which has songs by Maury Yeston. It begins performances at Charing Cross Theatre January 16 with a cast led by Maxwell Caulfield, Zoë Doano, and Chris Peluso.

At Greenwich Theatre in southeast London, Eden Espinosa (best known for playing Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, in L.A., and San Francisco, and for originating the title role in Broadway's Brooklyn) is to star in in the U.K. premiere of a new rock musical Lizzie, from February 22.

For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com and follow me on Twitter @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.

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