The week ahead in London and beyond, February 18-24

Mark Shenton
Mark is associate editor of The Stage, as well as joint lead critic. He has written regularly for The Stage since 2005, including a daily online column.
by -

Another high profile week sees the return of The Full Monty to its native Sheffield, A Chorus Line back in London for the first time in nearly 34 years, and the launch of a new resident West End company under the stewardship of Jamie Lloyd at a reconfigured Trafalgar Studios. I'll see all three, though not always on the opening nights, and a lot more, too. One of the great things about this job is that I'm never short of things to cover; juggling the critical diary is also one of the hardest parts about it, too!

Tonight (February 18) sees The Full Monty reclaimed as a play by its original Oscar-nominated screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, premiering on its home territory of the Lyceum in Sheffield, after a previous Broadway adaptation in 2000 that Beaufoy wasn't involved in was transposed by book writer Terrence McNally from Sheffield to Buffalo, NY and added songs by David Yazbeck. This new production is directed by the Crucible's artistic director Daniel Evans and is already booked for an 11-week post-Sheffield tour, to be followed no doubt by a West End transfer. (It is being produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, the hitmakers behind the stage adaptation of another British film Calendar Girls).

Tomorrow (February 19) sees the return of A Chorus Line to the West End for the first time since the transfer of the original production transferred from Broadway to Drury Lane, where it ran for three years, finally closing on March 31, 1979. I remember the date well, because it was the very first show I saw in the West End after arriving in London earlier that month from my native South Africa -- but growing up as a nascent showqueen, I'd already long had the cast album in my collection, having bought it in Johannesburg.

So A Chorus Line has a special place in my heart, which continued when I visited a subsequent touring production at Croydon's Ashcroft Theatre, of all places, in the late 80s and would meet someone who became one of my best friends! But then the show seems to figure in a lot of people's personal biographies; it's the most personal of shows about the most shared of experiences, the quintessential behind-the-scenes portrayal of the struggles of Broadway's rank-and-file which personalises their own stories and gives them a voice and starring role – only to take it away from them again at the finale where they are once again reduced to being a massed, non-individualised chorus.

On Wednesday (February 20), the Royal Court premieres a new play If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep by angry young(ish) man Anders Lustgarten. (You can see just how angry in my blog quotes from an interview with him last Friday). It's a critique of the banking system, imagining a world in which a Goldman Sachs-esque bank privatises rape, theft and assault for profit. The 36-year-old "career activist" (as the Standard dubbed him last week) turned writer's debut play A Day at the Racists was seen at the Finborough in 2010, where it won him the inaugural Harold Pinter Playwrighting Award. As Simon Godwin, the director of his new play, put it to the Standard, "It's always interesting when an outsider becomes an insider."

On Thursday (February 21), The Tailor-Made Man receives its world premiere at the Arts, a new British-written musical based on the true story of a silent screen star William Haines fired by Louis B Mayer because he was gay and refused to marry and give up his male partner, with whom he was living openly. He subsequently had an even more successful career as an interior designer to the stars. With a book by Amy Rosenthal and director Claudio Macor, it has music by Duncan Walsh Atkins and Adam Meggido, and lyrics by Meggido. The cast includes Faye Tozer, Dylan Turner and Mike McShane.

Also on Thursday, Broadway's Sherie Rene Scott comes to the Hippodrome to begin a three-night residency with her show Piece of Meat. I've seen this spunky, gorgeous lady on Broadway in shows like Aida, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Little Mermaid, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and her star vehicle Everyday Rapture, and I hope to be enraptured all over again here. The Hippodrome's programming, meanwhile, which began so well when the fantastic performance space first opened last year, is otherwise turning very disappointing; as I feared, there's suddenly an appearance of new circus and burlesque and more predictable old-timers like Lionel Blair and Joe Longthorne this month.

Perhaps the London slack can be taken up by Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zedel, or Soho Theatre that usually concentrates more on comedy, but also this Thursday also brings New York comedy cabaret persona Lady Rizo to make her London debut at the latter. She was the inaugural winner of the TO&ST (Time Out and Soho Theatre) Cabaret Award at last year's Edinburgh Fringe to recognise cabaret work.

On Friday (February 22), Jamie Lloyd ushers in a new era for Trafalgar Studios 1 with a new production of Macbeth, starring James McAvoy in the title role. It launches a new West End residency for Lloyd as a director for which he has entirely reconfigured the space with designer Soutra Gilmour, as I previously mentioned here last week.

On Sunday (February 24), it's the Offies – the Off-West End Theatre Awards of which I am one of the judges for the panel awards (there's a separate set of publicly voted awards, too). The invitation only event is being held this year at BAC, and I'll report here next week on the results.