The week ahead, September 2-8 in London and beyond
The London theatre starts waking up again from its recent Edinburgh induced slumbers, though this year was notable for the number of productions that disregarded Edinburgh entirely and opened in August nonetheless. And the regions are also coming to life again after the summer hiatus, too, so once again it means that my diary is full to bursting.
So it may be perverse timing, but I want to try to limit myself to five shows a week again. A few of my critical colleagues limit themselves to between one and three a week maximum nowadays – partly a question of space, but also inclination – and I want to try to re-balance my life a bit! (This, of course, doesn’t preclude theatre trips that are purely for pleasure, as represented by my now well-known penchant for revisiting shows I particularly adore; what a shame that A Chorus Line closed on Saturday or I’d be back there for starters).
Tuesday (September 3) sees the Royal Court bring one of their outside projects, originally staged at the Bussey Building in Peckham as part of the summer’s Open Court season, to Sloane Square with the opening in the Theatre Upstairs of Peckham: the Soap Opera. Created by a team of writers led by Bola Agbaje and Rachel De-Iahay, and also including Adam Brace, Lucy Kirkwood and Roy Williams, this community project is performed by actors from the local community. It runs through September 14.
Also tonight sees the opening of the National Youth Theatre’s production of Louise Brealey’s debut play Pope Joan at the St James Church in Piccadilly, for a run through September 15. Brealey is co-writer of the BBC’s The Charles Dickens Show and star of Sherlock.
Plus, Simon Bowman stars in Ray Goudie and Joe Harmston’s musical The Prodigals, directed by Harmston. It was previously workshopped on the Edinburgh Firnge in 2011.
On Wednesday (September 4), director Joe Hill-Gibbins, who has done amazing work of reinventing plays like The Changeling at the Young Vic, now makes his National directing debut with Marlowe’s Edward II, featuring John Heffernan in the title role, being staged in the Olivier Theatre as part of the £12 Travelex season.
Also on Wednesday, Alan Ayckbourn formally opens his second and third new plays of the year at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scaroborugh: Farsicals are two inter-connected one act plays showing individually in the theatre’s restaurant or as a double bill in the McCarthy Theatre.
On Thursday (September 5), the RSC present the premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s Candide, a new play inspired by Voltaire, opening in the Swan Theatre under the direction of the brilliant Lyndsey Turner, currently represented in London by the Wet End transfer of Chimerica.
On Friday (September 6), the ever-ambitious Union Theatre in Southwark stages Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s 1965 Broadway musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, best known for the 1970 film version that starred Barbra Streisand. Kirk Jameson’s production stars Vicki Lee Taylor as Daisy Gamble, fresh from appearing as Maggie in A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. What a contrast, as I wrote here recently!
Also on Friday, playwright Richard Harris – whose West End plays include Stepping Out and the long-running The Business of Murder – re-enters the fray with the premiere of a play called Liza Liza Liza at the tiny Tabard in Chiswick. This one is about, naturally, Liza Minnelli, who starred in the film version of Stepping Out. Three actors will take the role of Liza Minnelli at specific moments in her life. ‘Liza 1’ will be Stephanie Ticknell-Smith, ‘Liza 2’ will be played by Sabrina Carter and ‘Liza 3’ will be played by Felicity Duncan.
Also on Friday, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, her self-scripted show about being a twenty-something female struggling with being a woman today, transfers to Soho’s Upstairs Theatre. The show won her the best solo performer award in this year’s Stage Awards for Acting Excellence, as well as a Fringe First.
Also on Friday, another solo show sees Simon Callow b ring his latest one, Inside Wagner’s Head, to the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio.
Also on Friday, Birmingham Rep formally re-opens after its two-and-a-half year closure for refurbishment, opening with the new National Theatre tour of Alan Bennett’s People, with a cast that includes Siân Phillips, Brigit Forsyth and Selina Cadell.
Also on Friday, Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre opens a major revival of Peter Shaffer’s pair of plays The Private Ear and The Public Eye starring Jasper Britton, that will tour after its season here.
On Sunday (September 8), Lost Musicals present a rare sighting of Abe Burrows and Bob Merrill’s Holly Golightly in a concert performance at the Lilian Baylis Theatre at Sadler’s Wells. This musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s previewed on Broadway in 1966, but was aborted before it opened.