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Mark Shenton’s theatre picks: October 30

Made in Dagenham. Photo: Alex James
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This week saw the West End transfer of one new British created musical, Sunny Afternoon, which wowed the critics, including me at Hampstead Theatre and again now at the Pinter. But can we create an original British musical and not just a jukebox one?

Made in Dagenham – Adelphi Theatre, London

After the fast failures of new musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Stephen Ward) and Tim Rice (From Here to Eternity) last year, all eyes (and ears) will be on the Adelphi for the premiere of an original British created musical, Made in Dagenham, that isn’t written by either of them, opening officially on November 5. Based on the 2010 film of the same name, it has a crack creative team: the director is Rupert Goold, the book by Richard Bean (making his musical theatre debut), and score by David Arnold (music) and Richard Thomas (lyrics).

But has Goold already set himself up as a hostage to fortune? He recently told The Times in an interview (links to paid content):

We have, by some way, the best playwriting in this country. We also punch phenomenally above our weight in songwriting and popular music… and yet we have a f***ing awful musical theatre tradition. We have Oliver! and that’s about it. Salad Days, Rocky Horror Show — I mean there’s nothing. You think, how can the country that has produced Tom Stoppard and Paul McCartney not make a musical?”

I hope those words don’t come back to haunt him. I’ll find out when I review it for The Stage.


Girlfriends – Union Theatre, London

Goold has evidently not heard of Howard Goodall, who has written easily the best British musical of the last thirty years, The Hired Man. The amazing Union Theatre – a finalist in next week’s Empty Space Peter Brook Awards – concludes its own mini-Goodall season that has already brought gorgeous stagings of The Dreaming and Love Story (I saw them three times and twice respectively) with a production of Goodall’s rarely-seen Second World War show Girlfriends, originally premiered in Oldham in 1986 and subsequently in the West End in 1987, opening on October 31, when I’ll be reviewing it for The Stage.

The Scottsborough Boys – Garrick Theatre, London

Meanwhile, showing how Broadway – or rather Off-Broadway – still has some of the best practitioners of the art in the world are two very different shows. The Scottsboro Boys – Kander and Ebb’s bracing, brilliant musical that has transferred to the Garrick from the Young Vic – was the Critics’ Circle winner for best musical of 2013 and will probably be the best of 2014, too.

Here Lies Love – Dorfman, National Theatre, London

The Vikings at Helgeland

… and Here Lies Love, an arresting, thrillingly-performed immersive experience at the National’s Dorfman Theatre to January 8, is also unmissable.

The Vikings at Helgeland, Drayton Arms, London

The fringe offers two curiosities from major dramatists. At the Drayton Arms, The Vikings at Helgeland is an Ibsen play not seen on the professional stage in England since it was done at Birmingham Rep in 1930. It opens on October 30, directed by Antonio Ferrara.

First Episode – Jermyn Street Theatre, London

Meanwhile at Jermyn Street, Caroline Langrishe and Gavin Fowler star in the first-ever revival of Terence Rattigan’s debut play, First Episode, written with fellow Oxford undergraduate Philip Heiman in 1931. It opens on October 31 under the direction of Tom Littler. I’ll be reviewing the latter for The Stage.

Photo: Laurent Philippe
DV8’s John. Photo: Laurent Philippe

John, Lyttelton, National Theatre, London

DV8 Physical Theatre returns to the National, where they’ve previously presented To Be Straight With You and Can We Talk About This, for the UK premiere of their latest verbatim show John, opening in the Lyttelton on November 4. It tells the true life story of a man who makes a new life after years of crime, drug use and struggling to survive. I have interviewed Lloyd Newson, artistic director of DV8, in the print edition of The Stage out on October 30.

Who Do We Think We Are? – Southwark Playhouse, London

This new production from Visible Theatre Ensemble, the UK’s first professional company formed entirely of older performers, opens officially at Southwark Playhouse on October 30. Sue Lefton directs a play by Sonja Linden and the company based on the family histories, photographs and memories of the cast.

Queen Coal – The Crucible, Sheffield

Sheffield’s Crucible has the world premiere of Queen Coal, Bryony Lavery’s play about industry in turmoil and one woman’s struggle at the front of the picket line, opening November 4.

Gypsy – Chichester Festival Theatre

And it’s your last chance to catch Imelda Staunton as Madame Rose in Jonathan Kent’s wonderful revival of Gypsy, running at Chichester Festival Theatre to November 8 – but surely West End bound after that?

Read more columns from Mark Shenton

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