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Mark Shenton’s theatre picks: January 22

James McAvoy in rehearsals for The Ruling Class. Photo: Marc Brenner
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It’s a big week for London theatre, with the premiere of a new Stoppard at the National (his first new play since 2006’s Rock ‘n’ Roll which transferred from the Royal Court to the West End and Broadway), a star revival of Peter Barnes’s long-neglected The Ruling Class and West End transfers for a new play from Chichester and a modern classic from the Donmar Warehouse. There’s also a transfer from Hampstead Downstairs to the main house upstairs, and a new play at the National.

The Hard Problem

The Stoppard entry is The Hard Problem which will open at the Dorfman on January 28 under the direction of Nicholas Hytner in his final production as the National’s artistic director. (It will also be broadcast to cinemas as part of NT Live on April 16).

The cast is led by Olivia Vinall, who recently appeared at the National in Othello as Desdemona and in King Lear as Cordelia.

The Ruling Class

Jamie Lloyd continues his Trafalgar Transformed season by bringing back James McAvoy (who starred there in his sell-out Macbeth last year) to appear in the first London revival of Peter Barnes’s 1968 play The Ruling Class, which the press are seeing on January 27 prior to a gala evening on January 28, and reviews appearing January 29.

Penelope Wilton in Taken at Midnight. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Penelope Wilton in Taken at Midnight. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Taken at Midnight

Jonathan Church’s production of debutant playwright Mark Hayhurst’s Taken at Midnight moves from Chichester’s Minerva to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, opening January 26 with a cast led by Penelope Wilton who plays the mother of lawyer Hans Litten (Martin Hutson), who put Hitler on the witness stand in 1930s Germany. The cast also features Allan Corduner, Pip Donaghy, Mike Grady, John Light and David Yelland.

The play was commissioned and developed by commercial producer Mark Goucher, who took it to Chichester to premiere before now moving it to the West End. I’ve interviewed Goucher for The Stage; it will appear in next week’s print edition (out on January 29).

My Night With Reg

Kevin Elyot’s My Night with Reg, which premiered at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs in 1994 before transferring to the West End’s Criterion Theatre, also returns to the West End, with the entire Donmar cast that was led by Julien Ovenden and Geoffrey Streatfeild and also features Matt Bardock, Jonathan Broadbent, Richard Cant and Lewis Reeves reprising their performances to open at the Apollo on January 23.

It’s intriguing how the play – or at least its promotion – still has the capacity to ignite controversy: London Transport apparently gave its poster the bum’s rush, so to speak, for showing the bare butt of Lewis Reeves. It’s now running with his bum cheeks entirely hidden from view.


Hampstead Theatre moves Peter Souter’s comedy Hello/Goodbye, seen at the Downstairs Theatre in 2013, to open in the main house on January 27. Tamara Harvey directs a cast led by Shaun Evans and Miranda Raison who play strangers who have been mistakenly let the same flat.

Ronak Patani and Zubin Varla in rehearsal for Dara. Photo: Ellie Kurttz
Ronak Patani and Zubin Varla in rehearsal for Dara. Photo: Ellie Kurttz


A busy week also sees Nadia Fall directing Tanya Ronder’s adaptation of Shahid Nadeem’s historical epic Dara which was originally premiered by Pakinstan’s Ajoka Theatre and is receiving its UK premiere at the National’s Lyttelton, opening on January 27.


Outside London, the Royal Shakespeare Company premieres Tom Morton-Smith’s play Oppenheimer about the father of the atom bomb, who will be played by John Heffernan. It opens at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Swan on January 22and will be directed by Angus Jackson.

Twelve Angry Men

There’s a new regional tour for the hit West End production of Twelve Angry Men with a cast led by Tom Conti as Juror 8 that kicks off at Windsor’s Theatre Royal on January 27.

The History Boys

Also touring is a new production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys from Sell A Door Theatre Company, starting at Southend’s Palace Theatre on January 26.

Last Chances

Finally, it’s your last nine playing days to catch King Charles III and Daniel Kitson in Tree at the Old Vic, both closing January 31, with the National’s production of 3 Winters closing a few days later on February 3.

Read more columns from Mark Shenton

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