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Mark Shenton’s theatre picks: January 29

Di and Viv and Rose: but is the friendship theme a coincidence? Photo: Johan Persson
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It’s a big week for fresh sightings of old shows – a play first seen at Hampstead’s downstairs studio in 2011 now finally reaches the West End, while Oh What a Lovely War returns to its original home at Stratford East ahead of a national tour.

Meanwhile another show – previously aborted on the very day it was due to open at Hackney Empire in September 2013 – is finally getting a London outing this week, too.

These are just some of the highlights of the week ahead in London and beyond.

Di and Viv and Rose – Vaudeville Theatre, London

Hampstead’s production of Amelia Bullmore’s comedy Di and Viv and Rose, which began life in its downstairs studio in 2011, then moved to the main house upstairs in 2013, finally transfers to the West End, where original cast member Tamzin Outhwaite is newly joined by Jenna Russell and Samantha Spiro, opening on January 29. Actress-turned-playwright Bullmore wrote one of my favourite new plays of the last few years, Mammals, and this tender, funny new play about female friendship is also a winner.

Oh What a Lovely War – Theatre Royal Stratford East, London

Oh What a Lovely War. Photo: Nobby Clark
Oh What a Lovely War. Photo: Nobby Clark

Originally premiered at the Theatre Royal Stratford East back in March 1963, before transferring to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre that June, Joan Littlewood’s historical First World War revue drama Oh What a Lovely War itself made history. When it returned to the place of its birth last year, it was difficult to imagine a better place to see it.

Somehow, as I wrote at the time, the spirit of its original creation seems to still reverberate in the building’s gorgeous toy theatre dimensions, which may of course be romanticising the venue’s inherent theatricality. But as I also said in my London Theatre review, “The joy and earnest spirit of Terry Johnson’s production is that it is anything but a romanticised gloss on the piece, but a fully inhabited, resonant and rewarding version of it that brings it alive for today.”

I am looking forward to see a new cast that includes Wendi Peters before they take the production on a national tour.

Whistle Down the Wind – Union Theatre, London

There’s also a brand-new production of Russell Labey and Richard Taylor’s 1989 musical version of Whistle Down the Wind that preceded the Lloyd Webber one also based on Mary Hayley Bell’s novel of the same name, originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre and now opening on January 30 at the Union Theatre.

Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory – Leicester Square Theatre, London

Anything Goes. Photo: Johan Persson
Anything Goes. Photo: Johan Persson

Previously premiered at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre and then seen in an Edinburgh fringe run, Paul Boyd’s musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory finally gets an ‘official’ run in London at Leicester Square Theatre opening on January 29. The cast includes Cassie Compton, Stephanie Fearon, Jane Milligan and Conleth Kane.

Happy Ending – Arcola Theatre, London

Another intriguing sounding musical is Happy Ending, receiving its UK premiere at the Arcola on February 2, about the life choices that a cancer patient faces. Translated from Hebrew and adapted by Hilla Bar and with music by composers Shlomi Shaban and Michal Solomon, Gillian Fitzpatrick and Jodie Jacobs feature in Guy Retallack’s production.

Anything Goes – New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Sheffield’s Christmas production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes is now on a national tour and gets a London outing at New Wimbledon Theatre from January 29. When I reviewed it for The Stage at Sheffield I said, “There’s no more joyous sound in musical theatre than that of laughter, and it comes in great tumultuous waves in Anything Goes.” I can’t wait to laugh again at Daniel Evans’s glorious production when it comes to Wimbledon.

City of Angels – Donmar Warehouse, London

Rosalie Craig in City of Angels. Photo: Johan Persson
Rosalie Craig in City of Angels. Photo: Johan Persson

Talking of laughter in the theatre, one of the wittiest and cleverest new Broadway musicals of the last 30 years is Cy Coleman, Larry Gelbart and David Zippel’s 1989 show City of Angels. It’s currently reaching the end of its run at the Donmar Warehouse (closing on February 7), so I’m going to sneak in one more time to see it before it closes. Again, I reviewed it for The Stage, dubbing it a “heavenly musical” and “a sophisticated, stylish entertainment that expertly channelled a 1940s Hollywood thriller with a modern sophistication”.

Murder in the Cathedral – Temple Church, London

TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral is to receive an 80th anniversary revival for three performances from January 30 to February 1 at Temple Church, with a cast that includes Philip Franks, Christopher Ravenscroft and Andrew Hall in Joe Harmston’s production. It’s strange how seldom this play is done these days, so I’ll be there.

Arcadia – Theatre Royal, Brighton, then touring

With Tom Stoppard’s latest play The Hard Problem having just opened at the National’s Dorfman, his 1993 masterpiece Arcadia about past and present, order and disorder and certainty and uncertainty goes out on a national tour, beginning performances at Brighton’s Theatre Royal from January 30 under the auspices of English Touring Theatre and ATG. It is directed by rising star Blanche McIntyre.

Joe Iconis – Bridewell Theatre, London

New York musical theatre writer Joe Iconis is to make his UK debut in a concert at the Bridewell on February 4 for one night only.

Scott Morgan – Leicester Square Theatre, London

Similarly, British composer Scott Morgan will showcase his own work in a concert at Leicester Square Theatre on February 1, with a cast that includes Jodie Jacobs, Sabrina Aloueche and Keith Jack. I plan to be at both.

Where do you plan to be over the next week? Add your suggestions in the comments.

Read more columns from Mark Shenton

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