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Mark Shenton’s theatre picks: November 5

Ben Forster and Kimberley Walsh in Elf the Musical at the Dominion Theatre. Ben Forster and Kimberley Walsh in Elf the Musical at the Dominion Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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It’s a week of big prices and big stars, the return of the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Barbican, and yet another Medea. Beyond London, it’s a quiet week for openings as theatres prepare for the arrival of their Christmas shows.

Elf – Dominion Theatre, London

A new price record has been set for the West End with the arrival of the musical Elf on November 5, after two Christmas Broadway runs. With a gasp-inducing top ticket price of £240, a (presumably rich) family of four would be shelling out nearly £1,000 just for the tickets. The cast includes Ben Forster (winner of TV’s Superstar contest, who will go straight from this show to take over the title role in The Phantom of the Opera in the New Year), Kimberley Walsh, Joe McGann and Jessica Martin. But will they be worth the price? I’ll find out at the opening and let you know in my review.

The Winter’s Tale/Harlequinade and All On Her Own – Garrick Theatre, London

Judi Dench in The Winter's Tale. Photo: Johan Persson
Judi Dench in The Winter’s Tale. Photo: Johan Persson

Producers like the Michael Grandage Company, where 25% of every house for every show is just £10, are trying to send a different message, fortunately – applying subsidised theatre values to their commercial model. Following in Grandage’s footsteps, by bringing serious theatre back to the heart of the West End, the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company officially launches this weekend with a press day on November 7 of The Winter’s Tale (with Branagh and Judi Dench) and a Rattigan double bill of All on Her Own (performed by Zoe Wanamaker) and Harlequinade. Rob Ashford co-directs with Branagh.

Waste – Lyttelton, National Theatre, London

At the National, Roger Michell directs Charles Edwards in Harley Granville Barker’s Waste – a play memorably revived in London in a 1985 RSC production at the Barbican’s with Judi Dench – opening on November 10. The cast also includes Sylvestra Le Touzel and Olivia Williams.

Henry V – Barbican Theatre, London

The Royal Shakespeare Company returns to the Barbican, bringing Gregory Doran’s production of Henry V, the concluding part of the first tetralogy of histories, to open on November 11 with Alex Hassell in the title role. It will be joined in January by Doran’s three earlier productions of Richard II and Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. My interview with Doran will appear in The Stage newspaper (out November 12) and online.

La Soiree. Photo: Tristram Kenton
La Soiree. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Medea – Gate Theatre, London

While the Almeida’s blistering, unmissable modern take on Medea continues to November 12, the Gate offers another version, conceived and directed by Anne-Louise Sarks, presenting the story from the children’s perspective. It opens on November 9.

La Soiree – Spiegeltent, South Bank Centre, London

Brightening the longer winter nights is the return of La Soiree – now a regular attraction in London – back in the ideal setting of an original Spiegeltent on the South Bank, opening on November 6. It won this year’s Olivier for best entertainment. I can’t wait to see it yet again.

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