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Mark Shenton’s theatre picks: January 21

Michael Ball will perform at the Oliviers in Concert
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This year’s nominees for the Oscars have just been announced and include such luminaries as Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett and Bryan Cranston, all of whom have done notable stage work in the last few years – as well as Tom Hardy and Mark Ruffalo, whose careers began in the theatre. But this coming week in London we celebrate theatrical award-winning talent twice over.

The Oliviers in Concert – Royal Festival Hall, London

The Laurence Olivier Awards – the West End theatre industry’s greatest pat on its own back – is 40 years old this year, and has moved up several rungs since it made the Royal Opera House its home and secured TV coverage again. This year’s ceremony is on April 3. To mark the anniversary year there will also be a V&A exhibition and on January 25, The Oliviers in Concert at the Royal Festival Hall, featuring Maria Friedman (who also directs), Michael Ball and Elaine Paige amongst many other past winners of the Oliviers. I’ll be reviewing it for The Stage.

The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards – Prince of Wales Theatre, London

The annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, presented by the association that represents professional critics around the UK, has its annual theatre awards on January 26. It’s a private, invitation-only ceremony but the results will be reported by The Stage later that day. [Disclosure: I am chairman of the Critics’ Circle Drama section.]

Five Finger Exercise – The Print Room, London

Jamie Glover, the actor-turned-director who directed Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter at the Print Room in 2013 (as well as Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy at Chichester’s Minerva in 2014), now returns to the venue to revive another Shaffer play, Five Finger Exercise, opening on January 21.

The Mother  – Tricycle Theatre, London

After The Father – soon to return to the West End’s Duke of York’s for another London run prior to a tour – Florian Zeller’s play The Mother comes to London from Bath Theatre Royal’s Ustinov Studio, where both productions originated, to open at the Tricycle on January 26. Christopher Hampton again translates, and the cast features Gina McKee in the title role, with Richard Clothier as The Father and Frances McNamee as The Girl.

Alex Austin in Yen. Photo: Jonathan Keenan
Alex Austin in Yen. Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Yen – Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London

Another transfer to London from the regions, Anna Jordan’s play premiered at the Royal Exchange last year and now comes to the Royal Court. The play, which won the author the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2013, is directed by the fast-rising Ned Bennett, winner of best director at 2015’s UK Theatre Awards.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane – St James Theatre, London

UK premiere of Hershey Felder’s adaptation of Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen’s book, which tells the true story of Golabek’s mother, who was torn away form her family in late 1930s Austria and sent to London as part of the Kindertransport. Previously seen in New York, Chicago, Boston, Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego, it now opens at the St James on January 22.

Julie Hesmondhalgh in rehearsals for Wit. Photo: Jonathan Keenan
Julie Hesmondhalgh in rehearsals for Wit. Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Wit – Royal Exchange, Manchester

Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer-winning play about a poetry professor who undergoes experimental treatment for an aggressive illness is revived in a production by Raz Shaw that stars Julie Hesmondalgh, opening on January 26.

Jane Eyre – Bristol Old Vic

Sally Cookson’s production – originally staged in two parts at the Bristol Old Vic, then transferred to the National’s Lyttelton in a single-evening version – now returns to Bristol, as part of the theatre’s 250th anniversary year celebrations, to run from January 21 to February 6.

Last chance to see….

This weekend are the final performances of the wonderful Ian Kelly play Mr Foote’s Other Leg, starring Simon Russell Beale, at the Haymarket and the less wonderful Wallace Shawn play Evening at the Talk House (which is definitely a talkathon) at the National’s Dorfman, both closing January 23. Next weekend, on January 30, the West End says farewell to two excellent Christmas shows: Jim Broadbent in A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward and Mischief Theatre’s riotous Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the Apollo.