In my last column I asked if 2014 had been one of the best years for play productions over the past decade.
I believe that it was, and already underway in 2015 are West End and Broadway transfers of four of last year’s hit plays: My Night With Reg and A View from the Bridge play the West End following their limited respective Donmar Warehouse and Young Vic seasons, while Broadway bound are last year’s West End hits of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s double bill of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies along with Skylight. (The latter two represent the continued invasion of New York theatre by British drama.)
Generally, though, the trend in commercial theatre has been towards revivals rather than new plays. And this is a concern. Where is the next David Hare, Tom Stoppard, Alan Ayckbourn, Michael Frayn or Caryl Churchill coming from? Who can break through to consistently write big new plays for our larger commercial stages? If the future of the UK’s new writing is to remain buoyant – and be seen as a global enterprise – these are vital questions.
[pullquote]The general election will dominate theatre in 2015[/pullquote]
In the UK, one major event of 2015 – the general election in May – will undoubtedly dominate theatre discussion and performance. The Donmar Warehouse has already announced that its production of The Vote by James Graham (performed as a site-specific work) will be broadcast live by Channel Four on election night on the May 7. Elsewhere, the Unity Theatre in Liverpool is presenting a week of election-themed shows. And I fully expect the floodgates to open over the coming months. Rest assured that whatever happens for Nigel Farage on election night, we can inevitably expect to see him in a few years’ time hosting an afternoon chat show on the Edinburgh Fringe.
It is a time of both significant artistic and political change in the UK. At the National Theatre, Rufus Norris becomes its sixth artistic director. Meanwhile, economic challenges and arts funding cuts continue to see the artistic landscape irrevocably change. I will be closely watching Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre, which is valiantly fighting to keep its doors open after a catastrophic cut to funding. With Paul Miller now in place as the artistic director (and as one of only a handful of in-the-round theatres in Britain), to lose this venue at a time of renewed vision would be a tragedy.
[pullquote]The sun will set, the moon will rise, Cumberbatch will sell tickets[/pullquote]
In 2015 we can be sure of a few things: the sun will set, the moon will rise, Cumberbatch will sell tickets and ITV will serve up talent contests. But my tip on discovering the real stars of tomorrow in 2015 is to take a trip to the newly refurbished Lyric Hammersmith’s spring revival of the musical Bugsy Malone. Past productions of this show have found a litany of stars. Equally, it’s perhaps that musical’s own charm-filled anthem that gives us the best mantra to carry into the rest of the year: “You give a little love and it all comes back to you.”