Tuesday 3 January 2017

Looking Ahead at 2017 Theatre

In March, we’re seeing Robert Icke’s take on Hamlet at the Almeida. The last production we saw by Icke at the Almeida was the expansive, colourful and dystopian Mr Burns. It stars Andrew Scott in the title role and Juliet Stevenson as Gertrude.

Ugly Lies the Bone
After directing Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Motherfucker with the Hat at the National, Indhu Rubasingham returns to the National with another contemporary American play. Lindsey Ferrentino’s play is about the use of virtual reality therapy to help a recently returned soldier from Afghanistan (Kate Fleetwood) rebuild her life in Florida. The play premiered last year at the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, but this is a new production with a design provided by Es Devlin (Hamlet at the Barbican, Chimerica).

The Ferryman
Queuing for a day seat ticket to see Jerusalem in its second West End run galvanised my enthusiasm for theatre. It was one of a few bits of theatre a few years ago that sparked an interest in more frequent theatregoing. After writing two dissertations on Butterworth’s plays since then, I’m looking forward to seeing his new play at the Royal Court in April. It’s directed by Sam Mendes and is already sold out, but a transfer to the West End is already on the cards.

Tickets go on sale in January for Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. Having changed the face of Broadway and transcended the world of theatre, this is sure to be one of the year’s most yearned for tickets. It previews at the newly refurbished Victoria Palace from November.

Angels in America
The other most anticipated show of the year has to be both parts of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America at the National. Marianne Elliott directs Nathan Lane, Denise Gough, Russell Tovey and Andrew Garfield in Kushner’s epic, partly about the New York AIDS crisis. Later in the year, Elliott launches her own West End season which includes Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg which recently played in New York and a new production of Sondheim’s musical Company with a gender reversed Bobby played by Rosalie Craig.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Daniel Radcliffe returns to the London stage in a 50th anniversary production of Stoppard’s play. I’m currently reading about the Old Vic’s history and its rather insecure start. As the theatre approaches its 200th birthday, artistic director Matthew Warchus is continuing to secure big names and big plays for this year. Later in the year, John Boyega stars in Jack Thorne’s new version of Woyzeck, the excellent Groundhog Day opens on Broadway, and a new play about Bob Dylan premieres in the summer.

The Miser
In March, we’re seeing one of two major London productions based on Moliere’s work. A starry cast of comic actors including Griff Rhys Jones, Matthew Horne, Lee Mack and Katy Wix take on Sean Foley’s production and adaptation of The Miser at the Garrick Theatre. Next door at the Wyndham’s David Tennant and Adrian Scarborough lead the cast for a revival of Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho (reworked from Moliere and revised since its Donmar premiere in 2006).

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
After Edward Albee’s death last year, there are a couple of West End productions of his major plays. Ian Rickson directs Damien Lewis in The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket from March, and in April we’re seeing Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre. James MacDonald directs what is sure to a hot ticket.

What the Butler Saw
Curve and Theatre Royal, Bath, collaborate on Nikolai Foster’s production of Joe Orton’s farce. In his productions of Grease and The Importance of Being Earnest, Foster injected well-trodden pieces with a newfound vigour. We’re looking forward to his production of this twentieth century classic, which plays Orton’s home city of Leicester from March, starring Rufus Hound.

Julius Caesar
In May, Robert Hastie directs his first major production as artistic director of Sheffield Theatres. Shakespeare’s tale of political dissent and betrayal plays at the Crucible from 18th May to 10th June. In September, he directs the world premiere of Chris Thompson’s Of Kith and Kin, a gripping dark comedy, in a co-production with the Bush Theatre.

The Girls

Opening this month at the Phoenix is Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical The Girls, based on Calendar Girls. There can be a lot of snobbery surrounding musical theatre, but even if Barlow isn’t the next Sondheim then there’s no denying that this is commercial producing at its boldest and most intriguing. Its marketing has been drumming up support for months, tweeting the musical’s progress from its development stages to rehearsals. The cast is promising, the design looks enthralling and the songs that have been previewed are strong, as you’d expect from listening to Barlow’s pop music. Furthermore, I love the humour in Firth’s other work (Neville’s Island, Fleet Street Nativity). You can’t predict a hit when it comes to new musicals but everything I’ve seen of this project (produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers) looks very promising.

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