London Theatre Preview: August 2014

School’s out for summer. Yes, it is officially the summer holidays, and for anyone who has kids, good luck, as they’re all yours for six whole weeks. One way to fill that time is to introduce them to a little theatre, although of course you don’t need to be a parent to find a reason for a visit to the West End. This August, there are some great new shows coming to town and here we feature a selection of shows to fit whatever it is you may be looking for in the coming month.


Children’s author Jacqueline Wilson who is probably best known for her ‘Tracy Beaker’ book series, which inspired a TV adaption. She has written many other stories though, including Hetty Feather, which has also served as inspiration to Emma Reeves. Reeves has adapted the popular book for the stage, which premièred at the Rose Theatre, Kingston in April and then embarked on a UK tour. It’s proven so popular that it is now transferring to the West End for a 4-week run. Set in Victorian London, the ‘unique story-telling adventure’ centres on Hetty, who was abandoned at the Founding Hospital as a baby. She escapes and sets out on an action-packed search to find her real mother and a family of her own. The show includes live music, with an original score by Benji Bower (additional composition by Seamus H. Carey and Luke Potter), and thrilling circus skills which feature the aerial direction of Gwen Hales. Produced by William Archer for Bob & Co, Kenny Wax in association with Novel Theatre  and Rose Theatre Kingston, it stars Phoebe Thomas in the title role of Hetty Feather along with other familiar character, played by Matt Costain (Jem/Matron Bottomly) Sarah Goddard (Peg/Ida), Nikki Warwick (Madame Adeline), Isaac Stanmore (Saul), Paul Mundell (Gideon) and Luke Potter as Musician. Directed by Sally Cookson, Hetty Feather comes to the Vaudeville Theatre for one preview performance on 5th August 2014, before opening the next day (6th August). It closes the following month on 6th September 2014.

Another popular children’s author has seen their work adapted for the stage, as Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe In Unicorns is moving into the West End this summer. His 1982 novel, War Horse, has to be the most popular adapted work of his, but this beloved novel about  the power of books was an instant hit when it premièred at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013 and the subsequent national tour was just as successful. ‘Tomas hates school and he hates reading, he’s far happier playing in the mountains where he lives. But one day, his life is turned upside down when he meets the Unicorn Lady in his local library and his newfound love for the written word leads to a heroic act in his war-torn village.’ Wizard Presents this one-woman interactive show, in which the story of  young Tomas’ bravery is told through Danyah Miller as the Unicorn Lady. Dani Parr directs the production, which opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on 8th August 2014. It runs until 31st August 2014.


First produced by the Royal Court Theatre in 1994, Kevin Elyot’s stage play is one of his most notable work. The British playwright and screenwriter passed away in June, just weeks before his Olivier award-winning play returns as a brand new production. It is set in mid-1980’s London against the backdrop of AIDS, where at Guy’s London flat, old friends and new gather to party through the night. Elyot’s ‘deliciously funny and bittersweet’ comedy stars Matt Bardock (Benny), Jonathan Broadbent (Guy), Richard Cant (Bernie), Julian Ovenden (John), Lewis Reeves (Eric) and Geoffrey Streatfeild (Daniel). Robert Hestie directs this new Donmar Warehouse production which marks the play’s 20th anniversary. Previews begin at the Donmar Warehouse today (31st July) and it opens there 5th August 2014, running until 27th September 2014.


The Beatles have been the subject of many stage productions over the years, but in Epstein, it is the band’s manager who is the central focus of the play. This is the untold story of the music entrepreneur Brian Epstein, whose ‘stellar career as Beatles Manager made him a household name yet whose controversial personal life remained very much in the closet.’ He died in 1967 of an accidental overdose  at the age of 32. Written by Andrew Sherlock, the two-hander play premièred in Liverpool in 2012, and its original stars have returned to reprise their roles for the West End. Acclaimed stage and screen star Andrew Lancel once again portrays Epstein, while Will Finlason plays opposite him as This Boy. Produced by Bill Elms & Jen Heyes Productions Ltd and directed by Jen Heyes, Epstein began previews at the Leicester Square Theatre (Main House) on 30th July 2014. Opening night is on 4th August 2014 and it runs there until 6th September 2014.

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is an American literature classic, and her story of life in the American Deep South in the mid-1930’s has been just as well received on the stage. Christopher Sergal’s stage adaption has twice toured the UK and opened Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s 2013 season. It returns there this summer to close the 2014 season. Told through the inquiring eyes of a child, Jem and Scot’s idyllic childhood innocence is shattered by the realisation that prejudice rules their town when their father defends a young black man falsely accused of raping a white woman and the family becomes a target of abuse and gossip. This Open Air Theatre production is directed by Timothy Sheader and stars Daniel Betts as Atticus Finch. Also in the cast alongside him are Zackary Momoh (Tom Robinson), Christopher Akrill (Boo Radley), Phil King (Musician & Composer), Geoff Aymer (Reverend Sykes), Victoria Bewick (Mayella Ewell), David Carlyle (Nathan Radley/Mr Gilmer), Natalie Grady (Miss Maudie Atkinson), Jamie Kenna (Heck Tate), Susan Lawson Reynolds (Calpurnia) and Christopher Saul (Mrs Walter Cunningham/Judge Taylor). Jemima Bennett, Ava Potter and Rosie Boore will share the role of Scout whilst Harry Bennett, Arthur Franks and Billy Price will share the role of Jem. The role of Dill Harris will be shared by Leo Heller, Connor Brundish and Milo Panni. To Kill A Mockingbird opens at the Open Air Theatre on 28th August 2014 and closes on 13th September 2014.


This musical play by Denise van Outen and Terry Ronald comes to the West End for a limited three-week engagement this summer. Actress and television presenter van Outen stars in the one-woman production as Stephanie Canworth, the woman who has it all: successful career, supportive husband and she’s a media darling. A Facebook poke from a former love sends her on a journey down memory lane though in this ‘intimate story about life and love’, accompanied by songs from the 80’s and 90’s. Produced by Tristan Baker and Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Michael Howcroft directs this production which opens at the Arts Theatre on 22nd August 2014. It runs until 13th September 2014.


Old King Lear, weary of royal duties, proposes to break up his kingdom and divide it among his three daughters. But this rash generosity is cruelly repaid and Lear discovers too late the false values by which he has lived – and, in turn, the suffering common to all humanity. Fans of William Shakespeare know the story of this classic play by now, and it stands as a testament to both him and
the play that it continues to be performed 400 years after it was written. Bill Buckhurst directs the Globe Theatre’s production, which is performed on a small-scale, Elizabeth-style stage and stars Joseph Marcell in the iconic title role. Also featured in the cast are Gwendolen Chatfield (Goneri/Curan), Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Fool), Alex Mugnaioni (Edgar/Duke of Cornwall/Duke of Burgandy), Bill Nash (Earl of Kent), Daniel Pirrie (Edmund/Oswald/King of France), Shanaya Rafaat (Regan) and John Stahl (Duke of Gloucester/Duke of Albany/Doctor). King Lear opens at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on 6th August 2014 and runs until 23rd August 2014.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Thursday 31st July 2014

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