London Theatre Preview: February
January may be almost at an end, but 2014 has only just begun and the theatrical year holds so much more ahead. There’s a lot for theatre fans to look forward to in the coming months, such as the premiere of the X Factor musical I Can’t Sing! and the return of Miss Saigon, not to mention the stage adaptions of Fatal Attraction and Shakespeare in Love. Before then though, February is upon us, and is bringing with it a delicious selection of theatrical productions to tease and tantalise the senses. Here we take a look at just some of the tasty treats to sample in the West End over the next four weeks.
Matthew Baldwin and Thomas Hescott were nominated for ‘Most Promising New Playwright’ in the 2013 Off-West End Awards for this compelling piece which explores the decriminalization of gay sex in 1967. Billed as a ‘cabaret-style production comprised of personal anecdotes, verbatim House of Commons speeches and song’, it centres on civil servant Matthew who is hiding a big secret as he finds himself caught between Westminster politics and Soho homosexuality. Baldwin stars in this cleverly complex work under the direction of Hescott. Having already had two hugely successful sell-out runs at the Ovalhouse, The Act comes to Trafalgar Studios 2 for a limited 5-week season. With previews from 25th February 2014, the co-production by AJS (Arts) and Ovalhouse opens on 28th February 2014 and closes on 29th March 2014.
THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE:
The Shakespeare Globe Theatre brings Francis Beaumont’s parody play from the 1600’s back to life in a production directed by Adele Thomas. The first stage comedy to simultaneously run two plays within-the-play, the audience find themselves entertained by a grocer and his wife who invade the stage during a performance of The London Merchant and commandeer it for themselves. Phil Daniels and Pauline McLynn star as Citizen and Citizen’s Wife, alongside Matthew Needham (Rafe), Denise Gough (Mistress Merrythought) and Alex Waldmann (Jasper). The rest of the cast also includes Giles Cooper, John Dougall, Samuel Hargreaves, Dennis Herdman, Sarah MacRae, Dean Nolan, Brendan O’Hea, Paul Rider and Dickon Tyrrell. Staged at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the Globe’s indoor Jacobean Theatre, The Knight of the Burning Pestle opens on 26th February 2014 (previews from 29th February) and runs until 30th March 2014.
THE MISTRESS CONTRACT:
This new production is a documented telling of a 30-year affair which offers a fascinating insight into the relationship of an unconventional couple and the contract that bound her to him as ‘sexual property’. The anonymous pair live apart but are still together – she is 88 and he is 93. She, described as ‘a highly educated, intelligent woman with a history of involvement in the feminist movement’, signed the contract in 1981 in which she asked for an income and housing from her businessman lover in return for ‘mistress services’. Every conversation they had about their unorthodox arrangement was taped, and it is from the published transcripts that this play was born. Created by Abi Morgan, the writer behind The Hours and The Iron Lady, this true-life piece stars Saskia Reeves and Danny Webb as She and He respectively, and is directed by Vicky Featherstone. The in-house production opens at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs on 5th February 2014 (previews from 30th January) and runs there until 22nd March 2014.
THE FULL MONTY – THE PLAY:
The original British film, released in 1997 and starring Robert Carlisle, was an international success and even beat Titanic to ‘Best Film’ in the BAFTA Awards that same year. Adapted for the stage by the film’s screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, the production premiered at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield in February 2013 before embarking on a sell-out UK Tour. Now Sheffield’s answer to the Chippendales are streaking into the West End. A story that is comical at times and heart-wrenching in others, The Full Monty tells the story of six unemployed men who decide to form a male striptease act to make money. Kenny Doughty stars in the hit show as central character Gaz, who is trying to be a better father to his son. Appearing alongside him (in all their glory) are Craig Gazey (Lumper), Simon Rouse (Gerald), Keiran O’Brien (Guy), Roger Morlidge (Dave) and Sidney Cole (Horse). Scott Anson, Tracy Brabin, Caroline Carver, Eamonn Fleming, Elaine Glover, Rachel Lumberg and Ian Mercer are also included in the cast under the direction of Daniel Evans. This production from Sheffield Theatre and David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers features choreography by Steven Hoggett as well as songs from the film. The Full Monty begins previews at the Noel Coward Theatre from 20th February 2014. It opens there on 25th February 2014 and is booking until 14th June 2014.
TELL ME ON A SUNDAY:
This classic work with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black was most recently performed at St. James Theatre, and following its sell-out run there, is transferring for a limited engagement in the West End. It follows the journey of an English girl’s search for love and success in America and features a cast of just one. Well-known stage stars such as Sarah Brightman and Denise van Outen have previously starred in the one-woman show, but this production sees original star Marti Webb reprising her role as The Girl. Tell Me on a Sunday plays at the Duchess Theatre for a two-week run, opening on 17th February 2014 and continuing until 1st March 2014.
A TASTE OF HONEY:
Described as ‘one of the great defining and taboo-breaking plays of the 1950s’, this work from Shelagh Delaney – written when she was just 19 years old – returns to the stage courtesy of the National. The exhilarating and angry depiction of harsh, working-class life in post-war Salford is told through the story of feisty teenager Jo, who is first abandoned by her mother, Helen, and then a black sailor who offers false promises of marriage. Pregnant and alone in the world, Jo allows art student Geoff to move in and he subsequently assumes the role of surrogate parent, but their unconventional set-up begins to unravel when he sends for Helen. Kate O’Flynn stars as Jo, with Lesley Sharpe playing her mother Helen. Eric Kofi Abrefa, Kate Adler, Greg Baxter, Harry Hepple, Dean Lennox Kelly, Miles Mitchell, Mark Rose and Sarah Thom also feature in the cast. Directed by Bijan Sheibani, A Taste of Honey begins previews at Lyttelton, NT from 10th February 2014 and opens there on 18th February 2014. It runs until 11th May 2014.
‘A mess of cables. A mound of electronic junk. A single cassette player. And then Lights. Power Sockets. Audio Tape. Televisions. Vinyl. Neon Words. VCR Machines. Speaker cables. Amplifiers. At least one Ladder. Video Tape. Speakers. Super 8. Microphones. Projectors. And running..Lots and lots of running.’ British monologist Daniel Kitson doesn’t give much away about his new solo show, which he is bringing to the West End for a limited three-week run. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival regular performer has toured both the UK and internationally with an array of shows, earning an assortment of awards along the way. Following his 2013 touring show, After the Beginning. Before the End, and a 25-show residency in New York, Kitson returns to London this February. ‘A new show about a pre-recorded story’, Analog.Ue debuts at Lyttelton, NT on 25th February 2014 and runs there until 20th March 2014.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Page updated 18th October 2014