London Theatre Preview: January 2014

Today is New Years Eve, the time when we all say goodbye to 2013 and welcome in 2014. New Years Eve represents a fresh start, out with the old and in with the new, so to speak. The same rings true of theatre in the West End. We’ve had some masterpiece productions staged within the last twelve months, but there have also been plenty of flops alongside the hits. A brand new year brings with it the chance for theatregoers to experience a wealth of brand new shows, starting tomorrow with the arrival of the first month of 2014. Here we take a sneak peek ahead at January theatre has to offer.

Actor and impressionist Luke Kempner was an instant hit with his YouTube video Downstairs at Downton, in which he lampooned a number of the characters from popular BBC 1 series Downton Abbey. Now he is heading to the West End with his new live solo show which he debuted to great acclaim at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He digs into his bag of impressionist tricks to mix the characters of Downton Abbey with modern celebrities who must help them save the Dowager’s country pile from certain closure. Written by and starring Kempner, The Only Way is Downton features a script edited by Jeremy Limb and is directed by Owen Lewis. The James Seabright production has a one night only preview performance at Trafalgar Studios 2 on 27th January 2014 before opening the following night (28th January) for a limited run which takes it through until 22nd February 2014.

Dominic Dromgoole directs this new production of John Webster’s macabre play from the 1600’s. It charts the calamitous consequences of a young widow who disobeys the command of her two brothers and marries a man who is beneath her class. Produced by the Shakespeare Globe, the production stars English film actress Gemma Arterton who has played roles in such hit films as St Trinian’s, Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. Also featured in the cast are Sean Gilder (Bosola), David Dawson (Ferdinand), James Garnon (Cardinal), Denise Gough (Julia) and Alex Waldmann (Antonio), alongside Giles Cooper, John Dougall, Sarah MacRae, Brendan O’Hea, Paul Rider and Dickon Tyrrell. The Duchess of Malfi starts previews from 9th January 2014 at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the indoor Jacobean theatre at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. It opens there on 15th January 2014 and runs until 16th February 2014.

This new work by John Donnelly is a tale of sex, fame which asks the question: ‘How much are you willing to lose in order to win?’ The play centres on two promising young footballers embroiled in a sex scandal and stars stage/screen actor Russell Tovey (Jason) alongside Downton Abbey’s Gary Carr (Ade). Nico Mirallegro also features in the role of Harry. Directed by John Tiffany, this in-house production by the Royal Court Theatre begins previews in its upstairs venue from 13th January 2014. It opens on 17th January 2014 and closes on 1st March 2014.

This co-production from Donmar Warehouse, Playful Productions and Arielle Tepper Madover is the Wyndham Theatre’s first new resident of 2014. Josie Rourke directs a new production of Conor McPherson’s 1997 play, which centres on a group of men who gather for their daily pint in a rural Irish pub. The arrival of an unknown woman leads them to try and impress her with stories of a supernatural nature, but one story is more chilling and more real than any of the men could have foreseen. Dervla Kirwan stars as pretty new arrival Valerie in a predominantly male cast. The well-known actress performs opposite Risteard Cooper (Finbar), Brian Cox (Jack), Peter McDonald (Brendan) and Ardal O’Hanlon (Jim). Beginning previews from 16th January 2014, The Weir opens at the Wyndham’s Theatre on 21st January 2013 and is booking through to 19th April 2014.

remains one of the best loved shows in musical theatre today. James Travolta and Olivia Newton John were immortalised in the movie musical, but the 1982 follow-up film was a ‘marmite’ sequel: one which you either loved or hated. Previously under the name of Grease 2 in Concert, this concert of songs from the sequel is coming to the Lyric Theatre in January to entertain those who loved it. Michael Carrington, Sandy’s English cousin, transfers to Rydell High and instantly falls for Pink Lady Stephanie Zinone. In his attempt to win her heart, he transforms himself into a mysterious motorbike-riding bad boy. Produced by Christopher D. Clegg and James DP Drury, the live concert features such songs as ‘Who’s That Guy?’, ‘Score Tonight’, ‘Girl for all Seasons’ and the title number ‘Cool Rider’, which was originally performed by Michelle Pfeiffer as Stephanie in the film version. Playing Mr Stuart is Reese Shearsmith, who is currently the only cast member to have been announced. Cool Rider makes its exclusive appearance at the Lyric Theatre on 27th January 2014 with two performances on the same night.

No, the National hasn’t booked Robin Thicke to perform his hit song of 2013. What they have done is to commission a new piece of theatre about sexism, which was then named after said hit song. Conceived and developed by Nick Payne and Carrie Cracknell as a joint effort, it was Payne who wrote the script for this play which journeys through the minefield of contemporary gender politics…with song. ‘From to tweeting to stripping, breast feeding to online dating; Blurred Lines is a fast-paced, razor sharp glimpse at the everyday moments of hidden inequalities.’ Stuart Earle provides the music while the cast of Marion Bailey, Michaela Coel, Bryony Hannah, Sinead Matthews, Ruth Sheen, Claire Skinner and Susannah Wise bring it all to life on the stage of the NT’s temporary outdoor venue. The first preview performance of Blurred Lines takes place at The Shed on 16th January 2014. It then opens on 22nd January 2014 and closes on 22nd January 2014.

After his success with the musical Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Sam Mendes is back as a West End director with this new production of an old classic. One of Shakespeare’s best known works, King Lear is the tale of an aged king who descends into madness after deciding to divide his kingdom between his three daughters based on who can offer the most flattering praise, only for his favourite daughter to remain silent. This NT production stars renowned English actor Simon Russell Beale as the tragic monarch in a cast that has a wealth of talent; Stephen Boxer (Gloucester), Cassie Bradley, Tom Brooke (Edgar), Richard Clothier, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Kate Fleetwood (Goneril), Simon Manyonda, Anna Maxwell Martin (Regan), Daniel Millar, Michael Nardone, Gary Powell, Adrian Scarborough (Fool), Hannah Stokely, Stanley Townsend (Kent), Sam Troughton (Edmund), Olivia Vinall (Cordelia) and Ross Waiton all feature alongside Beale. Mendes’ King Lear begins previews at the Olivier Theatre, NT from 14th January 2014. It opens on 23rd January 2014 and runs through until 23rd March 2014.

Happy New Year to you all and here’s to West End theatre in 2014!

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)

Tuesday 31st December 2013