London Theatre Preview June 2014

The summer season is upon us, although anyone would be forgiven for their scepticism at the thought in light of the recent weather. Many people will be sharing in the frustration of being made captive in their homes by the decidedly un-summery rain (especially those with children off in this half-term week), and it brings to mind the image of those four evacuees at the centre of that classic story, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Sitting miserably at the window as the rain falls outside…it’s easy to empathise with them at this point. It was that rain however, which led them to play that game of Hide and Seek and therefore stumble upon the secret of the wardrobe and the magical world which lay within. There are magical journeys of adventure waiting to be discovered in many places, and inside every West End theatre, there is one to be found. The month of June arrives in just a few days, and with it, it brings a whole wealth of new shows to town, each one promising a little bit of magic for every audience member. Here we offer a guide to some of the best new shows opening in the West End in June, in the hope that it leads you to discover the magic for yourself.

The long-running West End classic The Phantom of the Opera centres around the mysterious Opera Ghost who ‘haunts’ the Paris opera house and inflicts fear and murderous chaos upon those inside. This children’s drama is slightly evocative of the much-loved musical, except that the ghost is an elephant and he haunts the house of a little girl. In this light-hearted story, the little girl is thrilled to find a ghost elephant living in her home, but her joy begins to fade when it becomes obvious that elephants are just too big for houses and fun soon turns to trouble. Ben Powers uses puppetry and theatrical ingenuity to bring Ross Collins’ story to life in this stage adaption which is produced by the National Theatre. Directed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olie (with Marianne Elliot as consultant director), The Elephantom opens at the New London Theatre on 30th June 2014 and runs until 6th September 2014.

Shakespeare’s work is commonly thought of as heavy and hard-to-follow for the younger generation, but the Open Air Theatre are challenging that with this re-imagined production of one of his most popular plays: Twelfth Night. The award-winning theatre company have conceived a child-friendly production of the comedy which aims to introduce younger audiences to the work of one of the greatest playwrights ever born. Their interpretation of the ‘madcap tale of mistaken identity’ is specifically aimed at audiences aged six and over and is to be supported by in-school workshops which have been devised by the Young Shakespeare Company for Years 3-6. Directed by Max Webster and featuring a cast of seven which includes Guy Lewis, Iain Johnstone, Nick Malinowski, Riann Steele, Sarah Ridgeway, Vera Chok and Wayne Cater, Twelfth Night Re-imagined starts previews at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 21st June 2014. It opens there on 27th June 2014 and closes on 12th July 2014.

In this hilarious one-man show, former leader of the country ‘Gordon Brown’ steps onto the stage to offer the audience an in-depth look into the deepest and darkest secrets of being Prime Minister. The 90-minute performance covers the stab-in-the-back plotting, the betrayals and most importantly – the hair gel. Written and directed by Kevin Toolis, Ian Grieves once again portrays Gordon Brown following the show’s previous runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the West End’s Trafalgar Studios in 2013. The Confessions of Gordon Brown opens at the Ambassadors Theatre on 3rd June 2014 and runs until 30th July 2014.

This more hard-hitting one-man-show provides audiences with an insight into another notorious name, that of American lawyer and civil rights hero Clarence Darrow. Written by David W Rintels, the production sees ‘Darrow’ relive some of his pivotal experiences, such as the infamous Scopes Monkey and Thrill Killers trials. Directed by Thea Sharrock and starring renowned stage and screen actor Kevin Spacey, this strictly limited run of Clarence Darrow is presented in-the-round at the Old Vic Theatre, with previews starting yesterday (28th May). The one man tour-de-force opens there on 4th June 2014 and closes 15th June 2014.

Anne Washburn’s ‘post electric play’ makes it European premiere after its original run in New York last year. Contemporary America is coming to an end and a future without power looms, as people panic over how they will survive and who will rise to the top in this new world. The survivors recount an episode of The Simpsons, which is repeated through the generations and becomes a part of their mythology. This original play examines the relationship between pop and high culture as it asks the question: ‘Do the stories we tell make us the people we are?’ Robert Icke directs this in-house production, which features joint composition and musical direction by Orlando Gough and Michael Henry. Comprising the cast are Fiona Digney, Adrian der Gregorian, Demetri Goritsas, Adey Grummet, Michael Henry, Justine Mitchell, Wunmi Mosaku, Annabel Scholey, Michael Shaeffer and Jenna Russell, who start previews of the show at the Almeida Theatre from 5th June 2014. It opens there on 12th June 2014 and closes on 26th July 2014.

A star cast bring this production of David Hare’s Olivier Award-winning play back to the West End in June, following several previous successful runs there. Stephen Daldry directs this particular production of the story which follows the relation between a school teacher and her former lover. Kyra Hollis reconnects with Tom Sergeant on a cold London evening, and learning of the recent death of his wife and his success as a restaurateur, their love is rekindled. Their mutual desires draw them into a dangerous battle of opposite ideas and thoughts on life however. Produced by Robert Fox Limited, Skylight features music by Paul Englishby and stars Matthew Beard (Edward Sergeant), Carey Mulligan (Kyra Hollis) and Bill Nighy (Tom Sergeant). Previews begin at the Wyndham’s Theatre from 6th June 2014 and it opens on 18th June 2014, running until 23rd August 2014.

An in-house production of this new work by playwright Polly Stenham comes to the National Theatre in June. Maria Aberg directs the play, set on a secluded and isolated desert island which provides Robert and his family with the perfect escape destination that they need. Beyond the white sand and beautiful sunsets however, dark clouds are gathering as a storm approaches. Billed as a ‘tropical thriller, where nothing is quite what it seems’, Hotel stars Tom Beard, Hermione Gulliford, Damson Idris, Tom Rhys Harries, Ntonga Mwanza, Joe Shire, Shannon Tarbet and Susan Wokoma. Running at the temporary outdoor NT venue, The Shed, it starts previews from 31st May 2014 and opens there 5th June 2014. It closes on 2nd August 2014.

William Shakespeare’s classic comedy returns to London’s Globe Theatre with a special production which is performed in sign language and includes scene synopses in English. The story is well-known by now: Hermia loves Lysander and Helena loves Demetrius – but Demetrius is supposed to be marrying Hermia… When the Duke of Athens tries to enforce the marriage, the lovers take refuge in the woods and walk into the midst of a dispute between the king and queen of the fairies. Produced by Definitely Theatre and directed by Paula Garfield, the company features Charlotte Arrowsmith, Adam Bassett, Ralph Bogard, Fifi Garfield, Alim Jayda, Ace Mahbaz, Anna-Maria Nabirye, Nadia Nadarajah, Lee Robertson and David Sands in this production of Shakespeare’s funny and highly inventive play. Also featuring compositions by Philippa Herrick and designs by Paul Burgess, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a limited engagement at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre which runs from 2nd-7th June 2014.

By Julie Robinson @missjulie25

Thursday 29th May 2014

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