Thirty days has September, and in those thirty days is a wide range of new theatre productions to be seen in London’s West End. Drama is the prevailing theme of the September theatre experience, with the added bonus of some great plays arriving at the National and some fantastic new musicals rolling into town. Below is a selection of some of the best picks for West End theatre fans this month.
LORD OF THE FLIES:
A classic work of 20th century fiction, many will already be familiar with William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies. It’s often studied in schools by students of English Literature. The best-seller was famously adapted to film in 1990, but has also transcended from page to stage. Nigel Williams’ stage adaption was debuted by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1996 and various productions have been seen on stage over the years, including the Open Air Theatre’s critically acclaimed 2011 production which returns to Regent’s Park this month to conclude the 2015 season. Directed by Timothy Sheader, the show will run in London ahead of an extensive UK Tour which continues into the New Year. ‘When a group of schoolboys survive a catastrophic plane crash, what starts as a desert island adventure quickly descends into a struggle for survival in a darkly sinister world of superstition and immorality.’ The cast is as follows: Michael Ajao (Maurice), Matthew Castle (Roger), Yossi Goodlink (Bill), Jonathan Holby (Naval Officer), Dylan Llewellyn (Henry), Keenan Munn-Francis (Simon), Fellipe Pigatto (Eric), Thiago Pigatto (Sam), Anthony Roberts (Piggy), Luke Ward-Wilkinson (Ralph), Freddie Watkins (Jack), and Guy Abrahams, Ben Barker and David Evans as Perceval. Playing in London for just 14 performances only, Lord of the Flies opens at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre on 5th September 2015 (following previews from 3rd September) and runs there until 12th September 2015, after which it will embark on UK Tour that visits 20 venues around the country.
The Old Vic presents ‘a bracingly topical and boisterously funny’ new play from the pen of Tamsin Oglesby, the playwright behind such other stage works as The Mouse and His Child, Really Old and Like 45. ‘Future Conditional tackles the conundrum of British schooling through a myriad of characters including parents, teachers, and Alia, a prodigiously clever young Afghan refugee and the newest member of Britain’s Education Research Board. Alia has a radical solution for Britain’s schools that could restore our place in the world education league. But is the system ready to take lessons from a schoolgirl…?’ The 24-strong cast is led by stage and screen star Rob Brydon, and additionally features Matthew Aubrey, Louisa Beadle, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Alex Clatworthy, Peta Cornish, Natasha Cottriall, Amy Dawson, Jennifer English, Sam Jenkins-Shaw, Natalie Klamar, Carla Langley, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Louis Martin, Joshua McGuire, Sukh Ojla, Bill Parfitt, Nikki Patel, Howard Perret, Sandra Reid, Sofia Stuart, Eleanor Sutton, Brian Vernel, and musicians Ben Lochrie and Carmen Vandenberg. Directed by Matthew Warchus, Future Conditional begins previews at the Old Vic Theatre from 1st September 2015. It opens there on 10th September 2015 where it continues to run until 3rd October 2015.
Seventeen years after making her West End debut in The Blue Room at the Donmar Warehouse, Hollywood A-Lister actress Nicole Kidman makes her highly anticipated return to the London stage in Anna Ziegler’s award-winning play about the woman who cracked DNA. She stars as Rosalind Franklin, the female scientist who had a crucial role in the discovery of DNA. ‘Does Rosalind Franklin know how precious her photograph is? In the race to unlock the secret of life it could be the one to hold the key. With rival scientists looking everywhere for the answer, who will be first to see it and more importantly, understand it?’ Presented by Michael Grandage Productions and directed by Michael Grandage, the production also stars Will Attenborough as James Watson, Edward Bennett as Francis Crick, Stephen Campbell Moore (Maurice Wilkins), Patrick Kennedy (Don Caspar) and Joshua Silver (Ray Gosling). Photograph 51 runs for a strictly limited season at the Noel Coward Theatre, opening there on 14th September 2015 (previews from 5th September) and playing its final performance on 21st November 2015.
‘They’ve disgraced our trade. Ruined our art. They’ve put a woman on the stage.’ Shakespeare’s Globe presents Jessica Swale’s new play which looks at life in the theatre in the 17th century with her tale of pioneering female performer, Nell Gwynn, who was also the mistress of King Charles II. ‘It is 1660. The Puritans have run away with their drab grey tails between their legs. Charles II has exploded onto the scene with a love of all things loud, French and sexy. And at Drury Lane, a young Nell Gwynn is getting her satsumas out for the punters. Nell Gwynn charts the rise of an unlikely heroine, from her roots in Coal Yard Alley to her success as Britain’s most celebrated actress, and her hard-won place in the heart of the king. But at a time when women are second-class citizens, can her charm and spirit protect her from the dangers of the court? And at what cost?’ Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as the title character in this premiere production directed by Christopher Luscombe, with the rest of the original London cast including Graham Butler (John Dryden), Greg Haiste (Edward Kynaston), Angus Imrie (Ned Spiggett), Richard Katz (Killigrew), Amanda Lawrence (Nancy), David Rintoul (Arlington), Anneika Rose (Rose Gwynn), David Sturzaker (King Charles II), Jay Taylor (Charles Hart), Sasha Waddell (Lady Castlemaine/Louise de Keroualle) and Sarah Woodward (Ma Gwynn/Queen Catherine). Following previews from 19th September 2015, Nell Gwynn opens at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on 24th September 2015 and can be seen there until 17th October 2015.
FARINELLI AND THE KING:
Claire van Kampen’s new play was an instant hit when it premiered at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre earlier this year, its success sparked a West End transfer and the Sonia Friedman Productions/Shakespeare’s Globe production now comes to the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season. This inspiring true story is set in 18th century Spain and Italy and centres on the relationship between King Philippe V of Spain and a famous castrato singer ‘Depressed and plagued by insomnia, King Philippe V of Spain lies awake in his chamber. The Queen, desperate to find a cure, hears of Farinelli – a castrato with a voice so divine it has the power to captivate all who hear it. Even Philippe is astonished when Farinelli sings, and begs him to stay. But will Farinelli, one of the greatest celebrities of his time, choose a life of solitude over fame and fortune in the opera-houses of Europe? And will his extraordinary talent prove to be a curse rather than a blessing?’ Mark Rylance reprises his critically acclaimed role as King Philippe V alongside his fellow cast mates from the original company, Sam Crane in the acting role of Farinelli, Huss Garbiya as Doctor Jose Cervi, Melody Grove as Isabella Farnese, Colin Hurley as Metastasio and Edward Peel as De la Cuadra. Also returning is Iestyn Davies in his singing role as Farinelli, who this time shares the role with newcomer Rupert Enticnap. A play with music, Farinelli and the King transfers to the West End for 12 weeks only. It begins previews at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 14th September 2015 and has an official opening night on 29th September 2015. It closes on 5th December 2015.
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW:
It’s not often that a show extends its West End run before having even played its first performance, but proving its lasting popularity more than forty years after it originally premiered here, the latest production of the cult hit has done just that due to an overwhelming popular demand that saw tickets sell out in less than 72 hours. A further eight performances have been added onto the initial run, which means fans now have an extra week to see the show, and its cast. Starring in the iconic musical are West End favourites Ben Forster as Brad, Haley Flaherty as Janet and David Bedella as Frank N Furter, with the show’s creator Richard O’Brien appearing alongside them as the Narrator. Also joining the West End cast is Kristian Lavercome as Riff Raff, while several celebrities are set to make special guest appearances for the gala night charity performance on 17th September 2015; Stephen Fry, Mel Giedroyc, Emma Bunton and Anthony Head are all confirmed to take part sharing the role of the Narrator. The award-winning classic follows clean-cut couple Brad and Janet, who run into car trouble during a storm and seek help at the home of a mad transvestite scientist, Dr Frank N Furter. After unveiling his latest creation to them, what follows is a night they’ll never forget. The Rocky Horror Show returns to London for a strictly limited West End run ahead of a UK Tour. It opens at the Playhouse Theatre on 11th September 2015, and with the added performances, can now be seen there until 26th September 2015.
There’s a well-known song by Nancy Sinatra called ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’, but kinky boots are made for struttin’! The most highly-anticipated new musical of the year has finally arrived in London’s West End following a successful Broadway premiere that saw it win six Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. Based on the 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots is the true life-inspired story of Charlie Price, who inherits his father’s Northampton shoe factory. Faced with the task of saving the family business from bankruptcy, he turns to a ‘fabulously fashionable new friend’, Lola. The cabaret star gives him the idea of making shoes for drag artistes, and as they work together to turn the factory around, the unlikely pair find they have more in common than they thought as they embark on a journey that could change both of their destinies. The show is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell and features a book by Harvey Fierstein, with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. Leading the West End production are Killian Donnelly as Charlie and Matt Henry as Lola, who star alongside Amy Lennox as Lauren, Jamie Baughan as Don, Amy Ross as Nicola and Michael Hobbs as George. Completing the original London company are Gemma Atkins, Paul Ayers, Jeremy Batt, Arun Blair-Mangat, Marcus Collins, Emma Crossley, Jordan Fox, Callum Francis, Robert Grose, Gillian Hardie, Chloe Hart, Sophie Isaacs, Luke Jackson, Robert Jones, Adam Lake, Catherine Millsom, Sean Needham, Tim Prottey-Jones, Verity Quade, Javier Santos, Dominic Tribuzio, Alan Vicary, Michael Vinsen and Bleu Woodward. Produced by Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig, Kinky Boots has been in previews at the Adelphi Theatre since 21st August 2015 and has its official opening night on 15th September 2015. The musical is currently booking until 6th February 2016.
SHOWSTOPPER! THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL:
Landing in the West End this September is the unique show that sees the cast use audience suggestions to create a musical on the spot. No two performances are ever the same, as seven members of the cast are selected each time to turn the ideas of the audience into song and dance numbers and create an entirely improvised new musical. Will it be a love story? A comedy? A tragedy? The show transfers into the West End for ten weeks, which means eighty performances and eighty new pieces of theatre! Directed by Adam Meggido, who co-created the show with Dylan Emery, Showstopper! is presented by James Seabright, Julius Green and Julie Clare by arrangement with Suzanna Rosenthal for Showstopper Productions. Cast members performing in the West End include Ruth Bratt, Justin Brett, Pippa Evans, Susan Harrison, Sean McCann, Philip Pellew, Andrew Pugsley, Oliver Senton, Lucy Trodd and Sarah-Louise Young, as well as creators Meggido and Emery themselves, all of whom work with a team of incredible live musicians. Musical direction is by Duncan Walsh Atkins. Following extensive touring of the UK, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical opens at the Apollo Theatre on 24th September 2015 and completes its West End run on 29th November 2015.
PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS:
Written by Duncan Macmillan, this play about facing reality is the latest collaboration between Headlong and the National. ‘Emma was having the time of her life. Now she’s in rehab. Her first step is to admit that she has a problem. But the problem isn’t with Emma, it’s with everything else. She needs to tell the truth. But she’s smart enough to know that there’s no such thing. When intoxication feels like the only way to survive the modern world, how can she ever sober up?’ Starring in the West End drama in the central role of Emma is award-winning actress Denise Gough, joined by Jacob James Beswick, Nari Blair-Mangat, Alistair Cope, Jacqui Dubois, Sally George, Kevin McMonagle, Nathaniel Martello White, Barbara Marten and Laura Woodward. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, People, Places and Things opens at the Dorfman, NT on 1st September 2015 (previews from 25th August) and runs there until 4th November 2015.
First staged by Bristol Old Vic over two evenings last year, this acclaimed re-imaging of Charlotte Bronte’s classic story comes to London to be presented at the National as a single performance. ‘From her beginnings as a destitute orphan, Jane Eyre’s spirited heroine faces life’s obstacles head-on, surviving poverty, injustice and the discovery of bitter betrayal before taking the ultimate decision to follow her heart.’ Sally Cookson directs the bold and dramatic production, devised by the company and co-produced by the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. The cast includes Benji Bower, Will Bower, Craig Edwards, Felix Hayes, Phil King, Melanie Marshall, Simone Saunders, Maggie Tagney and Madeleine Worrall, with music by Benji Bowers. Jane Eyre begins previews at Lyttelton, NT from 8th September 2015 and opens in 17th September 2015, running through to the New Year with a final performance on 10th January 2016.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 1st September 2015