Cooper’s London

Autumn Picks in London

 Theatre

There’s still time to catch Greg Doran’s extraordinary recreation of a lost Shakespeare play, Cardenio, at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford (in rep until 6 October) which, along with The City Madam (in rep until 4 October) was my best and most rewarding experience at Stratford this summer. Coming up at the RSC in November is an interesting-looking new play by David Edgar about the creation of the King James Bible called Written on the Heart. Since Doran is directing this as well, and Edgar has a fine track record of new plays for the RSC, I would place a bet on it–as well as on the Measure for Measure that will be directed by Roxana Silbert, definitely a talent to watch grow. Meantime, if you’re in London with children for the holidays or before, the RSC is transferring last year’s Christmas hit at Stratford, the musical of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, from 18 October for a season. It is utterly charming,some of the music is quite memorable; and the nasty headmistress of the school is done as a traditional panto dame.

In London, the hottest ticket is without a doubt the atmospheric and touching production of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie at the Donmar Warehouse, with Ruth Wilson, Jude Law and David Hayman. It’s a compelling look at the play, but tickets are hard to come by and you will probably have to queue on the day you go to get standbys and returns. But it’s worth it! Or pray that it’s transferred to the West End for a longer run? Even if Jude Law were to leave to make a movie, this is such a strong production that there’s no reason to kill it – much better to keep it going with some recasting.

Looking ahead, the Young Vic is reviving its sell-out production of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene briefly for the second half of September. More compellingly, book now for their Hamlet (28 October through 21 January). It will be directed by the hugely talented Ian Rickson and star Michael Sheen as the troubled prince. Meantime, down the street at the Old Vic in the Cut, you can see a promising new production of The Playboy of the Western World. John Crowley directs J. M. Synge’s sometimes provocative and always irreverent masterpiece, with Niamh Cusack, Ruth Negga and Robert Sheehan in the main roles. The National Theatre’s War Horse continues in the West End, trailing its Broadway awards. And The Pitman Painters, an even more interesting play, returns to the West End in October. Meantime, at the National itself you might want to look out for Jonathan Miller’s staging of the St Matthew Passion; then A New Play by Mike Leigh from mid-September; and also Juno and the Paycock coming in mid-November. Add these to the news that the inestimable David Suchet will be playing James Tyrone in a new production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night in the West End from April 2012, I am feeling quite Irish this season. To which you can add a play by St. John Ervine called Mixed Marriage, set during the Troubles in Ireland, before partition. This is the first production of the play in London in about 90 years. It will be at the Finsborough Theatre, one of London’s smaller but more adventurous off-West End venues, a place that has recently been exploring neglected masterpieces of the early part of the 20th century. The production is to be directed by Sam Yates.

At the end of September, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones bring their successful Broadway production of Driving Miss Daisy to Wyndhams Theatre. You might also want to consider taking a look at a new production of The Killing of Sister George with Meera Sayal at the Arts Theatre from 5 – 29 October. And if you have children with you, you should try to see the adaptation of The Railway Children that re-opens on 2 October, runs through Christmas, and is being performed in the former Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo. Those steam engines are the real thing!

Music: High and Low

Many of the musicals remain as before, so there is no need to tell you to check out Les Miserables or Legally Blonde or The Lion King, or even Chicago with a new cast and transferred to the Garrick Theatre from early October. But one that you might not know about is the transfer – from this summer’s festival at the Regent’s Park Theatre – of the George Gershwin pastiche Crazy for You. It’s preposterously cheerful and delightful and will be at the Novello Theatre from 8 October.

Meantime, for music theatre you might also want to try the English National Opera, where Jonathan Miller’s inventive and charming and spot-on production of Donizetti’s Elixir of Love is opening the season. Weinberg’s The Passenger receives a London premiere in a production by David Pountney that is preceded by much praise. But my vote for top spot in the Autumn season is a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin directed by Deborah Warner and, more importantly, conducted by Edward Gardener. Gardener always gets into the musical soul of the piece; you may have seen him conduct closing night of the BBC Proms this year.

Great early-in-the-season excitement at the Royal Opera House is being generated by their production of Puccini’s Trittico directed by Richard Jones, and a revival, with Gheorghiu and Hvorostovsky, of Gounod’s Faust. My top choice for this Autumn, however, is the revival of Graham Vick’s entrancing, wise and moving production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. It’s got a strong cast and Pappano is conducting; in truth, there’s rarely been such an evocative production of this opera, detailed and nuanced and utterly captivating. Mind you, as a person with a taste for bel canto, I am going to try not to miss La Sonnambula either, conducted by the inestimable Daniel Oren.

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