Tuesday 20 September 2011

Autumn/winter theatre highlights & previews

There are plenty of shows worth getting your paws on over the autumn and well into next year. Here are a few that caught my eye.

To kick things off there are some heavyweight Shakespeare productions to look out for. You've just missed Sam Mendes's Richard III at the Old Vic which was excellent. Kevin Spacey was louche in the title role and there was a driving energy powering the whole production. There are  a couple of promising Hamlets: Martin Sheen et al at the Young Vic is the blockbuster (sold out, but more tickets go on sale on 27 September), but there is also a rather exciting proposition at the Barbican where Thomas Ostermeier and his Schaub├╝hne am Lehniner Platz ensemble have a tempting modern interpretation. The Barbican are also behind Jonathan Holmes's take on The Tempest at St Giles's Cripplegate. It's part of the misnomered freeB festival: tickets are £21.

Looking further ahead, in the spring Filter and Sean Holmes return to the Lyric to present their take on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Potentially best of all is the Shakespeare project in the pipeline from dreamthinkspeak, The Rest Is Silence, as part of the World Shakespeare Festival. It kicks off in the Brighton Festival in May, before transferring to the Riverside Studios in London and Northern Stage in Gateshead the following month.

If you can get your hands on a ticket for the sold-out Roadkill at Theatre Royal Stratford East then grab one as reaction from Edinburgh last year was universally positive and it came away laden with awards.

One thing that depresses me is the predictability of opera programming at the moment. Yes, we're in the middle of a recession so less risks are to be expected, but there's a frustratingly familiar cocktail of Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, Donizetti and Tchaikovsky being put on by the main opera companies. A quick scan of the  next twelve months' programmes reveals a dearth of pretty mainstream opera composers like Monteverdi,  Britten, Handel and Strauss. On the other hand, highlights include ENO presenting the UK premiere of Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer which promises to be worth seeing. Also at ENO is Rameau's Castor and Pollux - a great bit of programming and one that shouldn't be ruined by being performed in English. Finally on the opera front, Rory Bremner translates Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld for Scottish Opera - might be worth a look - I was unaware that Bremner, a languages graduate, had already made translations of several other stage works. According to the Guardian this one is supposed to be pretty Bullingdonian, which is all good in my book...and the poster looks cool:

Ontroerend Goed's latest show Audience divided critics in Edinburgh but is surely still worth checking out, for better or for worse; it comes to the Soho Theatre in December. As with Internal, it seems that Audience will really screw with your mind as a viewer and the performers will get under your skin...but would we have it any other way? Devoted fans will certainly be going.

Looking further ahead, I've got tickets to Frantic Assembly's Lovesong at the Lyric; it'll be interesting to see how it compares to the other productions of theirs that I have seen, the lively Stockholm or disappointingly tepid Beautiful Burnout.

Michael Frayn's brilliant farce Noises Off comes to the Old Vic over Christmas. I saw it in the West End a few years ago and it remains a show with one of the best laugh-per-minute ratios I've ever seen. It's classic, old-school laughs and surely can't go wrong. I'm also off to see Playboy of the Western World at the same venue. Not to forget the Boom Boom Club at Old Vic Tunnels - can't wait!

Lundahl & Seitel wowed me with their immersive piece Rotating in a room of images at the 2009 One on one Festival at BAC. Their site-specific work In memory of W T Stead, performed at the offices of Steinway in 2009, returns in February. By all accounts it's similar to Rotating... insofar as there are headphones involved and it's a bit of a spatial exploration. There, however, the similarity ends: it's a live performance of a Bach fugue set to a sort of promenade performance in conjunction with Nomad, if that makes sense (it doesn't to me). Anyhow watch this space, it sounds very promising.

The National has Mike Leigh's Grief, a stage version of my childhood obsession Swallows & Amazons, and some Bible readings to celebrate the King James version's 400th anniversary; although the Bush Theatre have trumped them with a 24 hour epic, entitled Sixty six books. If you've got little ones, or if you can free your mind to being a toddler yourself, then take yourself off to a wonderful show all about innocence and a whole lot more. White - also at the Southbank - is one of the sweetest shows you'll see anywhere. As fascinating as the show itself is watching the expressions of pure wonder on your fellow audience members' two year old faces.

In chronological order:
Richard III - Old Vic - run finished - sold out
The Playboy of the Western World - Old Vic - until 26 November - £10-£49.50
Grief - National Theatre - until 28 February - £12-£32
The Tempest - St Giles's Cripplegate - 21 September-22 October - £21
Boom Boom Club - Old Vic Tunnels - 29 September-1 October - £19.50
Sixty six books - Bush Theatre - 10-29 October - various prices or £80 for 24 hour epic!
Castor and Pollux - ENO - 24 October-1 December - £19-£97.50
Roadkill - Theatre Royal Stratford East - 28 October-20 November - sold out (£18)
Hamlet - Young Vic - 28 October-21 January - £10-£29.50
Hamlet - Barbican - 30 November-4 December - £16-£42
Orpheus in the Underworld - Young Vic - 30 November-10 December - £22.50
Noises Off - Old Vic - 3 December-25 February - tickets tbc
Audience - Soho Theatre - 6 December-7 January - £10-£20
Swallows & Amazons - National Theatre - 15 December-14 January - £12-£42.50
White - Southbank - 17-31 December - £12
Lovesong - Lyric - 11-28 January - £12.50-£30
In memory of W T Stead - Steinway & Sons - February dates and tickets tbc
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Lyric - 9 February-17 March - £12.50-£30
The Death of Klinghoffer - ENO - 25 February-9 March - £19-£97.50
The Rest Is Silence - Brighton, Riverside Studios, Gateshead - May & June - tickets tbc

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