London Theatre Spring Preview 2007

If you were a fan of musical theatre, in all its many forms, than 2006 was your year.

The West End overflowed with them – with television getting in on the act in the shape of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? – sending critics into something of a tizzy, with lots of melodramatic talk about the death of the straight play.
Well, it turns it out it wasn’t quite dead, just a little under the weather. In fact the highlights of early 2007 are dramatic ones. In January, the picks of the RSC’s Complete Works Festival will be arriving in London, with Patrick Stewart starring in Gregory Doran’s rapturously recieved production of Antony And Cleopatra at the Novello and a double-bill of Twelfth Night and The Taming Of The Shrew from Edward Hall’s all-male Propellor Theatre Company at the Old Vic.

Over at the National, Deborah Warner will be directing Fiona Shaw in Beckett’s Happy Days in the Lyttelton, while in one of the new season’s most intriguing propositions, Nicholas Hytner will be directing George Etherege’s restoration comedy The Man of Mode in the Olivier followed in March by a production of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo, with Stephen Pimlott directing Zoe Wanamaker.

Fans of Tennessee Williams will be well catered this spring, with Jessica Lange starring in a new production of The Glass Menagerie at the Apollo on Shaftesbury Avenue. February also sees a bit of The West Wing in the West End, with Richard Schiff (the wonderfully gruff Toby) coming to London to star in Glen Berger’s one man show Underneath The Lintel at the Duchess. Farce will feature at the Comedy Theatre with a production of Boeing Boeing starring Frances De La Tour, Roger Allam and Mark Rylance; while the Old Vic will hopefully be carrying on the upward swing in quality that started with A Moon For The Misbegotten with a new version of The Entertainer starring Robert Lindsay in the lead.

One of the most talked about productions of the new year has to be the revival of Peter Schaffer’s unsettling Equus with Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, proving his thespian worth alongside Richard Griffiths. Billie Piper will also be making her West End debut in Christopher Hampton’s Treats, which opens at the Garrick after a regional tour. And from West End virgins to West End veterans: Maggie Smith will be starring in Edward Albee’s The Lady From Dubuque, opening at the end of March.

Off West End and Fringe

Highlights away from the West End include Frank McGuinness’ There Came A Gypsy Riding opening at the Almeida in January and David Eldridge’s new version of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Donmar Warehouse. Kilburn’s Tricycle will be staging Tamsin Oglesby’s black comedy The War Next Door.

Meanwhile, after Katie Mitchell’s version of Chekhov’s The Seagull gained some of the most mixed reviews of the year, with many objecting to Martin Crimp’s cropping of the text, a new adaptation by Christopher Hampton is set to be staged by the Royal Court in January, with a cast featuring Kristin Scott Thomas, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mackenzie Crook.

Out in Richmond, the Orange Tree continues its season of work by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries, with stagings of Cicely Hamilton’s Diana Of Dobson’s and John Galsworthy’s The Skin Game; Mark Ravenhill and Stewart Lee will be performing in a double bill of self-penned monologues, entitled respectively World Project Remix and What Would Judas Do? at the Bush Theatre, while the How On Earth Will They Pull That Off award has to go the Young Vic, where Rufus Norris will be giving us his version of DBC Pierre’s Booker-winning Vernon God Little in March.

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