Theatre 2020: Pick of the plays

Here are a just a few of the plays The Man in the Grand Circle has his eye on this year.

Among the star names coming to the London stage are Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke (see above photo) in Anya Reiss’s adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull for the Jamie Lloyd Company at the Playhouse Theatre in March.  Timothee Chalamet and Eileen Atkins appear in 4000 Miles at the Old Vic the following month, while back at the Playhouse Theatre in June is one of my favourite actresses (I’ve been lucky enough to interview her twice), Jessica Chastain, in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

If you can’t wait that long for your Ibsen fix, then check out Stef Smith’s Nora: A Doll’s House – a “radical” retelling of the story at the Young Vic in February.

For Samuel Beckett fans it’s like Christmas all over again in January. Trevor Nunn directs a triple bill at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre (Krapp’s Last Tape, Eh Joe, The Old Tune) with a cast that includes Niall Buggy, Lisa Dwan, James Hayes and David Threlfall, while over at the Old Vic Alan Cumming, Daniel Radcliffe and Jane Horrocks star in Endgame.

February’s offerings include David Mitchell making his West End debut in Ben Elton’s Shakespearean comedy Upstart Crow at the Gielgud Theatre. I’m also intrigued by Hampstead Theatre’s The Haystack, a thriller by Al Blyth about GCHQ and surveillance.

Those who like their thrillers with a supernatural edge might want to check out The House on Cold Hill, starring Debbie McGee, at The Mill at Sonning in April.

On the National Theatre’s programme I like the look of Lucy Kirkwood’s The Welkin, starring Maxine Peake and Ria Zmitrowicz (opening this month). In April, Thea Sharrock directs  Jack Absolute Flies Again, a new play by Richard Bean and Oliver Chris based on Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals. And in August Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley are the star-crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet.

Talking of unmissable Shakespeare, Cush Jumbo takes on Hamlet at the Young Vic in July.

Further afield, my theatrical sweet tooth is tempted by Quality Street, Northern Broadsides’ revival of JM Barrie’s farce by  which opens in February in Halifax’s Viaduct Theatre and then tours. Barrie’s play was so popular at the time that it gave the chocolates their name.

And there I was trying to give up chocolate this month…

If you missed Laura Wade’s The Watsons at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2019, be sure to catch it at the Harold Pinter Theatre where it opens in May. This genius trip into the Jane Austen universe owes a lot to Pirandello, as does the title of this play at the Southwark Playhouse in April: Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep.

Finally, to the Royal Court for a play (in June) which has quite possibly best title of the year: Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Company – Gielgud Theatre

With its gender swapped characters and contemporary tinkering, this 1970 Broadway musical comedy by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth feels like it was written last week.

Company tells the story of Bobbie (Rosalie Craig), a New Yorker whose singleton status at 35 is the main topic of conversation among her colourful circle of friends.

I’ve been a fan of Rosalie Craig since I first saw her in the Tori Amos musical The Light Princess at the National Theatre where she spent a fair amount of time singing upside down.

She’s no less versatile and impressive here as the bemused outsider looking on as her friends’ relationships play out. Often spotlit, Craig literally glows on stage in her red dress. It’s hard to take your eyes off her. Especially when she’s clutching a birthday balloon big enough to carry her into the upper circle.

A strong supporting cast includes Patty LuPone as much-married Joanne, whose song Ladies Who Lunch will surely be a nightly showstopper, while Mel Giedroyc’s jujitsu-loving Sarah provides a lot of the biggest laughs in Act One.

Almost worth the price of admission alone is the show’s most ingeniously staged setpiece in which Jonathan Bailey’s gay character Jamie delivers a super-fast song about pre-nuptial jitters (Getting Married Today) amid frantic activity in his kitchen.

Bunny Christie’s clever design sees the story unfold inside a set of gliding neon-edged boxes which frame New York’s assorted rooms, exteriors and train carriages.

With Sondheim’s blessing, director Marianne Elliott had a vision and it worked: this reinvented show is a joy from start to finish.