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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!



Rosmersholm review – Duke of York’s Theatre

5 star review

I finally managed to catch up with Rosmersholm in the final weeks of its West End run. I’m so glad I did. After so many five star reviews it’s always a risk that you go in with high expectations and come out disappointed. Not so with Ian Rickson’s wonderful production of this lesser-known Ibsen work.

With its themes of political polarisation, conflicted desire, and the destructive power of the press, this 1886 play – adapted by Duncan Macmillan – feels like it could have been written this year.  Yes, it’s wordy, but never dull.

The story opens in the ancestral home of John Rosmer, a year after the suicide of his wife. The house reeks of neglect and is spoken of as a place where no laughter is heard.

Hayley Atwell and Tom Burke in Rosmersholm (Photo: Johan Persson)

Tom Burke is absolutely solid as Rosmer, a pastor who has turned his back on his faith, but the two standout performances come from Hayley Atwell as Rebecca West, the feminist friend of Rosmer’s late wife, and Giles Terera as Governer Kroll, Rosmer’s politically-motivated brother in law.

Atwell makes an instant impression as she sweeps into Rae Smith’s expansive set and insists on opening the windows and tearing down the dust sheets over the Rosmer family portraits. Neil Austin’s superb lighting design often makes scenes look like an oil painting come to life.

Photo: Johan Persson

A later scene in which Kroll presents Rebecca with a series of shocking revelations about her past sees both Terera and Atwell on searing form. Rickson ends things with a set piece that reminded me of the jaw-dropping conclusion to Stephen Daldry’s production of An Inspector Calls.

I’ve been lucky enough to see some stunning Ibsens over the years such as Carrie Cracknell’s A Doll’s House at the Young Vic, and Matthew Warchus’s The Master Builder at the Old Vic.  What a delight to add this rarity to the collection.

Rosmersholm is at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 20 July