As the British capital battles through its worst snowfall in years – and certainly its worst at the start of March in 50 years– the show must go on.
Most events are going ahead and there is a lot of choice. In music, there is everything from Elbow’s rock to a Britten opera and a play with Bob Dylan songs. In the theater, London has transfers from Edinburgh, plays both new (“Harold and Maude”) and older classics (Wilde’s’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” Pinter’s “The Birthday Party,” O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”)
The format of these weekly short capsule previews is to list newly opening and one-time shows; those near the end of their run, and others highly recommended. We continue to review the best and most noteworthy in depth and separately.
At the O2, March 7 only
Guy Garvey’s band from Manchester has grown into one of the most-liked acts in the indie scene in Britain. Somewhere along the way, the burly, bearded Garvey somehow became a cool star just by being who he is. The last album, “Little Fictions,” did not get the same attention as its predecessors, especially the Mercury-winning “The Seldom Seen Kid,” with its hit “One Day Like This.” Despite that, expect an extended mass singalong to this and other epics at the O2.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
At London Coliseum through March 15.
There is something ironic in a summer opera getting going in March, the start of spring, when the weather is more like midwinter. That said, this is a Britten adaption like few others, so transplanted from the original Shakespeare as to be revolutionary. The action takes place in a boy’s school, making the summer-in-winter scenario look strangely plausible.
“Harold and Maude”
At Charing Cross Theatre, through March 31.
The 1971 Hal Ashby movie, written by Colin Higgins, has a plot that sounds like it should be unmakeable. It is a bizarre game of consequences. A near 20-year-old guy obsessed with suicide and death meets a near 80-year-old eccentric who loves life and steals for fun. They meet at a funeral and they fall in love. It also seems a little unstageable, with the original’s potential for flashbacks and changes of scene. Yet this works well and is worth seeing.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
At Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, February 21 through March 5 2018
This is the big time for this alt-rock band: a run of dates at a medium-size venue, all technically sold out. These are the only dates on this side of the pond before Bon Iver returns Stateside. Tickets of course are available online, and touts will be trying their luck. Either way, expect a folky evening with quiet beauty.
At Bush Theatre, from February 12 through March 3.
It seems like all the shows this critic was flagging at Edinburgh last year are now coming to London! After “The Divide” there is Monica Dolan’s play, also in fact about sexualisation. Here’s what I said last year: “There is one clear reason for going to see this. Monica Dolan. The star of ‘W1A’, ‘Appropriate Adult,’ and ‘The Witness For The Prosecution’ has won a Stage Edinburgh Award for her performance. This dark tale is about the modern obsession with putting one’s own child first against our responsibility as a society towards our children as a whole. The BAFTA award-winning actress wrote as well as stars in it. Dolan explores how far one mum will go to put what her child’s wants first.”
At Hampstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage, through March 3.
American playwright Sarah Burgess is making her debut in the U.K. with this award-winning work talking a wry look at the world of private equity. The work has won applause for its sharp script and it has catapulted her into the big time.
At Dorfman, National Theatre. Previews form January 17, runs through March 3.
Annie Baker came to wider notice with her play “The Flick,” which had a sold-out run at the National in 2016. Her latest play is billed as “uncanny,” with many inanimate objects as well the audience watching the action.
ALSO WORTH SEEING
At Southwark Playhouse, through March 10.
Mary Stuart is not the only show in town with the principal players swapping roles each night (see below). I guess it makes it easier if you need understudies, who only have to learn one role. Joking aside this is Philip Ridley’s series of unrelated monologues. Worth seeing just for Tyrone Huntley, who sung Jesus off the stage in “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
At Lyric Hammersmith, February 15 through March 10.
Chris Goode adapts Derek Jarman’s experimental 1978 movie. A prime attraction is surely a starring role for Toyah Willcox, who was in the original. The synopsis could be said as “Elizabeth I meets kids in the time of Elizabeth II.” After that the film gets very zany, punky and surreal. It will be fascinating to see how these visual time shifts can be done onstage.
“Long Day’s Journey into Night”
At Wyndham’s Theatre, Previews from January 9, opens February 6 and runs through April 7.
Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville return to their parts in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” a Pulitzer winner. The Richard Eyre production had a sold-out run at the Bristol Old Vic as part of its 250th Anniversary events. The long play takes the Tyrone family from darkness to despairing gloom. Tickets are selling fast: get in fast if you are interested.
At Soho Theatre, February 20 through March 17 2018.
In Edinburgh, this was a huge success. The Milly Thomas comedy is about a woman watching the fallout from her suicide. It is fitting that this monologue is at Soho, whose recent hits include another female tour de force in “Fleabag.”
“Lady Windermere’s Fan”
At Vaudeville, January 12 through April 7.
This is part of a series of Oscar Wilde works by artistic director Dominic Dromgoole. Wilde’s clever-clever script comes packed with quips and plot twists. Plus the most quotable of quotes: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” “I can resist anything except temptation.”
At Duke of York’s, January 13 through March 31.
The Almeida’s production finds its way into the West End, with the most mind-boggling start. Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams are the two stars, playing Mary and Elizabeth. They open the evening by tossing a coin to decide who plays which part: will it end in victory or execution? Both are familiar with the roles, so whichever version you see of Robert Icke’s show, this will be pretty impressive.
“The Birthday Party”
At the Harold Pinter, from January 9 through April 14.
One cannot imagine a more apt venue to stage Pinter’s masterpiece. Zoë Wanamaker, Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan and Pearl Mackie star. The menace, silences and general unease are the Nobel-winning playwright at his trademark best. Ian Rickson directs this production.
At Victoria Palace Theatre through July 28, 2018.
The first thing to say is “Hamilton” is a huge Broadway hit, with plenty of political relevance even now, and even with unofficial Off-Broadway spin-offs such as “Spamilton” for those who can’t get to see the real thing. The second thing to say is that this rap musical is a superb show. Third, it’s not easy to get tickets and, if you do, expect tight ID checks, with original card and government photo ID needed. But it is worth it. The British production works well.
“The York Realist”
At Donmar Warehouse, through March 24 2018
The story of two guys who fall in love was obviously contentious in its original 1960s setting, not so long after sexual laws were changed. In 2001 it was still bold when Peter Gill wrote the piece. Now the storyline is more everyday, which allows a retrospective on the blinkered views of the past. Its framing looking at the York History Plays makes it even more poignant: we can learn from the past.
At the Theatre Royal Haymarket from February 9 for 12 weeks through May 5.
Not to be confused with Disney’s “Frozen,” coming to town allegedly soon! The Bryony Lavery play features “Doctor Foster” star Suranne Jones. It’s a long way from her “Coronation Street” beginnings. The 1998 play, sometimes called a masterpiece, focuses on a mum whose 10-year-old daughter has vanished. We also discover the child’s murderer. The word “unsettling” turns up often in play blurbs by theaters. Here, it is justified.
“Girls and Boys”
At Royal Court, through March 17.
Dennis Kelly aims to top “Matilda” with this girl-meets-boy story that stars Carey Mulligan.
At Bridge Theatre, runs through April 15.
The Bridge has only been open since late last year and Nicholas Hytner directs this Shakespearean thriller. David Calder plays Caesar. Ben Whishaw and Michelle Fairley are Brutus and Cassius. The play can be witnessed as a promenade event, with the onlookers a part of the action, or as an in-the-round seated experience. Click here for a review.
“Girl From the North Country”
At Noël Coward Theatre. Previews from December 29, opens January 11 through March 31.
This Conor McPherson script, laced with songs from Bob Dylan such as the title number, premiered last year at The Old Vic. Its West End transfer maintains the dark and grimy feel of a serious work which ends up neither play nor a “Bob Dylan musical” as some fans called it when it first started.
At the Gielgud, now extended booking to May 19, 2018.
This critic gave it five stars, but so did nearly everybody else too it seems. The best play in London at present. Jez Butterworth nails another dance of life and death in a “Jerusalem” transported to Ireland. This three-hour epic has just won the best play, best director (Sam Mendes) and best emerging-talent gongs (Tom Glynn-Carney) in the Evening Standard Awards – so, expect booking out to sell out even faster. Click here for a review.
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”
At Apollo Shaftsbury, through April 21, 2018.
If there is a law about London stage shows, one seems to be that even great plays often have musicals can run for a long time. This one has a true-life plot which reads like “Billy Eliot” crossed with “Kinky Boots.” A 16-year-old Sheffield boy wants to become a drag queen. The music is by Dan Gillespie Sells, of The Feeling.
At Theatre Royal Drury Lane, booking extended through May 31.
Another Broadway blockbuster. “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” dream along with “Lullaby of Broadway,” hope along with “We’re In The Money,” and hum along with “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
Founder Louise Blouin: http://www.blouinartinfo.com/artists/louise-blouin--2953510