What’s On in London Theater critic Michael Leech previews London’s summer theatre fare.
The National Theatre’s repertory productions continue to be the best around. A guest production from Sheffield, Brassed Off, plays until 17th June, and a classic Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, finishes 20th June to make way for a new production of a grand old favourite on 6th July–Oklahoma! If it is as popular as previous American musicals by the NT it will be a sell-out. It plays non-stop until 5th September. In the Lyttelton there are final performances of Shakespeare’s Othello until 13th June, and a 300-year-old comedy, The London Cuckolds, plays through July. A new production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie starts previews from 19th June with Fiona Shaw. Several new plays occupy the experimental Cottesloe. Tel: 0171 928 2252.
Patrick Marber’s saucy and louche comedy Closer is at the Lyric (tel: 0171 494 5045) through June, after a season at the National. It’s a very contemporary play about two couples, and it’s very funny–but be warned, it’s also very rude!
Alan Ayckbourn is as prolific a playwright as Neil Simon, and he keeps batting them out. His latest is Things We Do for Love, playing at the Gielgud, tel: 0171 494 5065. Barbara (Jane Asher) is a brittle landlady. Nikki (in a wonderfully fresh performance from Serena Evans) trusts her too well and gets crushed in the process.
The much-acclaimed production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband is now at the Albery until mid-July. Tel: 0171 369 1730. As well as those cunning quips and gilded aphorisms, it has all the glitter of the belle époque in its exotic costumes and sets, allied with ultimately stylish English acting.
If you like wonderfully sung, full bodied songs (‘Old Man River’, ‘My Bill’, ‘Cotton Blossom’, and more) then a West End revival of a classic American musical will be for you. Showboat, paddling along the river with all the romantic trappings, has sailed into the Prince Edward, tel: 0171 447 5400.
The best news for London theatre is that the Peter Hall Company repertory project has been re-launched. This bold new idea involves a large band of actors working in plays presented in rotation. That way you may see several shows in a week with actors in contrasting roles. Currently playing are Moliere’s Le Misanthrope, a shimmering view of 17th-century Paris, and Shaw’s Major Barbara. There is some inspired casting–Elaine Paige as the flighty Celimene, for example. The company now has a vast space to work with in the Piccadilly (tel: 0171 369 1734). Ask for special bargain offers the box office.
At the Apollo Hammersmith that queer old codger Doctor Dolittle (Phillip Schofield) is prancing around with a lot of odd animals. Characters from the much-loved books of Hugh Lofting, were created for this show by Jim Henson. It previews from 29th June, incorporating a lobby full of Lofting’s loony creatures before you even reach your seat!
In Late Joys at The Players’ Theatre (tel: 0171 839 1134), an all-join-in crowd sings along with the show at this traditional theatre-and-restaurant under Charing Cross Station.
The English National Opera’s exciting opera season continues with productions of Carmen and Falstaff until 4th July at London’s Coliseum. ENO productions are often fullly staged and sung in English. Note that operas change nightly, so check ahead. Tel: 0171 632 8300. It might pay to check for bargain seats at the Coliseum.
The peripatetic Royal Ballet has been wandering around London since the Opera House was closed for repairs, but you can catch up with it at the London Coliseum from 7th July to 1st August. Several big ballets such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty will be trotted out, as well as programmes of divertissements, including a new work by Christopher Wheeldon.
The English National Ballet is at the Royal Albert Hall from 18th to 30th June. This vast Victorian edifice is a theatrical sight in itself. Circular, with an arena stage, it wouldn’t normally seem natural for ballet (aside from the old quip that it’s so vast you get it twice) but re-staged and with a cast of more than 100, Romeo and Juilet should be quite something. The stars are international–Tamara Rojo who dances Juliet on the opening night is from Montreal and trained in Madrid, her Romeo, Roberto Bolle, is an elegant Italian. Tel: 0171 632 8300.
Last but not least, check the lobbies of the Festival Hall for free shows in summer–art, dance, cabaret, music, there is a lot going on and you can have lunch or a drink as you participate.