ShentonSTAGE Daily for FRIDAY OCTOBER 7

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.

I’ve had another tough week — though obviously, for perspective, not as tough as the one LIz Truss is having, as the captain of a rudderless ship that’s hurtling towards the rocks with no crew on board who know how to avoid them. The Tory party conference has certainly set them on a collision path with what former critic Nicholas de Jongh called ‘the cold douche of reality’ in his first play PLAGUE OVER ENGLAND — a title that could usefully describe the last 12 years of Tory (mis)rule.

As for me, I’ve had a major recurrence of back pain that I’ve already had three rounds of spinal surgery to try to fix — including a revision to the spinal fusion I originally had in October 2020 that meant my surgeon had to re-do it in April 2022, as a screw had come loose (as I remarked at the time, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been told I’ve got a screw loose). So I’m heading back for another CT scan next week, and then seeing my surgeon again, to find out what is going (wr)on(g) this time.

It meant that I cancelled two planned trips to London this week, on Tuesday (when I was due to see an understudy run of EUREKA DAY at the Old Vic, as a friend is the cover for Helen Hunt, and the rare revival of Tennessee Williams’s THE MILK TRAIN DOESN’T STOP HERE ANYMORE at Charing Cross Theatre) and Thursday (catching up with Maureen Lipman, now 76, in ROSE at the Park). At least a review in The Guardian, published on Wednesday, for the Williams play suggested I’d not missed much; even though I’m sorry to have missed the chance to see its veteran actors Linda Marlowe (82, pictured above) and Sara Kestelman (78) in it.

We are truly privileged in British theatre to have actors who’ve devoted much of their lives to the theatre and still return to it into their 70s and 80s. Talking of which, I did manage a local trip up to Guildford — about 50 minutes drive from me — on Wednesday to see two more wonderful theatre stalwarts, Edward Fox (85) and Siân Phillips (89) in a revival of THE CHALK GARDEN at Guidlford’s Yvonne Arnaud (pictured above with Elsie Bridgwood, playing Phillips’s granddaughter), briefly transferred from Theatre Royal WIndsor.

The cast also included Jenny Seagrove, as a steely hired help with a mysterious past, and Finty Williams as Phillips’s daughter — 27 years ago, Finty’s own mother Judi Dench also played Phillips’s daughter Desiree Armfeldt in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC under the same director Sean Mathias, so it was a rather wonderful theatrical connection, and shows just how ageless and peerless Dame Siân is.

This week also saw the consecutive openings of productions at the National of BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY (in the Lyttelton on Tuesday, directed by Lynette Linton) and THE BOY WITH TWO HEARTS (in the Dorfman on Wednesday, directed by Amit Sharma); the current repertoire at the NT is completed by a new production of THE CRUCIBLE that opened in the Olivier last week, directed by Lyndsey Turner.

As freelance critic Fiona Mountford tweeted yesterday,

The opening of BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA NIGHT at the NT on Tuesday — delayed from the previous week, when its leading actress Samira Wiley was ill and unable to perform on the press night — crashed into the opening of a new performance space, the 212-seater Marylebone Theatre, formerly Steiner Hall, that was launched with Dmitry, the premiere of Peter Oswald’s adaptation of a previously unfinished Friedrich Schiller’s play.

I missed the latter too; but there’s another, brand-new 602-seater London theatre opening this month, too, @sohoplace theatre, which I saw when it was unveiled to the press in July and wrote about here. October 20 will see its formal opening with MARVELLOUS, transferring from Stoke’s New Vic Theatre, with previews beginning a week tomorrow (October 15).

For full details on upcoming openings in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway, see my feature that is updated every week: http://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-october-3/

SEE YOU ON MONDAY

I’ll be back here on Monday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends)

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