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The unfinished business of COVID….
Last week saw Paula Vogel’s Indecent finally open officially at the Menier Chocolate Factory, a year and a half after previews had begun, for the UK premiere of Rebecca Taichman’s Tony-winning original production. And last night, Richard Eyre’s Theatre Royal Bath production of Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which was one of the last West End productions to officially open in March 2020 before the shutdown, had another press night to complete its aborted planned West End run, now at the Harold Pinter THeatre instead of its former home the Duke of York’s.
Given that it is a play about unfinished business — as a novelist is revisited by the ghost of his first wife during his new marriage — there’s something very satisfying about this unfinished run getting the chance to shine again. And reuniting all but one of the original company, they are clearly delighted to be back. As are we. There’s the shared rapport of relishing a play about mortality that we’ve only recently been reminded so acutely of; and it’s newly and liberatingly hilarious.
I saw it at the Duke of York’s 18 months ago; partly it’s the change of venue, but mainly the change of where we are now, that the production feels newly welcome. (That original Duke of York’s season was to have been followed by transfers for the Almeida’s The Doctor and then the National’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane; the latter is finally lined up to begin there on October 26, for a run that has already been extended now to April; The Doctor is yet to announce new dates).
Tomorrow also sees a West End transfer for Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years in a production that not once but twice had its original runs at Southwark Playhouse curtailed by COVID: its first run in March 2020 was brought to an end ahead of the first lockdown when theatres were summarily shut down following “official government advice, which stipulates that people should avoid public buildings including theatres” (I was at its final performance on Monday March 16, seeing it for a second time), then its return run in October 2020 was shut down again by the second lockdown; let’s hope it is third time lucky for its transfer to the Garrick now.
Meanwhile, the show that WAS in previews at the Garrick that fateful March 2020 night — the Donmar Warehouse’s City of Angels — is yet to make a reappearance. I was on my way to see it that night — and after arriving at the theatre to find it was cancelled, I diverted to Southwark to revisit The Last 5 Years.
So it will feel bittersweet to be back in the Garrick tomorrow for that same show. Let’s hope that City of Angels will, too, find a return berth in the West End in due course. We are also still awaiting new dates for the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford, CP Taylor’s Good with David Tennant and the Old Vic’s planned production of 4,000 Miles with Eileen Atkins and Timothée Chalamet.
But I’m really relieved that at least I’ll finally be seeing Pantoland at the London Palladium this December; last year’s Christmas run lwas aborted five performances in by the arrival of the third lockdown, and I had to pass on attending the final performance it gave in order to make it out of London ahead of the mid-December lockdown that would have prevented me leaving. As it is, I managed to get to the Lake District ahead of it; but it didn’t prevent me from getting a visit from the local constabulary after someone, watching my tweets, accused me of breaking the lockdown by being there!
Yesterday the Nederlander Organization (one of the big three Broadway theatre chains) revealed this, according to a tweet by New York Times theatre reporter Michael Paulson:
I’ve never really understood why Broadway theatres have traditionally shared commercially sensitive information like this; of course we’re CURIOUS to see it, but it’s hardly a right! Theatre isn’t a publicly-traded stock or share, after all.
TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS