I’m in New York this week, where I’ll be seeing Michael Grandage’s new production of Eugene O’Neill’s one act play Hughie open on Thursday, as well as the recently opened The Humans and Mark Rylance in Nice Fish at St Ann’s Warehouse, amongt others. I’m not missing any big openings in London, though I hope to catch Sarah Kane’s first appearance at the NT with her play Cleansed (that opens on Tuesday) later in the run.
MY TOP TEN SHOWS OF THIS WEEK
1) Mrs Henderson Presents. Transfer from Bath Theatre Royal of this touching, terrific new musical version of the 2005 British film set backstage and frontstage at the Windmill Theatre, which offered audiences live, nude (but completely immobile) women. The cast includes Emma Willimas (pictured above) as one of the showgirls, plus Tracie Bennett in the title role, originally played by Judi Dench in the film. My review of the original production at Bath last summer for The Stage is here, and my review of last week’s opening of the transfer is here. Website: http://www.mrshenderson.co.uk/
2) Nell Gwynn. A ravishing, rambunctious and hilarious new play by Jessica Swale that’s about a love affair both in and of the theatre, revolving around the true story of the 17th century actress who ended up as mistress to KIng Charles II. First seen at Shakespeare’s Globe for a run of just 11 performances last summer, it now gets a West End transfer the Apollo, starring the wonderful Gemma Arterton in the title role of Chris Luscombe’s production. Shakespeare’s Globe previously also transferred Twelfth Night and Richard III with Mark Rylance to the same theatre. See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://nellgwynn.co.uk/
3) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The National revisit August Wilson’s early play in his ten-play cycle of American black experience across the last century that they previously presented the UK premiere of back in 1989 to offer a stunning new production in the Lyttelton, starring Sharon D Clarke in the title role (pictured above). Lucian Msamati, just announced last week to play Salieri in the NT’s new forthcoming production of Amadeus, is extraordinary, too, amongst a superb ensemble that also features Clint Dyer and Giles Terrera. See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/ma-raineys-black-bottom
4) Bend it Like Beckham. This was my favourite new musical of last year, as I wrote here for The Stage. A stage version of the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, it features the glorious and soaring music of Howard Goodall, and a wonderful ensemble cast. It closes March 5, but I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of this show. See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://benditlikebeckhamthemusical.co.uk/
5) Uncle Vanya. There isn’t a more up-and-coming director in town than Robert Icke, associate at the Almeida, who last year directed the award-winning Oresteia there that transferred to the West End. Now he does equally revelatory work on Chekhov’s enduring masterpiece, bringing it into the here and now with startling immediacy, and with an astonishing lead performance from Paul Rhys in the title role (actually re-named Uncle Johnny in this version, pictured above). My review for londontheatre.co.uk is here. Website: http://www.almeida.co.uk/whats-on/uncle-vanya/5-feb-2016-26-mar-2016
6) The Encounter. Simon McBurney’s captivating solo show about a journey into a remote indigenous community in the Amazon forest pays amazing theatrical dividends, in a new form of storytelling that is whispered into your ears through headphones, re-processing his live words with sound effects. My interview with McBurney for The Stage is here: https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/interviews/2016/simon-mcburney-theatre-only-exists-in-the-eyes-and-minds-of-the-audience/ Website for Barbican run is here. The Barbican run to March 5 is sold out, but on March 1 at 7.30pm it will be streamed live from the Barbican to Complicite’s website and YouTube channel. It also tours after London to Manchester’s HOME from March 16-19 and Oxford Playhouse from May 25-28.
7) Funny Girl. The entire run at the Menier (to March 5) is sold out — but it moves to the Savoy next from April 8 (to take over from Guys and Dolls, see above), so book now to see the wonderful Sheridan Smith (pictured left) starring in the first major London revival of Jule Styne’s 1960s musical since its original premiere on Broadway and in the West End featured Barbra Streisand in the title role (as well as in the subsequent film version). See my review for The Stage here. My interview with Sheridan Smith for The Stage is here. Website: http://www.funnygirlthemusical.co.uk/
8) The Mother. While Florian Zeller’s The Father makes a welcome return this week for a run at the Duke of York’s, his earlier play The Mother is currently to be seen at the Tricycle where Gina McKee plays the title role of a middle-aged woman losing her family. See my review for The Stage here. Website: http://www.tricycle.co.uk/current-programme-pages/theatre/theatre-programme-main/the-mother/
9) Hangmen. Named Best New Play in last week’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, Martin McDonagh’s latest thriller chiller comedy stars David Morrissey and Johnny Flynn, newly joined by Andy Nyman for its West End transfer to Wyndham’s (where it runs to March 5) from the Royal Court. My review of the Royal Court opening for London Theatre Guide is here. My interview with Andy Nyman (pictured above) for The Stage is here. Website: http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Tickets/Hangmen/Hangmen.asp
10) Rabbit Hole. David Lindsay-Abaire’s intense, and intensely moving, American drama about dealing with grief won the Pultizer prize for drama in 2008; now it makes its London debut at Hampstead Theatre in a stunningly acted production by Edward Hall that stars Claire Skinner and Tom Goodman-Hill as two bereaved parents dealing with the loss of their four-year-old son in very different ways. My review for The Stage is here. Website: http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2016/rabbit-hole/