2014 Theatre Wishlist

Christmas may have been and gone, but I’ve still got a wish list if Santa’s still listening…

My theatre-going in 2013 took me from essential Shakespearean comedy to Thatcherite cabaret, via South AfricaEdinburgh, and musicals old and new. So what will 2014 bring? Here’s a few upcoming performances that I’d like to nab a ticket for over the coming months:

1. The Duchess of Malfi, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 9 January – 16 February

It’s difficult to imagine London without the Globe, but the beautiful reconstruction would never have happened without actor and director Sam Wanamaker, who founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust in 1970. Nearly seventeen years after his dream became reality, with the opening of the Globe about 250 metres from the original theatre, a new indoor theatre is opening in his name. The candlelit space will seat 350 people and promises “an atmosphere as lively and social as the Globe but also with a much greater intimacy and intensity”. The upcoming programme of theatre, opera and concerts kicks off with Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi, starring Globe-star-turned-Bond-girl Gemma Arteton and directed by Dominic Dromgoole. This intense, macabre drama should be the perfect opener for this special new venue. www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/sam-wanamaker-playhouse/the-duchess-of-malfi

2. King LearNational Theatre, from 14 January

This one I am especially excited about, as it’s the one show on the list that I’ve already secured my ticket to — thank you once again to NT for the Entry Pass scheme and for making theatre affordable! I’m going to miss that when I turn 26… This will be the third Lear I’ve seen, and I’m hoping the combination of Sam Mendes and Simon Russell Beale will create something special, and something different from the McKellen incarnation I saw back in 2007. Beale is relatively young to be playing the ageing king, but his versatility as an actor is almost unparalleled on the British stage, and I’m excited to see what he does with one of Shakespeare’s most multifaceted and demanding roles.  www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/king-lear

3. Happy Days, Young Vic, 23 January – 8 March

Completed in 1961, Beckett’s surrealist work is a big ask for any actress: Winnie is on stage at all times and, of course, has to negotiate Beckett’s wordy dialogue and grasp his slippery concepts. To pull it off, you can’t do much better than an Olivier award-winning actress with a hefty chunk of stage experience — step forward, Juliet Stevenson. With Stevenson’s impressively long resumé and the Young Vic’s reputation for sparky and exciting work, this should be a fantastic chance to rediscover one of my favourite works of Beckett, with its disorientating combination of desperate optimism and the bleak terror of loneliness. www.youngvic.org/whats-on/happy-days

4. Birdland, Royal Court Theatre, 3 April – 24 May

Simon Stephens’s newest play premières in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs in April and reunites the playwright with Royal Court regular and BAFTA-winning Sherlock star Andrew Scott. Billed as “a piercing new play looking at empathy, money and fame”, the show looks at rock star Paul as he nears the end of a huge international tour at the height of his fame. For me, Stephens’s work oscillates: his Curious Incident adaptation is brilliant and his Punk Rock is blistering, while Port is a little underwhelming. Yet the partnership with Scott is a strong one, and I have high hopes that Stephens will bring something fresh to the questions of celebrity and value: “Everything can be quantified. All worth can be quantified. Artistic worth. Human worth. Material worth. Everything.” www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/birdland

5. Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre, from 3 May 

The most hotly-anticipated musical revival of the last few years, Miss Saigon and its famous helicopter land in the West End once again on 3 May at the Prince Edward Theatre, as the Jersey Boys move out to the Piccadilly Theatre. The original 1989 production ran for 10 years and launched the career of Lea Salonga, and is looking to do the same for 17-year-old newcomer Eva Noblezada as she takes on the role of Kim. As the show hasn’t been seen on the West End since I was the tender age of 8, ticket sales have understandably gone through the roof and the heat is on in the race to see the return of this award-winning show — and I’m determined to be there. www.miss-saigon.com

6. Sadler’s Sampled, Sadler’s Wells, 17 – 29 June

One of my theatrical new year’s resolutions is to wide my horizons and see some dance — and Sadler’s Sampled seems a good place to go. The second annual festival presents a variety of international dance performances across two weeks, culminating in the ‘Playlist’ weekend (a version of this weekend has been running since 2007, and inspired the first full festival last year). This year’s fortnight offers, amongst others, a UK première of South African Dada Masilo’s interpretation of Swan Lake, and a celebration of Irish traditions in the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre’s Rian. The taster festival also comprises activities before and after performances, and with tickets started at £8, there’s no excuse not to check out something new this summer.  www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/list?month=6

7. Twelfth Night Re-Imagined, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 21 June – 12 July

Following on from last year’s re-invention of The Winter’s Tale, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is turning its hand to Shakespearean comedy — albeit one with some darker shades in the sub-plot of Malvolio. Aimed at everyone over the age of six, the production offers a fresh twist on a play that contains all the classic Shakespearean ingredients: romance, comedy, mistaken identity, disguise, shipwrecks and swordfights. It’s a great way to introduce a new generation to the Bard or to rediscover an old favourite in gorgeous outdoor surroundings.  https://openairtheatre.com/production/twelfth-night-brsmallsmallreimagined-for-everyone-aged-6smallsmall

8. Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Autumn 2014

The most mysterious item on the wishlist as there’s no date or location confirmed, but interviews with the Sherlock star and producer Sonia Friedman tell us that “advanced discussions” are under way with Chimerica director Lyndsey Turner. The potential of Cumberbatch in one of the biggest roles on stage is enough to send any self-respecting fan-girling theatre buff into a bit of a frenzy, and hopefully more details will emerge soon: Friedman’s reference to looking into the “availability of a non-traditional theatre space” is certainly an exciting prospect. Cumberbatch seems to be popping up in at least half of the films that have been made in the last few months, not forgetting his critically-acclaimed turns in Hedda Gabler (2005) and Frankenstein (2011), and all signs suggest that his Hamlet would be a good’un — although let’s face it, tickets would sell out even if he’s given one star by every critic. What kind of Hamlet he would be is another question. It’d be one heck of a race to get tickets — I’ll see you on the starting line. http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/09-2013/benedict-cumberbatch-teams-with-director-lyndsey-t_31993.html

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