Ladykillers Jump the GunDate: 6 June 2011
A new stage version of the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers has been announced for the Gielgud Theatre in December before the next show there, Lend Me a Tenor, has opened. Which is confusing - in my opinion, it creates a doubt in the public's (and critic's) mind about the commercial viability of Ian Talbot's production of the musical version of Ken Ludwig's brilliantly funny backstage play.
Not only that as far as announcement timings go; Clive Rowe is in the Ladykillers cast, and photographed in costume in today's press coverage, before he has had a chance to get going in next week's joint production of The Wiz by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Birmingham Rep.
I don't believe theatregoers think that far ahead. Most folk I know - neighbours and friends - are still trying to find a way to get to see One Man, Two Guvnors at the National or Lord of the Flies in Regent's Park.
Of course, the joy of theatre is you simply never know what will take off or when. Shrek opens at the end of this weekend in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and it's hard to imagine how many will be attracted once the summer holidays are over and the kids are back in school.
It will be interesting to see, though, how the new songs are stitched into the (quite good) existing ones in the movie, and how the show fares when Amanda Holden has to miss performances to fulfil her television talent show commitments.
I see that there are no mid-week matinees of Much Ado at Wyndham's, an always regrettable slight, I feel, dealt to younger and older theatregoers coming in to town from the suburbs and provinces; still, there are plenty of matinees at the Globe, where the production of the same play is far superior anyway.
We had a great Whatsonstage.com theatregoers' Outing to Butley at the end of last week and, without pre-empting the critical verdicts, I think it's fair to say the audience was flabbergasted by the shocking rawness of the play and the bravery with which Dominic West refuses to make Butley himself either sympathetic or even remotely likeable. However well done, the play remains a hard sell.
There was so much to talk about, and so many good questions from the audience, that we never had a chance to ask Dominic how he was looking forward to being reunited with his fellow cop in The Wire, Clarke Peters, on Othello later this year in his home town of Sheffield.
The evening went with a real swing, thanks in no small measure to the ministrations of the Duchess's inimitable house manager, Chris Ishermann, and the company stage manager Monica McCabe. I note that today is the 52nd birthday of the Butley director, Lindsay Posner, and one only hopes he has a good one all the way through opening night...
I was hoping to get to Lord's for some of the Test Match over the weekend, but it proved impossible. Still, the Victorian farces at the Orange Tree in Richmond were some recompense, and the Friday evening atmosphere down by the river and over the green provided the perfect setting.
I found myself sitting in the middle of a group of Orange Tree regulars who had made an outing of the show, and preceded it with dinner in the Italian restaurant next door. Turns out they've been doing this ever since Sam Walters opened the first Orange Tree in the room above the pub over the road.
It's the wonderful thing about the place: Orange Tree audiences aren't ticking some box on their cultural agenda by turning up, they're expressing the way they want to live in their community, with their theatre as part of it.
And, boy, are they rewarded this time. Kenneth Tynan always wanted to present the farces of John Maddison Morton at the National in the Old Vic days, and managed to get one of them - A Most Unwarrantable Intrusion (directed by Robert Stephens) - onto a triple bill with Henry Fielding's Covent Garden Tragedy and John Lennon's In His Own Write.
The plays are fast, furious and hilarious, and there's some really expert comedy playing by the likes of Clive Francis, Natalie Ogle, Stuart Fox and Edward Bennett. Morton, who died in 1891, is buried in Kensal Green cemetery, and was lately joined there by Harold Pinter, a not altogether ludicrous or inappropriate conjunction.