Opening: Some Girls, Life, Home, Hedda & ShoreDate: 23 May 2005
Amongst the many major shows opening in London this week are:
OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 23 May 2005 (previews from 11 May), The Big Life becomes the first-ever black British musical in the West End when, after two sell-out seasons at east London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East, The Big Life transfers at last to Shaftesbury Avenue’s Apollo Theatre (See News, 5 Apr 2005). The musical, with a book and lyrics by Paul Sirett and music by Paul Joseph, transports Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost to 1950s London and charts the story of Caribbean immigrants off the Windrush in their quest for a better life in Britain. Original cast members reprise their roles in the production directed by actor Clint Dyer, who made his theatrical directorial debut with the show. It’s currently booking until 5 November 2005.
ALSO TONIGHT (previews from 19 May), the Almeida’s production of Hedda Gabler transfers to the West End’s Duke of York’s Theatre (See News, 8 Apr 2005). The production – starring Eve Best (last year’s Critics’ Circle Best Actress for Mourning Becomes Electra) in the title role, is newly adapted and directed by former NT artistic director Richard Eyre and retains its original cast, which also features Iain Glen, Lisa Dillon and Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s currently booking until 13 August 2005.
OPENING TUESDAY, 24 May 2005 (previews from 12 May), Friends’ star David Scwhimmer (pictured) makes his West End debut at the Gielgud Theatre in the world premiere of Some Girls, the first of the month’s two new plays by American playwright Neil LaBute (See News, 24 Feb 2005). Schwimmer plays a womaniser about to become engaged who pays visits to four former girlfriends, with not altogether pleasant consequences. The women are played by Saffron Burrows, Catherine Tate, Lesley Manville and Sara Powell. The premiere production is directed by David Grindley (Journey’s End, National Anthems, Abigail’s Party) and has a limited 13-week season which finishes on 13 August 2005.
ALSO ON TUESDAY, the Maly Theatre St Petersburg’s production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, performed in Russian with English surtitles, opens at the Barbican Theatre, where it plays for five performances only until 28 May 2005.
OPENING WEDNESDAY, 25 May 2005 (previews from 7 May), Irish playwright Brian Friel’s new play The Home Place arrives at the West End’s Comedy Theatre following its premiere at Dublin’s Gate (See News, 24 Mar 2005). Tom Courtenay (last seen in the West End in 2003’s Pretending to Be Me, also at the Garrick) stars as the widowed Christopher Gore, who lives with his son David and the woman they both love, their housekeeper Margaret, in The Lodge in Ballybeg. In the era of unrest at the dawn of Home Rule, their seemingly serene life is threatened by the arrival of Christopher’s English cousin.
Friel’s other plays include 2002’s Afterplay, Dancing at Lughnasa, Faith Healer, Fathers and Sons, Translations, Volunteers and Philadelphia, Here I Come!. The Home Place is directed by former Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Adrian Noble and designed by Peter McKintosh. It’s booking until 25 August 2005.
OPENING THURSDAY, 26 May 2005 (previews from 20 May), On the Shore of the Wide World comes to the National’s Cottesloe Theatre, where it runs in rep until 23 August 2005 (See News, 17 Nov 2004). A co-production between Manchester’s Royal Exchange, where it opened in April, Simon Stephens’ new Stockport-set play is directed by Sarah Frankcom and is described as “an epic…about love, family, Roy Keane and the size of the galaxy”.
ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 24 May), Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz’s Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams receives its European premiere at Earl’s Court’s Finborough Theatre. The piece by the writer of Anna in the Tropics (for which he won the Pulitzer and which ran at Hampstead Theatre last year) explores themes of love, loss, faith and oppression in Cuba in 1961 and 1998. It’s directed by Michael Gieleta and continues until 18 June 2005.
OPENING FRIDAY, 27 May 2005 (previews from 25 May), Oxford Stage company’s 50th anniversary production of Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow returns to north London’s Tricycle Theatre (See News, 4 May 2005), where it played last spring as part of a UK tour (See News, 29 Dec 2003). Kathy Burke directs the 17-strong ensemble which features Sean Campion (The Cosmonaut’s Last Message…, Stones in his Pockets), Sean Gallagher, Jason Kavanagh and Tony Rohr. Its limited six-week season continues until 2 July 2004.
- by Hannah Kennedy