Amongst the major openings in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 11 February 2008 (previews from 7 February), Daniel Mays, Holly Atkins, Jack O'Connell and Rebecca Ryan star in Fiona Evans’ Scarborough at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, where, ahead of opening, it has already extended its limited run by a week to 15 March (See News, 25 Jan 2008). Since winning a Fringe First at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, the piece – centring on an illicit weekend between a teacher and a 15-year-old student – has been expanded into a gender-bending two-parter. Deborah Bruce directs.

ALSO TONIGHT, Carl Rosa Opera’s Gilbert and Sullivan season at the West End’s Gielgud Theatre continues with Iolanthe (See News, 6 Nov 2007). The title character is banished for marrying a mortal and having his son, but when the young man wishes to marry, his fairy queen storms Westminster to make him a Member of Parliament so he can win the girl. Iolanthe runs until 18 February and is followed by the season’s final production, The Pirates of Penzance, starring comedian Jo Brand as the Sergeant of Police.


OPENING TUESDAY, 12 February 2008 (previews from 1 February), Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly join Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey in the theatre’s 20th-anniversary production of Speed-the-Plow, David Mamet’s three-hander delving behind the scenes of Hollywood, which continues until 26 April (See News, 11 Dec 2007). The production, directed by Matthew Warchus, marks the West End debut for Goldblum and the play debut for Kelly, best known for her musical roles in the likes of Mary Poppins and The Lord of the Rings, for which she was Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated this year.

** Our Whatsonstage.com Outing to Speed-the-Plow this Wednesday 13 February 2008 – including a FREE drink & FREE programme for just £30 – has now SOLD OUT! - click here to join the waiting list! **


OPENING WEDNESDAY, 13 February 2008 (previews from 6 February), at the National Theatre, avant-garde Austrian Peter Handke’s 1992 play The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other joins the NT Lyttelton rep for a run to 12 April (See News, 14 Nov 2007). Set in an empty town square, the piece features 450 characters performed by 25 actors – and no dialogue. James Macdonald directs a cast that includes Lisa Dillon, Noma Dumezweni, Susannah Fielding, Daniel Hawksford, Sara Stewart, Giles Terera and Sarah Woodward.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (previews from 11 February), the Young Vic’s South African version The Magic Flute (Impempe Yomlingo) transfers to the West End’s Duke of York’s theatre for an eight-week season (See News, 19 Dec 2007). While remaining faithful to the original story and the music of Mozart’s opera, the Mark Dornford-May’s production has been relocated to a township setting, encompassing the various languages of the nation including English, and has been musically re-imagined with marimbas, drums and township percussion replacing traditional orchestral accompaniment. It was a sell-out over Christmas at the Young Vic, where it won in rep with a South African version of A Christmas Carol and was nominated for Best Off-West End Production in this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards.


OPENING THURSDAY, 14 February 2008 (previews from 11 February), the Belarus Free Theatre brings its double bill of Being Harold Pinter, including excerpts of the playwright’s famous Nobel acceptance speech, and Generation Jeans, to Soho Theatre for a run until 23 February 2008. It’s performed in Russian with English surtitles.


OPENING FRIDAY, 15 February 2008 (previews from 12 February), Simple8’s presents The Living Unknown Soldier, a First World War drama inspired by the book by Jean-Yves Le Naour, at north London’s Arcola Theatre, where it continues until 15 March 2008. Fuelled by a hydrogen fuel cell, the piece is billed as London’s first-ever “ecologically sustainable theatre production”.

ALSO ON FRIDAY, ex-convict Dean Stalham’s second play Senti-mental - a tale of love, crime and heroin addiction – opens at Southwark’s Union Theatre, running until 1 March. Stalham has served six years in prison since 1992. Curing his last sentence in HMP Wandsworth, he discovered the art of playwriting after a visit from the Royal Court.


OPENING SUNDAY, 17 February 2008 (previews from 2 February), Kneehigh Theatre’s stage adaptation of David Lean’s 1945 screen classic Brief Encounter comes to life in the West End at the newly converted Cineworld cinema, reclassified as a theatre with the local council and rebranded as “The Cinema” on the Haymarket (See News, 4 Jan 2008). Tristan Sturrock and Naomi Fredericks star as Alec and Laura, the infidelity-fighting couple immortalised in the film by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. Kneehigh artistic director Emma Rice adapts and directs. Brief Encounter was based on Still Life, the one-act 1935 stage play by Noel Coward, who himself adapted it for the screen.

- by Tom Atkins & Terri Paddock