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Top Five: Summer Shakespeares

By • West End
It's Shakespeare's birthday - and St George's Day - this Saturday (23 April 2011). We've already used the opportunity to look back at some of the most memorable bard productions in the past 50 years of the Royal Shakespeare Company. And now we come fully up to the present day with our Top Five Shakespeares for summer 2011. There's a great glut of offerings - at the RSC, Globe, Old Vic and elsewhere. The productions listed below are a selection based on the plays getting the most number of airings as well as those generating the biggest buzz.
 

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Wyndham's Theatre

In arguably the highest-profile Shakespeare of the season, David Tennant and his former Doctor Who sidekick Catherine Tate (left) are reunited as bickering would-be lovers Benedick and Beatrice in a West End production helmed by Josie Rourke (soon-to-be Michael Grandage's successor at the Donmar Warehouse) at Wyndham's Theatre (16 May-3 September). Not to be outdone, Olivier Award winner Eve Best will return to the London stage, for the first time since starring with Kevin Spacey in 2006's Moon for the Misbegotten at the Old Vic (which subsequently transferred to Broadway where she was Tony nominated), to play Beatrice opposite Charles Edwards' Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare's Globe (21 May-10 October, in rep), directed by Royal Court associate Jeremy Herrin (That Face). And for a totally different take on this timeless romantic comedy, you can catch the hilarious hip-hop musial version Funk It Up About Nothin' at Theatre Royal Stratford East until 7 May.

»»» CLICK HERE TO BOOK TICKETS TO MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING IN THE WEST END

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RICHARD III
Old Vic

Like Eve Best, Kevin Spacey (right) has got the bard bug this summer. He is reunited with director Sam Mendes, for the first time since the 1999 film American Beauty, which won them both Oscars, to take the title role in Richard III at the Old Vic (18 June-11 September). Others in the transatlantic cast of the final offering in Mendes' three-year Bridge Project include Britons Annabel Scholey, Gemma Jones, Haydn Gwynne and Chuk Iwuji and Broadway’s Maureen Anderman and Chandler Williams. Meanwhile, Edward Hall (son of Sir Peter) tours his all-male Shakespeare ensemble offering of Richard III to Hampstead Theatre, where he's artistic director, running in rep with his cross-cast production of The Comey of Errors (22 June-9 July). Propeller regular Richard Clothier wears the crown.

»»» CLICK HERE TO BOOK TICKETS TO RICHARD III AT THE OLD VIC


MACBETH
Liverpool Everyman

David Morrissey (left) returns to his home town of Liverpol and to the Everyman (6 May-11 June), where he first acted in the youth group, to play the murderous Scottish monarch, opposite Julia Ford (who has replaced Jemma Redgrave) as Lady Macbeth. Artistic director Gemma Bodinetz directs the last production before the Everyman closes for a two-year, £28 million redevelopment. And kicking off the RSC's 50th birthday season in the recently reopened Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, Jonathan Slinger gets bloodthirsty in RSC artistic director's new production of Macbeth (16 April-10 October, in rep).



HAMLET
National Theatre

How many Hamlets is too many? Move over David Tennant and Jude Law for the new kids on the block. Or not so new. This week is your last chance to catch Rory Kinnear's award-winning performance in Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre production (right), which has returned to London for ten performances only in the NT Lyttelton (until 23 April), though we hear it may be revived in 2012. As one Hamlet ends another begins further along the South Bank, as rising star Joshua McGuire tackles the role for Dominic Dromgoole at Shakespeare's Globe (23 April-9 July, then touring). Meanwhile, Northern Broadsides' take, starring Nicholas Shaw and directed by Conrad Nelson, is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds the rest of this month, before touring to Belfast, Isle of Man and the Rose, Kingston (19-21 May). And, for making comedy out of tragedy, there's also the hysterically fun Hamlet! The Musical, with carrot-topped Jack Shalloo as the Great Dane. An award-winning hit at Edinburgh 2010, it's at Northampton's Royal & Derngate (6-21 May) and Richmond Theatre (24-28 May) ahead of a planned West End transfer.


HENRY IV, PARTS 1 & 2
Theatre Royal Bath

Okay, our final Top Five choice isn't quite multiple productions of the same play, but it is mulitple productions. Sir Peter Hall (father of Edward) revisits these two great history plays for the first time since he mounted them as part of his lengedary Wars of the Roses cycle more than 40 years ago when he was artistic director of the RSC. In Bath (7 July-13 August, in rep), the illustrious ensemble includes Desmond Barrit, Philip Voss, David Yelland and Lizzie McInnerny. The Shakespeares are two of the four productions comprising Hall's eight annual summer season at the Theatre Royal Bath, all running under this year's theme of "England at War".


Also rans & further ahead

You also have two chances to As You Like It this summer: Greg Hersov's production at the Royal Exchange, Manchester (29 June-6 August) and James Dacre's small-scale tour for Shakespeare's Globe. Other summer highlights include: at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon, The Merchant of Venice (13 May-4 October), reuniting actor Patrick Stewart (as Shylock) and director Rupert Goold for the first time since their multi award-winning Macbeth (right) stormed Chichester, the West End and Broadway, and A Midsummer Night's Dream (29 July-5 November), helmed by Nancy Meckler; at the Globe, Janie Dee playing the Countess de Roussillon in All's Well That Ends Well (27 April-7 August), directed by John Dove; at the Open Air, Regent's Park, a new kids' version of Pericles for under-6s; and, also for small ones, Edward Hall's Pocket Comedy, a 60-minute version of The Comedy of Errors from his Propeller company, at the E4 Udderbelly at Southbank Centre (30 April-14 May).

And the Shakespeare fun won't end when the nights start to draw in. In the autumn, there's yet-another high-profile Hamlet, this time Michael Sheen at the Young Vic from October, while Tim Pigott-Smith gives us his King Lear at Leeds' West Yorkshire Playhouse. And the RSC's 50th birthday year continues with a winter programme that includes new productions of Measure for Measure and The Taming of the Shrew.

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