Amongst the major openings in London this week are:

OPENING TUESDAY, 31 July 2007 (previews from 25 July), the Royal Festival Hall hosts a major new production of Carmen Jones (See News, 6 Mar 2007). The Oscar Hammerstein II 1943 musical adaptation of Bizet’s classic 1875 opera is staged for six weeks only as part of the reopening season this summer. The Southbank venue has been closed for the past two years while undergoing a £111 million refurbishment. The production, directed by Southbank artistic director Jude Kelly, transplants the story from a gypsy to an African-American setting, and follows a parachute maker who pursues first a soldier and then a boxer with a violent temper. When she rejects the latter, he turns murderous.

South African Tsakane Valentine Maswanganyi plays the title role in a 40-strong company that also features The X Factor’s Brend Edwards (See News, 22 Jun 2007). The cast are backed by a full 60-strong symphony orchestra, with performances shared equally between the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia. The production continues until 2 September.

ALSO ON TUESDAY (previews from 26 July), Absurdia, a triple bill celebration of British absurdist plays, opens at the Donmar Warehouse (See News, 19 Jun 2007). NF Simpson’s short one-act plays A Resounding Tinkle and Gladly Otherwise are paired with the world premiere of Michael Frayn’s The Crimson Hotel. Actor turned associate director at the Donmar Douglas Hodge directs a cast comprising Peter Capaldi, Lyndsey Marshal, John Hodginkson and Judith Scott. The limited season runs until 8 September.


OPENING WEDNESDAY, 1 August 2007 (previews from 24 July), at the National Theatre is Clare Bayley’s new version of the rarely seen 19th-century Swedish play The Enchantment, which runs in rep at the NT Cottesloe until 1 November (See News, 19 Jun 2007). One sunny day in Paris, famous artist and philanderer Gustave Allan visits Louise Strindberg, convalescing in her brother’s studio, and casts her under his spell. Author Victoria Benedictsson, the inspiration for Strindberg’s Miss Julie, had a scandalous affair which led to her suicide after completing the play in 1888. The cast, directed by Paul Miller, features Nancy Carroll, Zubin Varla and Niamh Cusack.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (preview 31 July), children’s playwright David Wood returns to Regent’s Park’s Open Air Theatre to direct his stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. When Mr Fox steals one chicken too many from a local farm, the farmers decide the only cure is to rid themselves of Mr Fox by any means possible. Recommended for children aged four and up, the outdoor family show plays until 25 August.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (previews from 30 July), South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys brings his new one-man show Evita for President to north London’s Tricycle Theatre (See News, 5 Jul 2007). Although the General Election is still two years away, the African National Congress will vote in a new President of the Party at the end of 2007 and the question on most South Africans’ minds is: who will be the next President? As the succession battle heats up, Uys offers a new candidate, Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout, who might eventually be the only choice. Bezuidenhout, known as South Africa’s answer to Dame Edna Everage, will be offering her sharp political satire for a month through to 1 September.


OPENING THURSDAY, 2 August 2007 (previews from 25 July), James Fleet stars as hapless MP Phillip Wardrobe in Richard Bean’s political sex farce In the Club, which runs at Hampstead Theatre until 25 August (See News, 4 Jul 2007). The MP has a busy day ahead, having to balance his less-than-irreproachable political career with his attempts to start a family. As he prepares for his girlfriend to fly in from Kettering for an afternoon of fertile frolics, his plan to be voted President of the European Parliament is foiled at every turn by his unpredictable colleagues: uncouth Yorkshiremen, irate Turks and amorous Frenchwomen. The cast also includes Anna Francolini. David Grindley directs.

ALSO ON THURSDAY, The Scoop at More London, the outdoor riverside venue overlooked by Tower Bridge, celebrates its fifth free summer season with performances of Disney's The Jungle Book Kids and Euripides’ Helen of Troy, the latter replacing the previously announced production of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (See News, 22 May 2007). Returning from the Trojan War, Greek hero Menelaus is shipwrecked and meets a mysterious, beautiful woman who claims to be his wife Helen. But is this seductress the real Helen of Troy or has Menelaus been tricked by war-hungry gods? Both Steam Industry productions are directed by Phil Willmott. They run on selected dates until 9 September.


OPENING FRIDAY, 3 August 2007 (previews from 28 July), Jack Shepherd’s new specially-commissioned play about the Chartist movement, Holding Fire!, receives its world premiere at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of artistic director Dominic Dromgoole’s “Renaissance + Revolution” summer repertory season (See News, 25 Jan 2007). It’s set in 1837 England, “a country on the cusp of revolution”, where a young girl is propelled on a journey from a London slum to the servants’ quarters of a great house, and from first love to murder. It continues in rep at the open-air venue until 5 October. Mark Rosenblatt directs.

** Don’t miss our Whatsonstage.com Outing to Holding Fire!, including a top-price ticket, FREE programme & our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with & creatives – all for only £22.50!! – click here to book now! **

- by Stuart Denison