The Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park may have extended the summer by a couple of weeks this year by running their season to the middle of September, but that's more a triumph of hope over experience. In theatrical circles, at least, the London summer is over not when the fat lady sings but when the annual Edinburgh Festival ends.
The August lull that it causes in London is suddenly replaced by a rush of activity, not least in the legion of shows that suddenly transfer from Edinburgh to the capital. This September more than ever London's theatres will be full of shows first seen up there: among them, Richard Wilson directs the Presnyakov Brothers' new play, Playing the Victim, at the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs (opening 2 September) prior to touring; Theatre O's latest, The Argument, comes to the Barbican Pit (3 September); the excellent Henry Adam comedy The People Next Door comes to the Theatre Royal, Stratford East (from 4 September); Heather Raffo's play about Iraqi women, Nine Parts of Desire, opens at the Bush (12 September); comedian Ross Noble takes over the stage of the Garrick (from 1 September); and later, there will be transfers at the tail end of tours for Gregory Burke's new play The Straits (to Hampstead Theatre, from 29 October) and Stella Feehily's Duck (to the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs, from 26 November).
Not all transfers come from Edinburgh, of course: some come from elsewhere in London. This month sees Warren Mitchell moving from Kilburn's Tricycle to the West End's Apollo Theatre in Arthur Miller's The Price (opening 11 September); while Trevor Nunn's hit National Theatre production of Anything Goes is revived at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (opening 7 October), to replace Nunn's National production of My Fair Lady.
Speaking of the National, David Leveaux's revival of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers, still playing at the NT Lyttelton and starring Simon Russell Beale, moves across the river to the Piccadilly Theatre (opening 20 November), fast on the heels of its Lyttelton fellow in rep, Jerry Springer - The Opera, which starts performances at the West End's Cambridge Theatre on 14 October. And the Matthew Bourne-devised Play Without Words, seen originally in the converted Lyttelton last year when it was reconfigured for the Transformation season, returns to the Lyttelton (but now back in its original configuration!), to open there on 16 December.
Janie Dee, Hugo Speer and Aden Gillett transfer in Peter Hall's production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal from the Bath Theatre Royal to the Duchess (opening 8 October), while Design for Living (which the same actors performed in rep with Betrayal) will play a week beforehand at Richmond Theatre (from 15 to 20 September) as part of a brief tour. Also via Bath, a four-man, off-Broadway adaptation of Shakespeare's R & J (as it is now called in an abbreviated title to reflect an abbreviated version of the play) comes to London after first being seen at the Bath Shakespeare Festival earlier this year (opening at the Arts on 8 September). The Young Vic also offers an unconventional sounding Romeo and Juliet, by way of an Icelandic theatre company called Vesturport who combine aerobatics with circus skills (opening 1 October).
Also from the regions, Tariq Ali's topical political satire The Illustrious Corpse comes to Soho Theatre from Leicester Haymarket (opening 10 September), and Paul Sirett's stage adaptation of Shawn Levy's Rat Pack Confidential, telling the story of the Hollywood quintet already partly celebrated by a musical revue at the Strand, comes to the Whitehall from Nottingham Playhouse (opening 18 September). And Matthew Kelly returns to the London stage in Jonathan Church's production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (opening 23 October), first seen at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in November 2001 and subsequently on tour.
New plays & classics
There are also - imminently and hopefully eminently - new plays by Michael Frayn (Democracy, opening at the National's Cottesloe on 9 September), the playwriting debut of actor/novelist Antony Sher (I.D., opening at the Almeida on 4 September) and Martin McDonagh (The Pillowman, starring Jim Broadbent in the NT Cottesloe, where it opens on 13 November). The National also has a new massive, two-part stage adaptation by Nicholas Wright of Philip Pullman's cult novels His Dark Materials, opening in the Olivier under Nicholas Hytner's direction on 20 December. Well ahead of that, the Royal Court has the British premiere of Danish playwright Lars Noren's Blood, opening 25 September, with Francesca Annis in James Macdonald's production.
There are also revivals of classics by Oscar Wilde (A Woman of No Importance, starring Rupert Graves and opening at the Haymarket on 16 September), George Bernard Shaw (John Bull's Other Island, opening at the Tricycle on 15 September) and a rarely seen John Osborne (The Hotel in Amsterdam, opening at the Donmar Warehouse on 17 September). Back at the National, Frances Barber appears in Odon von Horvath's Tales from the Vienna Woods (completing the Travelex £10 season in the Olivier, where it opens on 14 October), and Helen Mirren and Eve Best join forces in Eugene O'Neill's epic Mourning Becomes Electra (opening in the NT Lyttelton on 27 November).
In the personalities corner, Golden Girl Bea Arthur brings her one-woman autobiographical show from Broadway to the Savoy Theatre (opening 15 September), while local sometime TV star Michael Barrymore opens a West End comedy season at Wyndham's (16 September). Also best known from his small screen work, Father Ted's Ardal O'Hanlon leads a cast that includes Nigel Havers and Patsy Kensit in Francis Veber's cheekily renamed French comedy See You Next Tuesday (opening at the Albery on 2 October). And rocker Rod Stewart lends his name and greatest hits for Tonight's the Night, another catalogue musical care of Ben Elton who this time directs as well (opening at the Victoria Palace on 6 November).
From the US
Traffic also continues from across the pond. First, from the people who brought Blast! to the Apollo Hammersmith and then subsequently took it to Broadway, comes Cyberjam, a new fusion of music, dance and technology, opening at the Queen's on 23 September. But the big Broadway musical arriving this autumn is a new stage version of the film classic Thoroughly Modern Millie, still playing in New York and here soon to be starring Amanda Holden in the title role and Maureen Lipman, opening at the Shaftesbury on 21 October. With songs from the movie augmented by new ones from Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan, the musical is directed by Michael Mayer. On the plays front, Neil LaBute's latest, the September 11-inspired drama The Mercy Seat, originally seen off-Broadway last year, comes to the American playwright's spiritual home at London's Almeida (opening 30 October).
Also on the fringe
Finally, other fringe highlights include new productions of Pericles (starring Will Keen in the title role at the Lyric Hammersmith, opening 24 September), ex-EastEnder Patsy Palmer in Tony Craze's Squint (opening at the Chelsea Theatre on 25 September) and Lesley Joseph in Singular Women by Stewart Permutt, opening at the King's Head on 25 September. And two shows are making theatre of the news: Newsnight - The Opera, being presented in embryonic form at BAC from 2 to 6 September as part of the BAC Opera Festival, will cast the rhetoric and rhythm of major news events as opera, and Justifying War will present edited transcripts from the current Hutton Inquiry at the Tricycle (opening 4 November).