London’s autumn season gets under way properly this week with a flurry of major shows opening, including:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 6 September 2004 (previews from 3 September), Australian musical star Caroline O'Connor’s Fringe First-winning, one-woman show Bombshells transfers from Edinburgh to the West End’s Arts Theatre, where its limited season continues to 30 October (See News, 25 Aug 2004). Written especially for O’Connor by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith (whose Honour was mounted at the National last year), the series of six monologues (four in the abridged Edinburgh version) sees O’Connor playing characters of multiple nationalities and ages, from 15 to 57.

ALSO TONIGHT, another Fringe First award-winning monologue, Will Eno’s Thom Pain (based on nothing), comes direct from Edinburgh to Soho Theatre for a limited season to 24 September before transferring to New York (See News, 20 Aug 2004). Amongst the show’s other festival accolades was The Stage’s Best Actor award for performer James Urbaniak (See News, 31 Aug 2004).

OPENING TUESDAY, 7 September 2004 (previews from 2 September), Dumb Show, the latest play from Blue/Orange’s multi award-winning author Joe Penhall, receives its world premiere at the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, where it runs to 9 October 2004 (See News, 13 Jul 2004). Terry Johnson directs Rupert Graves, Douglas Hodge and Anna Maxwell Martin in the three-hander about a TV entertainer flattered into a celebrity endorsement scam that goes wrong.

ALSO ON TUESDAY (previews from 3 September), yet another Edinburgh Fringe hit, comedian Ross Noble’s latest stand-up show, Noodlemeister, opens at the West End’s Apollo Theatre, where it’s running up to 2 October (See News, 21 Jul 2004).

ALSO ON TUESDAY, Singular Sensations, the six-week season of music and cabaret at the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket launches with Broadway diva Barbara Cook, who plays five performances only through to 11 September (See News, 27 Jul 2004). The season carries on with engagements for American popular singer Michael Feinstein, West End favourite Michael Ball and, performing together, classical pianist Joshua Rifkin and soprano Ida Faiella, who conclude the schedule on 16 October.

ALSO ON TUESDAY (previews from 2 September), west London’s Bridewell Theatre presents the overdue European premiere Purlie in a limited season to 2 October (See The Goss, 29 Apr 2004). The 12-strong gospel musical comedy about racial segregation in the American South premiered on Broadway in 1971.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 8 September 2004 (previews from 18 August), Bat Boy - The Musical receives its London premiere at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre (See News, 12 Jul 2004). Set in small town West Virginia, the musical is a Weekly World News tabloid tale brought to life, the story of a half-boy, half-bat who takes up with a veterinarian's family while struggling with his self-image and thirst for blood. It has a story and book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe. Original Bat Boy Deven May reprises the role he created in New York and played at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this summer.

OPENING THURSDAY, 9 September 2004 (previews from 31 August), Embedded, from the Los Angeles-based avant-garde theatre company The Actors’ Gang, has its UK premiere at west London’s Riverside Studios, where it continues until 23 October (See News, 13 Aug 2004). The satire about embedded journalists in a Middle Eastern conflict is written and directed by Hollywood actor and outspoken activist Tim Robbins.

ALSO ON THURSDAY, the West End’s New Ambassadors Theatre kicks off Edinburgh Exported, a month of imports from last month’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival (See News, 3 Sep 2004). The four featured theatre productions are: the musical comedy The Translucent Frogs of Quuup; Population: 3’s David Lynch-inspired comedy The Elephant Woman; Gone, Glyn Cannon’s Fringe First-winning update of Sophocle’s Antigone; and the opera-fuelled musical farce A Comedy of Arias. Most nights, these 7.30pm performances will be followed by a programme of cabaret and comedy. The season finishes on 9 October 2004.

OPENING FRIDAY, 10 September 2004 (preview 1 September), another political potato, David Hare’s much-anticipated play about the lead-up to the Iraq war, Stuff Happens, has its world premiere at the National Theatre. The final production in the Travelex £10 season is directed by NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner. The cast includes Alex Jennings as George W Bush, Nicholas Farrell as Tony Blair, Desmond Barrit as Dick Cheney, Adjoa Andoh as Condoleezza Rice and Dermot Crowley as Donald Rumsfeld.

Many real-life politicians and commentators have already passed their verdicts on Hare’s controversial docudrama (See News, 3 Sep 2004). Given that the events depicted arise from the 2001 attack on New York’s World Trade Center, the date for this official press night – which will see most reviews published on 11 September – is surely no accident. Stuff Happens continues in repertory until 6 November.

- by Terri Paddock