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Looking Ahead: Theatre highlights for 2013

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With a host of new artistic directors, Broadway imports and star names on the horizon for 2013, our chief critic Michael Coveney dusts off his crystal ball to see what's in store for theatregoers in the coming 12 months...

After the excitements of the Olympic year, the focus moves to the Birmingham Rep, which in February celebrates its 100th anniversary in a re-built and refurbished theatre that incoming artistic director Roxana Silbert cannot afford to programme as adventurously as she'd like.

For the cuts, already biting deep, will continue to hurt in 2013. And the consequences for the regional theatre could be disastrous. Even the West End is peculiarly vulnerable: a play next September starring Sheila Hancock and Lee Evans, Barking in Essex, is billed as a “new comedy” by Clive Exton – who died in 2007.

Fortunately, the Michael Grandage season at the Noël Coward should continue to keep the box office ticking over, with Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw combining in John Logan’s Peter and Alice in March; Daniel Radcliffe in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan in June; Sheridan Smith and David Walliams in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in September; and Jude Law joining up as Henry V in November.

So, that’s the West End sorted, even without considering the early running to be made by Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox moving into the Duke of York’s with Hampstead Theatre’s revival of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss; or Rowan Atkinson leading Richard Eyre’s revival of Simon Gray’s blissful comedy of schoolteachers, Quartermaine’s Terms at Wyndham’s; or even Kristin Scott Thomas, Lia Williams and Rufus Sewell adorning Ian Rickson’s new look at Harold Pinter’s Old Times at the Harold Pinter (the first of his plays to be done in the re-named Comedy).

Broadway blockbusters

I can hardly wait to see A Chorus Line again when it opens at the Palladium on the same February evening as James McAvoy takes on Macbeth (directed by Jamie Lloyd) at the Trafalgar Studios. That is soon followed by The Book of Mormon, the scabrous Broadway musical by the creators of South Park, at the Prince of Wales, and the surprise, equally unusual-sounding Tony award-winning musical Once, with a libretto by Enda Walsh and direction by John Tiffany, at the Phoenix.

The other big musical openings will be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Drury Lane, directed by Sam Mendes with a book by David Greig and Douglas Hodge as Willie Wonka; and Tamara Harvey’s delayed production of From Here to Eternity, lyricist Tim Rice (also one of the producers) teaming with unknown composer Stuart Brayson and brilliant designer Soutra Gilmour at the Shaftesbury in September.

Some of the blockbuster musicals opening in 2013

The second batch of big West End plays is trumpeted by Helen Mirren reprising her role as Queen Elizabeth in Peter Morgan’s The Audience at the Gielgud, directed by Stephen Daldry, with Haydn Gwynne as Mrs Thatcher, Michael Elwyn as Anthony Eden and Robert Hardy as Winston Churchill, a role he has played on countless occasions on television and the big screen.

The Swedish Wallander actor, Krister Henrikson, stars in Doktor Glas (with surtitles) in April. And in May, Felicity Kendal, Kara Tointon and Jonathan Coy head-line Lindsay Posner’s revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, while Zoe Wanamaker tops the bill in another revival of Peter Nichols' Passion, a very harsh play indeed.

National interest

After despatching The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time into the West End, the National Theatre gets down to business with Antony Sher in the title role of Carl Zuckmayer’s savage 1931 German comedy The Captain of Köpenick (in a new version by Ron Hutchinson); a revival of Simon StephensPort by its original director ten years ago, Marianne Elliott; and promotion from Cottesloe to the Olivier auditorium of James Graham’s This House.

Polly Stenham’s third new play, No Quarter, will be an early highlight at the Royal Court (where Vicky Featherstone takes over in April), while Hampstead offers the intriguing prospect of top novelist William Boyd adapting two Chekhov short stories into a play called Longing, directed by Nina Raine. That follows Hampstead’s first new play of the year, Di and Viv and Rose by Amelia Bullmore, starring Whatsonstage.com Awards nominations announcer Tamzin Outhwaite, Anna Maxwell Martin and Gina McKee, three of our most distinguished, and indeed my favourite, actresses.

The Old Vic has announced Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy directed by Lindsay Posner, and Kim Cattrall leading Marianne Elliott’s revival of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. Timothy Sheader stages two American classics in his Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, a version of Harper Lee’s great novel To Kill A Mocking Bird, and The Sound of Music, with short-stay stints for a new Pride and Prejudice and a kids’ edition of The Winter's Tale.

The ubiquitous Lindsay Posner is also responsible for Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new version of The Turn of the Screw at the Almeida, while Stephen Unwin has assembled a fascinating line-up for Noël Coward’s stylish shocker The Vortex at the Rose in Kingston: Kerry Fox as the ageing socialite Florence Lancaster and David Dawson as her cocaine-addicted son, with James Dreyfus lurking about as the creepily named Pauncefort Quentin.

Other intriguing attractions must include Steptoe and Son at the Lyric, Hammersmith, in March, Jonathan Miller directing Githa Sowerby’s classic Rutherford and Son (in a Yorkshire re-write by Blake Morrison) for Northern Broadsides, a forgotten Rodney Ackland, Before the Party, at the Almeida and Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones as very senior sparring partners in Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Mark Rylance, at the Old Vic in September.

And what of the RSC? It’s undergoing yet another transitional period, with Jonathan Slinger playing Hamlet for outgoing Michael Boyd, directed by David Farr, and Tara Fitzgerald joining Jo Stone-Fewings in a Lucy Bailey revival of The Winter’s Tale on tour, while Ian McDiarmid plays the lead in Brecht’s A Life of Galileo in a new version by Mark Ravenhill in the Swan. New artistic director Gregory Doran will be announcing some longer term plans in the last week of January. We’ll be all ears.


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