In our second instalment of our 2014 previews our regional editors in Scotland, Central and South West talk us through the productions that are getting them excited throughout the year.
SCOTLAND: Lauren Humphries
The temperature is falling, the urge to hibernate is strong but 2014 promises to be a knockout year in Scottish theatre.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the new year in Scottish theatre will be dominated by headline grabbing West End transfers Wicked, War Horse, Rock of Ages, Singin’ in the Rain, One Man Two Guv’nors and Let It Be which will visit Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and revivals of ever-popular shows West Side Story, Dirty Dancing and Tonight’s the Night but Scotland’s theatres in 2014 have announced a diverse, inspirational and challenging programme of works to tempt us from our cosy nests.
Firmly established as a major producing house, the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, continues to lead the way under the guidance of artistic director Dominic Hill. First up this season is August Strindberg’s Miss Julie starring Sherlock star Louise Brealey closely followed by a revival of the much-lauded musical Glasgow Girls. In Edinburgh, the Traverse is hoping to live up to its description as “Scotland’s New Writing Theatre” when it unveiled it’s new season on January 7th. Perth Theatre, currently undergoing renovation will be travelling the region to a diverse range of venues kicking off with the Horsecross Sessions.
In Inverness the Eden Court present a programme of music, dance, cabaret and theatre with highlights promising to be the National Theatre of Scotland’s innovative Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler and Chalk Farm from award-winning playwrights A.J. Taudevin and Kieran Hurley. Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre offers drama from Henrik Ibsen and Robert Louis Stevenson in the form of Hedda Gabler and Kidnapped, cabaret from Edinburgh Fringe hit (and love letter to Julie Andrews) Julie Madly Deeply and Formby by Ewan Wardrop billed by the Telegraph as “a little stick of theatrical dynamite” and well-loved TV star Patricia Routledge in Admission One Shilling about Myra Hess and her famous National Gallery concerts given as bombs rained down around wartime London.
Top quality plays appearing throughout the country include Dundee Rep’s production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Cars and Boys by Stuart Paterson written specifically for the company. Edinburgh’s Lyceum present Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and the ever-popular classic Private Lives by Noël Coward. Òran Mór in Glasgow continues its world famous lunchtime theatre programme A Play A Pie &A Pint which launches its new programme on 27th January.
The home of Scottish Opera, Glasgow’s Theatre Royal is undergoing major reconstruction work but the company continues its artistically strong opera season with Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, followed by Puccini’s beloved Madame Butterfly and Verdi’s Macbeth in collaboration with the Citizen’s Theatre.
In dance, Scottish Ballet present Romeo and Juliet created for the company by Dutch National Ballet’s Krzysztof Pastor, set against a dramatic multimedia backdrop, this story of star-crossed lovers spans three decades of Italian life, the company will also stage new work The Crucible and Peter Darrell’s beautiful version of The Nutcracker. Matthew Bourne fans won’t be disappointed with two works, the ground-breaking, all-male Swan Lake and Lord of the Flies touring the country. Strictly star Brendan Cole brings his Bond-themed Licence to Thrill to Scotland with fellow Strictly professional Aliona Vilani as his leading lady and ice dance fans are promised a high octane experience in Robin Cousins’ new show ICE.
Comedy fans are in for a treat from the Glasgow Comedy Festival with familiar names such as Omid Djalili, Jenny Eclair, Ardal O’Hanlon, Miles Jupp and Shappi Khorsandi and big hitters Miranda Hart, Lee Evans and Jack Whitehall also tour the country this year.
Scotland’s latest mega-venue the 12000-seater Hydro Arena is home to international superstars Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, Maroon 5, Il Divo and Katy Perry as well as home-grown acts Elbow, McBusted, The Wanted and Take That stars Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams. Cirque Du Soleil also visit the venue with their first arena tour of Dralion in May.
The International Celtic Connections Festival begins in Glasgow on 16th January with 21000 artists from around the globe and 300 events over 20 venues throughout the city and let’s not forget this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe (1- 25 August) and the artistic programme which will run alongside the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Unique, vital, challenging and all-embracing, just like the country itself, the Scottish theatre year is shaping up to provide some essential viewing for all.
CENTRAL : Selwyn Knight
The big news in the central region is the reopening of the Birmingham REP after its closure while the iconic new Library of Birmingham was built alongside. It now boasts three performance spaces, including a state-of-the-studio shared with the library. The first season was perhaps a little conservative, but this season has some real gems in prospect. Highlights from the main house include A Life of Galileo, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl and a celebration of the work of Bertold Brecht, including The Mother and The Threepenny Opera. Studio pieces include Bryony Lavery’s Frozen and Never Try This at Home (an homage to Saturday morning TV). Just across the city is the Birmingham Hippodrome, home of the Birmingham Royal Ballet and also some of the biggest touring shows around. BRB will be performing Three of a Kind, The Prince of the Pagodas and Darkness. Touring shows to look out for include Singin’ in the Rain, Evita and Happy Days.
On a different scale is the intimate Old Joint Stock theatre above the pub of the same name. Its programme includes Miss Julie, Pinter’s Betrayal and The Diary of a Nobody. South of the city we find mac, the Midlands Arts Centre that always has an eclectic programme, including Penny Dreadful: How to Be Immortal and A Black Country Fairytale … Ay it
Another producing theatre is TPR’s central venue of the year, the Belgrade in Coventry. Its programme includes The Alchemist in the B2 studio and three plays as part of the Spanish Golden Age Season as well as new comedy thriller The Mummy in the main house. Further east we find the Royal &Derngate in Northampton. Its Made in Northampton season includes The Body of an American, A Tale of Two Cities and Every Last Trick.
Leicester’s Curve theatre celebrated its fifth birthday this year with a gala concert this week. Curve productions in this birthday season include Hairspray, The Pereira’s Bakery at 76 Chapel Road, OK Tata Bye Bye, Honk!, Annie and Rent.
To the south of the region is Oxford, with The Only Way is Downton, Twelfth Night, The Play That Goes Wrong and an evening with Alan Ayckbourn. As part of their Playhouse Plays Out, they celebrate Burns Night at the Royal Oak pub.
In repertoire at the Royal Shakespeare Company we find Wendy and Peter Pan continue their critical flight, Henry IV parts I and II, and in The Swan, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.
Across the region, we welcome a range of touring productions including Wicked, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, The Perfect Murder, Tonight’s the Night and Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee.
SOUTH WEST: Jacqui Onions
2014 is an important year for the South West as it sees the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas. A year of celebration is planned and includes some exciting theatrical events. No celebration of Thomas’ work would be complete without a production of his famous play for voices, Under Milk Wood, and in the hands of Clwyd Theatr Cymru who had a fantastic 2013 this will be a production to look out for. The tour includes stops at the New Theatre Cardiff, Swansea Grand Theatre and the The Riverfront Newport, as well as heading out of Wales to the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Taking a different approach to this classic are Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea with the premiere of Under Milk Wood: An Opera in April, followed by a tour of Wales. Later in the year Cardiff based Theatr Iolo present Adventures in the Skin Trade and leading into the 2014 festive season A Child’s Christmas in Wales can be seen at Swansea Grand Theatre.
The Dylan Thomas centenary aside, 2014 is set to be a great year for large scale productions touring to the South West. Singin’ in the Rain saw in the New Year at the Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff and heads to the Theatre Royal Plymouth in June and the Bristol Hippodrome in July. Jason Donovan can be seen in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff in January and the Theatre Royal Plymouth in April. Also visiting the Centre is the UK tour of Wicked from 12th March until 26th April, and National Theatre’s War Horse from 18th June until 19th July. The Bristol Hippodrome welcomes Rock of Ages from 7th – 12th July and Shrek The Musical from 19th August – 7th September.