And as we come to our final part of our 2014 preview of shows in and around the UK and Ireland we ask our regional editors in the North West, London, and along the South Coast what productions are getting them excited over the course of the year.
Do you agree? What are you most looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
NORTH WEST: John Roberts
The big news for the region is the opening of the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool in March following a complete rebuild and modernisation. The venue will aim to be the producing powerhouse it always was and a cornerstone for embracing and putting the local talent in the heart of its performances.
The season opens with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night directed by the theatre’s artistic director Gemma Bodinetz and the world première of Hope Placeby Michael Wynne, which celebrates the area around the theatre unveiling some if its history and secrets. While the Everyman’s sister venue The Playhouse will show a new revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge and the regional première of Stile’s and Drewe’s Betty Blue Eyes, which has been re-written since it got the chop rather quickly from London’s West End a few years ago.
Staying in Liverpool two shows playing at the Unity Theatre stand out as little gems the first is the return of The Judgement of Hakim – a play which was originally deemed to dangerous to win the Amnesty Theatre Award and is written by Andrew Sherlock, the second is Bella: Queen of the Blackfriars Ring written and performed by Denise Kennedy which tells the story of legendary boxing promoter Bella Burge on her journey from being the confidante and dresser of music hall queen, Marie Lloyd, to losing everything in the blitz in 1940.
Liverpool’s historic Royal Court Theatre sees Kathy Burke’s production of Once A Catholic opening next week and later in the year a world première comedy Sex and the Suburbs starring Claire Sweeney.Over the border into North Wales and Clwyd Theatr Cymru sees the welcome return of it’s annual Celtic Festival showcasing a programme of new work from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall including theatre, film, dance, art and comedy.
Further north of the region and Manchester, its surrounding theatres once again provide a gold mine of large scale and fringe delights. On the small end of the scale the newly re-launched King’s Arms Theatre has an ambitious programme under the artistic direction of James Baker including Mashed Up North Festival in February and Manchester’s first professional production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years in April, while at 3MT, Vertigo Productions revives their 2009 production of Rage– a production which was written in response to the mass shootings in American schools. While we shouldn’t forget the annual triumph that is the 24:7 Theatre Festival, arguably the UK’s best new writing festival, expect shows that will challenge, will make you laugh and maybe even make you cry.
In the regional houses of Greater Manchester the Octagon Theatre in Bolton will be the first company ever to present Tom Kapinski’s Duet for One and Separation in REP by the same company of actors, while the North West regional première of Howard Goodall’s Love Story will take centre stage in June. The Library Theatre will once again open it’s doors (at The Lowry until its new base HOME opens) for the best of the region’s fringe productions from 2013 in its annual RE:Play Festival and Chris Honer will direct Chekov’s The Seagull in his final production as Artistic Director of the venue. Oldham Coliseum will bring two classic comedies in the shape of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane and Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
In our North West regional venue of the year – The Royal Exchange will see a new world premiere from Simon Stephen’s in the form of Blindsided starring recently departed Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh, while later in the year another Coronation Street alumnus Surrane Jones will take the lead in Orlandobased on Virginia Woolf’s epic novel. However it is the recently announced appointment of Maxine Peake as associate artist of the venue that excites and one can’t wait to see her portrayal of Hamlet in a unique gender bending performance directed by Sarah Frankom (date still to be confirmed)
Over in the larger houses large scale shows seem to be in full swing and Manchester once again get’s it first with the UK première of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Opera House starring Rufus Hound and Robert Lindsay and directed by Broadway’s Jerry Mitchell before transferring to London’s Savoy Theatre on the Strand. Other shows brightening up the scene include The Lion King, Wicked, Tonight’s the Night, One Man Two Guvnor’s, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Fame, Let It Be, Rock of Ages, The Full Monty to name just a small selection.
SOUTH COAST – Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
With Christmas faded into the distance and New Year past in a blur, it’s time to look forward to the theatrical treats of 2014. With Chichester Festival Theatre announcing their new program in March we are sure to get some great events.
The Southampton Mayflower has a real variety on offer with the next few months offering us Robin Cousin’s Ice, the Birmingham Repertory’s The Snowman, Barry Humphries Farewell Tour and the National Theatre’s touring production of War Horse, there is also a variety of musicals which include the new Happy Days production, Rent, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and West Side Story taking us nicely through to May. Other big tours including: 20th Century Boy, Let it Be, Dirty Dancing, The Lion King, Rock of Ages, Singin’ in the Rain and Wicked which take us through towards the end of the year.
Further down the coast we have the Theatre Royal Brighton with offerings ranging from musicals including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Tonight’s the Night, a musical based on the music of Rod Stewart. On a musical theme The Theatre Royal also provides entertainment with Let’s Hang On; music reflecting the era of Frankie Valli and the ever popular music of The Rat Pack with The Rat Pack is Back. For those more interested in plays Brighton offers us Peter James’ The Perfect Murder with Les Dennis and Claire Goose and Shaw’s Pygmalion with Alistair McGowan and Jamie Foreman; two contrasting plays!
Newbury’s The Watermill begins the year with The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a musical journey through the Roaring Twenties, followed by Arthur Miller’s All My Sons a play about fractured relationships and how lies can tear a family apart and announced only yesterday the revival of Calamity Jane starring Jodie Prenger.
The Yvonne Arnaud leads it’s 2014 program with the popular musical Grease and after the successful A Little Night Music in 2013 Alex Parker follows this with Jule, Jerry and Steve an evening of music from Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. With a stellar cast including David Bedella, Alistair Brammer, Daniel Crossley, Fra Fee and Janie Dee this is sure to be a fabulous evening out. For those preferring plays there are offerings which include, David Copperfield, Private Peaceful, Wuthering Heights and Dracula, a real variety to chose from.
Salisbury Playhouse has an exciting season with Gaslight, The Mousetrap, Birdsong and The Canterbury Tales leading the way in the Main House. With their extremely popular foray into musicals we have Betty Blue Eyes and Oh What a Lovely War taking us through until the end of the summer. The Salberg Studio has productions ranging from Blink, M for Medea, Ciphers, The Snow Queen and 33 (a piece based on the Chilean Miners crisis); a littlesomething for everyone.
All in all the South Coast is doing rather well with big national tours, some popular plays and an excellent variety of one off events to keep everyone interested.
LONDON – Ian Foster
January looks to be the time for rep companies in London. The New Diorama hosts the award-winning Faction company who take on Hamlet, new play Thebes and Schiller’s The Robbers as part of their 2014 rep season. The Arcola Theatre, in co-production with the Ustinov Studio Theatre Royal Bath and Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, have a trilogy of rarely seen plays from The Spanish Golden Age.
The newly opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe has attracted Gemma Arterton back to the stage in The Duchess of Malfi, though the chance to see Rachael Stirling up close and personal in Rattigan’s Variation on a Theme plays at the intimate Finborough is one which shouldn’t be passed up. Nor should James Graham’s new play Privacy for the Donmar, Blurred Lines at the National Theatre co-created by Carrie Cracknell and Nick Payne and John Donnelly’s The Pass at the Royal Court in what promises to be a strong start for new writing.
Among the bigger openings, revivals of Miss Saigon and Blithe Spirit, starring the new Dame Angela Lansbury, ought to be worth catching. And if the X-Factor musical I Can’t Sing and a theatrical version of Shakespeare In Love seem like tried and tested subjects for new shows, Harry Hill co-writing the former and Declan Donnellan directing the latter mean that they should both be interesting additions to the West End.
For off-West End musicals, The A-Z of Mrs P at the Southwark Playhouse promises much, the UK premiere of Urinetown at the St James Theatre boasts an excellent cast, the Union’s HMS Pinafore transfers to the Hackney Empire before a UK tour, and Craig Adams’ Thérèse Raquin will make its bow at the Finborough.
The Landor Theatre in Clapham will also be somewhere to keep an eye on as they host From Page To Stage, a season of new musical theatre writing under the auspicious leadership of Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment.
The most fascinating venue for 2014 looks to be the Young Vic though, with an exciting director-led programme. Starting off with Juliet Stevenson in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, hugely feted Belgian director Ivo van Hove will then tackle Arthur Miller’s A View From A Bridge and tickets will soon be on sale for Gillian Anderson’s return to the London stage in A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Benedict Andrews.