Billie Piper in the new Richard Bean play at the National, Ivo van Hove directs Juliette Binoche in Antigone and more

Billie Piper (with Jonjo O'Neill) in The Effect, the last National Theatre production she appeared in. Photo Ellie Kurtz

Billie Piper (with Jonjo O’Neill) in The Effect, the last National Theatre production she appeared in. Photo Ellie Kurtz

In an infrequent series of posts, these are the theatre news that got me excited in recent weeks:

– Word is Billie Piper is in rehearsals for the new Richard Bean play at the National. The play – with the provisional title Hacked – is directed by Nic Hytner, revolves around the phone hacking scandal and should start performances at the Lyttelton as early as June. As there is no official announcement regarding performance dates or tickets yet, the National Theatre is cutting it very fine with this one.

– Another company cutting it fine is the new Jamie Lloyd season at the Trafalgar studios: after the announcement a month ago that Martin Freeman will be playing Richard III with performances starting in July, no further information has been forthcoming. I loved the trio of plays produced last year and I look forward to the new season with – hopefully – a full programme announced soon.

– In other exciting news, Ivo Van Hove will be directing Juliette Binoche in Antigone, with performances at the Barbican next year. Continue reading

Nominations for Olivier awards 2014, where did all go wrong?

I need to start with an overriding principle: all awards for artistic achievement are inherently flawed. They always represent a compromise and therefore can’t express the joy of personal experience. They are also needed in hundred different practical ways, no point bemoaning their sheer existence or the agenda a specific award represents. The Oliviers focus on mainstream productions, complaining they ignore obscure edgier offerings is pointless. What struck me with the 2014 Oliviers nominations though was how the list was underwhelming, even by the standards of the commercial mainstream agenda.

Let’s count the ways: Continue reading

What’s in store for the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company in 2014?

August is a strange month: unless you are on a beach somewhere, it’s like time stood still. Press officers are on holiday, and for someone with attention deficit like myself the trickle of theatre news is torture. But September is around the corner, and the following teasers will lift my spirits till then.

Royal Shakespeare Company will follow Richard II with Henry IV part 1 and 2, The Taming of the Shrew and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Jane Lapotaire will play the Duchess of Gloucester in Richard II and with rehearsals starting in a couple of weeks, the announcement of the remaining cast can’t be far behind.

At the National Theatre, Rufus Norris Continue reading

A Curious Night at the Theatre – Part Two, when Christopher meets Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott

Chris Martin at the Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Luke Treadaway, hope he doesn't mind I am using it

Chris Martin at the Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Luke Treadaway, hope he doesn’t mind I am using it

Continued from Part One

Christopher met Q at a secret location in the South Bank (if you don’t go to the theatre, it looked like a secret location. Otherwise, it looked like the National). They talked about viruses, and integrating the lines of radiant and whether you can dig someone if they are not a garden. Q rememebered Moriarty from the time they were together in Mike Bartlett’s Cock and sent Christopher on his way with a flirty “any time, cowboy”.

And back to school where Christopher said goodbye to Jude, heartbroken and disheartened not to have a future with Siobhan. And coming home one day, just like that, Christopher found Moriarty in his living room, cocky (not just because of Mike Bartlett’s Cock) and arrogant and a little bit sexy. Moriarty agreed to let Christopher mess with his computer on one condition: that Christopher can get hundreds of people to sit in one room and switch off their phones in order to engage in a metaphor (which is really a story). A little bit like a play. And here we are. Continue reading

A Curious Night at the Theatre starring Christopher, the Doctor, Q, the Queen & Moriarty (& a guy called Jude Law)

Parental guidance: I don’t intend to take a measured approach with this post. Be warned of breathless and shameless enthusiasm. I am told it’s called squee. I wouldn’t know.

Jude Law and Christopher (Luke Treadaway) on stage at A Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Ellie Kurttz

Jude Law and Christopher (Luke Treadaway) on stage at A Curious Night at the Theatre. Photo Ellie Kurttz

When a show overruns by 75 minutes, it finishes at close to three hours without interval and no one complains, you know it’s a rare experience. A Curious Night at the Theatre was always destined to be, well, curious: part theatre, part live concert, part charity event, it could all have gone very wrong. In the end, it delivered on all counts: A funny play, party atmosphere, surprises, confetti and £100,000 raised. The curious night was something of a special night.

First things first, it’s theatre after all and there is a new play by Mark Haddon and Simon Stephens: a detective story for Christopher, where he is contacted by the Doctor and entrusted with an important mission: Moriarty – who, as the Doctor admits, looks suspiciously like Andrew Scott – has developed a computer virus and all people coming in contact with it will lose the ability to understand metaphors. “You, and only you Christopher, can rescue the metaphor.” Christopher is hesitant: “Why me?”. “No, no, no” says the Doctor, “the virus started working already”. Christopher doesn’t trust metaphors, which are lies after all, but is convinced to help. The Doctor calls the Queen and, amid some giggling and old fashioned flirting, gets Christopher an invitation to the Buckingham palace. The Queen has, after all, the best contacts.

Continue reading

Will Adrian Scarborough be Simon Russell Beale’s Fool? Could the cast of King Lear get any better?

national theatre imageSimon Russell Beale’s King Lear, directed by Sam Mendes and heading for the National in 2014, will undoubtedly be the theatre destination for next year. Phrases like “hot ticket” and “eagerly anticipated” are frequently used, but in this case totally justified. The rest of the cast isn’t announced yet, but word is Adrian Scarborough will be Simon Russell Beale’s Fool. Be still my heart, can this be right? Excitement kicks up another notch (if that was possible) and we only have nine months to wait.

In other casting news,  Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II starring John Heffernan and directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins, will be staged at the National Theatre later in the year, a great opportunity to see the play with one of the most exciting young actors in the title role. (And it will make a nice companion piece to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Richard II starring David Tennant). Again, very little information about the remaining cast but Vanessa Kirby will play Isabella, a sign that things will be very interesting indeed.

Casting news: David Tennant in Richard II, Paul Ritter in The Audience and more

David Tennant as Hamlet. 2008. Photo Ellie Kurttz

Let’s take a moment to savour this: David Tennant as Richard II directed by Greg Doran. There have been rumours for a while but lately the discussion has been louder and it seems it will happen: David Tennant will play Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Company some time in late 2013 or early 2014, under the direction of Greg Doran in the new artistic director’s first season. David Tennant is in no small part responsible for my theatre obsession the last few years and my excitement for this news is unfettered. I will be clearly spending the next eighteen months dreaming of the Deposition Scene and who will play Bolingbroke. Chiwetel Ejiofor is my choice. It’s perfect and it needs to happen. Continue reading

Tis the season to transfer: Curious Incident and This House pack their bags for bigger venues

Luke Treadaway as Christopher. Photo by Manuel Harlan

The National Theatre has had a bumper year in its Cottesloe venue, with both This House and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time being sold out at the back of excellent word of mouth and reviews. (I can confirm all good things you heard are true). That kind of success, especially in a small venue like the Cottesloe, is often followed by news of a transfer to a bigger venue and that seems to be the case for both of the above productions: National Theatre has officially announced This House will transfer to the 1,000-plus seater Olivier from February 2013 and now word is the Curious Incident will transfer to the Apollo at the West End from March 2013. None of these is a surprise: by the time most people hear about a good play performed at the Cottesloe, all tickets are gone. In that sense, the transfers are welcome (and in a personal note, I would definitely like to see both plays again) but there are some reservations. Continue reading

Twelfth Night and This House, press nights that didn’t happen make it to print

Stephen Fry as Malvolio. Photo Simon Annand

Press nights often create the headlines (after all you need a press night in order to have press reviews. Or do you? More about this later), but in the past week press nights ARE in the headlines: Twelfth Night started previews at the Globe, or more accurately started its Globe performances that function as a preview run before the official opening at the Apollo Theatre in November. None of the Globe performances are for the press and the expectation was, at least on the part of the producers, that the production will be reviewed for the first time at the Apollo. It didn’t quite work out that way: the Telegraph prominently run a review under the headline “Stephen Fry in Twelfth Night – First Review” and the Times followed suit a few days later. Both five star reviews I might add, but the producers are not happy: they protest these reviews break the embargo. I can’t help but feel it is a token effort whose main purpose is to prevent a precedent. With Mark Rylance playing Olivia  and, especially, Stephen Fry playing Malvolio, did they really believe the press would sit on their hands till November? But I wonder how critics from other papers feel. They have every reason to be unhappy as they played by the rules and punished for it.

On the other hand, the Guardian plays a different game these days: it encourages readers to use its own twitter hashtag #GdnReview, and between this and comments on its blogs, it published the readers views of the production. I am ambivalent about the prominent way the Guardian uses the public’s comments: there is a fine line between encouraging dialogue and encouraging people to give you content for free. As these are difficult and confusing days for the press, there is no easy answer. Continue reading

Tennessee Williams at the Old Vic and other theatre news

Melina Mercouri in Sweet Bird of Youth (1979)

In a series of irregular features, this is a roundup of theatre news and rumours that caught my eye this past week:

  • Word is Marianne Elliott will direct Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth for the Old Vic, no news on the cast yet. I have never seen the play but my enduring image of it is a black and white photo, Melina Mercouri in a 1979 greek production. The project should attract a first rate and exciting cast. (Update 11/10/2012: Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail confirmed the rumour today, with the information that Kim Cattrall will play the lead role).
  • My current theatre obsession is a play and theatre production I haven’t seen: Peter and the Starcatcher went from workshop to off Broadway production to Tony award winning Broadway hit, and indications are strong it will transfer to the West End next. Roger Rees (who developed and co-directed the play in New York) is in London for his one man show What You Will so maybe there will be news soon.
  • A few months back, the Royal Court announced, as part of its upcoming season, the new Jez Butterworth / Ian Rickson play The River, and given that Jerusalem was the last offering from this playwright / director team, the interest was huge. Excitement turned to irritation as it was also announced that no tickets could be purchased in advance (membership booking or otherwise) and all tickets would be purchased on the day. A few days ago, cast was announced for the play with Dominic West, Miranda Raison and Laura Donnelly taking the roles in this intimate three-hander. This production feels like the poisoned chalice to me, as it will be difficult to live up to expectations and the whole business with the tickets didn’t buy a lot of good will (among regular – and paying – theatregoers like myself, the critics obviously don’t care). But if I ever get tickets, I ‘ll tell you what I think of it.