Much to see in a bumper theatre week

Alice Jones

Hello and welcome to the first instalment of a new theatre blog for The Independent. In what I hope will become a weekly fixture, I’ll be giving tips on the big openings and what to see in the coming week, in the West End and around the country, and sharing my thoughts about the things I’ve seen. As we’re now officially on the build-up to the Edinburgh festival, I’ll be seeking out the best preview shows and comedy gigs on the bill, too.

The big news this week is Sam Mendes’ double bill of The Tempest and As You Like It at the Old Vic. This is the second instalment of the transatlantic Bridge Project (a collaboration between Kevin Spacey’s Old Vic, Mendes’ Neal Street Productions and the Brooklyn Academy of Music) and a much less starry proposition than last year’s, which brought Ethan Hawke, Simon Russell Beale and Rebecca Hall together, to largely wonderful effect. For The Tempest Stephen Dillane plays Prospero, Juliet Rylance, Miranda and Edward Bennett (who famously stood in as Hamlet for David Tennant), Ferdinand. The Independent reviewed it when it opened in Brooklyn back in March (here). Paul Taylor’s review of its London run will arrive by the end of the week.

Elsewhere, the ever-lively Moira Buffini presents her take on Greek myth, Welcome to Thebes, opening tomorrow at the National Theatre, with a strong cast including David Harewood (last seen in The Mountaintop), Nikki Amuka-Bird and Chuk Iwuji. Richard Eyre directs. And Headlong’s punkish Salome arrives at Hampstead, fresh from touring/shocking audiences.

There’s plenty of activity on the fringe, too. The Factory (they of the deconstructed, pop-up Hamlet where audiences choose who is to play which role and provide the cast with props) are taking over the V&A this weekend with ‘Round 2′, premiering six short new plays by six new writers in their customarily anarchic style. At the Bush Theatre, tonight, Nabokov are holding a similar event, ‘Vs’ in which four playwrights – Arinze Kene Mokwe, Suzanne Heathcote, Luke Norris and Michael McLean – will duke it out in two double-headers inspired by the earlier performance of Like a Fishbone. LIFT gets going with Gob Squad’s Revolution Now at the ICA. Footsbarn continue their residency in Victoria Park with an evening of “burlesque anarchy” in their big-top spectacular Sorry! and the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival opens on Thursday with some firework-fuelled Catalan choreography. Also in Greenwich, Oxford Stage Company set up home in the Royal Observatory Gardens with another Tempest, this one featuring music by Nick Lloyd Webber.

Out of London, I’m dying to see Alice at one of my very favourite theatres, the Sheffield Crucible. Laura Wade, whose lively and very funny Posh recently packed out the Royal Court has reimagined Lewis Carroll’s tale, promising a Sheffield-inflected take on Wonderland. Also opening is Howard Brenton’s timely take on The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at Liverpool Everyman. Also worth a visit, at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate is Town, from local boy DC Moore – one of our finest (and one of my favourite) young playwrights whose Empire and Alaska have impressed at the Royal Court.

There’s some great comedy on offer this week, too, from established acts and fresh, new talent. Stewart Lee appears at the always excellent Feature Spot night at The 100 Club on Wednesday (supported by Mike Wozniak, Andrew Lawrence and Carl Donnelly) while his erstwhile partner Richard Herring headlines Falling Down with Laughter in London’s Borough on Tuesday.

Ones to watch come in the shape of Jessica Ransom, in a double bill with Toulson and Harvey, at Lowdown @ The Albany on Tuesday and Idiots of Ants, Edinburgh Comedy Award nominees last year, starting a small tour previewing their Fringe show at the ETC Theatre in Camden.

Meanwhile the Udderbelly continues its excellent season on the South Bank with one third of We Are Klang and Inbetweeners star Greg Davies, Ardal O’Hanlon and another chance to see Tom Wrigglesworth’s excellent Open Return Letter to Richard Branson. If you missed it last year, buy a ticket now. You won’t regret it.

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  • dontalk2her

    An excellent idea.

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