The week in theatre: fright nights, open-air Shakespeare and an aircraft hangar
It’s only taken me four months but I’ve finally plucked up the courage to go and see Ghost Stories. Transferring to the West End this week following sell-out runs at the Liverpool Playhouse and Lyric Hammersmith, it comes with its own (mildly hysterical) health warning. “Please be advised that Ghost Stories contains moments of extreme shock and tension. The show is unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15. We strongly advise those of a nervous disposition to think very seriously before attending.” If you don’t believe that, here’s the trailer, featuring some very jumpy audience members. At least there’s a safe pair of hands behind the fright night – Jeremy Dyson of The League of Gentlemen and Andy Nyman, the man behind Derren Brown’s various on-screen and on-stage theatrics – have written it while Sean Holmes directs.
It’s a rare thing to be scared of one’s skin at the theatre (I, wimpishly, still can’t face The Woman in Black). The last time it happened was at The Institute, a Halloween collaboration between sketch groups The Penny Dreadfuls and Pappy’s Fun Club in which I was chased, squealing, by zombies around an abandoned office block next door to the Pleasance, Islington. Ghost Stories will need to go some way to top that – but I already fear that it might.
It’s a fairly quiet week for openings, otherwise. 42nd Street opens at Chichester while Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins is revived at London’s Union Theatre and Brian Friel’s Chekhov-inspired Afterplay, starring Cherie Lunghi, begins a short run at the elegant Pushkin House in West London. Most exciting is Eastern Angles’ new show, Bentwater Roads, opening on Thursday in an aircraft hangar somewhere in Suffolk.
If the weather holds, Philip Franks’ The Comedy of Errors at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park (click the link for a nice time-lapse video of them building the stage) should be swinging good fun with its new 1940s Casablanca setting, and Othello opens at Ludlow Castle.
If the weather breaks, tonight sees the latest instalment in the National Theatre’s NT Live experiment, this time beaming Fiona Shaw’s stonking performance in London Assurance to 300 cinemas worldwide. I saw the first live screening, of Helen Mirren in Phedre, last year (my review, here ). It’s an odd experience but well worth a try and an initiative to be applauded. The same cannot be said, sadly, for Rimini Protokol’s Best Before, arriving at the ICA as part of LIFT on Wednesday. I sampled the extended interactive computer game at Brighton Festival; the novelty of having my own console wore off somewhere after the first hour.
Other performances I’m looking forward to this week include the Poejazzi night in the South Bank’s big purple cow on Thursday. Last year the Udderbelly’s spoken word show was a treat with Scroobius Pip, Kate Tempest and Polar Bear on the bill. This year’s line-up includes Yungun, Benin City and Inua Ellams, fresh from a successful run of his one-man show, The 14th Tale, a stone’s throw away at the National Theatre.
In comedy, Peep Show’s Isy Suttie and magician/stand-up Pete Firman team up at the Amersham Arms in New Cross tonight, with the delightful Fergus Craig as host. And on Thursday, London is Funny present a Jekyll-and-Hyde bill, pairing the sunny winner of the best joke at last year’s Fringe (“Hedgehogs – why can’t they just share the hedge?”) Dan Antopolski and the deliciously dark and twisted Andrew Lawrence at the Dogstar in Brixton.
Finally, good news that Money, Shunt’s Zola-inspired show in an old tobacco warehouse in Bermondsey is extending for another three months. The plot may be a little opaque but it’s worth it simply for the set (my review here ). Along with Electric Hotel, another David Rosenberg creation, which has just moved from a car park in King’s Cross to a car park at Stockton International Riverside Festival, it’s one of the most extraordinary theatrical spaces I’ve ever visited. Bravo.Tagged in: Ghost Stories, NT Live, Open Air Theatre, Peep Show, Shunt, spoken word
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