LONDON SPRING SEASON PREVIEW: In the West End and Beyond, Expect Helen Mirren, Daniel Radcliffe, Jude Law and More

By Mark Shenton
27 Dec 2012



New Plays and Adaptations

Helen Mirren
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

There is nothing like a dame, and there is nothing like the two called Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Mirren, who has previously played Britain's reigning monarch in the Peter Morgan scripted film "The Queen" (for which she won an Oscar in 2007), will now star in the same role in a new play, also written by Morgan; The Audience, which comes to the Gielgud Theatre from Feb. 15, imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Queen and various prime ministers in their weekly meetings. Stephen Daldry directs a cast that also includes Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher, Robert Hardy as Winston Churchill and Paul Ritter as John Major, amongst others.

Judi Dench will join forces with Ben Whishaw to star in the world premiere of John Logan's Peter and Alice, presented as the second in the Michael Grandage Company's residency at the Noel Coward Theatre (previewing from March 9). Grandage and Logan previously collaborated on Red, a play about painter Mark Rothko, that premiered at London's Donmar and subsequently transferred to Broadway; now they reunite for a new play also based on real people, but who are best known for for the fictional ones they inspired: It revolves around a meeting between Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the original Alice in Wonderland) and Peter Llewelyn Davies (the original Peter Pan) at an exhibition in 1932.

Another writer/director team  — Bruce Norris and Dominic Cooke  — reunite at the Royal Court, where the latter bows out as artistic director by staging the premiere of Bruce Norris' The Low Road, which the theatre commissioned from March 21. Cooke previously directed Norris' The Pain and the Itch and Clybourne Park at the theatre, with the latter subsequently transferring to the West End. (Meanwhile, the fringe Gate Theatre will offer the U.K. premiere of another Norris play, Purple Heart, from Feb. 28, directed by that theatre's artistic director, Christopher Haydon).

Also at the Royal Court are a new play about the politics of global banking (If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep, from Feb. 15) and the premiere of Polly Stenham's third play (No Quarter, in the upstairs studio from Jan. 11); her first two works That Face and Tusk Tusk also premiered there. The Bush, another theatre that specializes in new writing, will also stage a new play about the roots of the financial crisis, Clare Duffy's Money the Game Show, from Jan. 31.

The National Theatre's sell-out production of Simon Stephens' stage adaptation of Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, originally seen at the Cottesloe Theatre, will transfer to the West End's Apollo from March 1, with Luke Treadaway reprising his performance as Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old math genius with behavioral problems. It is directed by Marianne Elliott, co-director of the NT's worldwide hit War Horse. Transferring within the National itself, from the Cottesloe to the largest Olivier auditorium, is James Graham's House of Commons drama This House, which resumes performances there from Feb. 28.

Luke Treadaway in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
photo by Manuel Harlan

More new plays will also be premiered at other theatres around the London suburbs. At Hampstead Theatre, actress/playwright Amelia Bullmore's Di and Viv and Rose (from Jan. 17) will be followed by novelist-turned-playwright William Boyd's Longing, based on two Chekhov short stories (from Feb. 28). Islington's Almeida will present The Turn of the Screw, newly adapted by playwright Rebecca Leinkiewicz from the Henry James novella from Jan. 18 and the world premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's Chimera, co-produced with Headlong, from May 17.

At Kilburn's Tricycle, Indhu Rubasingham's first season as artistic director continues with the U.K. premiere of leading African-American playwright Don Evans' One Monkey Don't Stop No Now (from Jan. 16), and it is followed by Paper Dolls, adapted from Tomer Heymann's award-winning documentary about Filipino care workers for elderly Orthodox Jewish men in Tel Aviv (from Feb. 28).

At the Young Vic Rufus Norris will direct Feast, a collaborative show written by five playwrights (from Jan. 25), and film director Joe Wright (best known for "Anna Karenina," "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice") will direct Chiwetel Ejiofor in the London premiere of Aimé Césaire's A Season in the Congo, a re-telling of Congo's turbulent first year of freedom (from July 6).

Kneehigh's production of Steptoe & Son, adapted from Gallon and Simpson's TV scripts, will play a London season at the Lyric Hammersmith from March 19, after premiering previously in Leeds; and Stratford East's Theatre Royal will host a London transfer for Cora Bisset's Glasgow Girls from Scotland (from Feb. 8).

On the literary front, there will also be new stage adaptations of Dickens' Great Expectations (at the Vaudeville from Feb. 6), adapted by prolific Scottish playwright Jo Clifford (formerly John Clifford) and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, dramatized by Simon Read (at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park from June 20, where another classic stage version of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will also be staged from May 16). Phyllida Lloyd will direct Fiona Shaw and dancer Daniel Hay-Gordon in a stage version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (at the Old Vic Tunnels from Jan. 4).

The West End will see the world premiere of Barking in Essex by the late television writer Clive Exton, starring Lee Evans and Sheila Hancock at Wyndham's from Sept. 6. Prior to that, leading Swedish actor Krister Henriksson, who is best known for playing the title role in the Swedish TV series "Wallander," is to make his West End debut in an adaptation of Hjalmer Söderberg's novel Doktor Glas, at the same theatre from April 6.

 Continued...