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London, Winter 1998 -- Notes and Views

by Joseph G. Green

Six of the plays mentioned below were seen during Joe's whirlwind trip to London during the first week of February. The reviews in alphabetical order:
Amy's View
Cause Célèbre,
Henry VII
Shopping and Fucking
Also mentioned and reviewed:
Art with the original London cast
Art in America
The Invention of Love
London Cuckolds
Things we Do For Love

This season of theatre in the West End revealed few shows of real interest. But two weeks in London during a winter heat wave (try 19° Celsius!) still allowed for some lively theatre going.

No surprise that the standard musicals, mega and otherwise, are still playing (Beauty And The Beast, Blood Brothers, Buddy, Cats, Chicago, Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Oliver!, Phantom Of the Opera, Smokey Joe's Cafe, Starlight Express and Whistle Down The Wind). Whew! What a bonanza for the standard North American tourist who might not yet have seen one or more of these in New York. Other long run stuff includes Art, A Delicate Balance, The Front Page, An Ideal Husband, An Inspector Calls, and Shopping And Fucking.

Of more interest are David Hare's Amy's View, Ben Elton's Popcorn and Edward Fox in Hugh Whitmore's A Letter of Resignation. But the best stuff is still coming out of the two public companies: The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. Indeed, even Amy's View and An Inspector Calls started their successful commercial runs at the Royal National!

The RSC's season at FORT ART (otherwise known as the Barbican Centre!) includes Michael Boyd's really thin Much Ado About Nothing as well as new productions of Hamlet (directed by Matthew Warchus who just finished staging the New York production of Art), Cymbeline (directed by Adrian Noble, the RSC's Artistic Director). Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (nine performances only), Yasmina Reza's new comedy The Unexpected Man (also directed by the "hot" Matthew Warchus) and the medieval Everyman are at the RSC's alternate space, The Pit. And at the Young Vic Theatre, the RSC is presenting Chekhov's Uncle Vany a, Tennessee Williams' Camino Real and Shakespeare's Henry VIII. The Royal National's season at the Littleton Theatre includes Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love and a new production of Ravenscroft's Restoration comedy The London Cuckolds. At the Olivier Theatre are Howard Davies' masterful production of Bulgakov's political black farce Flight and John Caird's revival of Peter Pan.

Sad to see the Old Vic Theatre dark and up for sale (its Annex building which Toronto's Ed and David Mirvish gave to the National rent free when they bought the Vic has now been sold to the same company).

Off-West End appears to be more lively. The Lyric Theatre Hammersmith is presenting the worthy revival of Terence Rattigan's Cause Célebre, Genet's The Maids and Neil Bartlett's staging of Benjamin Britten's Seven Sonnets Of Michelangelo. The Orange Tree Theatre has a much talked about stripped down production of Macbeth on the boards. And stuff at the Bush Theatre is always at least intriguing.

So there it is . . .

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