The Week Ahead: Clive Owen's Iguana, Equus gallops into West End, plus top 5 shows this week
This Week in Theatre
On Monday, Ned Bennett's revelatory production of Equus, first seen at Theatre Royal Stratford East last year in a co-production with English Touring Theatre, transfers to the West End's Trafalgar Studios, for a summer run to 7th September. You can read more about that in my 'top five shows to see this week' below.
Then on Tuesday evening, Clive Owen returns to the West End for the first time in 18 years to star in Tennessee Williams's The Night of the Iguana, opening at the Noel Coward Theatre. Though he's appeared more recently onstage on Broadway, in 2015 in Old Times and M Butterfly in 2017, he returns to London in James Macdonald's production, which also features the wonderful Lia Williams and American actor Anna Gunn (best known for starring in hit US drama Breaking Bad).
This weekend is your last chance to catch the transfer of Lynn Nottage's Sweat from the Donmar Warehouse to the Gielgud. As I wrote in my original five-star review of its Donmar run: "Nottage's play is a piercing portrait of a community placed under intolerable strain, as their loyalties and self-interests are challenged. Alternately desolate and gripping, it is acted with a piercing, documentary-like truthfulness, particularly from Clare Perkins and Martha Plimpton as the respective mothers to Osy Ikhile's Chris and Parick Gibson's Jason."
Top five shows of the week
This bedazzling return of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's earliest musical is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-colour spectacle: in my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, I wrote that a "jaunty sense of fun permeates director Laurence Connor's constantly inventive new vision for the show, which is mostly a steamroller of pure joy and comic delights."
In the title role, theatrical newcomer Jac Yarrow is "the stand-out star in the title role... He received a spontaneous standing ovation on the first night at the end of his rendition of "Close Every Door"; but this is a performance that will open every door to him from here on in." (Watch out for my interview with Jac on this site later this week.)
The cast also includes Sheridan Smith, delivering her songs as the Narrator with punch and power, and Jason Donovan - who originally played Joseph on this same stage 28 years ago - returning, this time as Pharoah.
Well-deserved transfer of Ned Bennett's production first seen at Stratford East Theatre Royal in February to the West End's Trafalgar Studios. In my review when it opened at Stratford East, I dubbed it a "boldly stripped-back, theatrically intense and focused production", and said that "the contrast between newcomer Ethan Kai's brooding intensity as Alan and veteran Zubin Varla as Martin Dysart, the psychiatrist treating him, creates an extraordinary tension. Both actors take you inside their characters' heads; neither is a comfortable place to be."
The break-out theatrical hit of the summer, Matthew Warchus's outright hilarious production of Noel Coward's autobiographically-based classic generates almost constant laughter at the Old Vic. And that's of a play I've often found extremely wearisome; but Warchus and his leading actor Andrew Scott find both rich laughs and unexpected feeling. This is one of the most stylishly staged comedy revivals in ages. Scott's gloriously pitched performance is one for the ages: daring, provocative and hilarious. There's also great support, too, from Indira Varma and Sophie Thompson.
"OK, I admit it: I was seriously dreading Peter Gynt," I confessed in a column here the day after the National's new production of Ibsen's "famously impenetrable - even possibly unstageable" epic opened. But as I wrote in my review, "As much as the play is, at times, seriously bonkers, it's also a unique parable for our times, and in David Hare's version, which sweeps from Scotland to Egypt and Florida, it offers a disturbing, sweeping portrait of a global elite traversing the globe from Davros to a private golf course that our hero comes to own." James McArdle is brilliant in the title role.
This meta-theatrical farce - set during rehearsals, the hectic backstage during a performance, and then head-on during another rapidly disintegrating performance - is still one of the funniest plays ever written, and back at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it originally premiered back in 1982, it is a hit all over again. The West End surely beckons again for an outstanding cast that includes Meera Syal, Lloyd Owen, Daniel Rigby and Debra Gillett.