The Week in Theatre: the Bridge's immersive Dream, US hit Afterglow and Sweat transfers
This Week in Theatre
On Tuesday (11th June), director Nick Hytner directs a new immersive production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Bridge, reuniting the designers of his 2018 production there of Julius Caesar including set designer Bunny Christie, newly supplemented by composer Grant Olding and movement director Arlene Phillips. The cast includes Gwendoline Christie, Oliver Chris, David Moorst and Hammed Animashaun as Titania, Oberon, Puck and Bottom respectively.
Also on Tuesday, the hit Off-Broadway play Afterglow receives its British premiere. The play's New York run in a 69-seat theatre sold over 23,000 seats and grossed over $1 million. Written by S. Asher Gelman, the new London version is directed by Tom O'Brien. It is described as a "steamy stripped-down look at gay intimacy". It runs to 20th July.
Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat - seen on Broadway in 2017 after transferring from Off-Broadway's Public Theatre - re-opens officially in the West End on Wednesday. When I reviewed its UK premiere at the Donmar Warehouse last year, I wrote: "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." All reprise their performances at the Gielgud.
Saturday sees the London Gay Men's Chorus present Hitsville, a show celebrating the sounds of Motown and its influences, with songs made famous by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and more, for the performances only at the Troxy, a one-time cinema that became a bingo hall on the Commercial Road. Now that Motown has departed from the West End, here's a chance to hear the repertoire in a different, rainbow-coloured light.
To end the week in style, on Sunday, a cast that includes Jamie Muscato, John Owen-Jones, Christine Allado, Fra Fee and Wendi Peters join members of the original studio recording for a concert performance of the new British musical The Clockmaker's Daughter at Cadogan Hall. Described as "a musical fairytale built around themes of prejudice, discrimination, animosity and a fear of the unknown", it was originally premiered at Clapham's Landor Theatre (now alas no more) in 2015.
Top shows of the week
Fanny and Stella
Above the Stag
This charmer of a musical play, Fanny and Stella tells the true story of two Victorian men who excelled at female stage roles. Steve Dexter's music hall style production of Glenn Chandler's play is funny, provocative and moving, and features terrific pastiche style period songs by Charles Miller.
Only Fools and Horses
Theatre Royal Haymarket
OK, I wasn't too taken by this musical version of the 80s TV sitcom, but it has become a crowd favourite. And as Paul Whitehouse, who co-write it as well as appearing in the show as Grandad, told the Observer at the weekend: "I know that some people have been sneery. But I have been around too long to care. It is not a ‘classic’, but it is not meant to be Sondheim – and in fact I would rather see this than Sondheim... I genuinely don’t care what musical theatre critics on broadsheet papers say about it now. I don’t have to. Maybe I would if it had not been such a hit."
Apollo Victoria Theatre
A musical about the castings of spells, this show long ago cast its own over Theatreland and hypnotises audience who have embraced it as not so much a musical as an event. But it also has a surprising political dimension, too: when the Wizard says, "Where I come from, everyone knows: the best way to bring folks together is to give them a really good enemy", it's difficult not to think of Trump or Farage.
National's Dorfman Theatre
Last chance to see this theatrical thriller, co-created by writer Ella Hickson, sound designers Ben and Max Ringham and director Natalie Abrahami, which closes on 15th June. With an immersive soundscape broadcast into individual headphones, the audience are themselves cast as eavesdroppers. As Victoria Ferguson wrote in her review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, "This production creates an impressively unique experience with its tinny soundtrack of domestic surveillance; one that feels at once innovative and new, and completely of the Cold War era."
This theatre may have previously offered The Father, The Mother and The Son, but Wife is not the latest installment in Florian Zeller's cycle of plays about family relationships, but a bold exploration of sexual identity over four different time frames by Samuel Adamson. In my review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, I wrote: "This is a deeply textured play that like The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez's multi-layered epic riff on Howard's End, provides a rich and rewarding, dense and intense look at gay historical legacies in a new context."
National's Lyttelton Theatre
While the Royal Court last week announced the premiere of another new Caryl Churchill play called Imp alongside its forthcoming triple bill of Glass, Kill and Bluebeard, the National's revival of possibly Churchill's most famous play (also originally premiered at the Court) continues at the National. As I wrote in my review here on this site: "This play about female aspiration, inspiration and work place achievement couldn't come a timelier moment."