Stars queue up for West End roles

The cast for London’s Theatreland is particularly impressive this month as those whose runs started in the Spring are still to be found in the theatres of London whilst the curtain is raised on several intriguing Summer shows boasting an even broader aray of stars.

I suppose it would behove us well to start with those who are not long for this world – as it is a stage! If you can manage to get tickets for The Donmar Warehouse’s production of The Weir you will get to see three fine actors strutting their stuff in Conor McPherson’s Olivier Award winning play: Brian Cox, Ardal O’Hanlan and Dervla Kirwan. If you missed it when it first came to London in 1997 I would recommend not making the same mistake again. Set in remote pub in Ireland, the locals are driven to impress a stranger with stories of souls and spirits. But one tale is more chilling and more real than any of the regulars could have foreseen.

The Weir

Also on her way back to her dressing room for the last time in June is Helen Mirren who has been making headlines this month for her performance outside the Gielgud Theatre as well as on its stage as she plays Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience.

Throughout June, two TV favourites, Felicity Kendal and Zoe Wanamaker, star in two very different plays. Kendal provides the light relief with Alan Ayckbourn’s hilarious Relatively Speaking at the Wyndham’s Theatre, whilst just round the corner in St Martin’s Lane, Wanamaker reveals a darker side in the acclaimed revival of Peter Nichols’s Passion Play at the Duke of York’s Theatre. The reviews for Relatively Speaking are coming out as I type and Billington and Spencer et al are heaping praise on the whole production!

Passion Play

Lenny Henry also leaves his funny bone at the stage door when he turns up to star in Fences each night. One of the greatest American dramas of the 20th Century, August Wilson’s Fences tells the story of a once-gifted athlete denied his shot at the big time and now takes his disappointment out on his wife and his sports-mad son.

Martin McDonagh’s comic masterpiece The Cripple of Inishmaan features Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. Since his wizard days he has appeared on stage in Peter Shaffer’s Equus on both sides of the Atlantic and in the musical How to Succeed in Business.., both to critical acclaim: so expect more plaudits when he teams up with Michael Grandage at the Noel Coward Theatre this summer.

But great theatre is, of course, not restricted to the playhouses of the West End. Travelling south, Simon Russell Beale and John Simm are at the tiny Trafalgar Studios (that used to be the Whitehall Theatre), just below Trafalgar Square in a superb revival of Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse. Again, this is a hot ticket so if you get the chance, grab is with both hands.

Head across the river and the National Theatre is Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester in Othello, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Fortunately there are more seats at the National than there are at the Trafalgar Studios but don’t get blasé about tickets and don’t leave it to the last weekend which, by the way, is the 18th August.

Finally, a thought. The Old Vic plays host Sweet Bird of Youth from 01 June 2013 and whilst it is a super role, surely, like the lead character in Long Day’s Journey into Night, “dahhhling you’d be perfect for it” are not necessarily the words an actor wants to hear from their agent! Sex And The City‘s Kim Cattrall plays the faded Hollywood star in Tennessee Williams’s classic!

Simon Harding is Editor at Theatre Breaks.

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