A couple of days ago I posted a blog here about some of the autumn theatrical highlights, and someone immediately (not so) gently enquired on Twitter, “Were you only allowed to mention plays with famous people in them?”
Far from it; but if it’s true that we live in celebrity culture, I’ve unwittingly subscribed. On the other hand, of course it’s great that so many well-known names are appearing in the theatre, both large and small - it’s frankly amazing to find Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins, two of our very greatest living actors, appearing at Jermyn Street Theatre, for instance.
But that isn’t to say that only shows with stars are interesting, and indeed some of the best things I’ve seen recently have had none at all, from the Donmar Warehouse’s current Philadelphia, Here I Come and the current Ayckbourn double bill at Chichester, to the National’s London Road (which ends tomorrow, and I saw for the fourth time last night) and The Doctor’s Dilemma. But my Twitter inquisitor went further: ” But does this mean that the only way to get press exposure is to cast a celeb? Isn’t your job to go beyond that?” Actually, I regularly do - as witness my unstinting support of venues like the Union and the Landor.
But there’s plenty that I’m looking forward to this autumn that doesn’t include stars either and I did mention in Monday’s blog, from the Menier’s Merrily We Roll Along (yet to be cast; so star names may yet follow, though unlikely as the cast is usually younger, unless they get Justin Bieber in to play Franklin Shepard, that is!) and the UK premiere of American Idiot to Caryl Churchill’s latest Love and Information at the Royal Court, though it could be argued that in each of those cases the composers (Sondheim and Green Day) and playwright (Churchill) is the star. (In my book, by the way, the Churchill cast is peppered with stars: Linda Bassett, Amanda Drew, Susan Engel, John Heffernan, Paul Jesson, Justin Salinger, Rhashan Stone and Sarah Woodward amongst them, but none of them are ‘celebrities’). But then just as you can’t see everything, you can’t mention everything, either. So, in an attempt to redress the balance, here are just some of the non-starry (or at least non-celebrity!) things I’m hoping to get to in the next few weeks alone (though I may not manage all of them, to be honest!)
Choir Boy — Dominic Cooke directs Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s latest at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, opening September 10.
Three Sisters — Australia’s latest wunderkind director Benedict Andrews directs Chekhov’s play, at the Young Vic opening September 13.
Passing By — rare sighting for early Martin Sherman play, at the Finborough on Sundays and Mondays only, opening September 17.
Blue/Orange — Joe Penhall’s play, originally seen at the National, receives a touring revival via Brighton Theatre Royal Productions, opening September 18.
The Last Session — OK, Darren Day was once a star (kind of), but this is the UK premiere of a small Off-Broadway musical, at the tiny Tristan Bates, opening September 26.
The Pirates of Penzance — the Union’s all-male production of G&S returns to London transferring to Hackney Empire for just five days only from September 26-30, en route to Australia.
Our Boys — Jonathan Lewis’s play, once seen at the Donmar, finally gets a full West End run, opening at the Duchess on October 3.
Enquirer, the National Theatre of Scotland’s play about the state of contemporary journalism, at a venue to be confirmed but presented under the auspices of the Barbican on October 5.
Hotel Plays, site-specific treatment for three rarely seen Tennessee Williams plays set in hotels, played out in a real hotel, the Grange Holborn, opening October 5.
Desire Under the Elms, rarely-seen Eugene O’Neill play, opening at Lyric Hammersmith October 8.
The Hatpin, intriguing sounding new musical at the Blue Elephant, from October 30.