View from the Stalls – London Theatre 2011
by Val Reynolds
Those of you who may have read my pearls of wisdom on London’s theatre scene will know I am not the greatest fan of commercial West End theatres. Too often the hype takes hold and I fork out for what almost always is a pricey ticket (even those with substantial discounts are not cheap) only to leave the theatre disappointed and vowing to discriminate more wisely in the future.
Dominic West in Butley
That’s not to say that the West End never hosts a gem of a play; it’s really a question of winkling them out. Happily there is at least one to regale us playing currently: Simon Gray’s Butley at the Duchess Theatre. Well staged and admirably acted, notably by Dominic West playing the eponymous anti-hero, this play may be celebrating its fortieth anniversary but its rather bleak theme of the disintegration of a rather unpleasant man is, perhaps unfortunately, timeless.
Butley is an academic whose world, bit by bit, is falling apart, yet Gray has crafted his play so skilfully that rather surprisingly there are some real laugh out loud moments to savour. The supporting cast adds depth and substance to the plot. This, despite the laughs, is not a fun night out; as this is what so many West End theatre goers seem to want, it’s possible to get a good seat at a discounted price – the tickets booth at Leicester Square (and also now at Brent Cross) are offering almost half price seats for most performances. A worthwhile piece of drama.
Another not to be missed performance (though I have yet to see it) must be Simon Callow Being Shakespeare at the Trafalgar Studios. I witnessed this actor reading all of Shakespeare’s sonnets many years ago and it was mesmerising – his one-man-show promises the same. But instead of paying £45 for your seat, try lastminute.com/theatre – they are offering the seats for £20 + £1 booking fee. Try this before opening night though, my pessimistic view of what theatregoers want may be wrong in this instance and then the discounted tickets will disappear!
I’ve just read of three more gems due to open in the West End after the summer. Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones will star in Driving Miss Daisy at the Wyndhams Theatre;
Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy
Mark Rylance will reprise his star turn in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem which was sold out during the original run and was one of the best plays I saw in 2010.
And finally the National Theatre’s latest fun-packed hit, One Man, Two Guvnors starring the irrepressible James Corden and adapted by Richard Bean from Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters will open at the Adelphi Theatre in November. This hits the spot for the Christmas outing of the season. I saw it at the National a couple of weeks ago it had people rolling in the aisles. Whatever it costs, this is real value for money!
Jeannette Nelson A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
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