BWW Previews: The London Stage, January 2014
Had a few drinks, then went to the Savoy. Pretty bad blitz, but not so bad as Wednesday, a couple of bombs fell very near during dinner. Orchestra went on playing, no one stopped eating or talking. Blitz continued. Carroll Gibbons played the piano, I sang, so did Judy Campbell and a couple of drunken Scots Canadians.
On the whole, a strange and very amusing evening. People's behaviour absolutely magnificent. Much better than gallant. Wish the whole of America could really see and understand it. Thankful to God I came back. Would not have missed this experience for anything.
The Noel Coward Diaries
That was 73 years ago, but much of that spirit was evident in the absence of panic at the Apollo Theatre a week before Christmas when its ceiling collapsed on its audience - fortunately without fatalities. The West End's beautiful old theatres are as much a part of the evenings out that so appeal to tourists as the shows they host, but these individual, quirky buildings feel Victorian in terms of the space allowed for our twenty-first century legs and, though all have safety certificates, one wonders if they might be a little Victorian above our heads too. Theatre owners have obviously looking again at all aspects of their buildings in the light of the Apollo incident - but it needs to be said that crossing Shaftesbury Avenue is still the most dangerous moment of a night in the stalls.
Ticket prices for those theatres are high (at least they are if you're earning pounds, not dollars or euros) and, with the Brits' credit card bills already hitting doormats, January is an ideal time to visit some old favourites (which may have a seat or two available) and some new attractions. Here's a few worth a look in January 2014.
Amongst musicals, the stage adaptation of the 1992 film, The Bodyguard, pushes on at The Adelphi, though it's worth checking if Beverley Knight is in the Whitney Houston role, if she's a big draw for you. Andrew Lloyd-Webber's curious sixties sex scandal songfest, Stephen Ward, continues after its December launch at The Aldwych and he still has Phantom at Her Majesty's Theatre to keep the wolf from the door. The two big tickets remain (for all the family) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane and (for adults only) The Book of Mormon at The Prince of Wales Theatre. There's also a last chance to catch American Psycho at The Almeida and Dirty Dancing at The Piccadilly Theatre. Get your bookings in for I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical opening at The London Palladium at end February and the much trailed revival of Miss Saigon opening at the Prince Edward Theatre in May. Perhaps the most intriguing musical slated to open in January is Blurred Lines (a reference to the Robin Thicke song no doubt) at The Shed, National Theatre.
Away from the ol' song and dance stuff, Iain Glen leads Turgenev's Fortune's Fool at The Old Vic and there's high jinx at The Duke of York's Theatre where Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan recreate PG Wodehouse's immortal duo for Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense. With fewer laughs, but just as compelling, Richard Eyre's adaptation of Ibsen's Ghosts resonates with the wintry skies over Nelson's Column at The Trafalgar Studios. With new theatrical Dames (real ones, not panto) in the news, Dame Eileen Atkins (now in her 80th year) reicarnates the 19th century greatest Shakespearean actress in Ellen Terry with Eileen Atkins, opening on 12 January at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
On the fringe, some of the more interesting openings this month include a revival of Ivor Novello's Valley of Song: A Musical Romance at The Finborough Theatre and an Othello at the Riverside Studios if you missed this most dramatic of Shakespeare's plays last year at The National. For kids, The Unicorn Theatre's adaptation of The Pardoner's Tale promises to keep the grown-ups as enthralled as their children.
As ever, the greatest pleasure of London's theatre comes from its vast range. Simply cast one eye at the listings (perhaps The Master himslef is doing just that in the photo), another at the tube map, book online and catch something - because even the smallest and most out of the way venues produce stunning work. And - away from the West End, it won't cost you much either.