UK Roundup - Kiss Me Kate, Chitty, The History Boys

The National Theatre have announced the rest of their Spring/Summer season. David Edgar's new political play PlayingWith Fire – about splits in the Labour party - plays in the Olivier Theatre as part of the £10 Travelex season from September 12th, Brian Friel's Aristocrats – about a family gathering for a wedding in a crumbling mansion – is in the smaller Lyttelton Theatre with a cast including Brian Doherty from July 2nd, and The President of an Empty Room, a new play by Stephen Knight (author of the screenplay Dirty Pretty Things) is in the Cottesloe Theatre from June 17th. Set in a Cuban cigar factory, and subtitled 'a story of voodoo, heroin and tobacco, Knight's play is directed by acclaimed director Howard Davies. Set to return to the National is The History Boys (see below). The three-venue complex have also announced full casts for the rest of their previously announced plays – more details can be found on their website, www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.

The UK tour of Michael Blakemore's Broadway production of Kiss Me Kate, which won 5 Tony Awards when it played at the Martin Beck Theatre (now the Al Hirschfield), has dramatically closed during its tour. After a run of nine months, with another four more left, the decision taken by producer Tristan Baker was due to box office receipts not being high enough to sustain the running costs of such a large-scale tour. It played at the VictoriaPalace Theatre in 2001, where it ran for ten months and garnered nine Olivier nominations. On tour it starred Julie-Alanah Brighten and Craig Urbani. Also whispering of closure on tour is Starlight Express, which will supposedly end in September as opposed to continuing to Glasgow in November.

Though details are currently thin on the ground, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is setting out on a UK tour that sees the first leg stop off in Sunderland for three months from Friday 9th December until Saturday 4th March. Of course such a massively expensive show would be expensive to recreate on tour, so whispers are strong that it will close at the end of September to make way for a West End outing of Scrooge with Tommy Steele. Chitty in London is currently offering a 'May madness' promotion, where kids go free with every adult ticket from Tuesdays – Thursdays, meaning tickets are around £20 each, plus the attraction of a 'free gift' and jugglers, stilt-walkers, etc. Chitty - at the London Palladium - currently stars Brian Conley as Caractacus Potts and former-rocker Alvin Stardust. It opens on Broadway at the Hilton Theatre on April 28th.

If, like me, you are kicking yourself at having missed The History Boys at The National Theatre – fear not. The show is to embark on an eight week UK tour and then come back to the National's South Bank complex for Christmas 2005. As if that wasn't enough, The Stage exclusively reports this week that it is currently being adapted for radio broadcast. Alan Bennett's hit play, which won all of the major best play awards, is about the lives of the adolescent pupils and rival teachers in a private boys school. Its original run - which finishes next week - stars Richard Griffiths, who won Best Actor for his role as teacher Hector. It was recently announced that there are plans for a film version with the original cast in tact. The play will be produced on Broadway in 2006 with producers Bob Boyett and Bill Haber hoping to bring the 14-strong British cast over.

In other news - Ian McKellen is set to revive his role as the dame Widow Twankey in the pantomime Aladdin at the OldVicTheatre in December. Despite largely negative reviews from the critics it played to sell-out houses and a warm public reception. Dates are not yet confirmed, nor are the rest of the cast. Joanna Riding has cancelled her concert with Martin Crewes (Woman in White) at the New Player's Theatre on April 24th as she has been taken to hospital. Details of her condition are unknown – though it was recently confirmed she is pregnant – and I'm sure everyone will join me in wishing the actress a full recovery.

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From This Author Jake Brunger

Jake is currently studying at Bristol University and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the theatre industry as a writer/director. His favourite writers include (read more...)