Fourthwall’s Favourites: February

January 2012 has already thrown us some gems – the wonderful Faction Theatre company have been playing their ambitious repertory season to sell-out audiences, The Bee delighted our reviewer at Soho Theatre,  Phil Matthews, Fourthwall’s Editorial Director has been soaking up the best that NYC has to offer, interviewing Broadway Producer Bruce Robert Harris and catching up on the gossip, while JBR, our Editor has been talking to Jez Bond of incredibly exciting new North London venue, The Park Theatre and rehearsing Romeo & Juliet in Catford.

February is shaping up wonderfully, with some must-see performances coming your way.  Here’s Fourthwall’s Favourites for the coming month.

We contemplated getting up at 4am to queue for day seats for Eddie Redmayne in Michael Grandage’s swansong production at the Donmar, Richard II, but sadly we felt it we need more than Ready-Brek to get us out there on these cold mornings.  We wish Michael well as he moves on, and are looking forward to Josie Rourke tenure beginning.  But the Donmar isn’t the only venue that has them queuing on the streets.  Apparently Fog at the Finborough was essential viewing.  We think you should keep an eye on them, particularly for Don Juan Comes Back From The War.  It’s directed by Andrea Ferran as part of the Finborough’s Rediscoveries season. Our advice? Book early.

Booking early is also essential advice for Upstairs at the Gatehouse, and we were truly upset to have missed out on tickets to see Guys & Dolls. Congratulations to the Plews, the ‘First Family of the Fringe’ on their nine Offie nominations.  Some lucky people are still getting return tickets, so you might be in with a chance of catching the last performance of this classic musical.

Lucy Bailey is one of the hottest directors around at the moment, and Stratford audiences have been giving The Taming of the Shrew standing ovations every night.  Don’t worry – it will come to Richmond in March.  Fourthwall was up in Stratford-upon-Avon just before Christmas, and Written on the Heart was thrilling, intelligent theatre.  Do catch it if you’re in Bard County.

The Trial of Ubu at Hampstead, has been dividing critics and audiences.  Frankly, we thought it was everything you’d expect from a collaboration between Simon Stephens and Katie Mitchell – precisive writing, forensic direction, and a couple of frankly astonishing performances from Nikki Amuka-Bird and Kate Duchêne.  And No More Shall We Part which has been playing Downstairs at the Hampstead has been reducing audiences to tears.  As was Frantic Assembly’s Lovesong, over at the Lyric, Hammersmith.  Apparently, theatre staff were handing out tissues to the audience there – can’t beat that for service!  If you didn’t get a chance to catch Lovesong, it’s out on tour in February, so audiences at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff and The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow can catch it.  The Lyric rarely puts a foot wrong, and we’re tipping Filter’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be another massive success for them this month.  Their Twelfth Night was anarchic and witty and this company have such an inventive style and vibe about them, we are truly excited to see what they’ve done with Shakespeare’s magical comedy.

Younger audiences, or those just young at heart, might take a trip up to the fantastic West Yorkshire Playhouse for Angus, Thongs and Even More Snogging.  Perhaps Fourthwall could pretend to be a twelve year old girl, just so we can head up there on a Friday night for the Vair Sophis Party Night, and hang out with our Ace Gang?

For those currently studying it at GCSE, Dennis Kelly’s DNA is now being performed by the brilliant Hull Truck.  It’s out on tour and there’s a lot of interest, not least because it stars James Alexandrou from EastEnders. It kicks off in Plymouth in February before heading to the Rose, Kingston, then all around the country – Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester and Ipswich.  It’s touring right through to the end of May, so keep an eye out for it.

Also touring this month, before it comes into the West End, is The King’s Speech.  Unless you were living abroad, or under a hedge, you can’t have missed the Oscar winning British film.  Originally a play, it’s no surprise that it hasn’t taken long to bring this to the stage.  Charles Edwards takes the Colin Firth role, and Adrian Noble directs.  It all begins at the Yvonne Arnaud, before moving on to Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, Bath Theatre Royal and finishing February at the Theatre Royal, Brighton.  That’s a lot of Royal Theatres for a right royal show!

Speaking of films, some of you may have seen wonderful Indie flick Weekend recently.  It starred a former Fourthwall interviewee, the fantastic Chris New.  Fast becoming one of the hardest working actors in the UK, in February he can be caught appearing opposite Misfits star Nathan Stewart-Garrett and the RSC’s Juliet, Mariah Gale, in The Pitchfork Disney at the Arcola.  Philip Ridley’s astonishing play is right at the top of our To-Do list.

The Americans are coming to town too this spring.  Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) is heading over with All New People, a comedy he has written, and he’ll be bringing that, along with Eve Myles (Torchwood) into the Duke of Yorks at the end of the month.  Tyne Daly, known to an entire generation as Mary-Beth Lacey in hit US cop drama, Cagney & Lacey, will be taking on La Divina, Maria Callas, in Terence McNally’s Master Class at the Vaudeville.  Forget Cheryl Cole and Lady Gaga, Callas was the original international singing sensation.  She was beset by scandal and gossip throughout her tumultuous career.  Master Class was a sell-out on Broadway, and it’s here just for a limited run.  We saw a preview and it is exceptional, Tyne Daly gives a towering performance. Finally, King Lear at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol and The Good Soul of Szechuan at Watford Palace almost round it up for February.

It’s always sad to see a long running musical leave the West End, and Priscilla’s departure left a big glittery hole in Theatreland’s heart.  However, where one show leaves, another show comes in, and Singin’ in the Rain will be making its all singing, all dancing debut at the Palace Theatre, coming from a sell-out run at Chichester.  Starring West End royalty, Scarlett Strallen, and arguably one of the UK’s most famous male dancers, Adam Cooper, Singin’ in the Rain will hopefully be lighting up Shaftesbury Avenue for years to come.

It’s also award season, so look out for the Offies being announced on February 5th, the What’s On Stage Awards on February 19th, the Fringe Report Awards on February 6th and the London Cabaret Awards on February 16th  What a wonderful industry where the theatre going public, as well as a panel of experts, come together to reward not only our most talented performers on the big stages, but also those who bring theatre to our pubs, studios and smaller theatres.  Congratulations to everyone nominated this year, and good luck.

Oh, and finally – we began with Romeo & Juliet in Catford, so let us, for the sake of balance mention the incredible Headlong production of Romeo & Juliet that’s going out on a national tour.  With Daniel Boyd and Catrin Stewart in the title roles, and Robert Icke at the helm as Director, these star cross’d lovers kick off at The Nuffield, Southampton before moving on to the Yvonne Arnaud and the Salisbury Playhouse.

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