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London Spotlight: January 2008

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Kwame Kwei-Armah
Only four years back Kwame Kwei-Armah was handed the Evening Standard Award as most promising playwright for Edwina's Kitchen. He obviously took the implied obligation to heart. Just as his Statement of Regret closes at the National, he's written and directing Let There Be Love for the adventurous Tricycle (January 17-February 16). The drama about an older West Indian pensioner teaching a young Polish woman British ways will be underscored by Nat King Cole's tasty and timeless music.

At the National's Cottesloe, Linda Coxon's Happy Now? (January 16-March15) gives the lowdown on a dissatisfied housewife. At the Hampstead, Penny Gold's play, The President's Holiday (January 17-February 16) draws on Raisa Gorbacheva's diaries to take a look at how her husband, who these days appears in American commercials, came to a sadder political end than he hoped. Meanwhile, I Am Falling, billed as "a dance theatre collaboration," is at the Gate (January 4-February 2). It's directed by Carrie Cracknell and choreographed by Anna Williams.

The Royal Court is offering David Hare's tense and taut work, The Vertical Hour (January 17-March 1). The piece didn't exactly set Manhattan aflame last season, but it may have more resonance on Hare's home turf. Anton Lesser takes on the role of a snarky father-in-law-to-be that Bill Nighy played stateside. Out at the Bush, the inordinately prolific Neil LaBute serves up two one-acts, Helter Skelter and Land of the Dead (January 15-February 16), each about a contemporary couple having a day unlike any other.

One English playwright whose idiosyncratic dramas are revived regularly is Harold Pinter, and this month's entry is The Homecoming at the Almeida (January 31-March 22). Company artistic director Michael Attenborough is at the helm, with the always terrific Kenneth Cranham as Max, the sulphuric-tongued patriarch of a decidedly unappetizing brood. Speaking of revivals, Oscar Wilde's perfect comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest is at the Vaudeville (January 22-April 26). Peter Gill is the director, William Dudley the designer, and the great Penelope Keith is upstanding Lady Bracknell. At the Lyric Hammersmith, there's yet another adaptation of Franz Kafka's eerie Metamorphosis (January 11-February 2), by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson. The former directs and the latter appears as the man who wakes up one morning as a cockroach.

Those on the prowl for musicals will delight in a five-week season of the beloved W.S. Gilbert-Sir Arthur Sullivan operettas at the Gielgud (January 30-March 1). The Carl Rosa Opera Company with guest stars Nichola McAuliffe, Jo Brand and Alistair McGowan will slap The Mikado, Iolanthe, and The Pirates of Penzance back into snappy life.

Finally, theatergoers interested in Jazz can go to Ronnie Scott's revered hotspot for a month-long celebration called "Best of British." Claire Martin is there January 15-18, and from January 24-26 Barb Jungr will be singing -- as they've never been heard before -- songs associated with Nina Simone.

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