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London Spotlight: January 2011

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Elisabeth Moss and Keira Knightley
star in The Children's Hour
(© Michael Birt)
The opening of the month is surely Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss toplining a revival of The Children's Hour, Lillian Hellman's play about the effect girl-school gossip has on the two women running the institution. Ian Rickson directs at the Comedy (January 22-April 2). Another revival of note is The Potting Shed at the Finborough (January 4-29), Graham Greene's sizzling 1958 play about dire family secrets. The opus hasn't been seen in town since 1971, when Cliff Richard took the leading role.

The reopening of the month is Bruce Norris' first-rate drama, Clybourne Park, which transfers from the sell-out Royal Court run to Wyndham's (January 28-May 7). This is the one wherein a white American couple is selling their suburban home to a black family and racist problems ensue. Sophie Thompson is among the ensemble directed by Dominic Cooke. Returning to the Young Vic is Vernon God Little (January 27-March 5). It's adapted by Tanya Ronder from the award-winning DBC Pierre novel. The mighty fine Rufus Norris directs.

Musicals are scarce this month, but there is a treatment of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme at the Soho (January 11-February 19). With a cast of young singers, the superb opera takes place in the establishment's theater and bar. Robin Norton-Hale translated and directs this return engagement. Then there's Barbershopera--Apocalypse No! at the Trafalgar Studios 2 (January 11-February 5). The Rob Castell-Tom Sadler collaboration with Sarah Stipple, who directs, reveals in four-part harmony what transpires when the Four Housemen of the Apocalypse are supposed to show up but Beth arrives instead of Death.

New on the docket: At the never-idle Bush, John Donnelley's play The Knowledge (January 12-February 19), about upsets at a failing school, is only one of two plays on view there in what's dubbed "The Schools Season." The other offering, in which concerned parents establish a "free school" and encounter obstacles has the marvelous but not seen enough Susannah Harker in the troupe. It's called Little Platoons (January 19-February 19) and is written by Steve Waters. Roald Dahl's Twisted Tales comes to the stage for the first time at the Lyric Hammersmith (January 14-February 26). Jeremy Dyson, who's handy at this sort of undertaking, adapts.

More newbies: Nina Raine's Tiger Country bows at the Hampstead (January 13-February 5). Raine also directs a large-ish cast in her drama about hectic life at a hospital. Gina Gionfriddo's excitable Becky Shaw jumps the Pond to open at the Almeida (January 13-March 5). Peter DuBois directs Anna Madeley and others, and Penny Dyer makes certain they all get the American accents right. At Trafalgar Studios 2 is The Fitzrovia Radio Hour (January 11-February 5), for which six self-assured local wits create their idea of 1940s British radio.

At the National's Lyttelton, four playwrights, including Moira Buffini, have come up with Greenland (January 25-April 2), about the state of the planet. The works are based on interviews with experts who've been following the disturbing ecological developments.

Looking for the off-beat? Move fast to the Barbican for Du Goudron et des Plumes (January 26-29), which examines friendships through much physical action, and Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl (January 19-29), an American export, which also involves much physical endeavor to send up office politics.

Still hunting pantos? Pinocchio is at the Peacock for a minuscule stay (January 24-29). Certainly, parents with kids might want to track this down. Hunting mysteries? The Agatha Christie Company is presenting the great lady's Verdict at the Royal Theatre, Bath (January 24-29).

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