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London Spotlight: July 2008

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Eileen Atkins
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
The always brilliant Eileen Atkins stars in Joanna Murray-Smith's comedy The Female of the Species (Vaudeville, July 10-October 4), under Roger Michell's direction, and co-starring Paul Chahidi, Sam Kelly, Anna Maxwell-Martin, Con O'Neill, and Sophie Thompson. It's about a literary giant who's imminent deadline is jeopardized by the arrival of a persistent fan.

At the National, there's Rebecca Lenkiewicz's Her Naked Skin (July 24-September 24), about the Suffragette movement. Howard Davies directs a large cast led by Lesley Manville. Another likely don't miss at the National is brilliant director Katie Mitchell's ...some trace of her (July 23-October 21), which will use the multimedia techniques she introduced for The Waves a season ago. Hattie Morahan and Ben Whishaw are in the cast. Also at the National is a reprise of Harold Pinter's look at a long-lasting marriage, A Slight Ache (July 21-August 13), with house staples Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins, who also play estranged marrieds in Major Barbara through July 3 under this capacious roof.

If you're on the look-out for exciting revivals, visit Sadler's Wells for the Arthur Laurents-Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein West Side Story (July 22-August 31). Joey McKneely has assumed the choreographic duties originally taken on by the legendary Jerome Robbins. At the Royal Festival Hall, there's a production of The Wizard of Oz (July 23-August 31) guided by the establishment's artistic director, Jude Kelly.

They're Playing Our Song will be playing at David Babani's busy Menier Chocolate Factory (July 25-September 28), located south of the Thames. Fiona Laird will direct Connie (Sound of Music) Fisher and Alistair McGowan in the Neil Simon-Carole Bayer Sager-Marvin Hamlisch tale of two songwriters who fall for each other. The Kurt Weill-Langston Hughes Street Scene shows up at the Young Vic (July 17-22) as a co-production by the house with The Opera Group and Watford Palace Theatre.

Adam Rapp's virtual one-man show, Nocturne, is getting its first Great Britain showing at the Almeida (July 16-27). Peter MacDonald does 95 percent of the talking as a man mourning his sister. (Incidentally, amazing song stylist Barb Jungr does a one-niter here on July 22.) The terrific and sexy Francesca Annis toplines David Eldridge's three intertwined love stories going by the title Under the Blue Sky (Duke of York's, July 15-September 20), and the resourceful Anna Mackmin is the director.

At the Bush is 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (July 21-26), a drama put together by Leah Chillery, Ben Ellis, Stacey Gregg, Lucy Kirkwood, and Ben Schiffer. Apparently, the piece, directed by Anthea Williams, is inspired by actual break-up stories. Anupama Chandrasekhar's Free Outgoing stops at the Royal Court (July 2-19) and unleashes the story of culture and technology clashes in today's Tamil region of southern India. Moonlight & Magnolias, Ron Hutchinson's comedy spoofing the filming of Gone With the Wind, returns to the Tricycle (July 2-August 2). The Clean Break Theatre Company arrives at the Soho with Chloe Moss' This Wide Night (July 30-August 9). Since the troupe was founded by two women in prison, the subject matter -- two women trying to start over -- should have an authentic ring.

Attention Bard Lovers: Timon of Athens shows up at the Globe (July 26-October 3), while at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, the latest re-working of A Midsummer Night's Dream (July 8-August 2) unfolds. A new play, Che Walker's The Frontline, which is about contemporary London life outside the frenzied Camden Town tube stop, will also join the Globe repertory and play July 6-August 17.

Farther Afield: Nicki Frei has adapted Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady for Peter Hall to direct at the Theatre Royal, Bath (July 3-August 9). The starry cast includes Catherine McCormack, Niamh Cusack, Finbar Lynch, Christopher Ravenscroft, and the ever-adorable Jean Marsh. The production alternates with Hall's version of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, also featuring McCormack, Lynch, and Ravenscroft. At the Richmond is Slapstix (July 14-19), which press material describes as "a crazy mix of Blue Man Group, Monty Python, Slava's Snow Show and Benny Hill.

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