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London Spotlight: March 2009

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Iwan Rheon in Spring Awakening
(© Helen Maybanks)
In the month following the cheerful Society of London Theatre report on extremely good 2008 business (despite perilous economic times), there are more potential audience pleasers on offer, including a few mouth-watering musicals. The especially good news is the hop Spring Awakening will make to the West End's Novello on March 21 following its brief but acclaimed stop at the Lyric Hammersmith. This is the Steven Sater-Duncan Sheik update of Frank Wedekind's late 19th-century play about adolescents and adolescence.

The other attention-getter is the adaptation of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert The Musical at the Palace (March 10-September 26). The peripatetic performing Australian drag queens are played by Jason Donovan, Tony Sheldon and Oliver Thornton. Also worth checking out should be Cole Porter's 1930's tuner, The New Yorkers, which will be at Sadler's Wells (March 29-April 26). "Love for Sale," which was banned from the airwaves for years, comes from this smartly brittle enterprise; so does "I Happen to Like New York." The redoubtable Ian Marshall Fisher directs and produces as part of his venerable Lost Musicals series.

In Yukio Mishima's Madame De Sade at Wyndham's (March 13-May 23), six women report the life of the Marquis De Sade, and among them, directed by Michael Grandage are no less notables than Judi Dench, Rosamund Pike, Frances Barber and Deborah Findlay. Then there's Athol Fugard's 1960's Dimetos at the Donmar Warehouse (March 19-May 9). The always propulsive Jonathan Pryce will star under Douglas Hodges' direction. Jez Butterworth's Parlour Song, which wonders seriously about what's going on beneath the surface of happy suburban life, is reprised at the Almeida (March 3-May 9) with hot-hot Ian Rickson directing and Toby Jones featured.

In the new play file, insert Ian Kennedy Martin's Berlin Hanover Express at the Hampstead (March 5-April 4), directed by Michael Rudman. The subject matter is Ireland's neutrality during World War II, and the setting is the Berlin autumn of 1942. Nikolai Gogol's short story, The Overcoat is far from new, but the physical theatre folks known as Gecko (Allel Nedjari, Amit Nahav) take it on -- or take it off -- at the Lyric Hammersmith (March 20-April 11).

Polly Stenham's Tusk Tusk at the Royal Court's Jermyn Theatre Upstairs (March 28-May 2) has to do with three children home alone and waiting for a mobile phone to bring them some sort of meaningful news. At the Soho, Jonas Hassen Khemiri's Invasion!, a comedy about middle-Easterners in Europe, will be dropping in (March 3-March 28), as will Anthony Neilson's Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness (March 31-April 11). The latter is about a Victorian actor-manager, a theater type that today would be someone like Kevin Spacey.

New Boy, adapted and directed by Russell Labey from William Sutcliffe's novel, shows up at Trafalgar Studios after impressing crowds at Edinburgh's Fringe Festival. Meanwhile Philip Ralph's Deep Cut -- a family drama wherein there's been an unexplained army death -- is due at the Tricycle (March 9-28). It also comes from the Edinburgh festivities. The amazing Kathryn Hunter, who only takes on nearly impossible assignments has a go at an adaptation of Franz Kafka's A Report to an Academy, written by the revered Austrian author as Kafka's Monkey out at the Young Vic (March 14-April 9).

Freshly-minted Shakespeare is in short supply locally this month, but Christopher Marlowe's first play, Dido, Queen of Carthage (written when the fiery lad was 17), will be bursting at the seams in the Royal National Theatre's Cottesloe (March 17-May 7). Anastasia Hille stars under the guidance of James Macdonald. La Clique at the Hippodrome (now-June 14) hasn't been mentioned in this column before. It's an entertainment in which supposedly bizarre acts come and go from week to week and is therefore a grab-bag with promise.

Last but not least, note that War Horse, the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel for young adults is transferring from the National to the New London (March 28-September 26) on the north side of the Thames. There's a good reason for the move. The play, directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, is something the likes of which has rarely been seen and, with its astonishing horse puppets, is an absolute must.


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