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London Spotlight: May 2008

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Darius Danesh and Jill Paice
in Gone with the Wind
(© Catherine Ashmore)
Looking for big musicals? There's nothing much bigger -- in length and scope, at least -- than Gone With the Wind, Margaret Martin's adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's mammoth and memorable best-seller at the New London (now-September 27). The local critics didn't necessarily welcome it with the kind of hospitality familiar from the old South, but it's hard to imagine any true GWTW fan not wanting to see how Jill Paice and Darius Danesh measure up to Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable as Scarlet and Rhett. Martin wrote the songs, Trevor Nunn directed, and the great John Napier designed the many, many, many sets.

At the Haymarket, Jonathan Kent concludes his season there with Marguerite (May 7-November 1), yet another adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' Paris-and-environs-based La Dame aux Camelias. The new tuner has been put together by composer Michel Legrand and Les Miz vets Alan Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer. Kent has a hand in the libretto as well. Ruthie Henshall is the stricken dame and Julien Ovendon her upper-class lover.

Shakespeare is on tap this month as every month, of course. The opening at the must-attend Globe is A Midsummer Night's Dream (May 10-October 4), where it's directed by the inventive Mike Alfreds. He's using a small cast who'll do plenty of doubling. Ibsen is another of the playwriting titans on tap. His Rosmersholm is at the rarely-disappoints Almeida (May 15-July 5) as directed by the estimable Anthony Page and starring Helen McCrory as Rebecca West.

The Old Vic revives George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion (May 7-August 2) with Tim Pigott-Smith as punctilious Henry Higgins and Michelle Dockery as Eliza Doolittle. Peter Hall, who knows the play inside and out, directs at one of his old stomping grounds. Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood gets another look-see at the Tricycle (May 13-May 24). It's the "play for voices" originally composed for radio but which has also often been performed on the boards. It's about the everyday goings-on in the tiny South Wales village of Llareggub, the sort of dot on the may with which the Welsh dramatist couldn't have been more familiar.

As for more recent classics, the Lyric Hammersmith presents a revival of Harold Pinter's snappy and snappish tragi-comedy, The Birthday Party (May 8-24), with the adored Sheila Hancock in the cast. The back-story on this one is that it was the Nobel Prize-winner's first full-length play to bow in this burg almost 50 years ago to the day and at, as it happens, this very venue. Simon Gray's bitter laffer, The Common Pursuit, is returning to the Menier Chocolate Factory (May 9-July 20). In this one, a number of Cambridge pals -- including one based on famous theater critic Kenneth Tynan -- are followed over some years.

Newer plays up for scrutiny include Polly Streatham's That Face at the Duke of York's (May 1-July 5). Seen at the Royal Court in 2007, it's transferring to the West End with Lindsay Duncan and Julian Wadham in a cast directed by Jeremy Herrin. At the Royal Court there's Levi David Addai's Oxford Street (May 2-31). It's about the workers toiling behind the busy facades of the town's busiest commercial thoroughfare and is at the upstairs theater.

For the day-tripper: Consider the pleasant journey to Bath's Theatre Royal for Alan Bennett's exquisitely diabolical Single Spies (May 26-31), two one-acts about the Cambridge glittering-prize boys who thought it smart in the 30's and 40's to tattle to the Soviets. Comic actors Nigel Havers and Diana Quick star as Coral Brown, Elizabeth II, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. Christopher Luscombe directs.

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