This column is the first of my now monthly Diary of a Theatre columns, as I tried (and failed!) to update them on a weekly basis before. It will enable me to keep a month-by-month tally of what I’ve seen and reviewed, as well as other things I’ve seen and done.
Across April I’ve duly seen 13 shows in London, one of them twice within the space of four days – namely the current revival of Guys and Dolls. I’d seen it twice before that, first when it originated at Chichester two summers ago and then when it transferred to the Savoy in January, and now again when it moved across town to the Phoenix with a substantially re-cast set of principals and I reviewed it for a third time. Then I returned to it yet again the same weekend to accompany a friend who was in town visiting from New York (yes, it’s that good!).
The London tally also included another two repeats: for the Menier’s Funny Girl, when it transferred to the Savoy (to replace Guys and Dolls), and for Show Boat, transferred from Sheffield’s Crucible to the New London.
Then there were new productions for shows I’d seen several times before in previous versions, including Sunset Boulevard at English National Opera (with Glenn Close reprising the role of Norma Desmond 22 years after she first played it on Broadway) and Forever Plaid at the St James Studio; and the new plays Boy (which I loved at the Almeida, and have already booked to see again later this month) and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery (ditto, at the Criterion), plus X at the Royal Court (which I hated) and a new contemporary re-write of Erdman’s The Suicide at the National (which I was unimpressed by).
I also saw a number of shows I didn’t formally review but saw for my own interest: Les Blancs at the National, The Caretaker at the Old Vic and Ivo van Hove’s Kings of War at the Barbican. I wasn’t the only critic playing catch-up on the latter: at the same penultimate performance of the run I also saw the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish and the Standard’s Henry Hitchings, plus actor/director Sam West and director Lucy Bailey, amongst others.
Beyond London, I visited Watford, Bromley, Manchester and Colchester, to review a new musical Laila at Watford Palace, the tour of American Idiot at the Churchill, King Lear at the Royal Exchange and Clybourne Park at the Mercury respectively, and a non-reviewing trip to Cardiff to see a new British musical called Only the Brave at the Wales Millennium Centre.
Then I also had 9 days in New York, catching up on the pre-Tony rush of openings and reviewing a number of them: the transfer of American Psycho from the Almeida (reviewed here), the new musicals Tuck Everlasting (reviewed here), Waitress (reviewed here) and Shuffle Along (reviewed here).
I saw 7 more shows as well, including return visits to The Color Purple (my third time on Broadway, and what a privilege to see the astonishing Cynthia Erivo yet again, pictured with me here backstage after the show) and Finding Neverland (now with a cast that includes Brits Alfie Boe and Sally Ann Triplett), as well as the recently opened productions of the musical Bright Star (a new musical co-written by film actor Steve Martin, who is also a bluegrass musician) and the plays The Effect (originally premiered at the National and now in a new production at off-Broadway’s Barrow Street Theatre) and The Crucible, directed by Ivo van Hove.
And no sooner did I arrive back in London than the first thing I saw was another van Hove show — Kings of War, his amazing distillation of three of Shakespeare’s history plays (Henry V, Henry VI, and Richard III, into a single evening) at the Barbican.
That ended a month that was bookended at the other end by the Olivier Awards at the Royal Opera House — my column about the results is here. So I’ve had a lot to see and write about this month! In May, I’ll actually be taking a holiday — yes, a HOLIDAY — to San Francisco, so although I’m bound to squeeze in a few shows, I expect to have a slower month, at last, ahead — though I have a few things to catch up on that I missed last month, so the week ahead will see me at Bug, Dr Faustus, The Flick and My Mother Never Said I Should in London, as well as Travels with My Aunt and the opening of Enemy of the People in Chichester, before I go…. More on all of that next month!