Ten reasons for theatre lovers to be crazy excited for 2014

Yawn, it’s January and we’re all back at work, dully wondering if we can even face up to  2014, and existing on celery in misguided attempts at self-betterment. And it’s constantly either raining, windy, cold or all three.

Kick-start your year with these happy thoughts.

1. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is open. For anyone who gives 2 craps about Shakespeare this is the most exciting thing since Shakespeare in Love came out and we could all grin knowingly and smugly all the way through like a Conan Doyle geek reading a Sherlock blog.


You must have heard about it. Those fabulous people at The Globe have built a Jacobean theatre. If you think this isn’t as interesting as when The Globe first opened, you’re reading the wrong website. It’s lit by candles, it’s going to have a star trap door that shoots people out, it’s the first Jacobean theatre we’ve got to watch gut-wrenching plays like the Duchess of Malfi in as they were first seen. We’re already finding out new discoveries about how Shakespeare’s theatre went down, particularly the effects of performing indoors by candlelight. For example, they now reckon people might have actually worn those big white ruffs because they reflected more light on the face. Best of all: the candles cost £500 per performance and take 3 hours to set up, the star trap will cost £25,000, the whole thing’s cost £7.3 million to build, it only seats 350 but the tickets start at £10. Personally I see this as proof that decimating arts funding and expecting theatres to rely on ticket sales destroys our national intellect and will inevitably reduce London’s theatre to endless productions of Shrek the musical at £70 a seat. But whether you agree or not, you should be bloody excited about the Sam Wanamaker opening.

2. You can still go and see a curious incident. Yup, it’s moving next door to the Gielgud, because the Apollo have had to close their top balcony and can no longer stuff enough people in to make the NT happy. (Read what I thought about the Apollo collapsing.)

3. Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby transfers from the Royal Court. Nimax still have reasons to be cheerful though, personally I’m excited to see Lisa Dwan’s one-woman Becket Trilogy, Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby. I was reading recently in Benedict Nightingale’s book Great moments in the theatre (fascinating read, highly recommend) about how much actors who have previously performed Not I have hated it. Nightingale saw Billie Whitelaw’s performance in 1973 and says Whitelaw later confided that she found the fast gabbled monologue hellish to learn.

Lisa Dwan as the mouth in Not I, by Samuel Beckett

In order to be reduced to a mouth in a spotlight, she was also strapped into a chair with her head in clamps, a mask over her eyes and everything including her teeth blacked out, clutching a bar so hard it rubbed skin off her palms and talking so fast she had no time to swallow her saliva. Jessica Tandy, who performed it in the US found it similarly uncomfortable. Given it sounds like a bloody nightmare to perform, the chances to see this and two other of Becket’s brutal, short, later works can’t come around too frequently. Go see them.

4. Nicholas Hytner has something exciting up his sleeve. As the National Theatre’s artistic director, Hytner brought us Travelex tickets, War horse,  One man, two Guvnors and National Theatre Live screenings in cinemas (a master-stroke response to the ongoing problem of having a ‘national’ theatre that is ultimately a building in London.) OK he’s not leaving til 2015 but I read in the Guardian that he and Nick Starr plan to set up a new independent theatre company. So we can be excited about that and simultaneously probably even more excited to see what Rufus London Road Norris brings to the NT when he takes over.

5. Simon Russell Beale in King Lear. ‘Nuff said. Sold out for now, naturally, but more tickets will be released in February at which point we should all be on them like a tramp on chips.

6. Blurred lines. Carrie Cracknell who brought us the Young Vic’s beautiful A doll’s house has a bang up-to-date look at women’s lives this time. As a Robin Thicke lynch-mob Twitter feminist, and fully fledged nmp3 t-shirt wearer, I’m excited. As a theatre-lover and fan of The Shed, I’m double excited.

blurred lines

7. Meanwhile, in the fringe, you can see some Bulgakov at the Brockley Jack. I’ve never seen this theatre group, so it’s a punt but it’s a great theatre and I heart Bulgakov. So have a glance.

8. Instructions for a Theatrical audienceI love the Oval House theatre, and I just think this looks like quite good fun! If Punchdrunk have taught us anything (besides that you automatically fall in love with an actor if they’re too close to your face for too long) it’s that immersive theatre is not just for extreme performance art lovers any more. Get involved.

9. The Guardian are letting us watch a play live on t’internet! This very night we can watch Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line live on their website! Followed by a live web chat! It’s the future! Am I going to watch? Of course not, it’s Saturday Night, I’m going out because I’m not a loser. However it is available online for a couple of days afterwards so may well catch it then. Not as good obviously, because I won’t be able to chat about it on Twitter with everyone afterwards. Details here.

10. Pocket Henry V. I really like Propeller’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Comedy of Errors. But I love them doing the historys best so I reckon Henry V was the best thing they’ve done in the last few years and now they’re touring a pocket version. Take your kids to see it and they’ll be hooked on Shakespeare forever. To focus on my old home town for a minute,  I believe this is booked for Havant Literary Festival this year, which is also playing host to Will Self and no doubt all sorts of other awesomeness. So an exciting year for Havant.


Want to see me this year? Give me a shout about seeing any of the above, any other exciting show, or come see me perform at Rhymes with Orange.


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