(NOTE. David Eldridge’s Festen, an original Almeida production transferred to the West End, is a spare but engrossing dramatization of a film by Thomas Vinterberg and partners, set in a desert-like location and showing the sad, catastrophic breakdown of a family rendered helpless by a brutal, domineering father. Fix-Up, by Kwame Kwei-Armah, a play set in a bookstore in a city somewhere in the United Kingdom, details the agonizing plight of black Africans helpless to escape their circumstances. A revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Dale Wasserman, proves itself still relevant despite the outlawing of frontal lobotomy, the subject of the dramatist’s penetrating examination. Originally produced in 1925 and here newly translated into English and directed by Declan Donnelan, Erdman’s The Mandate comes roaring back to life in this very funny comic satire about nostalgia over Czarist Russia.
In a RSC production of Shakespeare’s play here transferred to the West End, King Lear is portrayed by Corin Redgrave in a clear, well-paced mounting that ends up being palpably moving. The Irish playwright Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats captures a deeply affecting account of thwarted love and its tragic aftermath, in this intentional updating of the classic Medea story. Taking advantage of the Almeida’s new stage capabilities, including a proscenium-wide revolve with an inner ring, Simon Russell Beale brings his genius for deep, probing characterization to Shakespeare’s misguided tragic hero Macbeth, along with Emma Fielding as his Lady, in this stark and effective portrayal of a dangerously ambitious man who fatally misunderstands the world he lives in. The experience of witnessing a full-dress opera performed at Covent Garden, in this case Puccinni’s Turandot, is as much a part of the production as the opera itself, no matter where in this vast, beautifully appointed auditorium one ends up sitting.
The three mimes that make up the group called Complicite are simultaneously gymnasts and actors, and in this National Theatre Lyttelton’s presentation, A Minute Too Late, identified as a work on the subject of death, they manage to keep the audience laughing uproariously, until almost the very end. The Coliseum, in St Martin’s Lane, home of the English National Opera, is host to the Chicago Lyric Opera’s deliciously good production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, triumphantly at home in this, the largest theatre in the West End.)