tue 22/04/2014

It's ladies' night on the London stage in 2013 | Theatre reviews, news & interviews

It's ladies' night on the London stage in 2013

The women have it in a theatre year ahead awash with major actresses in defining roles

Helen Mirren reprises her Oscar-winning HRH in Peter Morgan's new play, 'The Audience'

The London theatre looks to be awash in great women of the English (and Irish) stage in a 2013 line-up of star roles that disproves the often-held assertion that the men get all the great stuff. Those who missed Hattie Morahan's award-winning Nora last summer in A Doll's House will have a second chance at the Young Vic in April, while Kim Cattrall brings her singular glamour to Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic come the summer.

In addition to those two women are a handful (well, six, in fact, since one of them is part of a tantalising double-act) of leading ladies all primed for the spotlight. Below is a run-down of who's en route and what to expect, presented in the order in which the productions are opening. 

1. Fiona Shaw

Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner comes to the stage courtesy of Fiona Shaw, who is no stranger to such projects having toured extensively with her solo performance of Eliot's The Wasteland, directed by Deborah Warner. This time, Shaw's director is Phyllida Lloyd, and she has both a dancer, Daniel Hay-Gordon, and choreographer, Kim Brandstrup, along for what is sure to be an adventurous, if brief, ride: the performance, first seen last year in Epidaurus in Greece, runs less than an hour. 

2. Kristin Scott Thomas 

With memories of her scintillating Emma in Betrayal still fresh in the mind, along comes Kristin Scott Thomas in an earlier Pinter play, Old Times, once again directed by her apparent practitioner of choice, Ian Rickson. On this occasion, Scott Thomas (pictured right in rehearsals) will swap roles throughout the run with the scarcely less sublime Lia Williams, while lucky Rufus Sewell gets to play the odd man out in a theatrical reverie that has possible awards, and a New York transfer, written all over it.

3. Helen Mirren

Who says you can't go home again? Not Mirren, who won an Oscar for The Queen, written by Peter Morgan, and now returns to the West End to play HRH in a new Morgan play, The Audience, that among other things should pose a challenge to the make-up people to suggest the monarch at differing periods during her lengthy reign. The play's director, Stephen Daldry, has been absent from the London stage for even longer than Mirren: this play marks his first local theatre work since Billy Elliot in 2005. 

4. Judi Dench

At 78, the abiding Dame of the London stage constitutes an event any and every time she treads the boards, and her appearance in a new play, John Logan's Peter and Alice, is doubly exciting, and not only for the Bond fanatics in the house who will be there to cheer on the live presence not just of M but of the franchise's current Q, Ben Whishaw (pictured left). Michael Grandage's production is the second in his current West End quintet that began with Privates on Parade, and Logan's first play since the much-lauded Red is the only world premiere in the pack. 

5. Zoe Wanamaker

Few will forget the collaboration, both in London and New York, between Wanamaker and the director David Leveaux on a production of Sophocles' Electra that seemed ripped from the guts of everyone concerned. The two are re-teaming in the spring on Peter Nichols's wrenching Passion Play, which is itself no walk in the park. Arriving hot on the heels of the revival of the same dramatist's Privates on Parade up the street, the 85-year-old dramatist can lay claim to what looks to be pretty much an annus mirabilis for him as well as for a singular host of women - and, let's hope, for audiences, as well. 

Stephen Daldry has been absent from the London stage for even longer than Mirren

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