Official London Theatre has officially – naturally – declared today the first day of the autumn season, as both the slate coloured sky and the fast-filling diary of every theatre critic in London will affirm. After the quiet of the summer, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a distant dream and all eyes are back on the West End and the incredible show selection coming up in the next four months.
The parallels of a new season with that going back to school feeling are undeniable. The newly sharpened pencils and notepads for press nights may be exciting, but choosing what to see can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve compiled our English Literature GCSE-inspired acrostic guide to autumn, to break down the 200+, ever-growing list of shows we have as playing this autumn into 10 manageable bite-sized nuggets.
…is for aardvark. Nope, just kidding we couldn’t squeeze that in as much as we tried. A, in fact, is for adaptations. You can’t walk down Shaftesbury Avenue without bumping into a literary adaptation this autumn. From comedy Jeeves & Wooster In Perfect Nonsense (from 30 October), adapted from P G Wodehouse’s classic stories and starring the genius casting of duo Stephen Mangan and Matthew Macfadyen, to The Royal Opera House’s adaptation of Kenneth Graham’s The Wind In The Willows (from 11 December) for the festive season. Leave the West End and you’re faced with the far more terrifying adaptation of Swedish cult film Let The Right One In, which will bring the chilling tale of vampires and childhood bullies to the Royal Court theatre from 29 November.
…is for productions as unconventional as a Mark Rylance award acceptance speech, which is fitting as it’s a Rylance-directed production that has inspired this category. Previewing now, his production of Shakespeare’s popular comedy Much Ado About Nothing stars the brilliant, but unconventionally aged, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones as the sparring duo Beatrice and Benedick. We don’t reckon this casting decision is anywhere near as unconventional as the delightfully eccentric Dame Edna Everage will be in Barry Humpries’ farewell show Eat, Pray, Love! though. Don’t miss your chance to see that most famous blue rinse in the flesh from 13 November at the London Palladium.
…is for Tom. Tom Hiddleston in fact, who caused a near Twitter meltdown – well on our feed anyway – when it was announced he will return to the London stage this autumn after his recent Hollywood conquering performances to star at the Donmar Warehouse in Josie Rourke’s production of Coriolanus from 6 December.
In the spirit of gender equality (and to fit in another corker), T is also for Tamzin Outhwaite who will lead a cast of comedy favourites including Miranda star Sarah Hadland and Peep Show’s Robert Webb in actor Simon Paisley Day’s playwriting debut Raving, which plays at Hampstead theatre from 17 October.
…is for uncouth, which we imagine Clive Exton’s Parker family in Barking In Essex to be from descriptions of Essex’s most dysfunctional – and criminal – family. Starring Lee Evans, Sheila Hancock and Keeley Hawes, the comedy is now playing in all its fake furred, stiletto-heeled splendour at the Wyndham’s theatre.
…is for musicals. It may be an obvious one, but this season must be unparalleled for the quality of creative teams embarking on new all-singing, all-dancing productions.
First up is the much-anticipated stage adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s cult novel The Commitments from 21 September, with direction from one of theatre’s most in demand directors Jamie Lloyd and a cast of exciting newcomers. Next, Tim Rice makes a welcome return to the West End with a new musical take on the epic love story From Here To Eternity, which previews from 30 September. Over the river at the National Theatre, Tori Amos makes her musical theatre debut with The Light Princess plays from 25 September, while the Young Vic will become the first UK venue to stage the 12-time Tony Award nominated The Scottsboro Boys from 18 October directed by the five-time Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman. If that wasn’t enough to whet your musical appetite, everyone’s favourite theatre impresario, Andrew Lloyd Webber, is back! The theatre legend debuts his new musical, Stephen Ward, based one of the most sensational political scandals of the 20th century, Stephen Ward, from 3 December.
…is for nettled, which is very likely an emotion that one of the dozen men, including high-profile cast members Robert Vaughn, Jeff Fahey, Nick Moran and Martin Shaw, might channel to play their role in the stage adaptation of cult film Twelve Angry Men. The Christopher Hayden-directed production plays at the Garrick theatre from 7 November.
We also imagine that gangsters frequently feel nettled and there are plenty in the Chichester Festival Theatre transfer of Jonathan Church’s critically acclaimed The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui. Henry Goodman reprises his title role at the Old Vic from 18 September.
…is how many productions are left to run as part of former Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Michael Grandage’s first season at the Noël Coward theatre with his new company, the Michael Grandage Company. We’ve already seen Simon Russell Beale in Privates On Parade, Judi Dench in Peter And Alice and Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmann and there are an equally star-studded line-up to come. Now previewing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream stars Sheridan Smith and David Walliams, while from 23 November Jude Law will once again work with the director to star in the title role of Shakespeare’s historic tale of nationhood, Henry V.
…is how many times Rupert Grint has been seen in the West End (not including sightings at the Groucho Club obviously). Harry Potter fans will be delighted, no doubt, that the star is making his debut in Jez Butterworth’s acclaimed 1950s-set drama Mojo. Theatre fans will be equally excited by his fellow cast members that include stage favourites Daniel Mays, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Coyle and Colin Morgan. Butterworth’s latest collaboration with director Ian Rickson plays at the Harold Pinter theatre from 26 October.
…is for the number of small boys who must embark on an adventure-filled journey in Emil And The Detectives, the National Theatre’s new family show that plays from 25 November and will transform the Olivier theatre into 1920s Berlin, where, according to the NT, you’ll find a place full of surprises and danger, where everything moves at the speed of your imagination.
…is for the number of Tony Awards Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake picked up when it played on Broadway. We know it better however as a must-see show for all dance fans. Turning tradition on its head, Bourne’s radical reinterpretation of this classic will once again blend comedy, humour and spectacle at the Islington venue from 4 December.