The summer hiatus is finally over for theatres in the South West and the long leisurely nights in beer gardens will be replaced by nights back in the stalls. If in New York all the activity takes place just before Tony deadlines during late Spring here in the UK the Autumn season always seems the most jam packed programme of the season and this year is no exception. The theatres in Bristol and Bath are literally heaving with goodies to keep you going to Christmas and here are just a few of the highlights in the four months ahead.
The Rivals: Bristol Old Vic 9th September-1st October
Dominic Hill, artistic director of the Glasgow Citizen Theatre has developed quite a reputation as one of Britain’s finest directors and his shows always offer some anarchic fun. So his take on Sheridan’s five act comedy of manners should be all kinds of raucous, rambunctious fun!
Blue Heart: Tobacco Factory Theatres 22nd September-1st October
Caryl Churchill is in the top pantheon of living British playwrights and this first major UK revival of her 1997 double bill of one act plays, co-produced with the Orange Tree Theatre, would be worth seeking out just to discover a work that is half forgotten from her oeuvre. Combine this with the exciting up and coming director David Mercatali at the helm and it’s without doubt one of my most looked forward to Autumn highlight.
A Room With A View: Bath Theatre Royal 28th September- 8th October
Opening in Bath before a short UK tour and then planned West End stint. EM Forster’s novel adapted by Simon Reade, directed by Adrian Noble and with a cast led by Felicity Kendall screams out sheen and class and should slot in nicely to one of the country’s most handsome buildings.
Half Life: Ustinov Studio 29th September- 5th November
Nancy Meckler returns to the Ustinov after her absorbing powerful Playing Strindberg with a UK premiere of a Canadian work that refreshingly explores love for a generation so often forgotten. The last North American season here never quite hit the heights of its other seasons but this along with Trouble In Mind (see below) look promising.
Don Giovanni: Tobacco Factory Theatres 5th October- 22nd October
Mozart’s opera about the original playboy comes to the Tobacco factory by the great Opera Project. What it lacks in large scale spectacle and fifty piece orchestra’s it makes up for in intimate playing and the chance to hear exquisite voices close up. George von Bergen takes on the title role.
WNO Season: Bristol Hippodrome 11th-15th October
WNO Autumn season joins in with the Shakespeare 400 centenary. Alongside Verdi’s Macbeth and a UK premiere of Andre Tchalkowsky’s Merchant Of Venice they will also present their annual musical; this year Cole Porter’s ever witty Kiss Me Kate.
The Last Five Years- Alma Tavern Theatre 12th-15th October
Jason Robert Brown’s two hander that charts a relationship between Cathy and Jamie doesn’t play in chronological order, Cathy’s starts at the end of the relationship and goes backwards in time while Jamie’s proceeds from first dates to the last throes. Brown has been described as our generations Sondheim and it’s a rare opportunity to see this piece in Bristol.
Stepping Out: Bath Theatre Royal 12th-22nd October
Tap dancing and laughs should be in plentiful supply in a revival of Richard Harris’ play, directed by the queen of the musical stage Maria Freeman who made a five star triumph of her first directing gig Merrily We Roll Along. With a cast including Amanda Holden, Angela Griffin, Tracey-Ann Oberman and Tamzin Outhwaite this is sure to be a populist smash.
The Grinning Man: Bristol Old Vic 13th October-13th November
A gothic musical take on a novel by Victor Hugo with a book by Kneehigh regular Carl Grose and under the direction of Tom Morris this is the show that I am most looking forward to this Autumn season. Can it hit the heights of the last musical that came from the Hugo catalogue and become a Les Mis style success?
Giselle: Bristol Hippodrome 18th-22nd October
Akram Khan’s take on one of the classic ballets is one of the dance world’s hot tickets this Autumn. Whether it will be a massive success or complete disaster only time will tell but it is sure to be fascinating what this most modern of dance makers does with this most classic of ballets.
The Weir- Tobacco Factory Theatre 25th October- 5th November
This chiller of a play took home the Best Play Olivier when it first premiered in 1997 and should raise the hairs on the back of the neck more in the tight surroundings of the Tobacco Factory. Director Rachel O’Riordan had a real success earlier this year with Iphigenia In Splott and expectations should be high for this one as well.
Billy Elliot- Bristol Hippodrome 25th October-26th November
One of the great musicals of the 21st century this tale of a wannabe dancer from the North somehow improved upon its BAFTA winning film source. It’s a show I’ve seen three times over the year, it would come as no surprise if I make this four before the end of November.
Trouble in Mind- Ustinov Studio 10th November- 17th December
Tanya Moodie and Laurence Boswell were a real double act in Intimate Apparel a few years ago, a love story that broke hearts without ever resorting to the melodramatic. This backstage drama should be a winner and also stars Joseph Marcell still indelibly linked to his role in Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.
Champ- Tobacco Factory Theatres 15th-19th November
It’s always great to champion the local and in writer Samuel Bailey and director Jesse Jones Tobacco Factory Theatres, playing at the Wardrobe Theatre as part of its beyond season have put together two of its brightest young things in a play about what it means to be a man today.
Blackbird- Rondo Theatre 16th-19th November
There are very few plays that make you hold your breath for the length of its running time but Blackbird gut punched me when I saw its original production back in 2006. It requires high definition acting of the highest order but if it gets it very few shows will be as affecting this season.
Odyssey- Wardrobe Theatre 22nd-26th November
George Mann has become part of the Bristol scene with his role at Bristol Old Vic as associate director. He first burst onto the scene though with his award winning solo turn in his companies Theatre Ad Infinitum’s take on Homer’s tale. For the first time it plays in Bristol and is sure to be a hot ticket.
One of the things often overlooked is the strength of the Christmas programming as each theatre goes for broke with their longest running shows of the year. The Snow Queen Bristol Old Vic 2nd December- 15th January should be another big original Christmas show though it may struggle to top Cinderella A Fairytale: Tobacco Factory Theatre 2nd December-15th January which returns to Bristol having charmed and been garlanded with awards around the country. Another Cinderella: Bristol Hippodrome 10th December-8th January will see a more traditional panto take with Torvil and Dean ice skating on a specially constructed rink. Robin Hood: The Egg- 8th December-15th January will provide an original Christmas show for a younger audience while Rocky A Horror Show: Wardrobe Theatre- 1st December-15th January will be an alternative treat for a more adult audience in what is becoming a much looked forward to annual treat.