The South: Theatre Guide Fairy
As Cambridge’s very own theatre guide dog finishes his last minute shopping, the theatre fairy has arrived to sprinkle your eyes with theatrical magic from the South.
As if by magic, you’re home and the nearest theatre is now further than ten feet away. But fear not, o gentle, affluent and well-spoken denizens of the South. I, the Theatre’s Fairy Godmother, shall show you where to spend your stacks of cash this festive season.
Hamlet – The National Theatre (30th December – 26th January)
Nobody in Cambridge is brave enough to direct Hamlet, so you may as well fill your boots in the holidays. Recasting Elsinore as a modern surveillance-state has the whiff of heavy-handed social commentary, but “to be or not to be” is still there, so you’ll like it. Pleb seats at The National go for as little as £10; this could almost pass as a stocking-filler. For a twat.
Birdsong – The Comedy Theatre (on until 15th January)
Obscure director Trevor Nunn returns with an adaptation of a little-known Sebastian Faulks novel. The illicit love of Stephen (English) and Isabelle (French) goes through a fair few twists and turns, including a minor 1914-18 European conflict. Modestly described by itself as “haunting” and “beautiful”, this production will probably be a lot less cynical than I am.
The Gruffalo – Garrick Theatre (on until 16th January)
The 1999 picture-book gets a musical makeover. A mouse called Mouse walks in the woods and meets usual forest critters, followed by the eponymous beastie. It was on TV last Christmas, and quite entertaining despite the 3-7 age bracket. If you like verse drama but struggle with Shakespeare, this could be perfect.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Barons Court Theatre (on until 9th January)
Anyone who enjoyed Pickwick and Nickleby last term can experience another dose of the 19th Century one-man-show, as the potentially insane Robert Crighton performs a different Holmes novel every night until he runs out. Pick your favourite: it’ll be no worse than an audio book that you can’t pause.
Yes, apparently they do have theatre in Essex.
Pantomime: Peter Pan – Southend Cliffs Pavillion Theatre (on until 9th January)
Featuring Bradley Walsh, who used to present Wheel of Fortune. If that hasn’t sold it to you, I don’t know what will. They might throw sweeties, and you’ll probably be expected to loudly affirm/deny things and save characters the trouble of looking over their shoulders. If you like game shows, chocolate, and audience participation, get booking.
A Christmas Carol – Southampton Nuffield Theatre (on until 8th January)
Not a panto, but shamelessly seasonal nonetheless. I don’t think you need my help to imagine what it will be like. You can probably get out of watching either the black and white film version or the Muppets one with your family by going to see this, which could justify the enterprise.
Death and the Maiden – Plymouth Drum Theatre (11th January -15th January)
If you’re tired of all that Christmas jollity, how about a play about rape? That shut you up. Nervy subject-matter edgily set in an unspecified post-dictatorship South-American country (Chile), this could make for pleasingly uncomfortable viewing. Roman Polanski liked it enough to turn it into a film, so you wouldn’t be going solely on the recommendation of a fictitious spirit.
Jack and the Beanstalk – Ipswich New Wolsey Theatre (on until 5th February)
If all goes to plan, this “rock ‘n’ roll panto” will combine English folk tale with the one element it has thus far so sorely lacked: screamin’ guitar solos. A death-metal rendition of “Fee Fi Fo Fum” might be a bit much to hope for, but this tweaking of panto formula could add some extra spice while still doing everything we expect it to.
The Sound of Music – New Theatre Oxford (on until 2nd January)
Connie Fisher, winner of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? has downgraded a little from London. If you like your theatre tinged with second-rate TV, but can’t make it to the Southend for our other celebrity actor, this could be an adequate second-best. Expect quaint alpine dress, familiar songs and the kind of stage-Nazis who can be outsmarted by children.
The Rape of Lucrece – Oxford BT Studio (13th January – 15th January)
More rape. A coincidence, I promise. Lucrece is essentially a Shakespeare B-side; Gerard Logan’s one-man dramatisation of the narrative poem got good Fringe reviews, so should be worth a look. Even Trevor Nunn liked it. If you decide to go, be on your guard – the BT Studio is where the Dark Side do their drama. But Gerard Logan isn’t a student, so you should be alright.
And, if for some reason you make it up North this holiday, see what the Theatre Guide Monkey has to say.